Insulted and Injured
AT seven o'clock punctually I was at Masloboev's. He greeted me with
loud exclamations and open arms. He was, of course, half drunk. But what stuck
me most was the extraordinary preparation that had been made for my visit. It
was evident that I was expected. A pretty brass samovar was boiling on a little
round table covered with a handsome and expensive tablecloth. The tea-table
glittered with crystal, silver and china.
On another table, which was covered with a tablecloth of a different kind,
but no less gorgeous, stood plates of excellent sweets, Kiev preserves both
dried and liquid, fruit-paste, jelly, French preserves, oranges, apples, and
three or four sorts of nuts; in fact, a regular fruit-shop. On a third table,
covered with a snow-white cloth, there were savouries of different sorts -
caviar, cheese, a pie, sausage, smoked ham, fish and a row of fine glass
decanters containing spirits of many sorts, and of the most attractive colours -
green, ruby, brown and gold. Finally on a little table on one side - also
covered with a white cloth - there were two bottles of champagne. On a table
before the sofa there were three bottles containing Sauterne, Lafitte, and
Cognac, very expensive brands from Eliseyev's. Alexandra Semyonovna was sitting
at the tea-table, and though her dress and general get-up was simple, they had
evidently been the subject of thought and attention, and the result was indeed
very successful. She knew what suited her, and evidently took pride in it. She
got up to meet me with some ceremony. Her fresh little face beamed with pleasure
and satisfaction. Maslo- boev was wearing gorgeous Chinese slippers, a sumptuous
dressing- gown, and dainty clean linen. Fashionable studs and buttons were
conspicuous on his shirt everywhere where they could possibly be attached. His
hair had been pomaded, and combed with a fashionable side parting.
I was so much taken aback that I stopped short in the middle of the room and
gazed open-mouthed, first at Masloboev and then at Alexandra Semyonovna, who was
in a state of blissful satisfaction.
"What's the meaning of this, Masloboev? Have you got a party this evening?" I
cried with some uneasiness.
"No, only you!" he answered solemnly.
"But why is this?" I asked (pointing to the savouries). "Why, you've food
enough for a regiment!"
"And drink enough! You've forgotten the chief thing- drink!" added Masloboev.
"And is this only on my account?
"And Alexandra Semyonovna's. It was her pleasure to get it all up."
"Well, upon my word. I knew that's how it would be," exclaimed Alexandra
Semyonovna, flushing, though she looked just as satisfied. "I can't receive a
visitor decently, or I'm in fault at once."
"Ever since the morning, would you believe it, as soon as she knew you were
coming for the evening, she's been bustling about; she's been in agonies . . .
"And that's a fib! It's not since early morning, it's since last night. When
you came in last night you told me the gentle- man was coming to spend the whole
"You misunderstood me."
"Not a bit of it. That's what you said. I never tell lies. And why shouldn't
I welcome a guest? We go on and on, and no one ever comes to see us, though
we've plenty of everything. Let our friends see that we know how to live like
"And above all see what a good hostess and housekeeper you are," added
Masloboev. "Only fancy, my friend, I've come in for something too. She's crammed
me into a linen shirt, stuck in studs - slippers, Chinese dressing-gown - she
combed my hair herself and pomaded it with bergamot; she wanted to sprinkle me
with scent - creme brulee, but I couldn't stand that. I rebelled and asserted my
"It wasn't bergamot. It was the best French pomatum out of a painted china
pot," retorted Alexandra Semyonovna, firing up.
"You judge, Ivan Petrovitch; he never lets me go to a theatre, or a dance, he
only gives me dresses, and what do I want with dresses? I put them on and walk
about the room alone. The other day I persuaded him and we were all ready to go
to the theatre. As soon as I turned to fasten my brooch he went to the cupboard,
took one glass after another until he was tipsy. So we stayed at home. No one,
no one, no one ever comes to see us.
Only of a morning people of a sort come about business, and I'm sent away.
