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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 upon it.
"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 imperceptibly.'
"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 second voice.
"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.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XXV.