Insulted and Injured
THE Ichmenyevs were very fond of each other. They were closely
united by love and years of habit. Yet Nikolay Sergeyitch was not only now, but
had, even in former days, in their happiest times, always been rather reserved
with his Anna Andreyevna, sometimes even surly, especially before other people.
Some delicate and sensitive natures show a peculiar perversity, a sort of chaste
dislike of expressing themselves, and expressing their tenderness even to the
being dearest to them, not only before people but also in private - even more in
private in fact; only at rare intervals their affection breaks out, and it
breaks out more passionately and more impulsively the longer it has been
restrained. This was rather how Ichmenyev had been with his Anna Andreyevna from
their youth upwards. He loved and respected her beyond measure in spite of the
fact that she was only a good-natured woman who was capable of nothing but
loving him, and that he was sometimes positively vexed with her because in her
simplicity she was often tactlessly open with him.
But after Natasha had gone away they somehow became tenderer to one another;
they were painfully conscious of being left all alone in the world. And though
Nikolay Sergeyitch was some- times extremely gloomy, they could not be apart for
two hours at a time without distress and uneasiness. They had made a sort of
tacit compact not to say a word about Natasha, as though she had passed out of
existence. Anna Andreyevna did not dare to make any allusion to her in her
husband's presence, though this restraint was very hard for her. She had long
ago in her heart forgiven Natasha. It had somehow become an established custom
that every time I came I should bring her news of her beloved and
The mother was quite ill if she did not get news for some time, and when I
came with tidings she was interested in the smallest details, and inquired with
trembling curiosity. My accounts relieved her heart; she almost died of fright
once when Natasha had fallen ill, and was on the point of going to her herself.
But this was an extreme case. At first she was not able to bring herself to
express even to me a desire to see her daughter; and almost always after our
talk, when she had extracted everything from me, she thought it needful to draw
herself up before me and to declare that though she was interested in her
daughter's fate, yet Natasha had behaved so wickedly that she could never be
forgiven. But all this was put on. There were times when Anna Andreyevna grieved
hopelessly, shed tears, called Natasha by the fondest names before me, bitterly
complained against Nikolay Sergeyitch, and began in his presence to drop hints,
though with great circumspection, about some people's pride, about hard-
heartedness, about our not being able to forgive injuries, and God's not
forgiving the unforgiving; but she never went further than this in his presence.
At such times her husband immediately got cross and sullen and would sit silent
and scowling, or begin suddenly talking of something else very loudly and
awkwardly, or finally go off to his own room, leaving us alone, and so giving
Anna Andreyevna a chance to pour out her sorrows to me in tears and
lamentations. He always went off to his own room like this when I arrived,
sometimes scarcely leaving time to greet me, so as to give me a chance to tell
Anna Andreyevna all the latest news of Natasha. He did the same thing now.
"I'm wet through," he said, as soon as he walked into the room. "I'll go to
my room. And you, Vanya, stay here. Such a business he's been having with his
lodgings. You tell her, I'll be back directly."
And he hurried away, trying not even to look at us, as though ashamed of
having brought us together. On such occasions, and especially when he came back,
he was always very curt and gloomy, both with me and Anna Andreyevna, even
fault-finding, as though vexed and angry with himself for his own softness and
"You see how he is," said Anna Andreyevna, who had of late laid aside all her
stiffness with me, and all her mistrust of me; "that's how he always is with me;
and yet he knows we under- stand all his tricks. Why should he keep up a
pretence with me? Am I a stranger to him? He's just the same about his daughter.
He might forgive her, you know, perhaps he even wants to forgive her. God
knows! He cries at night, I've heard him. But he keeps up outwardly. He's eaten
up with pride. Ivan Petrovitch, my dear, tell me quick, where was he going?"
"Nikolay Sergeyitch? I don't know. I was going to ask you."
"I was dismayed when he went out. He's ill, you know, and in such weather,
and so late! I thought it must be for something important; and what can be more
important than what you know of? I thought this to myself, but I didn't dare to
Why, I daren't question him about anything nowadays. My goodness! I was
simply terror-stricken on his account and on hers. What, thought I, if he has
gone to her? What if he's made up his mind to forgive her? Why, he's found out
every- thing, he knows the latest news of her; I feel certain he knows it; but
how the news gets to him I can't imagine. He was terribly depressed yesterday,
and to-day too. But why don't you say something? Tell me, my dear, what has
happened? I've been longing for you like an angel of God. I've been all eyes
watching for you. Come, will the villain abandon Natasha?"
