only five months more to spend under her father's roof. Nothing more could be said: in Russia the emperor's wish is an order, and from the moment that it is expressed, no subject would oppose it, even in thought. However, the refusal had imprinted such despair on the young man's face, that the general, touched by his silent and resigned sorrow, held out his arms to him. Foedor flung himself into them with loud sobs. Then the general questioned him about his daughter, and Foedor answered, as he had promised, that Vaninka was ignorant of everything, and that the proposal came from him alone, without her knowledge. This assurance calmed the general: he had feared that he was making two people wretched. At dinner-time Vaninka came downstairs and found her father alone. Foedor had not enough courage to be present at the meal and to meet her again, just when he had lost all hope: he had taken a sleigh, and driven out to the outskirts of the city. During the whole time dinner lasted Vaninka and the general hardly exchanged a word, but although this silence was so expressive, Vaninka controlled her face with her usual power, and the general alone appeared sad and dejected. That evening, just when Vaninka was going downstairs, tea was brought to her room, with the message that the general was fatigued and had retired. Vaninka asked some questions about the nature of his indisposition, and finding that it was not serious, she told the servant who had brought her the message to ask her father to send for her if he wanted anything. The general sent to say that he thanked her, but he only required quiet and rest. Vaninka announced that she would retire also, and the servant withdrew. Hardly had he left the room when Vaninka ordered Annouschka, her foster-sister, who acted as her maid, to be on the watch for Foedor's return, and to let her know as soon as he came in. At eleven o'clock the gate of the mansion opened: Foedor got out of his sleigh, and immediately went up to his room. He threw himself upon a sofa, overwhelmed by his thoughts. About midnight he heard someone tapping at the door: much astonished, he got up and opened it. It was Annouschka, who came with a message from her mistress, that Vaninka wished to see him immediately. Although he was astonished at this message, which he was far from expecting, Foedor obeyed. He found Vaninka seated, dressed in a white robe, and as she was paler than usual he stopped at the door, for it seemed to him that he was gazing at a marble statue. "Come in," said Vaninka calmly. Foedor approached, drawn by her voice like steel to a magnet. Annouschka shut the door behind him. "Well, and what did my father say?" said Vaninka. Foedor told her all that had happened. The young girl listened to his story with an unmoved countenance, but her lips, the only part of her face which seemed to have any colour, became as white as the dressing-gown she was wearing. Foedor, on the contrary, was consumed by a fever, and appeared nearly out of his senses. "Now, what do you intend to do?" said Vaninka in the same cold tone in which she had asked the other questions. "You ask me what I intend to do, Vaninka? What do you wish me to do? What can I do, but flee from St. Petersburg, and seek death in the first corner of Russia where war may break out, in order not to repay my patron's kindness by some infamous baseness?" "You are a fool," said Vaninka, with a mixed smile of triumph and contempt; for from that moment she felt her superiority over Foedor, and saw that she would rule him like a queen for the rest of her life. "Then order me--am I not your slave?" cried the young soldier. "You must stay here," said Vaninka. "Stay here?" "Yes; only women and children will thus confess themselves beaten at the first blow: a man, if he be worthy of the name, fights." "Fight!--against whom?--against your father? Never!" "Who suggested that you should contend against my father? It is against events that you must strive; for the generality of men do not govern events, but are carried away by them. Appear to my father as though you were fighting against your love, and he will think that you have mastered yourself. As I am supposed to be ignorant of your proposal, I shall not be suspected. I will demand two years' more freedom, and I shall obtain them. Who knows what may happen in the course of two years? The emperor may die, my betrothed may die, my father--may God protect him!