Insulted and Injured
IN the morning Nellie told me some rather strange details about the
visit of the previous evening. Indeed, the very fact that Masloboev had taken it
into his head to come that evening at all was strange. He knew for a fact that I
should not be at home. I had warned him of it myself at our last meeting, and I
remembered it distinctly. Nellie told me that at first she had been unwilling to
open the door, because she was afraid - it was eight o'clock in the evening. But
he persuaded her to do so through the door, assuring her that if he did not
leave a note for me that evening it would be very bad for me next day. When she
let him in he wrote the note at once, went up to her, and sat down beside her on
"I got up, and didn't want to talk to him," said Nellie. "I was very much
afraid of him; he began to talk of Mme. Bubnov, telling me how angry she was,
that now she wouldn't dare to take me, and began praising you; said that he was
a great friend of yours and had known you as a little boy. Then I began to talk
to him. He brought out some sweets, and asked me to take some.
I didn't want to; then he began to assure me he was a good- natured man, and
that he could sing and dance. He jumped up and began dancing. It made me laugh.
Then he said he'd stay a little longer - 'I'll wait for Vanya, maybe he'll come
in'; and he did his best to persuade me not to be afraid of him, but to sit down
beside him. I sat down, but I didn't want to say any- thing to him. Then he told
me he used to know mother and grandfather and then I began to talk, And he
stayed a long time ..."
"What did you talk about?"
"About mother ... Mme. Bubnov ... grandfather. He stayed two hours."
Nellie seemed unwilling to say what they had talked about. I did not question
her, hoping to hear it all from Masloboev.
But it struck me that Masloboev had purposely come when I was out, in order
to find Nellie alone. "What did he do that for?" I wondered.
She showed me three sweetmeats he had given her. They were fruit-drops done
up in green and red paper, very nasty ones, probably bought at a greengrocer's
shop. Nellie laughed as she showed me them.
"Why didn't you eat them?" I asked.
"I don't want to," she answered seriously, knitting her brows.
"I didn't take them from him; he left them on the sofa him- self. . . ."
I had to run about a great deal that day. I began saying good- bye to Nellie.
"Will you be dull all alone?" I asked her as I went away.
"Dull and not dull. I shall be dull because you won't be here for a long
And with what love she looked at me as she said this. She had been looking at
me tenderly all that morning, and she seemed so gay, so affectionate, and at the
same time there was something shamefaced, even timid, in her manner, as though
she were afraid of vexing me in some way, and losing my affection and ... and of
showing her feelings too strongly, as though she were ashamed of them.
"And why aren't you dull then? You said you were 'dull and not dull.'" I
could not help asking, smiling to her - she had grown sweet and precious to me.
"I know why," she answered laughing and for some reason abashed again.
We were talking in the open doorway. Nellie was standing before me with her
eyes cast down, with one hand on my shoulder, and with the other pinching my
"What is it, a secret?" I asked.
"No ... it's nothing.... I've ... I've begun reading your book while you were
away." she brought out in a low voice, and turning a tender, penetrating look
upon me she flushed crimson.
"Ah, that's it! Well, do you like it?"
I felt the embarrassment of an author praised to his face, but I don't know
what I would have given to have kissed her at that moment. But it seemed somehow
impossible to kiss her. Nellie was silent for a moment.
"Why, why did he die?" she asked with an expression of the deepest sadness,
stealing a glance at me and then dropping her eyes again.
"Why, that young man in consumption ... in the book."
"It couldn't be helped. It had to be so, Nellie."
"It didn't have to at all," she answered, hardly above a whisper, but
suddenly, abruptly, almost angrily, pouting and staring still more obstinately
at the floor.
Another minute passed.
"And she ... they ... the girl and the old man," she whispered, still
plucking at my sleeve, more hurriedly than before. Will they live together? And
will they leave off being poor?"
"No, Nellie, she'll go far away; she'll marry a country gentle- man, and
he'll be left alone," I answered with extreme regret, really sorry that I could
not tell her something more comforting.
"Oh, dear! ... How dreadful! Ach, what people! I don't want to read it now!"
