Leo Tolstoy.

My husband and I; and other stories online

. (page 1 of 15)
Online LibraryLeo TolstoyMy husband and I; and other stories → online text (page 1 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




Methuen's Shilling Library

36 De Prof undis Oscar Wilde

37 Lord Arthur Savile's Crime Oscar Wilde

38 Selected Poems Oscar Wilde

39 An Ideal Husband Oscar Wilde

40 Intentions Oscar Wilde

41 Lady Windermere's Fan Oscar Wilde

42 Charmides and other Poems Oscar Wilde

43 Harvest Home E. V. Lucas

44 A Little of Everything E. V. Lucas

45 Vailima Letters Robert Louis Stevenson

46 Hills and the Sea H. Belloc

47 The Blue Bird Maurice Maeterlinck

48 Mary Magdalene Maurice Maeterlinck

49 Under Five Reigns Lady Dorothy Nevill

50 Charles Dickens G. K. Chesterton

51 Man and the Universe Sir Oliver Lodge
*52 The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson Graham Balfour

53 Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to his Son

George Horace Lorimer

*54 The Life of John Ruskin W. G. Collingwood

55 The Parish Clerk P. H. Ditchfield

56 The Condition of England C. F. G. Masterman

57 Sevastopol and other Stories Leo Tolstoy

58 The Lore of the Honey- Bee Tickner Edwardes

59 Tennyson A. C. Benson
*6o From Midshipman to Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood

<>2 John Boyes, King of the Wa-Kikuyu John Boyes

63 Oscar Wilde Arthur Ransom e

64 The Vicar of Morwenstow S. Baring-Gould

65 Old Country Life S. Baring-Gould

66 Thomas Henry Huxley P. Chalmers Mitchell
67 Chitral Sir G. S. Robertson

68 Two Admirals Admiral John Moresby

76 Home Life in France M. Betham-Edwards

77 Selected Prose Oscar Wilde

78 The Best of Lamb E. V. Lucas
So Selected Letters Robert Louis Stevenson
83 Reason and Belief Sir Oliver Lodge
85 The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde
88 The Tower of London Richard Davey
9 1 Social Evils and their Remedy Leo Tolstoy

93 The Substance of Faith Sir Oliver Lodge

94 All Things Considered G. K. Chesterton

95 The Mirror of the Sea Joseph Conrad

96 A Picked Company Hilaire Belloc
101 A Book of Famous Wits Walter Jerrold
1 1 6 The Survival of Man Sir Oliver Lodge

1 26 Science from an Easy Chair Sir Ray Lankester

* Slightly Abridged.

Methuen & Co., Ltd. 36 Essex Street, London, W.C.

Methuen's Shilling Novels

1 The Mighty Atom Marie Corelli

2 Jane Marie Corelli

3 Boy Marie Corelli

4 Spanish Gold G. A. Birmingham

5 The Search Party G. A. Birmingham

6 Teresa of Watling Street Arnold Bennett

7 Anna of the Five Towns Arnold Bennett

8 Fire In Stubble Baroness Orczy

9 The Unofficial Honeymoon Dolf Wyllarue

10 The Botor Chaperon C. N. and A. M. Williamson

1 1 Lady Betty across the Water C. N. and A. M. Williamson

12 The Demon C. N. and A. M. Williamson

13 The Woman with the Fan Robert Hichens

14 Barbary Sheep Robert Hichens

15 The Guarded Flame W. B. Maxwell

1 6 Hill Rise W. B. Maxwell

17 Joseph Frank Danby

1 8 Round the Red Lamp Sir A. Conan Doyle

19 Under the Red Robe Stanley Weyinan

20 Light Freights W. W. Jacobs

21 The Gate of the Desert John Oxenham

22 The Long Road John Oxenham

33 The Missing Delora E. Phillips Oppenheim

34 Mirage E. Temple Thurston

71 The Gates of Wrath Arnold Bennett

72 Short Cruises W. W. Jacobs

73 The Pathway of the Pioneer Dolf Wyllardc
75 The Street Called Straight Basil Kins;
8 1 The Card Arnold Bennett
84 The Sea Lady H. G. Welis

86 The Wild Olive Basil King

87 Lalagc's Lovers G. A. Birmingham
90 A Change in the Cabinet Hilaire Belloc
92 White F-ang Jack London
97 A Nine Days' Wonder B. M. Croker
99 The Coil of Carne John Oxenham

