`Matvei, my sister Anna Arkadyevna will be here tomorrow,' he said, checking for a minute the sleek, plump hand of the barber, cutting a pink path between his long, curly side whiskers.

`Thank God!' said Matvei, showing by this response that he, like his master, realized the significance of this arrival: Anna Arkadyevna, the sister his master was so fond of, might bring about a reconciliation between husband and wife.

`Alone, or with her husband?' inquired Matvei.

Stepan Arkadyevich could not answer, as the barber was at work on his upper lip, and he raised one finger. Matvei nodded at the looking glass.

`Alone. Is the room to be got ready upstairs?'

`Inform Darya Alexandrovna: where she orders.'

`Darya Alexandrovna?' Matvei repeated, as though in doubt.

`Yes, inform her. Here, take the telegram; give it to her, and then do what she tells you.'

`You want to try it out,' Matvei guessed, but only said: `Yes, sir.'

Stepan Arkadyevich was already washed and combed and ready to be dressed, when Matvei, stepping slowly in his creaky boots, came back into the room with the telegram in his hand. The barber had gone.

`Darya Alexandrovna told me to inform you that she is going away. ``Let him'' - that is you - ``do as he likes,''' he said, laughing only with his eyes, and, putting his hands in his pockets, he watched his master with his head on one side. Stepan Arkadyevich was silent a minute. Then a good-humored and rather pitiful smile showed itself on his handsome face.

`Eh, Matvei?' he said, shaking his head.

`Never mind, sir; everything will come round,' said Matvei.

`Come round?'

`Just so, sir.'

`Do you think so? - Who's there?' asked Stepan Arkadyevich, hearing the rustle of a woman's dress at the door.

`It's I,' said a firm, pleasant feminine voice, and the stern, pockmarked face of Matriona Philimonovna, the nurse, was thrust in at the door.

`Well, what's the matter, Matriosha?' queried Stepan Arkadyevich, meeting her in the doorway.

Although Stepan Arkadyevich was completely in the wrong as regards his wife, and was conscious of this himself, almost everyone in the house (even the nurse, Darya Alexandrovna's chief ally) was on his side.

`Well, what now?' he asked cheerlessly.

`Go to her, sir; own your fault again. Maybe God will aid you. She is suffering so, it's pitiful to see her; and besides, everything in the house is topsy-turvy. You must have pity, sir, on the children. Beg her forgiveness, sir. There's no help for it! One must pay the piper....'

`But she won't see me.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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