--my father himself may die--!" "But if they force you to marry?" "Force me!" interrupted Vaninka, and a deep flush rose to her cheek and immediately disappeared again. "And who will force me to do anything? Father? He loves me too well. The emperor? He has enough worries in his own family, without introducing them into another's. Besides, there is always a last resource when every other expedient fails: the Neva only flows a few paces from here, and its waters are deep." Foedor uttered a cry, for in the young girl's knit brows and tightly compressed lips there was so much resolution that he understood that they might break this child but that they would not bend her. But Foedor's heart was too much in harmony with the plan Vaninka had proposed; his objections once removed, he did not seek fresh ones. Besides, had he had the courage to do so; Vaninka's promise to make up in secret to him for the dissimulation she was obliged to practise in public would have conquered his last scruples. Vaninka, whose determined character had been accentuated by her education, had an unbounded influence over all who came in contact with her; even the general, without knowing why, obeyed her. Foedor submitted like a child to everything she wished, and the young girl's love was increased by the wishes she opposed and by a feeling of gratified pride. It was some days after this nocturnal decision that the knouting had taken place at which our readers have assisted. It was for some slight fault, and Gregory had been the victim; Vaninka having complained to her father about him. Foedor, who as aide-de-camp had been obliged to preside over Gregory's punishment, had paid no more attention to the threats the serf had uttered on retiring. Ivan, the coachman, who after having been executioner had become surgeon, had applied compresses of salt and water to heal up the scarred shoulders of his victim. Gregory had remained three days in the infirmary, and during this time he had turned over in his mind every possible means of vengeance. Then at the end of three days, being healed, he had returned to his duty, and soon everyone except he had forgotten the punishment. If Gregory had been a real Russian, he would soon have forgotten it all; for this punishment is too familiar to the rough Muscovite for him to remember it long and with rancour. Gregory, as we have said, had Greek blood in his veins; he dissembled and remembered. Although Gregory was a serf, his duties had little by little brought him into greater familiarity with the general than any of the other servants. Besides, in every country in the world barbers have great licence with those they shave; this is perhaps due to the fact that a man is instinctively more gracious to another who for ten minutes every day holds his life in his hands. Gregory rejoiced in the immunity of his profession, and it nearly always happened that the barber's daily operation on the general's chin passed in conversation, of which he bore the chief part. One day the general had to attend a review: he sent for Gregory before daybreak, and as the barber was passing the razor as gently as possible over his master's cheek, the conversation fell, or more likely was led, on Foedor. The barber praised him highly, and this naturally caused his master to ask him, remembering the correction the young aide-decamp had superintended, if he could not find some fault in this model of perfection that might counterbalance so many good qualities. Gregory replied that with the exception of pride he thought Foedor irreproachable. "Pride?" asked the astonished general. "That is a failing from which I should have thought him most free." "Perhaps I should have said ambition," replied Gregory. "Ambition!" said the general. "It does not seem to me that he has given much proof of ambition in entering my service; for after his achievements in the last campaign he might easily have aspired to the honour of a place in the emperor's household." "Oh yes, he is ambitious," said Gregory, smiling. "One man's ambition is for high position, another's an illustrious alliance: the former will owe everything to himself, the latter will make a stepping-stone of his wife, then they raise their eyes higher than they should." "What do you mean to suggest?" said the general, beginning to see what Gregory was aiming at. "I mean, your excellency," replied Gregory, "there are many men who, owing to the kindness shown them by others, forget their position and aspire to a more exalted one; having already been placed so high, their heads are turned." "Gregory," cried the general, "believe me, you are getting into a scrape; for you are making an accusation, and if I take any notice of it, you will have to prove your words." "By St. Basilius, general, it is no scrape when you have truth on your side; for I have said nothing I am not ready to prove." "Then," said the general, "you persist in declaring that Foedor loves my daughter?" "Ah! I have not said that: it is your excellency. I have not named the lady Vaninka," said Gregory, with the duplicity of his nation. "But you meant it, did you not? Come, contrary to your custom, reply frankly." "It is true, your excellency; it is what I meant." "And, according to you, my daughter reciprocates the passion, no doubt?" "I fear so, your excellency." "And what makes you think this, say?" "First, Mr. Foedor never misses a chance of speaking to the lady Vaninka." "He is in the same house with her, would you have him avoid her?"
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