100 The Mess Deck W. F. Shannon

1 02 The Beloved Enemy E. Maria Albanesi

103 The Quest of the Golden Rose John Oxenham

104 A Counsel of Perfection Lucas Malet

106 The Wedding Day C. N. and A M. Williamson

107 Th Lantern Bearers Mrs Alfred Sidgwick

108 The Adventures of Dr. W bitty G. A. Birmingham

109 The Sea Captain H. C. Bailey
no The Babes in the Wood B. M. Croker
in Th Remington Sentence W. Pett Ridge

112 My Danish ^vectlieart W. Clark Russell

113 Lavender anil OKI Lace Myrtle Reed

114 The Ware Case George Pleydell

115 Old Rose and Silver Myrtle Reed

117 The Secret A<rsnt Joseph Conrad

118 My Husband and I Leo Tolstoy

1 19 Set in Silver C. N. and A. M. Williamson

1 20 A Weaver of Webs John Oxenham

121 Peggy of the Bartons B. M. Croker
132 The Double Life of Mr. Alfred Burton H. Phillips Oppenheim

123 There was a Crooked Man Dolf Wyllardc

124 The Governor of England Marjorie Bowen

125 The Regent Arnold Bennett

127 Sally D. Conyers

128 The Call of the Blood Robert Hichens

129 Th Lodger Mrs. Belloc Lowndes








First Published by Methuen &* Co. Ltd. at is. net in 1916







WE were in mourning for my mother, who had
died early in the autumn, and Macha, Sonia,
and I had passed the entire winter in the country.
Macha had been an old friend of my mother, and was
my governess, whom I had known and loved as long
as I could remember. Sonia was my younger sister.

The winter had been sad and dreary at Pokrovski,
our old country house. It was cold, and the wind
swept the snow in thick drifts as high as the window
ledges ; the window panes remained frosted for days
together, and we seldom walked or drove out.
Visitors came but rarely, and the few who did come
brought neither mirth nor amusement with them.
They had mournful faces, and spoke with bated
breath, as if they feared to awaken a sleeper ; they
never smiled, but sighed and wept when they saw
little Sonia and me in our black dresses. It was as
if the Angel of Death was ever hovering in the air
as if the atmosphere was ever oppressed with his
dread presence. My mother's room was kept shut,
but I never passed the closed door without feeling
an invisible something drawing me towards the cold
and silent chamber.

I had passed my seventeenth birthday, and it had
been my mother's intention to go to St. Petersburg
that winter, so that I might be formally introduced
into society. My mother's loss had been a great
grief to me, but I must confess that in the midst of
my sorrow for her, I also felt a painful shrinking
from the thought of spending another winter in the
death-like solitude of the country.



After a time the mingled emotions of loneliness,
grief, and lassitude attained to such a degree that I
scarcely ever left my room, never opened the piano,
or took a book in my hand. When Macha urged me
to occupy myself with this thing or that, my answer
was always the same : ' I cannot ; I have no heart
for it,' while a voice within me whispered : ' Why
try to make anything of myself since the best days
of my life are slipping away so drearily ? ' To this
depressing query I had but one reply tears.

I heard them say I was much altered and was
growing thinner, but I cared nothing for that. W'hy
should I trouble myself on that account, since it
seemed that I was doomed to spend the remainder
of my life in this cheerless solitude a thought which
took from me all strength of will, and almost the
desire to escape.

Towards the end of the winter Macha began to be
seriously concerned as to my condition, and resolved
to remove me from Pokrovski as soon as possible.
But money was necessary for the accomplishment
of such a purpose, and we did not as yet know how
much would be left us, after the settlement of my
mother's estate. So we waited, day after day, for
a visit from my guardian, who was to inform us of
the condition of affairs.

Finally, in March, he came. ' Thank God,' said
Macha one day, as I glided like a shadow, from one
corner to another, listless and unconcerned. ' Thank
God, Sergei Mikhailovitch has come. He has sent
word that he will be here to dinner. Pray arouse
yourself, my little Katia,' she added imploringly.
' What will he think of you ; he used to be so fond
of you both.'

Sergei Mikhailovitch was one of our neighbours,
and an old friend of my dead father, although much
the younger of the two. Apart from the fact that
his arrival might completely change our mode of life,
I had loved and reverenced him since my babyhood,
and Macha wished me to exert myself, because she
knew it would cause me more pain to appear before


him in an unfavourable light than before any other
of our acquaintances.

Not only because I, as well as every one else in the
house, from Macha and Sonia, his god-daughter,
down to the youngest stable boy, loved him, but
also because of a remark my mother once made in
my hearing, to the effect that she should be glad if I
secured such a man as Sergei Mikhailovitch for my

At the time it appeared to me a very absurd idea,
My ideal was very different ; he was young, tall,
slender, pale, and melancholy ; Sergei Mikhailovitch,
on the contrary, was no longer young, and he was
stout, strong, and always merry.

