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To the Memory of U. P. Vrevsky by Ivan Turgenev

 

On dirt, on stinking wet straw under the shelter of a tumble-down barn, turned in haste into a camp hospital, in a ruined Bulgarian village, for over a fortnight she lay dying of typhus.

She was unconscious, and not one doctor even looked at her; the sick soldiers, whom she had tended as long as she could keep on her legs, in their turn got up from their pestilent litters to lift a few drops of water in the hollow of a broken pot to her parched lips.

She was young and beautiful; the great world knew her; even the highest dignitaries had been interested in her. Ladies had envied her, men had paid her court ... two or three had loved her secretly and truly. Life had smiled on her; but there are smiles that are worse than tears.

A soft, tender heart ... and such force, such eagerness for sacrifice! To help those who needed help ... she knew of no other happiness ... knew not of it, and had never once known it. Every other happiness passed her by. But she had long made up her mind to that; and all aglow with the fire of unquenchable faith, she gave herself to the service of her neighbours.

What hidden treasure she buried there in the depth of her heart, in her most secret soul, no one ever knew; and now, of course, no one will ever know.

Ay, and what need? Her sacrifice is made ... her work is done.

But grievous it is to think that no one said thanks even to her dead body, though she herself was shy and shrank from all thanks.

May her dear shade pardon this belated blossom, which I make bold to lay upon her grave!

September 1878.