Three days after the fatal night, at nine o'clock in the morning,
Hermann repaired to the Convent of ----, where the last honours were
to be paid to the mortal remains of the old Countess. Although feeling
no remorse, he could not altogether stifle the voice of conscience,
which said to him: "You are the murderer of the old woman!" In spite
of his entertaining very little religious belief, he was exceedingly
superstitious; and believing that the dead Countess might exercise an
evil influence on his life, he resolved to be present at her obsequies
in order to implore her pardon.
The church was full. It was with difficulty that Hermann made his way
through the crowd of people. The coffin was placed upon a rich
catafalque beneath a velvet baldachin. The deceased Countess lay
within it, with her hands crossed upon her breast, with a lace cap
upon her head and dressed in a white satin robe. Around the catafalque
stood the members of her household: the servants in black _caftans_,
with armorial ribbons upon their shoulders, and candles in their
hands; the relatives--children, grandchildren, and
great-grandchildren--in deep mourning.
Nobody wept; tears would have been _une affectation_. The Countess was
so old, that her death could have surprised nobody, and her relatives
had long looked upon her as being out of the world. A famous preacher
pronounced the funeral sermon. In simple and touching words he
described the peaceful passing away of the righteous, who had passed
long years in calm preparation for a Christian end. "The angel of
death found her," said the orator, "engaged in pious meditation and
waiting for the midnight bridegroom."
The service concluded amidst profound silence. The relatives went
forward first to take farewell of the corpse. Then followed the
numerous guests, who had come to render the last homage to her who for
so many years had been a participator in their frivolous amusements.
After these followed the members of the Countess's household. The last
of these was an old woman of the same age as the deceased. Two young
women led her forward by the hand. She had not strength enough to bow
down to the ground--she merely shed a few tears and kissed the cold
hand of her mistress.
Hermann now resolved to approach the coffin. He knelt down upon the
cold stones and remained in that position for some minutes; at last he
arose, as pale as the deceased Countess herself; he ascended the steps
of the catafalque and bent over the corpse... At that moment it seemed
to him that the dead woman darted a mocking look at him and winked
with one eye. Hermann started back, took a false step and fell to the
ground. Several persons hurried forward and raised him up. At the same
moment Lizaveta Ivanovna was borne fainting into the porch of the
church. This episode disturbed for some minutes the solemnity of the
gloomy ceremony. Among the congregation arose a deep murmur, and a
tall thin chamberlain, a near relative of the deceased, whispered in
the ear of an Englishman who was standing near him, that the young
officer was a natural son of the Countess, to which the Englishman
coldly replied: "Oh!"
During the whole of that day, Hermann was strangely excited. Repairing
to an out-of-the-way restaurant to dine, he drank a great deal of
wine, contrary to his usual custom, in the hope of deadening his
inward agitation. But the wine only served to excite his imagination
still more. On returning home, he threw himself upon his bed without
undressing, and fell into a deep sleep.
When he woke up it was already night, and the moon was shining into
the room. He looked at his watch: it was a quarter to three. Sleep had
left him; he sat down upon his bed and thought of the funeral of the
At that moment somebody in the street looked in at his window, and
immediately passed on again. Hermann paid no attention to this
incident. A few moments afterwards he heard the door of his ante-room
open. Hermann thought that it was his orderly, drunk as usual,
returning from some nocturnal expedition, but presently he heard
footsteps that were unknown to him: somebody was walking softly over
the floor in slippers. The door opened, and a woman dressed in white,
entered the room. Hermann mistook her for his old nurse, and wondered
what could bring her there at that hour of the night. But the white
woman glided rapidly across the room and stood before him--and Hermann
recognised the Countess!
"I have come to you against my wish," she said in a firm voice: "but I
have been ordered to grant your request. Three, seven, ace, will win
for you if played in succession, but only on these conditions: that
you do not play more than one card in twenty-four hours, and that you
never play again during the rest of your life. I forgive you my death,
on condition that you marry my companion, Lizaveta Ivanovna."
With these words she turned round very quietly, walked with a
shuffling gait towards the door and disappeared. Hermann heard the
street-door open and shut, and again he saw some one look in at him
through the window.
For a long time Hermann could not recover himself. He then rose up and
entered the next room. His orderly was lying asleep upon the floor,
and he had much difficulty in waking him. The orderly was drunk as
usual, and no information could be obtained from him. The street-door
was locked. Hermann returned to his room, lit his candle, and wrote
down all the details of his vision.