One moonlit night in May, while the nightingales sang, Father Ignatius’ wife entered his chamber. Her countenance expressed suffering, and the little lamp she held in her hand trembled. Approaching her husband, she touched his shoulder, and managed to say between her sobs:

“Father, let us go to Verochka.”

Without turning his head, Father Ignatius glanced severely at his wife over the rims of his spectacles, and looked long and intently, till she waved her unoccupied hand and dropped on a low divan.

“That one toward the other be so pitiless!” she pronounced slowly, with emphasis on the final syllables, and her good plump face was distorted with a grimace of pain and exasperation, as if in this manner she wished to express what stern people they were—her husband and daughter.

Father Ignatius smiled and arose. Closing his book, he removed his spectacles, placed them in the case and meditated. His long, black beard, inwoven with silver threads, lay dignified on his breast, and it slowly heaved at every deep breath.

“Well, let us go!” said he.

Olga Stepanovna quickly arose and entreated in an appealing, timid voice:

“Only don’t revile her, father! You know the sort she is.”

Vera’s chamber was in the attic, and the narrow, wooden stair bent and creaked under the heavy tread of Father Ignatius. Tall and ponderous, he lowered his head to avoid striking the floor of the upper story, and frowned disdainfully when the white jacket of his wife brushed his face. Well he knew that nothing would come of their talk with Vera.

“Why do you come?” asked Vera, raising a bared arm to her eyes. The other arm lay on top of a white summer blanket hardly distinguishable from the fabric, so white, translucent and cold was its aspect.

“Verochka!” began her mother, but sobbing, she grew silent.

“Vera!” said her father, making an effort to soften his dry and hard voice. “Vera, tell us, what troubles you?”

Vera was silent.

“Vera, do not, we, your mother and I, deserve your confidence? Do we not love you? And is there someone nearer to you than we? Tell us about your sorrow, and believe me you’ll feel better for it. And we too. Look at your aged mother, how much she suffers!”


“And I…” The dry voice trembled, truly something had broken in it. “And I… do you think I find it easy? As if I did not see that some sorrow is gnawing at you—and what is it? And I, your father, do not know what it is. Is it right that it should be so?”

Vera was silent. Father Ignatius very cautiously stroked his beard, as if afraid that his fingers would enmesh themselves involuntarily in it, and continued:

“Against my wish you went to St. Petersburg—did I pronounce a curse upon you, you who disobeyed me? Or did I not give you money? Or, you’ll say, I have not been kind? Well, why then are you silent? There, you’ve had your St. Petersburg!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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