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The Schoolmaster and Other Stories

Betrothed
I
IT was ten o'clock in the evening and the full moon was shining over the garden. In the
Shumins' house an evening service celebrated at the request of the grandmother, Marfa
Mihalovna, was just over, and now Nadya--she had gone into the garden for a minute--
could see the table being laid for supper in the dining-room, and her grandmother
bustling about in her gorgeous silk dress; Father Andrey, a chief priest of the cathedral,
was talking to Nadya's mother, Nina Ivanovna, and now in the evening light through the
window her mother for some reason looked very young; Andrey Andreitch, Father
Andrey's son, was standing by listening attentively.
It was still and cool in the garden, and dark peaceful shadows lay on the ground. There
was a sound of frogs croaking, far, far away beyond the town. There was a feeling of
May, sweet May! One drew deep breaths and longed to fancy that not here but far away
under the sky, above the trees, far away in the open country, in the fields and the woods,
the life of spring was unfolding now, mysterious, lovely, rich and holy beyond the
understanding of weak, sinful man. And for some reason one wanted to cry.
She, Nadya, was already twenty-three. Ever since she was sixteen she had been
passionately dreaming of marriage and at last she was engaged to Andrey Andreitch, the
young man who was standing on the other side of the window; she liked him, the
wedding was already fixed for July 7, and yet there was no joy in her heart, she was
sleeping badly, her spirits drooped. . . . She could hear from the open windows of the
basement where the kitchen was the hurrying servants, the clatter of knives, the banging
of the swing door; there was a smell of roast turkey and pickled cherries, and for some
reason it seemed to her that it would be like that all her life, with no change, no end to it.
Some one came out of the house and stood on the steps; it was Alexandr Timofeitch, or,
as he was always called, Sasha, who had come from Moscow ten days before and was
staying with them. Years ago a distant relation of the grandmother, a gentleman's widow
called Marya Petrovna, a thin, sickly little woman who had sunk into poverty, used to
come to the house to ask for assistance. She had a son Sasha. It used for some reason to
be said that he had talent as an artist, and when his mother died Nadya's grandmother
had, for the salvation of her soul, sent him to the Komissarovsky school in Moscow; two
years later he went into the school of painting, spent nearly fifteen years there, and only
just managed to scrape through the leaving examination in the section of architecture. He
did not set up as an architect, however, but took a job at a lithographer's. He used to come
almost every year, usually very ill, to stay with Nadya's grandmother to rest and recover.
He was wearing now a frock-coat buttoned up, and shabby canvas trousers, crumpled into
creases at the bottom. And his shirt had not been ironed and he had somehow all over a
look of not being fresh. He was very thin, with big eyes, long thin fingers and a swarthy
bearded face, and all the same he was handsome. With the Shumins he was like one of
 
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