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List Of Contents | Contents of Vaninka, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"When the lady Vaninka returns late, and when perchance Mr. Foedor
has not accompanied you, whatever the hour Mr. Foedor is there,
ready, to help her out of the carriage."

"Foedor attends me, it is his duty," said the general, beginning to
believe that the serf's suspicions were founded on slight grounds.
"He waits for me," he, continued, "because when I return, at any hour
of the day or night, I may have orders to give him."

"Not a day passes without Mr. Foedor going into my lady Vaninka's
room, although such a favour is not usually granted to a young man in
a house like that of your excellency."

"Usually it is I who send him to her," said the general.

"Yes, in the daytime," replied Gregory, "but at night?"

"At night!" cried the general, rising to his feet, and turning so
pale that, after a moment, he was forced to lean for support on a
table.

"Yes, at night, your excellency," answered Gregory quietly; "and
since, as you say, I have begun to mix myself up in a bad business, I
must go on with it; besides, even if there were to result from it
another punishment for me, even more terrible than that I have
already endured, I should not allow so good, a master to be deceived
any longer."

"Be very careful about what you are going to say, slave; for I know
the men of your nation.  Take care, if the accusation you are making
by way of revenge is not supported by visible, palpable, and positive
proofs, you shall be punished as an infamous slanderer."

"To that I agree," said Gregory.

"Do you affirm that you have seen Foedor enter my daughter's chamber
at night?"

"I do not say that I have seen him enter it, your excellency.  I say
that I have seen him come out."

"When was that?"

"A quarter of an hour ago, when I was on my way to your excellency."

"You lie!" said the general, raising his fist.

"This is not our agreement, your excellency," said the slave, drawing
back.  "I am only to be punished if I fail to give proofs."

"But what are your proofs?"

"I have told you."

"And do you expect me to believe your word alone?"

"No; but I expect you to believe your own eyes."

"How?"

"The first time that Mr. Foedor is in my lady Vaninka's room after
midnight, I shall come to find your excellency, and then you can
judge for yourself if I lie; but up to the present, your excellency,
all the conditions of the service I wish to render you are to my
disadvantage."

"In what way?"

"Well, if I fail to give proofs, I am to be treated as an infamous
slanderer; but if I give them, what advantage shall I gain?"

"A thousand roubles and your freedom."

"That is a bargain, then, your excellency," replied Gregory quietly,
replacing the razors on the general's toilet-table, "and I hope that
before a week has passed you will be more just to me than you are
now."

With these words the slave left the room, leaving the general
convinced by his confidence that some dreadful misfortune threatened
him.

From this time onward, as might be expected, the general weighed
every word and noticed every gesture which passed between Vaninka and
Foedor in his presence; but he saw nothing to confirm his suspicions
on the part of the aide-de-camp or of his daughter; on the contrary,
Vaninka seemed colder and more reserved than ever.

A week passed in this way.  About two o'clock in the morning of the
ninth day, someone knocked at the general's door.  It was Gregory.

"If your excellency will go into your daughter's room," said Gregory,
"you will find Mr. Foedor there."

The general turned pale, dressed himself without uttering a word, and
followed the slave to the door of Vaninka's room.  Having arrived
there, with a motion of his hand he dismissed the informer, who,
instead of retiring in obedience to this mute command, hid himself in
the corner of the corridor.

When the general believed himself to be alone, he knocked once; but
all was silent.  This silence, however, proved nothing; for Vaninka
might be asleep.  He knocked a second time, and the young girl, in a
perfectly calm voice, asked, "Who is there?"

"It is I," said the general, in a voice trembling with emotion.

"Annouschka!" said the girl to her foster-sister, who slept in the
adjoining room, "open the door to my father.  Forgive me, father,"
she continued; "but Annouschka is dressing, and will be with you in a
moment."

The general waited patiently, for he could discover no trace of
emotion in his daughter's voice, and he hoped that Gregory had been
mistaken.

In a few moments the door opened, and the general went in, and cast a
long look around him; there was no one in this first apartment.

Vaninka was in bed, paler perhaps than usual, but quite calm, with
the loving smile on her lips with which she always welcomed her
father.

"To what fortunate circumstance," asked the young girl in her softest
tones, "do I owe the pleasure of seeing you at so late an hour?"

"I wished to speak to you about a very important matter," said the
general, "and however late it was, I thought you would forgive me for
disturbing you."