And she pushed away my arm angrily, turned her back on me quickly, walked
away to the table and stood with her face to the corner, and her eyes on the
ground... She was flushed all over, and breathed unsteadily, as though from some
terrible dis- appointment.
"Come, Nellie, you're angry," I said, going up to her. "You know, it's not
true what's written in it, it's all made up; what is there to be angry about!
You're such a sensitive little girl!"
"I'm not angry," she said timidly, looking up at me with clear and loving
eyes; then she suddenly snatched my hand, pressed her face to my breast, and for
some reason began crying, But at the same moment she laughed - laughed and cried
together. I, too, felt it was funny, and somehow . . . sweet.
But nothing would make her lift her head, and when I began pulling her little
face away from my shoulder she pressed it more and more closely against me, and
laughed more and more.
At last this sentimental scene was over. We parted. I was in a hurry. Nellie,
flushed, and still seeming as it were shame- faced, with eyes that shone like
stars, ran after me out on the stairs, and begged me to come back early. I
promised to be sure to be back to dinner, and as early as possible.
To begin with I went to the Ichmenyevs. They were both in Anna Andreyevna was
quite ill; Nikolay Sergeyitch was sitting in his study. He heard that I had
come, but I knew that, a usual, he would not come out for a quarter of an hour,
so as to give us time to talk. I did not want to upset Anna Andreyevna too much,
and so I softened my account of the previous evening as far as I could, but I
told the truth. To my surprise, though my old friend was disappointed, she was
not astonished to hear the possibility of a rupture.
"Well, my dear boy, it's just as I thought," she said. "When you'd gone I
pondered over it, and made up my mind that it wouldn't come to pass. We've not
deserved such a blessing, besides he's such a mean man; one can't expect
anything good to come from him. It shows what he is that he's taking ten
thousand roubles from us for nothing. He knows it's for nothing, but he takes it
all the same. He's robbing us of our last crust of bread.
Ichmenyevka will be sold. And Natasha's right and sensible not to believe
him. But do you know, my dear boy," she went on dropping her voice, "my poor
man! My poor man! He's absolutely against this marriage. He let it out. 'I won't
have it,' said he. At first I thought it was only foolishness; no, meant it.
What will happen to her then, poor darling? The he'll curse her utterly. And how
about Alyosha? What does he say?"
And she went on questioning me for a long time, and as usual she sighed and
moaned over every answer I gave her. Of late I noticed that she seemed to have
quite lost her balance. Every piece of news upset her. Her anxiety over Natasha
was ruining her health and her nerves.
The old man came in in his dressing-gown and slippers. He complained of being
feverish, but looked fondly at his wife, and all the time that I was there he
was looking after her like a nurse peeping into her face, and seeming a little
timid with her in fact There was a great deal of tenderness in the way he looked
at her He was frightened at her illness; he felt he would be bereaved of
everything on earth if he lost her.
I sat with them for an hour. When I took leave he came into the passage with
me and began speaking of Nellie. He seriously thought of taking her into his
house to fill the place of his daughter, Natasha. He began consulting me how to
predispose Anna Andreyevna in favour of the plan. With special curiosity he
questioned me about Nellie, asking whether I had found out anything fresh about
her. I told him briefly, my story made an impression on him.
"We'll speak of it again," he said decisively. "And mean- while ... but I'll
come to you myself, as soon as I'm a little better.
Then we'll settle things."
At twelve o'clock precisely I reached Masloboev's. To my intense amazement
the first person I met when I went in was Prince Valkovsky. He was putting on
his overcoat in the entry, and Masloboev was officiously helping him and handing
him his cane. He had already told me that he was acquainted with the prince, but
yet this meeting astonished me extremely.
Prince Valkovsky seemed confused when he saw me.
"Ach, that's you!" he cried, with somewhat exaggerated warmth. "What a
meeting, only fancy! But I have just heard from Mr. Masloboev that he knew you.
I'm glad, awfully glad to have met you. I was just wishing to see you, and
hoping to call on you as soon as possible. You will allow me? I have a favour to
ask of you. Help me, explain our present position. You understand, of course,
that I am referring to what happened yesterday.... You are an intimate friend;
you have followed the whole course of the affair; you have influence... I'm
awfully sorry that I can't stay now... Business ... But in a few days, and
perhaps sooner, I shall have the pleasure of calling on you. But now . . ."