Yet we've samovars, and a dinner service and good cups - we've everything, all
presents. And they bring us things to eat too. We scarcely buy anything but the
spirits; and the pomade and the savouries there, the pie, the ham and sweets we
bought for you. If anyone could see how we live! I've been thinking for a whole
year: if a visitor would come, a real visitor, we could show him all this and
entertain him. And folks would praise things and we should be pleased. And as
for my pomading him, the stupid, he doesn't deserve it. He'd always go about in
dirty clothes. Look what a dressing-gown he's got on. It was a present. But does
he deserve a dressing-gown like that? He'd rather be tippling than anything.
You'll see. He'll ask you to take vodka before tea."
"Well! That's sense indeed! Let's have some of the silver seal and some of
the gold, Vanya, and then with souls refreshed we'll fall upon the other
"There, I knew that's how it would be!
"Don't be anxious, Sashenka. We'll drink a cup of tea, too, with brandy in
it, to your health."
"Well, there it is! " she cried, clasping her hands. "It's caravan tea, six
roubles the pound, a merchant made us a present of it the day before yesterday,
and he wants to drink it with brandy. Don't listen to him, Ivan Petrovitch, I'll
pour you out a cup directly. You'll see . . . you'll see for yourself what it's
And she busied herself at the samovar,
I realized that they were reckoning on keeping me for the whole evening.
Alexandra Semyonovna had been expecting visitors for a whole year, and was now
prepared to work it all off on me This did not suit me at all.
"Listen, Masloboev," I said, sitting down. "I've not come to pay you a visit.
I've come on business; you invited me yourself to tell me something. . . ."
"Well, business is business, but there's a time for friendly conversation
"No, my friend, don't reckon upon me. At half-past eight I must say good-bye.
I've an appointment. It's a promise."
"Not likely. Good gracious, what a way to treat me! What a way to treat
Alexandra Semyonovna. Just look at her, she's overwhelmed. What has she been
pomading me for: why I'm.
covered with bergamot. Just think!"
"You do nothing but make jokes, Masloboev. I swear to Alexandra Semyonovna
that. I'll dine with you next week, or Friday if you like. But now, my boy, I've
given my word; or rather it's absolutely necessary for me to be at a certain
place, You'd better explain what you meant to tell me."
"Then can you really only stay till half-past eight?" cried Alexandra
Semyonovna in a timid and plaintive voice, almost weeping as she handed me a cup
of excellent tea.
"Don't be uneasy, Sashenka; that's all nonsense" Masloboev put in. "He'll
stay. That's nonsense. But I'll tell you what, Vanya, you'd much better let me
know where it is you always go.
What is your business? May I know? You keep running off somewhere every day.
You don't work. . . ."
"But why do you want to know? I'll tell you perhaps afterwards. You'd better
explain why you came to see me yesterday when I told you myself I shouldn't be
"I remembered afterwards. But I forgot at the time. I really did want to
speak to you about something. But before everything I had to comfort Alexandra
Semyonovna. 'Here,' says she, 'is a person, a friend, who has turned up. Why not
invite him?' And here she's been pestering me about you for the last four days.
No doubt they'll let me off forty sins for the bergamot in the next world, but I
thought why shouldn't he spend an evening with us in a friendly way? So I had
recourse to strategy : I wrote to you that I had such business that if you
didn't come it would quite upset our apple-cart."
I begged him not to do like this in the future, but to speak to me directly.
But this explanation did not altogether satisfy me.
"Well, but why did you run away from me this morning?" I asked.
"This morning I really had business. I'm not telling the least little fib."
"Not with the prince?"
"Do you like our tea?" Alexandra Semyonovna asked, in honied accents. For the
last five minutes she had been waiting for me to praise the tea, but it never
occurred to me.
"It's splendid, Alexandra Semyonovna, superb. I have never drunk anything
Alexandra Semyonovna positively glowed with satisfaction and flew to pour me
out some more.
"The prince!" cried Masloboev, "the prince! That prince, my boy, is a rogue,
a rascal such as ... Well! I can tell you, my boy, though I'm a rogue myself,
from a mere sense of decency I shouldn't care to be in his skin. But enough.
Mum's the word! That's all I can tell you about him."