Yet, in spite of this difference, my mother's words
kept constantly recurring to my memory, and six
years before, when I was only eleven, and when
Sergei Mikhailovitch had still said ' Thou ' to me,
and called me a spring violet, I had occasionally
asked myself with inward trepidation : ' What shall
I do if he wishes to marry me ? '

Shortly before dinner, for which Macha had pre-
pared a cream and some spinach, Sergei Mikhailovitch
arrived. I saw him through the window as he drew
near the house in a small sledge, and I hastened into
the drawing-room, intending to act as though I did
not expect to see him ; however, no sooner did I
hear the sound of his footsteps in the hall, and his
loud, cheery voice replying to Macha's softer one
bidding him welcome, than I forgot my resolution
and ran to join them.

. He was holding Macha's hand, talking rapidly and
laughing gaily ; but, as soon as he caught sight of me,
he became silent and stood quite still, not offering
me a word or sign of greeting. For my part, I \vas
very uncomfortable, and felt myself blushing.

' Can it be possible ! Yes, it is you ; but how
changed/ he said at last, drawing me towards him
with both hands in his simple, hearty fashion. ' How
you have grown ! Our little violet has become trans-
formed into a full-blown rose.'


He then clasped my hand so firmly as to almost
give me pain. I expected him to kiss my hand, and
had leaned l towards him ; but he only gazed steadily
at me with his bright, kind eyes.

I had not seen him for six years, and found him
also greatly changed. He was older, browner, and
wore a heavy beard, which was not becoming ;
however, he had the same simple, frank manner,
and the same true, honest eyes, and pleasant, almost
childlike, smile.

Five minutes later, we had forgotten that he was a
guest, and looked upon him as one of the family, as
the servants also did, showing their delight at seeing
him by their eager attention to his wants.

He was not like our other neighbours, who thought
it their duty to sigh and groan as long as they were
with us. Quite the contrary ; he was talkative and
merry, not alluding in the remotest degree to my
mother, so that I thought such indifference astonish-
ing and, in so intimate a friend, almost unpardonable.
Later on I knew it to be, not indifference, but

After dinner, Macha had tea served in the little
parlour, which my mother had generally used for
that purpose. Sonia and I sat near her, and old
Grigoriy brought Sergei Mikhailovitch one of my
father's pipes. As in other days, he commenced to
smoke while walking up and down the room.

' How many melancholy changes have taken place
here when I think of it,' he said, pausing suddenly
in his promenade.

' Yes, yes,' replied Macha, covering up the samovar,
and looking at Sonia and me as if half disposed to cry.

' Do you recollect your father ? ' asked Sergei
Mikhailovitch, turning to me.

' Very faintly,' I answered.

' What a blessing it would be if he were with you
now,' he said slowly and thoughtfully. ' I loved your

1 It is customary in Russia for the gentleman to kiss the lady's
band, and she returns the salutation by kissing the gentleman's
forehead. Trans.


father dearly,' he added softly, a dreamy expression
coming into his eyes.

' The dear God called him from us,' said Macha,
throwing her napkin over the tea-caddy, while the
tears dropped slowly into her lap.

' Yes, sad changes have occurred,' repeated Sergei
Mikha'ilovitch, turning away ; ' Sonia, come and show
me your toys,' he added abruptly, going out into the
large hall. With eyes full of tears I looked after

' We have one true friend,' said Macha.

' Yes, indeed,' I cried, my heart feeling unusually
warm and comforted by the sympathy of this good
man. The sounds of Sonia's laughter and -his jests
reached us from the hall. I sent him a cup of tea,
and presently we heard him open the piano and strike
the keys with Sonia's tiny fingers.

' Katia Alexandrowna,' he called ; ' come here,
pray, and give me some music.'

It pleased me to hear him use this simple yet
authoritative tone, so I arose and went to him

' Play this,' he said, placing a copy of the Adagio
of Beethoven's sonata, Quasi una Fantasia, on the
rack. ' Let me hear how you can play,' he added,
and taking up his cup of tea he went to the other
end of the room.

I felt, though why I am sure I cannot tell, that it
would be impossible to do otherwise than as he bid,
or indeed even to make any apologies for want of
practice or bad playing. So I seated myself at the
piano and began, though I greatly feared his criticism,
for I knew that he not only loved music but under-
stood it.

The Adagio expressed the very emotions awakened
by the conversation at the tea table, and my render-
ing of it appeared to satisfy him. The Scherzo he
would not allow me to play.

' No, that would not go well,' he said, coming
towards me. ' The Adagio was not badly performed.
You understand music, I find.'


