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The Darling and Other Stories

Three Years
I
IT was dark, and already lights had begun to gleam here and there in the houses, and a
pale moon was rising behind the barracks at the end of the street. Laptev was sitting on a
bench by the gate waiting for the end of the evening service at the Church of St. Peter and
St. Paul. He was reckoning that Yulia Sergeyevna would pass by on her way from the
service, and then he would speak to her, and perhaps spend the whole evening with her.
He had been sitting there for an hour and a half already, and all that time his imagination
had been busy picturing his Moscow rooms, his Moscow friends, his man Pyotr, and his
writing-table. He gazed half wonderingly at the dark, motionless trees, and it seemed
strange to him that he was living now, not in his summer villa at Sokolniki, but in a
provincial town in a house by which a great herd of cattle was driven every morning and
evening, accompanied by terrible clouds of dust and the blowing of a horn. He thought of
long conversations in which he had taken part quite lately in Moscow--conversations in
which it had been maintained that one could live without love, that passionate love was
an obsession, that finally there is no such love, but only a physical attraction between the
sexes--and so on, in the same style; he remembered them and thought mournfully that if
he were asked now what love was, he could not have found an answer.
The service was over, the people began to appear. Laptev strained his eyes gazing at the
dark figures. The bishop had been driven by in his carriage, the bells had stopped ringing,
and the red and green lights in the belfry were one after another extinguished-- there had
been an illumination, as it was dedication day--but the people were still coming out,
lingering, talking, and standing under the windows. But at last Laptev heard a familiar
voice, his heart began beating violently, and he was overcome with despair on seeing that
Yulia Sergeyevna was not alone, but walking with two ladies.
"It's awful, awful!" he whispered, feeling jealous. "It's awful!"
At the corner of the lane, she stopped to say good-bye to the ladies, and while doing so
glanced at Laptev.
"I was coming to see you," he said. "I'm coming for a chat with your father. Is he at
home?"
"Most likely," she answered. "It's early for him to have gone to the club."
There were gardens all along the lane, and a row of lime-trees growing by the fence cast a
broad patch of shadow in the moonlight, so that the gate and the fences were completely
plunged in darkness on one side, from which came the sounds of women whispering,
smothered laughter, and someone playing softly on a balalaika. There was a fragrance of
lime-flowers and of hay. This fragrance and the murmur of the unseen whispers worked
 
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