Chapter 18

MARYA DMITRYEVNA coming upon Sonya weeping in the corridor had forced her to confess everything. Snatching up Natasha’s letter and reading it, Marya Dmitryevna went in to Natasha, with the letter in her hand.

“Vile girl, shameless hussy!” she said to her. “I won’t hear a word!” Pushing aside Natasha, who gazed at her with amazed but tearless eyes, she locked her into the room, and giving orders to her gate porter to admit the persons who would be coming that evening, but not to allow them to pass out again, and giving her grooms orders to show those persons up to her, she seated herself in the drawing-room awaiting the abductors.

When Gavrilo came to announce to Marya Dmitryevna that the persons who had come had run away, she got up frowning, and clasping her hands behind her, walked a long while up and down through her rooms, pondering what she was to do. At midnight she walked towards Natasha’s room, feeling the key in her pocket. Sonya was sitting sobbing in the corridor, “Marya Dmitryevna, do, for God’s sake, let me go in to her!” she said.

Marya Dmitryevna, making her no reply, opened the door and went in. “Hateful, disgusting, in my house, the nasty hussy, only I’m sorry for her father!” Marya Dmitryevna was thinking, trying to allay her wrath. “Hard as it may be, I will forbid any one to speak of it, and will conceal it from the count.” Marya Dmitryevna walked with resolute steps into the room.

Natasha was lying on the sofa; she had her head hidden in her hands and did not stir. She was lying in exactly the same position in which Marya Dmitryevna had left her.

“You’re a nice girl, a very nice girl!” said Marya Dmitryevna. “Encouraging meetings with lovers in my house! There’s no use in humbugging. You listen when I speak to you.” Marya Dmitryevna touched her on the arm. “You listen when I speak. You’ve disgraced yourself like the lowest wench. I don’t know what I couldn’t do to you, but I feel for your father. I will hide it from him.”

Natasha did not change her position, only her whole body began to writhe with noiseless, convulsive sobs, which choked her. Marya Dmitryevna looked round at Sonya, and sat down on the edge of the sofa beside Natasha.

“It’s lucky for him that he escaped me; but I’ll get hold of him,” she said in her coarse voice. “Do you hear what I say, eh?” She put her big hand under Natasha’s face, and turned it towards her. Both Marya Dmitryevna and Sonya were surprised when they saw Natasha’s face. Her eyes were glittering and dry; her lips tightly compressed; her cheeks looked sunken.

“Let me be … what do I … I shall die.…” she articulated, with angry effort, tore herself away from Marya Dmitryevna, and fell back into the same attitude again.

“Natalya! …” said Marya Dmitryevna. “I wish for your good. Lie still; come, lie still like that then, I won’t touch you, and listen.… I’m not going to tell you how wrongly you have acted. You know that yourself. But now your father’s coming back to-morrow. What am I to tell him? Eh?”

Again Natasha’s body heaved with sobs.

“Well, he will hear of it, your brother, your betrothed!”

“I have no betrothed; I have refused him,” cried Natasha.

“That makes no difference,” pursued Marya Dmitryevna. “Well, they hear of it. Do you suppose they will let the matter rest? Suppose he— your father, I know him—if he challenges him to a duel, will that be all right? Eh?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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