This moderate praise was so delightful that I felt
myself colouring. It was a new and agreeable
sensation, that of having my father's old friend talk
to me as an equal, instead of as a child.

When Macha went upstairs to put little Sonia to
bed, he spoke to me of my father ; how he had first
made his acquaintance ; how the bond which united
them had grown stronger with each added year,
until death came for my father, while I was still a
child in the nursery, busy with my toys and kitten.

For the first time I felt as if I knew my father, a
noble-hearted, amiable man, created to love and be
loved. Afterwards Sergei Mikhailovitch questioned
me regarding my studies and my favourite occupa-
tions. He was no longer the jovial, fun-loving play-
fellow that I remembered, but an earnest, serious
man, showing me sympathy and esteem. It was
pleasant, and yet I felt an occasional dread lest
something I might say would induce him to think me
unworthy of being my father's daughter.

On Macha's return to the drawing-room she com-
plained to Sergei Mikhailovitch of my apathy and
dulness, matters which I had carefully refrained from

' So she failed to tell me the most important thing
concerning herself ? ' he remarked, shaking his head
at me, half jestingly, half reproachfully.

' What was there to tell ? ' I replied. ' It is tire-
some to think of, and will pass away.' In truth, I
not only felt as if my melancholy would vanish,
but as if it had either already done so, or had never
existed at all.

' It is unfortunate not to know how to endure
solitude. Are you really a young lady ? '

' Yes, I believe so,' I laughingly replied.

' No, you are not ; or, at least, you are only a very
naughty one, who is only happy as long as she is
receiving homage, and relapses into weariness as soon
as she is left to her own devices.'

' You must have a fine opinion of me,' I said, trying
to hide my embarrassment.


' No, it cannot be ; you are so like your father.
There must be something in you.'

Then his kind eyes turned on me again, filling me
with singular emotion. I noticed now for the first
time that despite his seemingly gay face and eyes,
apparently expressive of unclouded serenity, there
was an undercurrent of thoughtfulness, mingled with
a little sadness, in his expression.

' It isn't possible for you to feel dull,' he added ;
' you have music which you understand, books,
various studies your whole life is now open before
you, and you must work to prepare yourself for it,
so that you may have nothing to regret hereafter.
In another year or so it may be too late.'

He thus spoke to me as a father or an uncle might
have done, *and I realized that he made an effort to
remain on the same level as myself. I felt a little
bit offended that he should consider me so much
beneath him, but on the other hand I was pleased
that he thought fit to make this effort for my sake.

During th2 remainder of the evening he talked to
Macha on business.

' And now, good-bye, my dear Katia/ he said,
taking my hand.

' When shall we see you again ? ' inquired Macha.

' Not before the spring. I am now on my way to
Donilouka (our second estate) to see how affairs are
going there, and then I must start for Moscow, greatly
against my inclinations. But in the summer you
will see me frequently.'

' Why do you intend to be away so long ? ' I asked
mournfully. I had expected to be able to see him
daily, and was so disturbed by this blow to my hopes
that my sadness instantly returned to me. This
must have been visible on my face and in my voice,
for Sergei Mikha'ilovitch remarked : ' If you keep
yourself busy and occupied the winter will soon
pass by.'

His tone and manner were cold and quiet. ' I will
examine you in the spring,' he added, allowing my
hand to fall and then turning away.


In the vestibule, where we accompanied him, he
hastened to put on his fur coat, and avoided looking
at me. ' I wonder why/ I thought. ' Can it be
that he fancies I care for his attention ? He is
certainly a good man, very good, but that is

That evening Macha and I were very wakeful,
and we talked a long time, not of him, but of the
coming summer, and of how and where we should
spend the winter. An important question to our
minds, but why ? For my part it seemed evident
and simple that life must consist in being happy,
indeed I would not picture anything else but happi-
ness in the future ; it was as if our gloomy old
residence at Pokrovski had been suddenly flooded
with light and sunshine.


PRING came at last ! My melancholy had
^ vanished, and in its place had come a whole
train of dreamy, yet objectless, hopes and longings.
My entire mode of life was changed. I busied
myself with Sonia ; I enjoyed my music as I had
never enjoyed it before ; I studied with fresh zest ;

1 wandered along the green garden pathways, or
sat under the spreading trees, dreaming and hoping
and thinking of God alone knows what !

Sometimes I would remain by my window the
whole night long, especially if it were moonlight ; or
wrapped in a long cloak, I would slip out of the house
very quietly, so that Macha might not hear me, and
roam up and down the terrace, even occasionally
going through the dew to the pond, and making the
circuit of the garden in the soothing stillness of the

I find it difficult to recall many of the reveries in
which I then indulged ; and, when by chance I
succeed in remembering some of them, I can scarcely
realize that they were the products of my own brain :


they were so weird and so far removed from the
realities of life.

