A House of Gentlefolk/Chapter XXXVIII
|←Chapter XXXVII||A House of Gentlefolk by , translated by Constance Garnett
The day of the arrival of Lavretsky's wife at the town of O-----, a sorrowful day for him, and been also a day of misery for Lisa. She had not had time to go down-stairs and say good-morning to her mother, when the tramp of hoofs was heard under the window, and with a secret dismay she saw Panshin riding into the courtyard. "He has come so early for a final explanation," she thought, and she was not mistaken. After a turn in the drawing-room, he suggested that she should go with him into the garden, and then asked her for the decision of his fate. Lisa summoned up all her courage and told him that she could not be his wife. He heard her to the end, standing on one side of her and pulling his hat down over his forehead; courteously, but in a changed voice, he asked her, "Was this her last word, and had he given her any ground for such a change in her views?"--then pressed his hand to his eyes, sighed softly and abruptly, and took his head away from his face again.
"I did not want to go along the beaten track," he said huskily. "I wanted to choose a wife according to the dictates of my heart; but it seems this was not to be. Farewell, fond dream!" He made Lisa a profound bow, and went back into the house.
She hoped that he would go away at once; but he went into Marya Dmitrievna's room and remained nearly an hour with her. As he came out, he said to Lisa: "Votre mere vous appelle; adieu a jamais," . . . mounted his horse, and set off at full trot from the very steps. Lisa went in to Marya Dmitrievna and found her in tears; Panshin had informed her of his ill-luck.
"Do you want to be the death of me? Do you want to be the death of me?" was how the disconsolate widow began her lamentations. "Whom do you want? Wasn't he good enough for you? A kammer-junker! not interesting! He might have married any Maid of Honour he liked in Petersburg. And I--I had so hoped for it! Is it long that you have changed towards him? How has this misfortune come on us,--it cannot have come of itself! Is it that dolt of a cousin's doing? A nice person you have picked up to advise you!"
"And he, poor darling," Marya Dmitrievna went on, "how respectful he is, how attentive even in his sorrow! He has promised not to desert me. Ah, I can never bear that! Ah, my head aches fit to split! Send me Palashka. You will be the death of me, if you don't think better of it,--do you hear?"
And, calling her twice an ungrateful girl, Marya Dmitrievna dismissed her.
She went to her own room. But she had not had time to recover from her interviews with Panshin and her mother before another storm broke over head, and this time from a quarter from which she would least have expected it. Marfa Timofyevna came into her room, and at once slammed the door after her. The old lady's face was pale, her cap was awry, her eyes were flashing, and her hands and lips were trembling. Lisa was astonished; she had never before seen her sensible and reasonable aunt in such a condition.
"A pretty thing, miss," Marfa Timofyevna began in a shaking and broken whisper, "a pretty thing! Who taught you such ways, I should like to know, miss? . . . Give me some water; I can't speak."
"Calm yourself, auntie, what is the matter?" said Lisa, giving her a glass of water. "Why, I thought you did not think much of Mr. Panshin yourself."
Marfa Timofyevna pushed away the glass.
"I can't drink; I shall knock my last teeth out if I try to. What's Panshin to do with it? Why bring Panshin in? You had better tell me who has taught you to make appointments at night--eh? miss?"
Lisa turned pale.
"Now, please, don't try to deny it," pursued Marfa Timofyevna; "Shurotchka herself saw it all and told me. I have had to forbid her chattering, but she is not a liar."
"I don't deny it, auntie," Lisa uttered scarcely audibly.
"Ah, ah! That's it, is it, miss; you made an appointment with him, that old sinner, who seems so meek?"
"I went down into the drawing-room for a book; he was in the garden--and he called me."
"And you went? A pretty thing! So you love him, eh?"
"I love him," answered Lisa softly.
"Merciful Heavens! She loves him!" Marfa Timofyevna snatched off her cap. "She loves a married man! Ah! she loves him."
"He told me" . . .began Lisa.
"What has he told you, the scoundrel, eh?"
"He told me that his wife was dead."
Marfa Timofyevna crossed herself. "Peace be with her," she muttered; "she was a vain hussy, God forgive her. So, then, he's a widower, I suppose. And he's losing no time, I see. He has buried one wife and now he's after another. He's a nice person: only let me tell you one thing, niece; in my day, when I was young, harm came to young girls from such goings on. Don't be angry with me, my girl, only fools are angry at the truth. I have given orders not to admit him to-day. I love him, but I shall never forgive him for this. Upon my word, a widower! Give me some water. But as for your sending Panshin about his business, I think you're a first-rate girl for that. Only don't you go sitting of nights with any animals of that sort; don't break my old heart, or else you'll see I'm not all fondness--I can bite too . . . a widower!"
Marfa Timofyevna went off, and Lisa sat down in a corner and began to cry. There was bitterness in her soul. She had not deserved such humiliation. Love had proved no happiness to her: she was weeping for a second time since yesterday evening. This new unexpected feeling had only just arisen in her heart, and already what a heavy price she had paid for it, how coarsely had strange hands touched her sacred secret. She felt ashamed, and bitter, and sick; but she had no doubt and no dread--and Lavretsky was dearer to her than ever. She had hesitated while she did not understand herself; but after that meeting, after that kiss--she could hesitate no more: she knew that she loved, and now she loved honestly and seriously, she was bound firmly for all her life, and she did not fear reproaches. She felt that by no violence could they break that bond.