We set out, hand in hand. Misha had said:
“Come, Xenia, it’s time.”
And I followed him without saying a word. We knew the path well, he and I. Misha held the lantern in his right hand, its red light spread a weak glow around us, and in the thick night it was as if we were going through a tunnel.
At the same time, as we advanced, the space gained closed again behind us, like a black wall.
When we arrived at the end of the great walk on the grounds that surrounded my ancestral home, after which it would be a matter of dealing with unkept paths, Misha stopped and said to me:
“Rest a little, my friend. I’ll take advantage of it to tell you certain things.”
The manifest change in Misha’s whole attitude did not surprise me, since I knew the reason for it, but what seemed astonishing to me was my completely new feeling with regard to my companion.
This feeling was very different from the mystical love that I had felt for the Unknown: he effaced me more in my own eyes and was spread through me, as an overwhelming influence.
When I was seated upon the trunk of an overturned pine, well wrapped in my big, black cloak, elbows resting on my knees and forehead in palms, Misha, who had remained standing, said to me:
“Xenia, I know now that he who is waiting for us in the forest is neither a rival nor an adversary. He is a friend, and the teaching that He shall give us bears upon a sacred mystery. That is why it is appropriate for us to prepare in a worthy fashion for the solemn meeting.”
He stopped talking and gathered himself into a deep meditation.
He was truly superb, illuminated by the red glow against the black background of the night. His eyes seemed enormous and powerful, and his tall, vigorous Cossack’s stature reflected an indomitable will.
I looked at him, and I didn’t think about anything. I waited for everything from him now.
“Xenia,” he said at last, “have you anything to reproach me about?”
If the earth had opened and swallowed me up, if the Kasbek had bowed down in front of the sea, I would have been less shaken in my being: I, reproaching anything in this man!
In a single bound I was on my feet, with my arms around Misha’s neck, like a mad woman. I pressed against his body, hard as granite, I wrapped my legs around his; I ruined my clothes in rubbing against his daggers.
From time to time I threw my head back to see if he was smiling.
Misha allowed me to continue for a few moments. He took me into his arms then and hugged me tenderly.
I wish I could express the happiness I felt, feeling his strength and rigidity turn to tenderness for me.
I was aware, I felt the need to sacrifice myself. Oh! The voluptuousness of the sacrifice!
“You are right,” Misha whispered, lightly caressing my ear with his lips, “you are right: you can’t reproach me for it … Xenia is mine, because I have won her. Xenia belongs to no one else … the Other is not an enemy … we shall see Him soon … together … kiss me again, my little bluebird … give me the kiss that I need now … I’m not the same person that I was this morning … we shall see Him together, soon.”
Saying that, he lifted me like a child, without effort, as if I had no weight, and, when my head was at the level of his, our lips united in a marvelous kiss, which seemed to unite heaven and earth.
There was no hell in that kiss, for hell had already been crossed.
Hell’s kiss is humid, because it is the beginning of the great crossing of the Sea. Heaven’s kiss is airy and radiant, because it is the first step taken on the new shore.
But one does not cross over the Sea, if one does not reach the limit of the first land … and the man will not pass over the region of the waves, if the waves do not make way for him … The woman is the wave and the man is the land.
“Yes, I’m yours, Misha, yours alone …”
I was elated and without strength.
Misha plunged a caressing look into my eyes and said to me:
He placed another kiss on my forehead, between my eyebrows, a kiss charged with thoughts, and slowly, as if I were a fragile and precious object, he put me back on the trunk of the pine.
“Now, rest peacefully and don’t move, no matter what happens. What I have to do now is for me and because of me. Don’t be concerned, stay completely calm.”
Without effort, I obeyed. I found it sweet to obey him. I crossed my hands on my knees, and I waited.
Misha backed up a few steps. He extended his arms before him, presenting his palms to the sky, as the priest does in front of the altar, when he implores the divine powers, for Christ to descend into the bread and wine of the Mystery.
He immediately brought about a concentration of spirit and of formidable forces.
He resembled a red statue of transparent stone. The light lost itself around him in the immense darkness, but the force that was in him seemed still more immense. It was the center that dominated the night.