I told Anna Andreyevna at once all I knew. I was always completely open with
her. I told her that things seemed drifting to a rupture between Natasha and
Alyosha, and that this was more serious than their previous misunderstandings;
that Natasha had sent me a note the day before, begging me to come this evening
at nine o'clock, and so I had not intended to come and see them that evening.
Nikolay Sergeyitch himself had brought me. I explained and told her minutely
that the position was now altogether critical, that Alyosha's father, who had
been back for a fortnight after an absence, would hear nothing and was taking
Alyosha sternly in hand; but, what was most important of all, Alyosha seemed
himself not disinclined to the proposed match, and it was said he was positively
in love with the young lady. I added that I could not help guessing that
Natasha's note was written in great agitation. She wrote that to-night every-
thing would be decided, but what was to be decided I did not know. It was also
strange that she had written yesterday but had only asked me to come this
evening, and had fixed the hour-nine o'clock. And so I was bound to go, and as
quickly as possible.
"Go, my dear boy, go by all means!" Anna Andreyevna urged me anxiously. "Have
just a cup of tea as soon as he comes back.... Ach, they haven't brought the
samovar! Matryona Why are you so long with samovar? She's a saucy baggage! ...
Then when you've drunk your tea, find some good excuse and get away. But be
sure to come to-morrow and tell me everything.
And run round early! Good heavens! Something dreadful may have happened
already! Though how could things be worse than they are, when you come to think
of it! Why, Nikolay Serge- yitch knows everything, my heart tells me he does. I
hear a great deal through Matryona, and she through Agasha, and Agasha is the
god-daughter of Marya Vassilyevna, who lives in the prince's house ... but
there, you know all that. My Nikolay was terribly angry to-day. I tried to say
one thing and another and he almost shouted at me. And then he seemed sorry,
said he was short of money. Just as though he'd been making an outcry about
You know our circumstances. After dinner he went to have a nap. I peeped at
him through the chink (there's a chink in the door he doesn't know of). And he,
poor dear, was on his knees, praying before the shrine. I felt my legs give way
under me when I saw it. He didn't sleep, and he had no tea; he took up his hat
and went out. He went out at five o'clock. I didn't dare question him: he'd have
shouted at me. He's taken to shouting - generally at Matryona, but sometimes at
me. And when he starts it makes my legs go numb, and there's a sinking at my
heart. Of course it's foolishness, I know it's his foolishness, but still it
frightens me. I prayed for a whole hour after he went out that God would send
him some good thought. Where is her note? Show it me!"
I showed it. I knew that Anna Andreyevna cherished a secret dream that
Alyosha, whom she called at one time a villain and at another a stupid heartless
boy, would in the end marry Natasha, and that the prince, his father, would
consent to it. She even let this out to me, though at other times she regretted
it, and went back on her words. But nothing would have made her venture to
betray her hopes before Nikolay Sergeyitch, though she knew her husband
suspected them, and even indirectly reproached her for them more than once. I
believe that he would have cursed Natasha and shut her out of his heart for ever
if he had known of the possibility of such a marriage.
We all thought so at the time. He longed for his daughter with every fibre of
his being, but he longed for her alone with every memory of Alyosha cast out of
her heart. It was the one condition of forgiveness, and though it was not
uttered in words it could be understood, and could not be doubted when one
looked at him.
"He's a silly boy with no backbone, no backbone, and he's cruel, I always
said so," Anna Andreyevna began again. "And they didn't know how to bring him
up, so he's turned out a regular weather-cock; he's abandoning her after all her
What will become of her, poor child? And what can he have found in this new
girl, I should like to know."
"I have heard, Anna Andreyevna," I replied, "that his pro- posed fiancee is a
delightful girl. Yes, and Natalya Nikolaevna says the same thing about her."
"Don't you believe it!" the mother interrupted. "Delight- ful, indeed! You
scribblers think every one's delightful if only she wears petticoats. As for
Natasha's speaking well of her, she does that in the generosity of her heart.
She doesn't know how to control him; she forgives him everything, but she
suffers herself. How often he has deceived her already. The cruel- hearted
villains! I'm simply terrified, Ivan Petrovitch! They're all demented with
pride. If my good man would only humble himself, if he would forgive my poor
darling and fetch her home! If only I could hug her, if I could look at her! Has
she got thinner?"
