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HOME > Classical Novels > The Queen of Spades and other stories > CHAPTER II.
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Days and months passed, and love-sick Ibrahim could not resolve to leave the woman he had wronged. The Countess from hour to hour grew more attached to him. Their son was being brought up in a distant province; social scandal was subsiding, and the lovers began to enjoy greater tranquillity, in silence remembering the past storm and trying not to think of the future.

One day Ibrahim was standing at the Duke of Orleans' door. The Duke passing him, stopped, handed him a letter, and bade him read it at his leisure. It was a letter from Peter I. The Tsar, guessing the real cause of his absence, wrote to the Hake that he in no way desired to compel Ibrahim, and left it to his free will to[Pg 223] return to Russia or not; but that in any case he should never forsake his foster-child. This letter touched Ibrahim to the heart. From that moment his decision was made. Next day he announced to the Regent his intention to start immediately for Russia.

"Consider the step you are about to take," replied the Duke. "Russia is not your home. I don't think you will ever have a chance of seeing your torrid Africa, and your long residence in France has made you equally a stranger to the climate and the semi-barbarous life of Russia. You were not born one of Peter's subjects. Take my advice, profit by his generous permission, stay in France, for which you have already shed your blood, and be convinced that here your services and talents will not be left without their due reward."

Ibrahim thanked the Duke sincerely, but remained firm in his resolve.

"I regret it," replied the Regent; "but on the whole you may be right."

He promised to let him retire and wrote to inform the Tsar.

Ibrahim was soon ready for the journey. On the eve of his departure he passed the evening as usual at the Countess L's. She knew nothing. Ibrahim had not the courage to tell her. The Countess was calm and cheerful. She several[Pg 224] times called him to her and joked about his pensiveness. After supper everybody had gone, leaving in the drawing-room only the Countess, her husband, and Ibrahim. The unhappy man would have given the world to be left alone with her; but Count L. seemed to be settled so comfortably near the grate that it appeared hopeless to wait to see him out of the room. All three remained silent.

"Bonne nuit!" at last said the Countess.

Ibrahim's heart sank and he suddenly experienced all the horrors of parting. He stood motionless.

"Bonne nuit, messieurs," repeated the Countess.

Still he did not move. At last his eyes became dim, his head went round, and he could scarcely get out of the room.

Arriving at home, almost mad, he wrote as follows:

"I am going, dearest Leonora, to leave you for ever. I write because I have not the strength to tell you otherwise. Our happiness could not continue; I have enjoyed it against the will of destiny and nature. You must in time have ceased to love me. The enchantment must have vanished. This idea has always haunted me, even when I seemed to forget all, when at your feet I was intoxicated by your[Pg 225] passionate self-abnegation, by your boundless tenderness. The thoughtless world mercilessly persecute that which in theory it permits. Sooner or later its cold irony would have vanquished you, and cowed your passionate soul, till finally you would have been ashamed of your love.

"What, then, would have become of me?

"Better to die; better to leave you before that terrible moment. Your happiness to me is more precious than all; you could not enjoy it, while the gaze of society was fixed upon us. Remember all you have endured, your wounded pride, the torture of fear; the terrible birth of our son. Think; ought I any longer to subject you to such fears and dangers? Why should I endeavour to unite the fate of so tender, so beautiful a creature with the miserable life of a negro, a pitiable object scarce worthy of the name of man?

"Forgive me, Leonora; dear and only friend. In leaving you, I leave the first and last joy of my heart. I have no fatherland nor kin. I go to Russia, where my utter solitude will be my joy. Serious pursuits to which from henceforth I devote myself, if they do not silence must at any rate distract painful recollections of the days of rapture. Farewell, Leonora! I tear myself away from this letter, as if from your embrace. Farewell, be happy, and think sometimes[Pg 226] of the poor negro, of your faithful Ibrahim."

The same night he started for Russia. The journey did not seem as terrible as he had expected. His imagination triumphed over fact. The further he got from Paris the nearer and more vivid seemed to him all the objects he was leaving for ever.

Imperceptibly he reached the Russian frontier. Autumn had already set in, but the hired relays, notwithstanding the badness of the roads, brought him with the swiftness of the wind, and on the seventeenth morning he arrived at Krasnoe Selo, through which at that time passed the high road.

There remained twenty-eight versts' journey to St. Petersburg. While the horses were being changed Ibrahim entered t............
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