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291
THE COSSACKS

the oven. Ústenka did not leave the room for a minute, and passed her time with the girls and with Byelétski. Olénin had been talking with her in a whisper.

"Will you marry me?" he had asked her.

"You will deceive me! You will not take me," she had replied, gaily and calmly.

"But do you love me? Tell me, for God's sake!"

"Why should I not love you ? You are not misshapen!" Maryánka had answered, laughing, and pressing his hand in her own rough hands. "What white, awfully white, hands you have,——just like curds," she had said.

"I am not jesting. Tell me, will you marry me?"

"Why should I not, if father is willing?"

"Remember, I shall lose my mind if you deceive me. To-morrow I will tell your parents; I will come to sue for you."

Maryánka had suddenly burst out laughing.

"What is the matter with you?"

"Nothing. It is so funny."

"Truly! I will buy a vineyard and a house, and will enrol myself as a Cossack——"

"Look out! You must not love any other women! I am cross when it comes to that——"

Olénin with delight repeated all these words in his imagination. At these recollections he now felt an anguish and now was breathless with happiness. He was depressed, because she had been as calm as ever while speaking with him. This new situation had, apparently, not agitated her in the least. She did not seem to believe him, and was not thinking of the future. It appeared to him that she was loving him only in the present, and that there was no future for her with him. But he was happy, because her words seemed to him to be the truth, and because she had consented to be his.

"Yes," he said to himself, "only then shall we understand each other when she is all mine. For such a love