"She has got thin, Anna Andreyevna."
"My darling! I'm in terrible trouble, Ivan Petrovitch! All last night and all
to-day I've been crying ... but there! ...
I'll tell you about it afterwards. How many times I began hinting to him to
forgive her; I daren't say it right out, so I begin to hint at it, in a tactful
way. And my heart's in a flutter all the time: I keep expecting him to get angry
and curse her once for all. I haven't heard a curse from him yet ... well,
that's what I'm afraid of, that he'll put his curse upon her. And what will
happen then? God's punishment falls on the child the father has cursed. So I'm
trembling with terror every day.
And you ought to be ashamed, too, Ivan Petrovitch, to think you've grown up
in our family, and been treated like a son by both of us, and yet you can speak
of her being delightful too.
But their Marya Vassilyevna knows better. I may have done wrong, but I asked
her in to coffee one day when my good man had gone out for the whole morning.
She told me all the ins and outs of it. The prince, Alyosha's father, is in
shocking relations with this countess. They say the countess keeps reproaching
him with not marrying her, but he keeps putting it off. This fine countess was
talked about for her shameless behaviour while her husband was living. When her
husband died she went abroad: she used to have all sorts of Italians and
Frenchmen about her, and barons of some sort - it was there she caught Prince
Pyotr Alexandrovitch. And meantime her stepdaughter, the child of her first
husband, the spirit contractor, has been growing up.
This countess, the stepmother, has spent all she had, but the stepdaughter
has been growing up, and the two millions her father had left invested for her
have been growing too. Now, they say, she has three millions. The prince has got
wind of it, so he's keen on the match for Alyosha. (He's a sharp fellow! He
won't let a chance slip!) The count, their relative, who's a great gentleman at
court you remember, has given his approval too: a fortune of three millions is
worth considering. 'Excellent', he said, 'talk it over with the countess.' So
the prince told the countess of his wishes. She opposed it tooth and nail. She's
an unprincipled woman, a regular termagant, they say! They say some people won't
receive her here; it's very different from abroad. 'No,' she says, 'you marry
me, prince, instead of my stepdaughter's marrying Alyosha.' And the girl, they
say, gives way to her stepmother in everything; she almost worships her and
always obeys her. She's a gentle creature, they say, a perfect angel! The prince
sees how it is and tells the countess not to worry herself. 'You've spent all
your money,' says he, 'and your debts you can never pay. But as soon as your
stepdaughter marries Alyosha there'll be a pair of them; your innocent and my
little fool. We'll take them under our wing and be their guardians together.
Then you'll have plenty of money, What's the good of you're marrying me?' He's a
sharp fellow, a regular mason! Six months ago the countess wouldn't make up her
mind to it, but since then they say they've been staying at Warsaw, and there
they've come to an agreement. That's what I've heard. All this Marya Vassilyevna
told me from beginning to end. She heard it all on good authority. So you see
it's all a question of money and millions, and not her being delightful!"
Anna Andreyevna's story impressed me. It fitted in exactly with all I had
heard myself from Alyosha. When he talked of it he had stoutly declared that he
would never marry for money.
But he had been struck and attracted by Katerina Fyodorovna.
I had heard from Alyosha, too, that his father was contemplating marriage,
though he denied all rumour of it to avoid irritating the countess prematurely.
I have mentioned already that Alyosha was very fond of his father, admired him
and praised him; and believed in him as though he were an oracle.
"She's not of a count's family, you know, the girl you call delightful!" Anna
Andreyevna went on, deeply resenting my praise of the young prince's future
fiancee. "Why, Natasha would be a better match for him. She's a spirit-dealer's
daughter, while Natasha is a well-born girl of a good old family. Yesterday (I
forgot to tell you) my old man opened his box-you know, the wrought-iron one; he
sat opposite me the whole evening, sorting out our old family papers. And he sat
so solemnly over it. I was knitting a stocking, and I didn't look at him; I was
When he saw I didn't say a word he got cross, and called me himself, and he
spent the whole evening telling me about our pedigree. And do you know, it seems
that the Ichmenyevs were noblemen in the days of Ivan the Terrible, and that my
family, the Shumilovs, were well-known even in the days of Tsar Alexey
Mihalovitch; we've the documents to prove it, and it's men- tioned in Karamzin's
history too, so you see, my dear boy, we're as good as other people on that
side. As soon as my old man began talking to me I saw what was in his mind. It
was clear he felt bitterly Natasha's being slighted. It's only through their
wealth they're set above us. That robber, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, may well make a
fuss about money; everyone knows he's a cold- hearted, greedy soul. They say he
joined the Jesuits in secret when he was in Warsaw. Is it true?"
