The air was hot and though. The midday sun was going to hide behind the bluish cloud. The crowd of relatives and guests was murmuring looking at Vera.

She felt uncomfortable here. It was impossible to hide somewhere near the wall, as she used to do at balls. Vera was, after all, in the spotlight. Today she would be married to the neighbour.

"Just imagine" — Vera heard, — "Rides a horse! Alone! And in such clothes!"

She sighted. Why on earth the aunts think about her free time? The father countenances her walks, the mother just allows them and, what is more, an old doctor thinks them to be very healthy. And what about her clothes... Women's dresses are extremely awkward for horse-riding!

To crown it all, the groom did not come in time. He was almost half-an-hour late, and Vera started thinking of the reasons.

Buttons might have fell of his vest and servants are probably sewing now. Or a horse might have lost its shoe and he has to wait for a blacksmith. That was not a great deal.

But there could be unpleasant reasons, too.

What if he had decided that marriage with a girl having no dowry except some ribbons is not a good idea? Or if he had remembered some countess from Saint Petersburg who has a poetic name Julie and an appearance of ancient nymph? Or, finally, had understood that Vera is stupid, not beautiful, short-tempered?

It was so hurtful!

Four months ago — which seemed to be not less than a year, — when Vera had just moved to Mir, the neighbour noticed her before the morning worship. "These violets are so nice", — said he looks on her bouquet, — "wouldn't you present them to me?" Vera hesitated and said nothing. Since then he usually sent her some flowers.

Vera loved him, although not the way showed in books. She could talk with him about music, or literature, or painting, for hours listen for him speaking on philosophy, looking at him drawing in her album. She could do it with nobody — neither with sisters nor brother.

But, to think, it was not the main reason. Vera hoped that the marriage would lead her to the freedom — not absolute, of course. Now she was allowed to do almost nothing except short walks. All day she had to embroider or making a lace and sit indoors, in a stuffy room.

Finally, two horsemen showed up.

One of them, wearing a dark-green coat, was Alexandr Ilyich, the groom: Vera recognized him immediately. And the second, wearing a shining cuirass, was unknown.

They dismounted. Alexandr Ilyich came to Vera and said, not greeting her:

"You know, I must bid farewell to you".


He really seemed to be disappointed in her.

"Haven't you heard the news?"

Vera shook her head.

"Last week the French army crossed Neman, and twenty-four hours later I have to be in the regiment".

It was much worse than Vera's thoughts. He, so kind, so dear, could be captured or even killed, and she would not bear the grief.

"Are you a soldier?"

"I'm a doctor in their regiment" — he nodded to his companion.

They kept quiet for a while.

"Goodbye" — he said.

"I'm going with you", — Vera answered trying to hide her tears.

She had no idea why she decided to say that. She was not encouraged by a patriotism — how will she help the country? Probably she wanted to be near Alexandr Ilyich and support him somehow, or the freedom was seen.

"You must be mad... Goodbye!"

He bowed and disappeared in the crowd and then, showing up for a second, got on the horse and vanished.