List Of Contents | Contents of Vaninka, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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her knees, then, yielding to the entreaties of her faithful
attendant, went to bed.  Annouschka sat down at the foot of the bed.

Neither slept, but when day came the tears which Vaninka had shed had
calmed her.

Annouschka was instructed to reward her brother.  Too large a sum
given to a slave at once might have aroused suspicion, therefore
Annouschka contented herself with telling Ivan that when he had need
of money he had only to ask her for it.

Gregory, profiting by his liberty and wishing to make use of his
thousand roubles, bought a little tavern on the outskirts of the
town, where, thanks to his address and to the acquaintances he had
among the servants in the great households of St. Petersburg, he
began to develop an excellent business, so that in a short time the
Red House (which was the name and colour of Gregory's establishment)
had a great reputation.  Another man took over his duties about the
person of the general, and but for Foedor's absence everything
returned to its usual routine in the house of Count Tchermayloff.

Two months went by in this way, without anybody having the least
suspicion of what had happened, when one morning before the usual
breakfast-hour the general begged his daughter to come down to his
room.  Vaninka trembled with fear, for since that fatal night
everything terrified her.  She obeyed her father, and collecting all
her strength, made her way to his chamber, The count was alone, but
at the first glance Vaninka saw she had nothing to fear from this
interview: the general was waiting for her with that paternal smile
which was the usual expression of his countenance when in his
daughter's presence.

She approached, therefore, with her usual calmness, and, stooping
down towards the general, gave him her forehead to kiss.

He motioned to her to sit down, and gave her an open letter.  Vaninka
looked at him for a moment in surprise, then turned her eyes to the

It contained the news of the death of the man to whom her hand had
been promised: he had been killed in a duel.

The general watched the effect of the letter on his daughter's face,
and great as was Vaninka's self-control, so many different thoughts,
such bitter regret, such poignant remorse assailed her when she
learnt that she was now free again, that she could not entirely
conceal her emotion.  The general noticed it, and attributed it to
the love which he had for a long time suspected his daughter felt for
the young aide-de-camp.

"Well," he said, smiling, "I see it is all for the best."

"How is that, father?" asked Vaninka.

"Doubtless," said the general.  "Did not Foedor leave because he
loved you?"

"Yes," murmured the young girl.

"Well, now he may return," said the general.

Vaninka remained silent, her eyes fixed, her lips trembling.

"Return!" she said, after a moment's silence.

"Yes, certainly return.  We shall be most unfortunate," continued the
general, smiling, "if we cannot find someone in the house who knows
where he is.  Come, Vaninka, tell me the place of his exile, and I
will undertake the rest."

"Nobody knows where Foedor is," murmured Vaninka in a hollow voice;
"nobody but God, nobody!"

"What!" said the general, "he has sent you no news since the day he

Vaninka shook her head in denial.  She was so heart-broken that she
could not speak.

The general in his turn became gloomy.  "Do you fear some misfortune,
then?" said he.

"I fear that I shall never be happy again on earth," cried Vaninka,
giving way under the pressure of her grief; then she continued at
once, "Let me retire, father; I am ashamed of what I have said."

The general, who saw nothing in this exclamation beyond regret for
having allowed the confession of her love to escape her, kissed his
daughter on the brow and allowed her to retire.  He hoped that, in
spite of the mournful way in which Vaninka had spoken of Foedor, that
it would be possible to find him.  The same day he went to the
emperor and told him of the love of Foedor for his daughter, and
requested, since death had freed her from her first engagement, that
he might dispose of her hand.  The emperor consented, and the general
then solicited a further favour.  Paul was in one of his kindly
moods, and showed himself disposed to grant it.  The general told him
that Foedor had disappeared for two months; that everyone, even his
daughter, was ignorant of his whereabouts, and begged him to have
inquiries made.  The emperor immediately sent for the chief of
police, and gave him the necessary orders.

Six weeks went by without any result.  Vaninka, since the day when
the letter came, was sadder and more melancholy than ever.  Vainly
from time to time the general tried to make her more hopeful.
Vaninka only shook her head and withdrew.  The general ceased to
speak, of Foedor.