He shook my hand with exaggerated heartiness, exchanged a glance with
Masloboev, and went away.
"Tell me for mercy's sake..." I began, as I went into the room.
"I won't tell you anything," Masloboev interrupted, hurriedly snatching up
his cap and going towards the entry. "I've business. I must run, too, my boy.
"Why, you wrote to me yourself to come at twelve o'clock!"
"What if I did write twelve o'clock? I wrote to you yesterday, but to-day
I've been written to myself, and such a piece of business that my head's in a
whirl! They're waiting for me.
Forgive me, Vanya, the only thing I can suggest to you by way of satisfaction
is to punch my head for having troubled you for nothing. If you want
satisfaction, punch it; only, for Christ's sake, make haste! Don't keep me. I've
business. I'm late ..."
"What should I punch your head for? Make haste then if you've business . . .
things unforeseen may happen to anyone.
Only . . ."
"Yes, as for that only, let me tell you," he interrupted, dashing out into
the entry and putting on his coat (I followed his example). "I have business
with you, too; very important business; that's why I asked you to come; it
directly concerns you and your interests. And as it's impossible to tell you
about it in one minute now, for goodness' sake promise me to come to me to-day
at seven o'clock, neither before nor after. I'll be at home."
"To-day," I said uncertainly. "Well, old man, I did mean this evening to go .
"Go at once, dear boy., where you meant to go this evening, and come this
evening to me. For you can't imagine, Vanya, the things I have to tell you."
"But I say, what is it? I confess you make me curious."
Meanwhile we had come out of the gate and were standing on the pavement.
"So you'll come?" he asked insistently.
"I've told you I will."
"No, give me your word of honour."
"Foo! what a fellow! Very well, my word of honour."
"Noble and excellent. Which way are you going?"
"This way," I answered, pointing to the right.
"Well, this is my way," said he, pointing to the left. "Good- bye, Vanya.
Remember, seven o'clock."
"Strange," thought I, looking after him.
I had meant to be at Natasha's in the evening. But as now I had given my word
to Masloboev, I decided to call on Natasha at once. I felt sure I should find
Alyosha there. And, as a fact, he was there, and was greatly delighted when I
He was very charming, extremely tender with Natasha, and seemed positively to
brighten up at my arrival. Though Natasha tried to be cheerful it was obviously
an effort. Her face looked pale and ill, and she had slept badly. To Alyosha she
showed an exaggerated tenderness.
Though Alyosha said a great deal and told her all sorts of things, evidently
trying to cheer her up and to bring a smile to her lips, which seemed set in
unsmiling gravity, he obviously avoided speaking of Katya or of his father.
Evidently his efforts at reconciliation had not succeeded.
"Do you know what? He wants dreadfully to get away from me," Natasha
whispered to me hurriedly when he went out for a minute to give some order to
Mavra. "But he's afraid. And I'm afraid to tell him to go myself, for then
perhaps he'll stay on purpose; but what I'm most afraid of is his being bored
with me, and getting altogether cold to me through that! What am I to do?"
"Good heavens, what a position you've put yourselves in! And how suspicious,
how watchful you are of one another. Simply explain to him and have done with
it. Why, he may well be weary of such a position."
"What's to be done?" she cried, panic-stricken.
"Wait a minute. I'll arrange it all for you."
And I went into the kitchen on the pretext of asking Mavra to clean one of my
overshoes which was covered with mud.
"Be careful, Vanya," she cried after me.
As soon as I went out to Mavra, Alyosha flew up to me as though he had been
waiting for me.
"Ivan Petrovitch, my dear fellow, what am I to do? Do advise me. I promised
yesterday to be at Katya's just at this time to-day. I can't avoid going. I love
Natasha beyond expression; I would go through the fire for her, but you'll admit
that I can't throw up everything over there ..."
"Well, go then."
"But what about Natasha? I shall grieve her, you know.
Ivan Petrovitch, do get me out of it somehow. . . ."
"I think you'd much better go. You know how she loves you; she will be
thinking all the while that you are bored with her and staying with her against
your will. It's better to be more unconstrained. Come along, though. I'll help
"Dear Ivan Petrovitch, how kind you are!"
