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My Dream
by [?]

“As a daughter she no longer exists for me. Can’t you understand? She simply doesn’t exist. Still, I cannot possibly leave her to the charity of strangers. I will arrange things so that she can live as she pleases, but I do not wish to hear of her. Who would ever have thought . . . the horror of it, the horror of it.”

He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and raised his eyes. These words were spoken by Prince Michael Ivanovich to his brother Peter, who was governor of a province in Central Russia. Prince Peter was a man of fifty, Michael’s junior by ten years.

On discovering that his daughter, who had left his house a year before, had settled here with her child, the elder brother had come from St. Petersburg to the provincial town, where the above conversation took place.

Prince Michael Ivanovich was a tall, handsome, white-haired, fresh coloured man, proud and attractive in appearance and bearing. His family consisted of a vulgar, irritable wife, who wrangled with him continually over every petty detail, a son, a ne’er-do-well, spendthrift and roue–yet a “gentleman,” according to his father’s code, two daughters, of whom the elder had married well, and was living in St. Petersburg; and the younger, Lisa–his favourite, who had disappeared from home a year before. Only a short while ago he had found her with her child in this provincial town.

Prince Peter wanted to ask his brother how, and under what circumstances, Lisa had left home, and who could possibly be the father of her child. But he could not make up his mind to inquire.

That very morning, when his wife had attempted to condole with her brother-in-law, Prince Peter had observed a look of pain on his brother’s face. The look had at once been masked by an expression of unapproachable pride, and he had begun to question her about their flat, and the price she paid. At luncheon, before the family and guests, he had been witty and sarcastic as usual. Towards every one, excepting the children, whom he treated with almost reverent tenderness, he adopted an attitude of distant hauteur. And yet it was so natural to him that every one somehow acknowledged his right to be haughty.

In the evening his brother arranged a game of whist. When he retired to the room which had been made ready for him, and was just beginning to take out his artificial teeth, some one tapped lightly on the door with two fingers.

“Who is that?”

“C’est moi, Michael.”

Prince Michael Ivanovich recognised the voice of his sister-in-law, frowned, replaced his teeth, and said to himself, “What does she want?” Aloud he said, “Entrez.”

His sister-in-law was a quiet, gentle creature, who bowed in submission to her husband’s will. But to many she seemed a crank, and some did not hesitate to call her a fool. She was pretty, but her hair was always carelessly dressed, and she herself was untidy and absent-minded. She had, also, the strangest, most unaristocratic ideas, by no means fitting in the wife of a high official. These ideas she would express most unexpectedly, to everybody’s astonishment, her husband’s no less than her friends’.

“Fous pouvez me renvoyer, mais je ne m’en irai pas, je vous le dis d’avance,” she began, in her characteristic, indifferent way.

“Dieu preserve,” answered her brother-in-law, with his usual somewhat exaggerated politeness, and brought forward a chair for her.

“Ca ne vous derange pas?” she asked, taking out a cigarette. “I’m not going to say anything unpleasant, Michael. I only wanted to say something about Lisochka.”

Michael Ivanovich sighed–the word pained him; but mastering himself at once, he answered with a tired smile. “Our conversation can only be on one subject, and that is the subject you wish to discuss.” He spoke without looking at her, and avoided even naming the subject. But his plump, pretty little sister-in-law was unabashed. She continued to regard him with the same gentle, imploring look in her blue eyes, sighing even more deeply.