In the drawing-room Lavretsky found Marya Dmitrievna alone. She was redolent of eau de Cologne and mint. She had, as she said, a headache, and had passed a restless night. She received him with her usual languid graciousness and gradually fell into conversation.
Panshin to be sure, who was here yesterday. He took a tremendous fancy to you; I will tell you a secret, mon cher cousin, he is simply crazy about my Lisa. Well, he is of good family, has a capital position in the service, and a clever fellow, a kammer-yunker, and if it is Gods will, I for my part, as a mother, shall be well pleased. My responsibility of course is immense; the happiness of children depends, no doubt, on parents; still I may say, up till now, for better or for worse I have done everything, I alone have been everywhere with them, that is to say, I have educated my children and taught them everything myself. Now, indeed, I have written for a French governess from Madame Boluce.
Marya Dmitrievna launched into a description of her cares and anxieties and maternal sentiments. Lavretsky listened in silence, turning his hat in his hands. His cold, weary glance embarrassed the gossiping lady.
Lisaveta Mihalovna is an excellent girl, replied Lavretsky, and he got up, took his leave, and went off to Marfa Timofyevna. Marya Dmitrievna looked after him in high displeasure, and thought, What a dolt, a regular peasant! Well, now I understand why his wife could not remain faithful to him.
Marfa Timofyevna was sitting in her room, surrounded by her little court. It consisted of five creatures almost equally near her heart; a big-cropped, learned bullfinch, which she had taken a fancy to because he had lost his accomplishments of whistling and drawing water; a very timid and peaceable little dog, Roska; an ill-tempered cat, Matross; a dark-faced, agile little girl of nine years old, with big eyes and a sharp nose, called Shurotchka; and an elderly woman of fifty-five, in a white cap and a cinnamon-coloured abbreviated jacket, over a dark skirt, by name, Nastasya Karpovna Ogarkov. Shurotchka was an orphan of the tradesman class. Marfa Timofyevna had taken her to her heart like Roska, from compassion; she had found the little dog and the little girl too in the street; both were thin and hungry, both were being drenched by the autumn rain; no one came in search of Roska, and Shurotchka was given up to Marfa Timofyevna with positive eagerness by her uncle, a drunken shoemaker, who did not get enough to eat himself, and did not feed his niece, but beat her over the head with his last. With Nastasya Karpovna Marfa Timofyevna had made acquaintance on a pilgrimage at a monastery; she had gone up to her at the church (Marfa Timofyevna took a fancy to her because in her own words she said her prayers so prettily) and had addressed her and invited her to a cup of tea. From that day she never parted from her.
Nastasya Karpovna was a woman of the most cheerful and gentle disposition, a widow without children, of poor noble family; she had a round grey head, soft white hands, a soft face with large mild features, and a rather absurd turned-up nose; she stood in awe of Marfa Timofyevna, and the latter was very fond of her, though she laughed at her susceptibility. She had a soft place in her heart for every young man, and could not help blushing like a girl at the most innocent joke. Her whole fortune consisted of only 1200 roubles; she lived at Marfa Timofyevnas expense, but on an equal footing with her: Marfa Timofyevna would not have put up with any servility.
Ah! Fedya, she began, directly she saw him, last night you did not see my family, you must admire them, we are all here together for tea; this is our second, holiday tea. You can make friends with them all; only Shurotchka wont let you, and the cat will scratch. Are you starting to-day?
No, not at all; you will go alone; I have grown too lazy, my dear, replied Marfa Timofyevna. Already I am indulging myself with tea. She addressed Nastasya Karpovna in the singular, though she treated her as an equal. She was not a Pestov for nothing: three Pestovs had been on the death-list of Ivan the Terrible, Marfa Timofyevna was well aware of the fact.
What a chatterbox she is, Lord save us! muttered Marfa Timofyevna. She told you, I suppose, as a secret that he has turned up as a suitor. She might have whispered it to her priests son; no, hes not enough for her, it seems. And so far theres nothing to tell, thank God, but already shes gossiping about it.
And he knows, to be sure, the rogue, Marfa Timofyevna interrupted her, he knows how to captivate her; he made her a present of a snuff-box. Fedya, ask her for a pinch of snuff; you will see what a splendid snuff-box it is; on the lid a hussar on horseback. Youd better not try to defend yourself, my dear.
She seems to like him, but there, God knows! The heart of another, you know, is a dark forest, and a girls more than any. Shurotchkas heart, for instanceI defy you to understand it! What makes her hide herself and not come out ever since you came in?
Yes, to be sure you are going to Vassilyevskoe. You dont care to stay at Lavriky: well, thats your own affair, only mind you go and say a prayer at our mothers grave, and our grandmothers too while you are there. Out there in foreign parts you have picked up all kinds of ideas, but who knows? Perhaps even in their graves they will feel that you have come to them. And, Fedya, dont forget to have a service sung too for Glafira Petrovna; heres a silver rouble for you. Take it, take it, I want to pay for a service for her. I had no love for her in her lifetime, but all the same theres no denying she was a girl of character. She was a clever creature; and a good friend to you. And now go and God be with you, before I weary you.