The Talk. 1812, August 24th
"What are you doing there? -- asked Alexandr Ilyich. He was thoughtful and severy and seemed to can told Vera off.
"Nothing", "Hanging around" and some other answers were on the tip of her tongue. What could she say so as to he did not think anything bad about her?
"How do you feel?" -- he said giving her no time to answer. "Well, thank you."
No matter she had lied a bit -- the answer had many advantages. Firstly, it was polite; secondly, Alexandr Ilyich will not think she was too soft; thirdly, if there is no blood it does not worth worrying.
"I can't say this... What for are you looking coy?" He smiled and Vera thought that if he does not approve of her behavior, at least he does not blame it.
"Awfully. I'm tired, cold and hungry and my leg hurts" -- plaintive words escaped her lips. Indeed, she felt so awfully that wanted to cry, but was ready to tell it neither herself nor anybody else.
Somebody called Alexandr Ilyich and he left Vera, having told her: "Well, it's not the worst'." Vera was looking on falling leaves for few minutes and fainted again.
She came to her senses because somebody patted on her cheeks. Vera looked around: she was lying in a tent and Alexandr Ilyich was awaking her.
"Feeling better?" -- Vera nodded. -- "Will you tell anything about you?" "Nothing to tell."
"Why? How did they accept you in a regiment?" -- Alexandr Ilyich seemed to be interested. He sat besides her and got ready to listen. "Rather easily. I gave a word of honor."
She did not want to answer such questions. Shameful, wrong, reprehensible was her occupation although she endeavored to persuade herself in it was not.
After all, peasant women fight against Frenchmen and, perhaps, do not feel bad about it. "But peasant women do lots of things I'll never think about." -- All arguments were worthless since she had to stick to the rules -- in her usual life, of course.
Even the conversations with Alexandr Ilyich, which always were pleasant, now were causing worries.
Every her acquaintance will turn away from her and stop any communication both with Vera and her family if he or she hear about her present strange adventures. Alexandr Ilyich, who was going to tie the knot with her, must not be separated from society.
"So, are you serving as everybody else?" -- he asked. Vera did not answer.
"You see," -- she said looking aside sadly, -- "we ought to break the engagement." "What the h..." -- it was difficult to control himself. -- "Do you have fever and delirium?"
He wanted to touch her forehead, but Vera upped, leaning on her elbow, and said: "I'm absolutely healthy and talking seriously. We must break up."
"I'd challenge this scoundrel to a duel," -- said Alexandr Ilyich between greeted teeth. -- "But I feel sorry for you, so God grant that man love you as I do."
For a second Vera could say nothing because of outrage. What did he think about her?!
"How dare you say this!" -- she exclaimed. -- "Don't you understand that when it all stops other people will just spit in my face? That they'll be right? Finally, that they won't lend you a hand?"
He laughed: "Those people must be quite unclever... You think, they also can't stand the Schiller's play?"
Vera shrugged. Not only Schiller but all modern authors were thought to be extremely indecent by her mother and Vera was not allowed to read their books.
"If you are so upset, I'll say this." -- he continued. -- "Everybody will be happy to meet you, you'll be tired of visits. You'll write books and be published in «Herald of Europe»."
They kept quite and then Alexandr Ilyich asked: "Maybe you'll tell me about Smolensk? They say, the place for cavalry was totally inappropriate?"
Now Vera had to answer. Getting used to fame, outlined by Alexandr Ilyich, must be step-by-step; too much attention seemed to be more unpleasant than absence of it.
To be continued…