"It's a stupid rumour," I answered, though I could not help being struck by
the persistence of this rumour.
But what she had told me of her husband's going over his family records was
interesting. He had never boasted of his pedigree before.
"It's all the cruel-hearted villains!" Anna Andreyevna went on. "Well, tell
me about my darling. Is she grieving and crying? Ach, it's time you went to her!
(Matryona! She's a saucy baggage.) Have they insulted her? Tell me, Vanya?"
What could I answer her? The poor lady was in tears. I asked her what was the
fresh trouble of which she had been about to tell me just now.
"Ach, my dear boy! As though we hadn't trouble enough! It seems our cup was
not full enough! You remember, my dear, or perhaps you don't remember, I had a
little locket set in gold - a keepsake, and in it a portrait of Natasha as a
child. She was eight years old then, my little angel. We ordered it from a
travelling artist at the time. But I see you've forgotten! He was a good artist.
He painted her as a cupid. She'd such fair hair in those days, all fluffy. He
painted her in a little muslin smock, so that her little body shows through, and
she looked so pretty in it you couldn't take your eves off her. I begged the
artist to put little wings on her, but he wouldn't agree. Well after all our
dreadful troubles, I took it out of its case and hung it on a string round my
neck; so I've been wearing it beside my cross, though I was afraid he might see
it. You know he told me at the time to get rid of all her things out of the
house, or burn them, so that nothing might remind us of her. But I must have her
portrait to look at, anyway; sometimes I cry, looking at it, and it does me
good. And another time when I'm alone I keep kissing it as though I were kissing
her, herself. I call her fond names, and make the sign of the cross over it
I talk aloud to her when I'm alone, ask her a question and fancy she has
answered, and ask her another. Och, Vanya, dear, it makes me sad to talk about
it! Well, so I was glad he knew nothing of the locket and hadn't noticed it. But
yesterday morning the locket was gone. The string hung loose. It must have worn
through and I'd dropped it. I was aghast. I hunted and hunted high and low-it
wasn't to be found. Not a sign of it anywhere, it was lost! And where could it
have dropped? I made sure I must have lost it in bed, and rummaged through
everything. Nowhere! If it had come off and dropped, some one might have picked
it up, and who could have found it except him or Matryona? One can't think of
it's being Matryona, she's devoted to me heart and soul (Matryona, are you going
to bring that samovar?). I keep thinking what will happen if he's found it! I
sit so sad and keep crying and crying and can't keep back my tears. And Nikolay
Sergeyitch is kinder and kinder to me as though he knows what I am grieving
about, and is sorry for me.
'Well I've been wondering, how could he tell? Hasn't he perhaps really found
the locket and thrown it out of the window? In anger he's capable of it, you
know. He's thrown it out and now he's sad about it himself and sorry he threw it
out. I've been already with Matryona to look under the window - I found nothing.
Every trace has vanished. I've been crying all night.
It's the first night I haven't made the sign of the cross over her.
Och, it's a bad sign, Ivan Petrovitch, it's a bad sign, it's an omen of evil;
for two days I've been crying without stopping.
I've been expecting you, my dear, as an angel of God, if only to relieve my
heart . . ." and the poor lady wept bitterly.
"Oh yes, I forgot to tell you," she began suddenly, pleased at remembering.
"Have you heard anything from him about an orphan girl?"
"Yes, Anna Andreyevna. He told me you had both thought of it, and agreed to
take a poor girl, an orphan, to bring up. Is that true?"
"I've never thought of it, my dear boy, I've never thought of it; I don't
want any orphan girl. She'll remind me of our bitter lot, our misfortune! I want
no one but Natasha. She was my only child, and she shall remain the only one.
But what does it mean that he should have thought of an orphan? What do you
think, Ivan Petrovitch? Is it to comfort me, do you suppose, looking at my
tears, or to drive his own daughter out of his mind altogether, and attach
himself to another child? What did he say about me as you came along? How did he
seem to you - morose, angry? Tss! Here he is! Afterwards, my dear, tell me
afterwards.... Don't forget to come to-morrow."