We went back; a minute later I said to him:
"I saw your father just now."
"Where?" he cried, frightened.
"In the street, by chance. He stopped to speak to me a minute, and asked
again to become better acquainted with me.
He was asking about you, whether I knew where you were now.
He was very anxious to see you, to tell you something."
"Ach, Alyosha, you'd better go and show yourself," Natasha put in,
understanding what I was leading up to.
"But where shall I meet him now? Is he at home?"
"No, I remember he said he was going to the countess's."
"What shall I do, then?" Alyosha asked naively, looking mournfully at
"Why, Alyosha, what's wrong?" she said. "Do you really mean to give up that
acquaintance to set my mind at rest? Why, that's childish. To begin with, it's
impossible, and secondly, it would be ungrateful to Katya. You are friends -
it's impossible to break off relations so rudely. You'll offend me at last if
you think I'm so jealous. Go at once, go, I beg you, and satisfy your father."
"Natasha, you're an angel, and I'm not worth your little finger," cried
Alyosha rapturously and remorsefully. "You are so kind, while I . . . I . . .
well, let me tell you, I've just been asking Ivan Petrovitch out there in the
kitchen to help me to get away. And this was his plan. But don't be hard on me,
Natasha, my angel! I'm not altogether to blame, for I love you a thousand times
more than anything on earth, and so I've made a new plan - to tell Katya
everything and describe to her our present position and all that happened here
She'll think of something to save us; she's devoted to us, heart and soul..."
"Well, go along," said Natasha, smiling. "And I tell you what, I am very
anxious to make Katya's acquaintance myself.
How can we arrange it?"
Alyosha's enthusiasm was beyond all bounds. He began at once making plans for
bringing about a meeting. To his mind it was very simple; Katya would find a
way. He enlarged on his idea warmly, excitedly. He promised to bring an answer
that day, within a couple of hours, and to spend the evening with Natasha.
"Will you really come?" asked Natasha, as she let him out.
"Can you doubt it? Good-bye, Natasha, good-bye my darling, my beloved for
ever. Good-bye, Vanya. Ach, I called you Vanya by mistake. Listen, Ivan
Petrovitch, I love you.
Let me call you Vanya. Let's drop formality."
"Yes, let us."
"Thank goodness! It's been in my mind a hundred times, but I've never somehow
dared to speak of it. Ivan Petrovitch - there I've done it again. You know, it's
so difficult to say Vanya all at once. I think that's been described somewhere
by Tolstoy: two people promise to call each other by their pet names, but they
can't do it and keep avoiding using any name at all. Ach, Natasha, do let's read
over 'Childhood and Boyhood' together. It is so fine."
"Come, be off, be off I" Natasha drove him away, laughing.
"He's babbling with delight . . . ."
"Good-bye. In two hours time I shall be with you."
He kissed her hand and hastened away.
"You see, you see, Vanya," said she, and melted into tears.
I stayed with her for about two hours, tried to comfort her and succeeded in
reassuring her. Of course, she was right about everything, in all her
apprehensions. My heart was wrung with anguish when I thought of her present
position. I was afraid but what could I do?
Alyosha seemed strange to me, too. He loved her no less than before; perhaps,
indeed, his feeling was stronger, more poignant than ever, from remorse and
gratitude. But at the same time, his new passion was taking a strong hold on his
heart. It was impossible to see how it would end. I felt very inquisitive to see
Katya. I promised Natasha again that I would make her acquaintance.
Natasha seemed to be almost cheerful at last. Among other things I told her
all about Nellie, about Masloboev, and Mme.
Bubnov, about my meeting Prince Valkovsky that morning at Masloboev's, and
the appointment I had made with the latter at seven o'clock. All this interested
her extremely. I talked a little about her parents, but I said nothing for the
present about her father's visit to me; his project of a duel with the prince
might have frightened her. She, too, thought it very strange that the prince
should have anything to do with Masloboev, and that he should display such a
great desire to make friends with me, though this could be to some extent
explained by the position of affairs. . . .
At three o'clock I returned home. Nellie met me with her bright little face.