The marriage was the social event of 1828, in the Capital. Just forty years afterwards I was staying in the country house of my mother’s brother in our southern provinces.

It was the dead of winter. The great lawn in front was as pure and smooth as an Alpine snowfield, a white and feathery level sparkling under the sun as if sprinkled with diamond-dust, declining gently to the lake—a long sinuous piece of frozen water looking bluish and more solid than the earth. A cold, brilliant sun glided low above an undulating horizon of great folds of snow in which the villages of Ukrainian* peasants remained out of sight, like clusters of boats hidden in the hollows of a running sea. And everything was very still.

I don’t know now how I had managed to escape at eleven o’clock in the morning from the school-room. I was a boy of nine. The little girl, my cousin, a few months younger than myself, though hereditarily more quick-tempered, was less adventurous. So I had escaped alone; and presently I found myself in the great stone-paved hall, warmed by a monumental stove of white tiles, a much more pleasant locality than the school-room, which, for some reason or other, perhaps hygienic, was always kept at a low temperature.

We children were aware that there was a guest staying in the house. He had arrived the night before just as we were being driven off to bed. We broke back through the line of our beaters to rush and flatten our noses against the dark window-panes; but we were too late to see him alight. We had only watched, in a ruddy glare, the big travelling carriage on sleigh-runners harnessed with six horses, a black mass against the snow, going off to the stables, preceded by a horseman carrying a blazing ball of tow and resin in an iron basket at the end of a long stick swung from his saddle-bow. Two stable boys had been sent out early in the afternoon along the snow-tracks to meet the expected guest at dusk and light his way with these road torches. At that time, you must remember, there was not a single mile of railways in our southern provinces. My little cousin and I had no know-ledge of trains and engines, except from picture books as of things rather vague, extremely remote and not particularly interesting unless to grown- ups who travelled abroad.

Our notion of princes, perhaps a little more precise, was mainly literary, and had a glamour reflected from the light of fairy tales, in which princes always appear young, charming, heroic and fortunate. Yet, as well as any other children, we could draw a firm line between the real and the ideal. We knew that princes were historical personages. And there was some glamour in that fact, too. But what had driven me to roam cautiously over the house like an escaped prisoner, was the hope of snatching an interview with a special friend of mine, the head forester, who generally came to make his report at that time of the day. I yearned for news of a certain wolf. You know, in a country where wolves are to be found, almost every winter brings forward an individual eminent by the audacity of his misdeeds, by his charmed life—by his more perfect wolfishness, so to speak. I wanted to hear some new thrilling tale of that wolf—perhaps the dramatic story of his death.…

But there was no one in the hall.

Deceived in my hopes, I became suddenly very much depressed. Unable to slip back in triumph to my studies, I elected to stroll spiritlessly into the billiard-room, where certainly I had no business. There was no one there either, and I felt very lost and desolate under its high ceiling, all alone with the massive English billiard-table which seemed, in heavy, rectilinear silence to disapprove of that small boy’s intrusion.

As I began to think of retreat I heard footsteps in the adjoining drawing-room; and before I could turn tail and flee, my uncle and his guest appeared in the doorway. To run away after having been seen would have been highly improper, so I stood my ground. My uncle looked surprised to see me; the guest by his side was a spare man, of average stature, buttoned up in a black frock coat* and holding himself very erect with a stiffly soldierlike carriage. From the folds of a soft, white neck-cloth peeped the points of a collar lying close against each shaven cheek. A few wisps of thin grey hair were brushed smoothly across the top of his bald head. His face, which must have been beautiful in its day, had preserved in age the harmonious simplicity of its lines. What amazed me was its even, almost deathlike pallor. He

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