Insulted and Injured
ANNA ANDREYEVNA had long been expecting me. What I had told her the
day before, about Natasha's note, had greatly excited her curiosity; and she had
expected me much earlier in the morning, by ten o'clock at the latest. By the
time I turned up at two o'clock in the afternoon the poor woman's agonies of
suspense had reached an extreme pitch. She was longing, too, to talk to me of
the new hopes aroused in her the day before, and of Nikolay Sergeyitch, who had
been ailing since then, who was gloomy, and at the same time seemed specially
tender to her. When I made my appearance she received me with an expression of
coldness and displeasure in her face, hardly opened her mouth, and showed no
sign of interest, almost as though she would ask why I had come, and what
possessed me to drop in every day. She was angry at my coming so late. But I was
in a hurry, and without further delay I described to her the whole scene at
Natasha's the evening before. As soon as she heard of the elder prince's visit
and his solemn proposal, her assumed indifference vanished instantly. I cannot
find words to describe how delighted she was; she seemed quite beside herself,
crossed herself, shed tears, bowed down before the ikons, embraced me, and was
on the point of running to Nikolay Sergeyitch to tell him of her joy.
Bless me, my dear, why, it's all the insults and humiliation he's been
through that are making him ill, and as soon as he knows that full reparation
will be made to Natasha, he'll forget it all in a twinkling."
I had much ado to dissuade her. Though the good lady had lived twenty-five
years with her husband she did not understand him. She was desperately anxious,
too, to set off with me immediately to Natasha's. I put it to her not only that
Nikolay Sergeyitch would disapprove of her action, but that we might even ruin
the whole business by going. With difficulty she was brought to think better of
it, but she detained me another half- hour unnecessarily, talking herself the
"With whom shall I be left here?" she said, "sitting alone within four walls
with such joy in my heart?"
At last I persuaded her to let me go, reminding her that Natasha must be sick
of waiting for me. She made the sign of the cross several times to bless me on
my way, sent a special blessing to Natasha, and almost shed tears when I
absolutely refused to come back again that evening, unless anything special had
happened at Natasha's. I did not see Nicholay Sergeyitch on this occasion; he
had been awake all night, complained of a headache, a chill, and was now asleep
in his study.
Natasha, too, had been expecting me all the morning. When I went in she was,
as usual, walking up and down the room, with her hands clasped, meditating. Even
now when I think of her I always see her alone in a poor room, dreamy, deserted,
waiting with folded hands and downcast eyes, walking aimlessly up and down.
Still walking up and down she asked me in a low voice why I was so late. I
gave her a brief account of all my adventures, but she scarcely listened. One
could see she was in great anxiety about something.
"Anything fresh?" I asked her.
"Nothing fresh," she answered. But I guessed at once from her face that there
was something fresh, and that she was expect- ing me on purpose to tell me, and
she would tell me, not at once but just as I was going, as she always did.
That was always our habit. I was used to her and I waited.
We began, of course, talking of the previous evening. I was particularly
struck by the fact that we were quite agreed in our impression of Prince
Valkovsky; and she positively disliked him, disliked him much more than she had
at the time. And when we analysed the visit, point by point, Natasha suddenly
"Listen, Vanya, you know it's always like that, if one doesn't like a man at
first, it's almost a sure sign that one will like him afterwards. That's how
it's always been with me, anyway."
"Let us hope so, Natasha. And this is my opinion, and it's a final one. I
went over it all, and what I deduced was that though the prince was perhaps
Jesuitical, he is giving his consent to your marriage genuinely and in earnest."
Natasha stood still in the middle of the room and looked at me sternly. Her
whole face was transformed; her lips twitched a little.
"But how could he in a case like this begin deceiving and ... lying?"
"Of course not, of course not!" I assented hurriedly.
"Of course he wasn't lying. It seems to me there's no need to think of that.
There's no excuse to be found for such deception.
And, indeed, am I so abject in his eyes that he could jeer at me like that?
Could any man be capable of such an insult?"
"Of course not, of course not," I agreed, thinking to myself, "you're
thinking of nothing else as you pace up and down, my poor girl, and very likely
you're more doubtful about it than I am."
"Ah, how I could wish he were coming back sooner!" she said.
"He wanted to spend the whole evening with me, and then....
It must have been important business, since he's given it all up and gone
away. You don't know what it was, Vanya? You haven't heard anything?"
"The Lord only knows. You know he's always making money.
I've heard he's taking up a share in some contract in Petersburg.
We know nothing about business, Natasha."
"Of course we don't. Alyosha talked of some letter yesterday."
"News of some sort. Has Alyosha been here?
"At twelve o'clock; he sleeps late, you know. He stayed a little while. I
sent him off to Katerina Fyodorovna. Shouldn't I have, Vanya?"
"Why, didn't he mean to go himself?"
"Yes, he did."
She was about to say more, but checked herself. I looked at her and waited.
Her face was sad. I would have questioned her, but she sometimes particularly
"He's a strange boy." she said at last, with a slight twist of her mouth,
trying not to look at me.
"Why? I suppose something's happened?"
