Chapter XLIII.
 

"Look here," said Sanine, as they walked down the street in the dusk.

"Well, what is it?"

"Come to the railway-station with me. I'm going away."

Ivanoff stood still.

"Why?"

"Because this place bores me."

"Something has scared you, eh?"

"Scared me? I'm going because I wish to go."

"Yes, but the reason?"

"My good fellow, don't ask silly questions. I want to go, and that's enough. As long as one hasn't found people out, there is always a chance that they may prove interesting. Take some of the folk here, for instance Sina Karsavina, or Semenoff, or Lida even, who might have avoided becoming commonplace. But oh! they bore me now. I'm tired of them. I've put up with it all as long as I could; I can't stand it any longer."

Ivanoff looked at him for a good while.

"Come, come!" he said. "You'll surely say good-bye to your people?"

"Not I! It's just they who bore me most."

"But what about luggage?"

"I haven't got much. If you'll stop in the garden, I'll go into my room and hand you my valise through the window. Otherwise they'll see me, and overwhelm me with questions as to why and wherefore. Besides, what is there to say?"

"Oh! I see!" drawled Ivanoff, as with a gesture he seemed to bid the other adieu. "I'm very sorry that you're going, my friend, but ... what can I do?"

"Come with me."

"Where?"

"It doesn't matter where. We can see about that, later."

"But I've no money?"

Sanine laughed.

"Neither have I."

"No, no, you'd better go by yourself. School begins in a fortnight, and I shall get back into the old groove."

Each looked straight into the other's eyes, and Ivanoff turned away in confusion, as if he had seen a distorted reflection of his own face in a mirror.

Crossing the yard, Sanine went indoors while Ivanoff waited in the dark garden, with its sombre shadows and its odour of decay. The leaves rustled under his feet as he approached Sanine's bedroom-window. When Sanine passed through the drawing-room he heard voices on the veranda, and he stopped to listen.

"But what do you want of me?" he could hear Lida saying. Her peevish, languid tone surprised him.

"I want nothing," replied Novikoff irritably, "only it seems strange that you should think you were sacrificing yourself for me, whereas--"

"Yes, yes, I know," said Lida, struggling with her tears.

"It is not I, but it is you that are sacrificing yourself. Yes, it's you! What more would you have?"

Novikoff was annoyed.

"How little you understand my meaning!" he said. "I love you, and thus it's no sacrifice. But if you think that our union implies a sacrifice either on your part or on mine, how on earth are we going to live together? Do try and understand me. We can only live together on one condition, and that is, if neither of us imagines that there is any sacrifice about it. Either we love each other, and our union is a reasonable and natural one, or we don't love each other, and then--"

Lida suddenly began to cry.

"What's the matter?" exclaimed Novikoff, surprised and irritated. "I can't make you out. I haven't said anything that could offend you. Don't cry like that! Really, one can't say a single word!"

"I ... don't know," sobbed Lida, "but ..."

Sanine frowned, and went into his room.

"So that's as far as Lida has got!" he thought. "Perhaps, if she had drowned herself, it would have been better, after all."

Underneath the window, Ivanoff could hear Sanine hastily packing his things. There was a rustling of paper, and the sound of something that had fallen on the floor.

"Aren't you coming?" he asked impatiently.

"In a minute," replied Sanine, as his pale face appeared at the window.

"Catch hold!"

The valise was promptly handed out to Ivanoff and Sanine leapt after it.

"Come along!"

They went swiftly through the garden, that lay dim and desolate in the dusk. The fires of sunset had paled beyond the glimmering stream.

At the rail way-station all the signal-lamps had been lighted. A locomotive was snorting and puffing. Men were running about, banging doors and shouting at each other. A group of peasants who carried large bundles filled one part of the platform.

At the refreshment-room Sanine and Ivanoff had a farewell drink.

"Here's luck, and a pleasant journey!" said Ivanoff.

Sanine smiled.

"My journeys are always the same," he said. "I don't expect anything from life, and I don't ask for anything either. As for luck, there's not much of that at the finish. Old age and death; that's about all."

They went out on to the platform, seeking a quiet place for their leave-taking.

"Well, good-bye!"

"Good-bye!"

Hardly knowing why, they kissed each other.

There was a long whistle, and the train began to move.

"Ah! my boy. I had grown so fond of you," exclaimed Ivanoff suddenly. "You're the only real man that I have ever met."

"And you're the only one that ever cared for me," said Sanine as, laughing, he leapt on to the foot-board of a carriage as it rolled past.

"Off we go!" he cried. "Good-bye!"

The carriages hurried past Ivanoff as if, like Sanine, they had suddenly resolved to get away. The red light appeared in the gloom, and then seemed to become stationary. Ivanoff mournfully watched its disappearance, and then sauntered homewards through the ill-lighted streets.

"Shall I drown my sorrow?" he thought; and, as he entered the tavern, the image of his own grey, tedious life like a ghost went in with him also.