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In a couple of days she sent me to Dubechnia and I was beyond words delighted with it. As I walked to the station, and as I sat in the train, I laughed for no reason and people thought me drunk. There were snow and frost in the mornings still, but the roads were getting dark, and there were rooks cawing above them. At first I thought of arranging the side wing opposite Mrs. Cheprakov's for myself and Masha, but it appeared that doves and pigeons had taken up their abode there and it would be impossible to cleanse it without destroying a great number of nests. We would have to live willy-nilly in the uncomfortable rooms with Venetian blinds in the big house. The peasants called it a palace; there were more than twenty rooms in it, and the only furniture was a piano and a child's chair, lying in the attic, and even if Masha brought all her furniture from town we should not succeed in removing the impression of frigid emptiness and coldness. I chose three small rooms with windows looking on to the garden, and from early morning till late at night I was at work in them, glazing the windows, hanging paper, blocking up the chinks and holes in the floor. It was an easy, pleasant job. Every now and then I would run to the river to see if the ice was breaking and all the while I dreamed of the starlings returning. And at night when I thought of Masha I would be filled with an inexpressibly sweet feeling of an all-embracing joy to listen to the rats and the wind rattling and knocking above the ceiling; it was like an old hobgoblin coughing in the attic. The snow was deep; there was a heavy fall at the end of March, but it thawed rapidly, as if by magic, and the spring floods rushed down so that by the beginning of April the starlings were already chattering and yellow bu*terflies fluttered in the garden. The weather was wonderful. Every day toward evening I walked toward the town to meet Masha, and how delightful it was to walk along the soft, drying road with bare feet! Half-way I would sit down and look at the town, not daring to go nearer. The sight of it upset me, I was always wondering how my acquaintances would behave toward me when they heard of my love. What would my father say? I was particularly worried by the idea that my life was becoming more complicated, and that I had entirely lost control of it, and that she was carrying me off like a balloon, God knows whither. I had already given up thinking how to make a living, and I thought—indeed, I cannot remember what I thought. Masha used to come in a carriage. I would take a seat beside her and together, happy and free, we used to drive to Dubechnia. Or, having waited till sunset, I would return home, weary and disconsolate, wondering why Masha had not come, and then by the gate or in the garden I would find my darling. She would come by the railway and walk over from the station. What a triumph she had then! In her plain, woollen dress, with a simple umbrella, but keeping a trim, fashionable figure and expensive, Parisian boots—she was a gifted actress playing the country girl. We used to go over the house, and plan out the rooms, and the paths, and the vegetable-garden, and the beehives. We already had chickens and ducks and geese which we loved because they were ours. We had oats, clover, buckwheat, and vegetable seeds all ready for sowing, and we used to examine them all and wonder what the crops would be like, and everything Masha said to me seemed extraordinarily clever and fine. This was the happiest time of my life. Soon after Easter we were married in the parish church in the village of Kurilovka three miles from Dubechnia. Masha wanted everything to be simple; by her wish our bridesmen were peasant boys, only one deacon sang, and we returned from the church in a little, shaky cart which she drove herself. My sister was the only guest from the town. Masha had sent her a note a couple of days before the wedding. My sister wore a white dress and white gloves.... During the ceremony she cried softly for joy and emotion, and her face had a maternal expression of infinite goodness. She was intoxicated with our happiness and smiled as though she were breathing a sweet perfume, and when I looked at her I understood that there was nothing in the world higher in her eyes than love, earthly love, and that she was always dreaming of love, secretly, timidly, yet pa**ionately. She embraced Masha and kissed her, and, not knowing how to express her ecstasy, she said to her of me: "He is a good man! A very good man." Before she left us, she put on her ordinary clothes, and took me into the garden to have a quiet talk. "Father is very hurt that you have not written to him," she said. "You should have asked for his blessing. But, at heart, he is very pleased. He says that this marriage will raise you in the eyes of society, and that under Maria Victorovna's influence you will begin to adopt a more serious attitude toward life. In the evening now we talk about nothing but you; and yesterday he even said, 'our Misail.' I was delighted. He has evidently thought of a plan and I believe he wants to set you an example of magnanimity, and that he will be the first to talk of reconciliation. It is quite possible that one of these days he will come and see you here." She made the sign of the cross over me and said: "Well, God bless you. Be happy. Aniuta Blagovo is a very clever girl. She says of your marriage that God has sent you a new ordeal. Well? Married life is not made up only of joy but of suffering as well. It is impossible to avoid it." Masha and I walked about three miles with her, and then walked home quietly and silently, as though it were a rest for both of us. Masha had her hand on my arm. We were at peace and there was no need to talk of love; after the wedding we grew closer to each other and dearer, and it seemed as though nothing could part us. "Your sister is a dear, lovable creature," said Masha, "but looks as though she had lived in torture. Your father must be a terrible man." I began to tell her how my sister and I had been brought up and how absurd and full of torture our childhood had been. When she heard that my father had thrashed me quite recently she shuddered and clung to me: "Don't tell me any more," she said. "It is too horrible." And now she did not leave me. We lived in the big house, in three rooms, and in the evenings we bolted the door that led to the empty part of the house, as though some one lived there whom we did not know and feared. I used to get up early, at dawn, and begin working. I repaired the carts; made paths in the garden, dug the beds, painted the roofs. When the time came to sow oats, I tried to plough and harrow, and sow and did it all conscientiously, and did not leave it all to the labourer. I used to get tired, and my face and feet used to burn with the rain and the sharp cold wind. But work in the fields did not attract me. I knew nothing about agriculture and did not like it; perhaps because my ancestors were not tillers of the soil and pure town blood ran in my veins. I loved nature dearly; I loved the fields and the meadows and the garden, but the peasant who turns the earth with his plough, shouting at his miserable horse, ragged and wet, with bowed shoulders, was to me an expression of wild, rude, ugly force, and as I watched his clumsy movements I could not help thinking of the long-pa**ed legendary life, when men did not yet know the use of fire. The fierce bull which led the herd, and the horses that stampeded through the village, filled me with terror, and all the large creatures, strong and hostile, a ram with horns, a gander, or a watch-dog seemed to me to be symbolical of some rough, wild force. These prejudices used to be particularly strong in me in bad weather, when heavy clouds hung over the black plough-lands. But worst of all was that when I was ploughing or sowing, and a few peasants stood and watched how I did it, I no longer felt the inevitability and necessity of the work and it seemed to me that I was trifling my time away. I used to go through the gardens and the meadow to the mill. It was leased by Stiepan, a Kurilovka peasant; handsome, swarthy, with a black beard—an athletic appearance. He did not care for mill work and thought it tiresome and unprofitable, and he only lived at the mill to escape from home. He was a saddler and always smelled of tan and leather. He did not like talking, was slow and immovable, and used to hum "U-lu-lu-lu," sitting on the bank or in the doorway of the mill. Sometimes his wife and mother-in-law used to come from Kurilovka to see him; they were both fair, languid, soft, and they used to bow to him humbly and call him Stiepan Petrovich. And he would not answer their greeting with a word or a sign, but would turn where he sat on the bank and hum quietly: "U-lu-lu-lu." There would be a silence for an hour or two. His mother-in-law and his wife would whisper to each other, get up and look expectantly at him for some time, waiting for him to look at them, and then they would bow humbly and say in sweet, soft voices: "Good-bye, Stiepan Petrovich." And they would go away. After that, Stiepan would put away the bundle of cracknels or the shirt they had left for him and sigh and give a wink in their direction and say: "The female s**!" The mill was worked with both wheels day and night. I used to help Stiepan, I liked it, and when he went away I was glad to take his place.