But it was not the same among the household.  The young aide-de-camp
had been popular with the servants, and, with the exception of
Gregory, there was not a soul who wished him harm, so that, when it
became known that he had not been sent on a mission, but had
disappeared, the matter became the constant subject of conversation
in the antechamber, the kitchen, and the stables.  There was another
place where people busied themselves about it a great deal--this was
the Red House.

From the day when he heard of Foedor's mysterious departure Gregory
had his suspicions.  He was sure that he had seen Foedor enter
Vaninka's room, and unless he had gone out while he was going to seek
the general, he did not understand why the latter had not found him
in his daughter's room.  Another thing occupied his mind, which it
seemed to him might perhaps have some connection with this event--the
amount of money Ivan had been spending since that time, a very
extraordinary amount for a slave.  This slave, however, was the
brother of Vaninka's cherished foster-sister, so that, without being
sure, Gregory already suspected the source from whence this money
came.  Another thing confirmed him in his suspicions, which was that
Ivan, who had not only remained his most faithful friend, but had
become one of his best customers, never spoke of Foedor, held his
tongue if he were mentioned in his presence, and to all questions,
however pressing they were, made but one answer: "Let us speak of
something else."

In the meantime the Feast of Kings arrived.  This is a great day in
St. Petersburg, for it is also the day for blessing the waters.

As Vaninka had been present at the ceremony, and was fatigued after
standing for two hours on the Neva, the general did not go out that
evening, and gave Ivan leave to do so.  Ivan profited by the
permission to go to the Red House.

There was a numerous company there, and Ivan was welcomed; for it was
known that he generally came with full pockets.  This time he did not
belie his reputation, and had scarcely arrived before he made the
sorok-kopecks ring, to the great envy of his companions.

At this warning sound Gregory hastened up with all possible
deference, a bottle of brandy in each hand; for he knew that when
Ivan summoned him he gained in two ways, as innkeeper and as boon
companion.  Ivan did not disappoint these hopes, and Gregory was
invited to share in the entertainment.  The conversation turned on
slavery, and some of the unhappy men, who had only four days in the
year of respite from their eternal labour, talked loudly of the
happiness Gregory had enjoyed since he had obtained his freedom.

"Bah!" said Ivan, on whom the brandy had begun to take effect, "there
are some slaves who are freer than their masters."

"What do you mean?" said Gregory, pouring him out another glass of

"I meant to say happier," said Ivan quickly.

"It is difficult to prove that," said Gregory doubtingly.

"Why difficult?  Our masters, the moment they are born, are put into
the hands of two or three pedants, one French, another German, and a
third English, and whether they like them or not, they must be
content with their society till they are seventeen, and whether they
wish to or not, must learn three barbarous languages, at the expense
of our noble Russian tongue, which they have sometimes completely
forgotten by the time the others are acquired.  Again, if one of them
wishes for some career, he must become a soldier: if he is a
sublieutenant, he is the slave of the lieutenant; if he is a
lieutenant, he is the slave of the captain, and the captain of the
major, and so on up to the emperor, who is nobody's slave, but who
one fine day is surprised at the table, while walking, or in his bed,
and is poisoned, stabbed, or strangled.  If he chooses a civil
career, it is much the same.  He marries a wife, and does not love
her; children come to him he knows not how, whom he has to provide
for; he must struggle incessantly to provide for his family if he is
poor, and if he is rich to prevent himself being robbed by his
steward and cheated by his tenants.  Is this life?  While we,
gentlemen, we are born, and that is the only pain we cost our
mothers--all the rest is the master's concern.  He provides for us,
he chooses our calling, always easy enough to learn if we are not
quite idiots.  Are we ill?  His doctor attends us gratis; it is a
loss to him if we die.  Are we well?  We have our four certain meals
a day, and a good stove to sleep near at night.  Do we fall in love?
There is never any hindrance to our marriage, if the woman loves us;
the master himself asks us to hasten our marriage, for he wishes us
to have as many children as possible.  And when the children are
born, he does for them in their turn all he has done for us.  Can you
find me many great lords as happy as their slaves?"

"All this is true," said Gregory, pouring him out another glass of
brandy; "but, after all, you are not free."

"Free to do what?" asked Ivan.

"Free to go where you will and when you will."

"I am as free as the air," replied Ivan.

"Nonsense!" said Gregory.

"Free as air, I tell you; for I have good masters, and above all a
good mistress," continued Ivan, with a significant smile, "and I have

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