"No, nothing; I just thought so.... He was sweet, though. . . . But already .
"All his cares and anxieties are over now," said I.
Natasha looked intently and searchingly at me. She felt inclined perhaps to
answer, "he hadn't many cares or anxieties before," but she fancied that my
words covered the same thought.
But she became friendly and cordial again at once. This time she was
extraordinarily gentle. I spent more than an hour with her. She was very uneasy.
The prince had frightened her. I noticed from some of her questions that she was
very anxious to know what sort of impression she had made on him. Had she
behaved properly? Hadn't she betrayed her joy too openly? Had she been too ready
to take offence? Or on the contrary too conciliatory? He mustn't imagine
anything. He mustn't laugh at her! He mustn't feel contempt for her! . . . Her
cheeks glowed like fire at the thought!
How can you be so upset simply at a bad man's imagining something? Let him
imagine anything!" said I.
"Why is he bad?" she asked.
Natasha was suspicious but pure-hearted and straightforward.
Her doubts came from no impure source. She was proud and with a fine pride,
and would not endure what she looked upon as higher than anything to be turned
into a laughing-stock before her. She would, of course, have met with contempt
the contempt of a base man, but at the same time her heart would have ached at
mockery of what she thought sacred, whoever had been the mocker. This was not
due to any lack of firmness. It arose partly from too limited a knowledge of the
world, from being unaccustomed to people from having been shut up in her own
little groove. She had spent all her life in her own little corner and had
hardly left it. And finally that characteristic of good- natured people,
inherited perhaps from her father - the habit of thinking highly of people, of
persistently thinking them better that they really are, warmly exaggerating
everything good in them - was highly developed in her. It is hard for such
people to be disillusioned afterwards; and it is hardest of all when one feels
one is oneself to blame. Why did one expect more than could be given? And such a
disappointment is always in store for such people. It is best for them to stay
quietly in their corners and not to go out into the world; I have noticed, in
fact, that they really love their corners so much that they grow shy and
unsociable in them. Natasha, however, had suffered many misfortunes, many
mortifications, She was already a wounded creature, and she cannot be blamed, if
indeed there be any blame in what I have said.
But I was in a hurry and got up to go. She was surprised and almost cried at
my going, though she had shown no particular affection for me all the while I
was with her; on the contrary, she seemed rather colder to me than usual. She
kissed me warmly and looked for a long time into my face.
"Listen," she said. "Alyosha was very absurd this morning and quite surprised
me. He was very sweet, very happy ap- parently. but flew in, such a butterfly -
such a dandy, and kept prinking before the looking-glass. He's a little too
unceremonious now.... Yes, and he didn't stay long. Fancy, he brought me some
"Sweets? Why, that's very charming and simple-hearted, Ah, what a pair you
are. Now you've begun watching and spying on one another, studying each other's
faces, and reading hidden thoughts in them (and understanding nothing about it).
He's not different. He's merry and schoolboyish as he always was.
But you, you!"
And whenever Natasha changed her tone and came to me with some complaint
against Alyosha, or to ask for a solution of some ticklish question, or to tell
me some secret, expecting me to understand her at half a word, she always, I
remember, looked at me with a smile, as it were imploring me to answer somehow
so that she should feel happy at heart at once. And I remember, too, I always in
such cases assumed a severe and harsh tone as though scolding someone, and this
happened quite unconsciously with me, but it was always successful. My severity
and gravity were what was wanted; they seemed more authoritative, and people
sometimes feel an irresistible craving to be scolded.
Natasha was sometimes left quite consoled.
"No, Vanya, you see," she went on, keeping one of her little hands on my
shoulder, while her other pressed my hand and her eyes looked into mine, "I
fancied that he was somehow too little affected ... he seemed already such a man
- you know, as though he'd been married ten years but was still polite to his
wife. Isn't that very premature? ... He laughed, and prinked, but just as though
all that didn't matter, as though it only partly concerned me, not as it used to
be ... he was in a great hurry to see Katerina Fyodorovna. . . . If I spoke to
him he didn't listen to me, or began talking of something else, you know, that
horrid, aristo- cratic habit we've both been getting him out of. In fact, he was
too . . . even indifferent it seemed ... but what am I saying! Here I'm doing
it, here I've begun! Ah, what exacting, capricious despots we all are, Vanya!
Only now I see it! We can't forgive a man for a trifling change in his face, and
God knows what has made his face change! You were right, Vanya, in reproaching
me just now! It's all my fault! We make our own troubles and then we complain of
them. . . . Thanks, Vanya, you have quite comforted me. Ah, if he would only
come to-day! But there perhaps he'll be angry for what happened this morning."
"Surely you haven't quarrelled already!" I cried with surprise.
"I made no sign! But I was a little sad, and though he came in so cheerful he
suddenly became thoughtful, and I fancied he said good-bye coldly. Yes, I'll
send for him. . . . You come, too, to-day, Vanya."
"Yes, I'll be sure to, unless I'm detained by one thing."
"Why, what thing is it?"
"I've brought it on myself! But I think I'm sure to come all the same. "