They met in December, by chance. When he got to Andrei Bely’s lecture, he roared and laughed that she, who happened to be in the armchair next to her and at first looked at him with some perplexity, also laughed. Now every evening he went to her apartment, which she had rented solely for the sake of a wonderful view of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, every evening she drove her to dine in chic restaurants, theaters, concerts… What all this had to end, he did not know and tried not to even think: she once and for all gave up talking about the future.
It was mysterious and incomprehensible; their relations were strange and vague, and this kept him in constant unresolved tension, in agonizing expectation. And yet, how happy was every
In Moscow, she lived alone (her widowed father, an enlightened man of a noble merchant family, lived alone in Tver), for some reason she studied at courses (she liked the story) and all learned the slow start of the “Moonlight Sonata”, the mere beginning… He posed it with flowers, chocolate and new-fangled books, getting on all this indifferent and absent-minded “Thank you…”. And it seemed that she did not need anything, although she preferred flowers, read books, ate chocolate, ate and ate with appetite. Her obvious weakness was only good clothes, expensive fur…
They were both rich, healthy, young and so good that they were seen off at restaurants and concerts. He, being a native of the Penza province, was then beautiful in the southern, “Italian” beauty and the character had a corresponding one: lively, cheerful, always ready for a happy smile. And her beauty was some kind of Indian, Persian, and how much he was talkative and restless, she was so silent and thoughtful… Even when he suddenly kissed her hotly, impetuously, she did not resist, but she was silent all the time. And when she felt that he could not control himself, quietly withdrew, went into the bedroom and dressed for another exit. “No, I’m not fit for a wife!”
But sometimes this incomplete closeness seemed unbearably excruciating to him: “No, this is not love!” – “Who knows what love is?” she answered. And again all evening they talked only about the stranger, and again he was only happy that just next to her, he hears her voice, looks at the lips that he kissed an hour ago… What a torment! And what happiness!
So passed January, February, came and passed the carnival. On pardoned Sunday, she dressed in all black (“After all, tomorrow is pure Monday!”) And invited him to go to the Novodevichy Convent. He looked at her in astonishment, and She talked about the beauty and sincerity of the funeral of the schismatic archbishop, about the singing of the church choir, making the heart tremble, about her lonely visits to the Kremlin cathedrals… Then they wandered a long time along the Novodevichy cemetery, visited the graves of Ertel and Chekhov, and fruitlessly searched for Griboyedov’s house, and not finding it, went to Yegorov’s tavern in Okhotny Ryad.
The tavern was warm and full of thickly dressed cabmen. “How nice,” she said, “and now only in some northern monasteries this Rus has left now… Oh, I’ll go somewhere to a monastery, to some deaf person!” And I recited by heart the Old Russian legends: “… And the Devil sent a flying serpent to his wife for fornication, and this serpent appeared to her in the human nature, beautiful…”. And again he looked with surprise and anxiety: what’s wrong with her today? All the quirks?
For tomorrow she asked me to take her to a skits show, although she noticed that there was nothing more vulgar than them. On the cabbage she smoked a lot and looked intently at the actors, who were mocked at the laughter of the audience. One of them looked at her with gloomy greed, then, drunk with his hand, coped with her companion: “What kind of handsome man is this? I hate” … In the third hour of the night, coming out of the cabbage, She was joking, “Serpent in the human nature, beautiful, beautiful…” And that evening, against the habit, I asked to release the crew…
And in a quiet night apartment she immediately went into the bedroom, rustled with a removable dress. He went to the door: she, only in some swan shoes, stood in front of the dressing table, combing black tortoiseshell comb. “Everything said that I do not think much about it,” she said, “No, I thought…” … And at dawn he woke up from her gaze: “This evening I’m leaving for Tver,” she said. “For how long, God only knows… I’ll write everything as soon as I arrive.” Forgive me, leave me now… “
The letter received in a couple of weeks was brief – affectionate, but a firm request not to wait, not to try to look and see: “I will not return to Moscow, I’ll go on obedience, then maybe I’ll decide on tonsure…” And he did not seek, for a long time he disappeared through the most filthy taverns, he drank himself down, sank more and more. Then he gradually began to recover – indifferently, hopelessly…
It was almost two years since that clean Monday… In the same quiet evening, he left the house, took a cab and went to the Kremlin. He stood for a long time, not praying, in the dark Arkhangelsk cathedral, then for a long time he rode, as then, through dark alleys, and he cried and cried…
At Ordynka, he stopped at the gates of the Martha and Mary Convent, in which the girlish choir sang sorrowfully and tenderly. The janitor did not want to miss, but missed the ruble with a sigh, with a sigh. Then from the church there appeared the icons, banners, carried on their hands, a white string of singing nuns, with candles on their faces. He looked at them intently, and one of the people walking in the middle suddenly lifted her head and fixed her dark eyes on the darkness, as if seeing him. What could she see in the dark, how could she feel His presence? He turned and quietly left the gate.