A Hero of Our Time, part 13: How Pechorin Treats a Woman

This is how Pechorin concluded matters with Princess Mary, whose marriage with Pechorin Vera, torn between friendship and jealousy, both willed and did not will.


Some five minutes passed; my heart pounded, but my thoughts were orderly and my head cool. Search as I might in my heart for even the tiniest spark of love for the charming Mary, my efforts were hopeless.

The door opened and she entered. Heavens! How she had changed since I saw her last–and that but a short while ago!

When she reached the middle of the room, she swayed. I leapt to her side, offered her my arm and led her to an armchair.

I stood facing her. For a long time neither of us said a word. Her big eyes full of ineffable sorrow seemed to search mine for something akin to hope. In vain her pale lips tried to smile. Her delicate hands folded on her knees were so fragile and transparent that I began to feel sorry for her.

“Princess,” said I, “you know I have mocked you, do you not? You must despise me.”

A feverish red colored her cheeks.

“Hence, you cannot love me . . .” I continued.

She turned away, leaned her elbows on the table and covered her eyes with her hand, and I thought I saw tears glistening in them.

“Oh God!” she said scarcely audibly.

The situation was growing unbearable. In another minute I would have thrown myself at her feet.

“So you see for yourself,” I said in as steady a voice as I could, forcing a smile, “you see for yourself that I can’t marry you. Even if you wished to do so now, you’d regret the decision very soon. The talk I had with your mother compels me to speak to you now so frankly and brutally. I hope she is mistaken, but you can easily undeceive her. As you can see I am playing a most contemptible and disgusting role in your eyes, and I admit it–that is the most I can do for you. However bad your opinion may be of me, I’ll accept it. You see I am abasing myself before you . . . Even if you did love me, you would despise me from this moment–now, wouldn’t you?”

She turned to me a face as white as marble but with eyes flashing wondrously.

“I hate you . . .” she said.

I thanked her, bowed respectfully and walked out.

An hour later a stage coach troika was carrying me rapidly from Kislovodsk. A few miles from Essentuki I saw the carcass of my spirited steed by the roadside. The saddle had been removed–probably by some passing Cossack–and in its place two ravens now sat. I sighed and turned away . . .

And now, here in this dreary fort, as my mind dwells on the past, I frequently ask myself: why did I not wish to
tread the path fate held open to me with a promise of tranquil joys and peace of mind? No, I could never have reconciled myself to such a fate. I am like a mariner born and bred on board a buccaneer brig whose soul has become so used to storm and strife that, if cast ashore, he would weary and fade away, no matter how alluring the shady groves and how bright the gentle sun. All day long he walks up and down the sandy beach, listening to the monotonous roar of the breakers and looking into the hazy distance to catch, in the pale strip dividing the blue deep from the gray clouds, the flash of the long-awaited sail that at first is like the wing of a seagull and then gradually stands out from the white of the spray, as it steadily makes for its lonely anchorage . . .


About Pechorin

A Hero of Our Time
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One Response to A Hero of Our Time, part 13: How Pechorin Treats a Woman

  1. Pingback: A Hero of Our Time: Introduction | Pechorin

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