"My father will always be welcome in his daughter's room, at whatever
hour of the day or night he presents himself there."

The general cast another searching look round, and was convinced that
it was impossible for a man to be concealed in the first room--but
the second still remained.

"I am listening," said Vaninka, after a moment of silence.

"Yes, but we are not alone," replied the general, "and it is
important that no other ears should hear what I have to say to you."

"Annauschka, as you know, is my foster-sister," said Vaninka.

"That makes no difference," said the general, going candle in hand
into the next room, which was somewhat smaller than his daughter's.
"Annouschka," said he, "watch in the corridor and see that no one
overhears us."

As he spoke these words, the general threw the same scrutinizing
glance all round the room, but with the exception of the young girl
there was no one there.

Annouschka obeyed, and the general followed her out, and, looking
eagerly round for the last time, re-entered his daughter's room, and
seated himself on the foot of her bed.  Annouschka, at a sign from
her mistress, left her alone with her father.  The general held out
his hand to Vaninka, and she took it without hesitation.

"My child," said the general, "I have to speak to you about a very
important matter."

"What is it, father?" said Vaninka.

"You will soon be eighteen," continued the general, "and that is the
age at which the daughters of the Russian nobility usually marry."
The general paused for a moment to watch the effect of these words
upon Vaninka, but her hand rested motionless in his.  "For the last
year your hand has been engaged by me," continued the general.

"May I know to whom?" asked Vaninka coldly.

"To the son of the Councillor-in-Ordinary," replied the general.
"What is your opinion of him?"

"He is a worthy and noble young man, I am told, but I can have formed
no opinion except from hearsay.  Has he not been in garrison at
Moscow for the last three months?"

"Yes," said the general, "but in three months' time he should
return."

Vaninka remained silent.

"Have you nothing to say in reply?" asked the general.

"Nothing, father; but I have a favour to ask of you."

"What is it?"

"I do not wish to marry until I am twenty years old."

"Why not?"

"I have taken a vow to that effect."

"But if circumstances demanded the breaking of this vow, and made the
celebration of this marriage imperatively necessary?"

"What circumstances?" asked Vaninka.

"Foedor loves you," said the general, looking steadily at Vaninka.

"I know that," said Vaninka, with as little emotion as if the
question did not concern her.

"You know that!" cried the general.

"Yes; he has told me so."

"When?"

"Yesterday."

"And you replied--?"

"That he must leave here at once."

"And he consented?"

"Yes, father."

"When does he go?"

"He has gone."

"How can that be?" said the general: "he only left me at ten
o'clock."

"And he left me at midnight," said Vaninka.

"Ah!" said the general, drawing a deep breath of relief, "you are a
noble girl, Vaninka, and I grant you what you ask-two years more.
But remember it is the emperor who has decided upon this marriage."

"My father will do me the justice to believe that I am too submissive
a daughter to be a rebellious subject."

"Excellent, Vaninka, excellent," said the general.  "So, then, poor
Foedor has told you all?"

"Yes," said Vaninka.

"You knew that he addressed himself to me first?"

"I knew it."

"Then it was from him that you heard that your hand was engaged?"

"It was from him."

"And he consented to leave you?  He is a good and noble young man,
who shall always be under my protection wherever he goes.  Oh, if my
word had not been given, I love him so much that, supposing you did
not dislike him, I should have given him your hand."

"And you cannot recall your promise?" asked Vaninka.

"Impossible," said the general.

"Well, then, I submit to my father's will," said Vaninka.

"That is spoken like my daughter," said the general, embracing her.
"Farewell, Vaninka; I do not ask if you love him.  You have both
done your duty, and I have nothing more to exact."

With these words, he rose and left the room.  Annouschka was in the
corridor; the general signed to her that she might go in again, and
went on his way.  At the door of his room he found Gregory waiting
for him.

"Well, your excellency?" he asked.

"Well," said the general, "you are both right and wrong.  Foedor
loves my daughter, but my daughter does not love him.  He went into
my daughter's room at eleven o'clock, but at midnight he left her for
ever.  No matter, come to me tomorrow, and you shall have your
thousand roubles and your liberty."

Gregory went off, dumb with astonishment.

Meanwhile, Annouschka had re-entered her mistress's room, as she had
been ordered, and closed the door carefully behind her.

Vaninka immediately sprang out of bed and went to the door, listening

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