Towards the end of May Sergei Mikhailovitch
returned. He called upon us, quite unexpectedly,
as we sat on the terrace, where Macha had ordered tea.

The garden was already quite green ; the nightin-
gales had built their nests in the shrubbery close by,
and they were celebrating the close of the bright,
warm day with their sweetest songs. The bushy
lilac trees were covered with fragrant white and
tinted buds, just ready to burst into loveliness and
perfume ; and the thick foliage of the birch walks
was illuminated by the red light of the setting sun.
The terrace already lay in the cool shadows ; the
night dew sprinkled the grass ; and, in the court-
yard behind the garden, one could hear people moving
about, and the flocks bleating on their arrival from
the fields.

Silly Nikon drove before the terrace with his
water-casks, and the cool stream flowing from the
watering-pots described dark circles on the freshly
dug earth around the dahlia plants. On the round
table before us the brightly polished samovar shone
and steamed, whilst cream, pancakes, and tarts lay
invitingly on the white damask cloth.

Macha moved the cups about with her plump white
hands in true housewifely fashion, whilst I, feeling
very hungry after my bath, could not wait till tea
was ready, but began eating some bread with fresh
thick cream. I wore a linen blouse with open sleeves,
and had a white kerchief tied over my damp hair.

Macha was the first to observe our friend's arrival.
' Ah, Sergei Mikhailovitch/ she said, ' how glad I
am ! We were but just now speaking of you.'

I jumped up and tried to escape, but he caught
me as I reached the hall door.

' You are surely not going to stand on ceremony
in the country ? ' he laughingly asked, looking
quizzically at my head-dress. ' You do not object
to wearing it before Grigoriy, and why should you
before me ? '


I thought to myself that Sergei Mikhailovitch and
old Grigoriy were two very different persons, though
I kept the thought to myself. Besides, Sergei looked
at me in a manner which disturbed me.

' I will be back in one moment,' I replied, breaking
away from him.

' But what objection have you to your toilette ? I
find it very picturesque.'

' How oddly he looked at me,' I thought, as I
dressed myself. ' Thank God, he is back again.
Now we shall begin to live.'

One hasty glance in the mirror, and then I ran
downstairs, and not caring to conceal my haste I
reached the terrace quite out of breath.

Sergei Mikhailovitch sat by the table discussing
business affairs with Macha. He smiled when his
eyes met mine, but did not interrupt his conversa-
tion. He reported that he had found our property
in excellent order, and said that we need not remain
in Pokrovski longer than the following autumn,
when we might go either to St. Petersburg for
Sonia's education, or to Switzerland or Italy for
our amusement.

' I wish you could go with us,' sighed Macha ; ' I
am afraid that if we went alone we should lose
ourselves, as the babes did in the wood.'

' How gladly would I travel over half the world
with you,' he answered, half in jest and half in earnest.

' Very well, then/ I said, ' let us make a tour
around the globe.'

' And what would become of my mother and my
business ? But tell me now of all you have been
doing since I left you.'

Then I told him of my occupations and amuse-
ments, adding that I had not felt the slightest shadow
of loneliness. He praised and caressed me, just as
if I had been a child and he my natural protector.
So it seemed quite right to tell him, not only of all
the praiseworthy things I had done, but of others
also which I knew would not please him, as if I had
been in the confessional and he the confessor.


The evening was so lovely that we lingered on the
terrace after the removal of the tea things, and the
conversation interested me so much that I did not
notice how by degrees the busy hum of life and
labour ceased.

The whole air was full of the odour of flowers ; the
dew bathed the grass ; the nightingales sang in the
lilac bushes near at hand, and the blue, starry sky
bent close above us.

I first observed that night had crept upon us when
a bat flew suddenly under the sailcloth covering of
the terrace, and brushed against my white dress
with his whirring wings. I shrank into a corner,
and was on the point of uttering a shriek when he
vanished into the darkness of the garden from whence
he had come.

' How I love your Pokrovski ! ' said Sergei
Mikhailovitch, changing the conversation. ' I should
like to spend the rest of my life sitting thus.'

' Do it, then,' said Macha.

' Yes, do it indeed/ he repeated. ' Life will not
allow it.'

' Why do you not marry ? ' asked Macha. ' You
would make a good husband.'

' Because I am fond of sitting still ? ' he laughingly

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryLeo TolstoyMy husband and I; and other stories → online text (page 1 of 15)