"But I've come, among other things, on purpose to ask you about him. But that
will do later. Why did you give my Elena sweetmeats and dance for her when I was
away yesterday? And what can you have been talking about for an hour and a
"Elena is a little girl of twelve, or perhaps eleven, who is living for the
time at Ivan Petrovitch's," Masloboev exclaimed, sud- denly addressing Alexandra
Semyonovna. "Look, Vanya, look," he went on, pointing at her, "how she flushed
up when she heard I had taken sweets to an unknown girl. Didn't she give a start
and turn red as though we'd fired a pistol at her? ... I say, her eyes are
flashing like coals of fire! It's no use, Alexandra Semyonovna, it's no use to
try and hide it! She's jealous. If I hadn't explained that it was a child of
eleven she'd have pulled my hair and the bergamot wouldn't have saved me!"
"It won't save you as it is!"
And with these words Alexandra Semyonovna darted at one bound from behind the
tea-table, and before Masloboev had time to protect his head she snatched at a
tuft of his hair and gave it a good pull.
"So there! So there! Don't dare to say I'm jealous before a visitor! Don't
you dare! Don't you dare! Don't you dare! "
She was quite crimson, and though she laughed, Masloboev caught it pretty
"He talks of all sorts of shameful things," she added serious] turning to me.
"Well, Vanya, you see the sort of life I lead! That's I must have a drop of
vodka," Masloboev concluded, setting his hair straight and going almost at a
trot to the decanter But Alexandra Semyonovna was beforehand with him. She
skipped up to the table, poured some out herself, handed it him, and even gave
him a friendly pat on the cheek. Masloboev winked at me, triumphantly clicked
with his tongue, an solemnly emptied his glass.
"As for the sweets, it's difficult to say," he began, sitting down on the
sofa beside me. "I bought them at a greengrocer's shop the other day when I was
drunk, I don't know why. Per- haps it was to support home industries and
manufactures, don't know for sure. I only remember that I was walking along the
street drunk, fell in the mud, clutched at my hair and cried at being unfit for
anything. I forgot about the sweets, of course so they remained in my pocket
till yesterday when I sat down on your sofa and sat on them. The dances, too,
were a question of inebriety. Yesterday I was rather drunk, and when I'm drunk,
if I'm contented with my lot I sometimes dance. That's all. Except, perhaps,
that that little orphan excited my pity besides, she wouldn't talk to me, she
seemed cross. And so danced to cheer her up and gave her the fruit-drops."
"And you weren't bribing her to try and find something out from her? Own up,
honestly, didn't you come then on purpose knowing I shouldn't be at home, to
talk to her tete-a-tete, to get something out of her? You see, I know you spent
an hour and a half with her, declared that you had known her dead mother, and
that you questioned her about something."
Masloboev screwed up his eyes and laughed roguishly.
"Well, it wouldn't have been a bad idea," he said.
"Vanya, that was not so. Though, indeed, why shouldn't I question her if I
got a chance; but it wasn't that. Listen, my friend, though as usual I'm rather
drunk now, yet you may be sure that with evil intent Filip will never deceive
you, with evil intent, that is."
"Yes, but without evil intent?
"Well . . . even without evil intent. But, damn it all, let's have a drink
and then to business. It's not a matter of much consequence," he went on after a
drink; "that Bubnov woman had no sort of right to keep the girl. I've gone into
There was no adoption or anything of that sort. The mother owed her money,
and so she got hold of the child. Though the Bubnov woman's a sly hag and a
wicked wretch, she's a silly woman like all women. The dead woman had a good
passport and so everything was all right. Elena can live with you, though it
would be a very good thing if some benevolent people with a family would take
her for good and bring her up. But mean- while, let her stay with you. That's
all right. I'll arrange it all for you. The Bubnov woman won't dare to stir a
finger. I've found out scarcely anything certain about Elena's mother.
She was a woman of the name of Salzmann."
"Yes, so Nellie told me."
"Well, so there the matter ends. Now, Vanya," he began with a certain
solemnity, "I've one great favour to ask of you.
Mind you grant it. Tell me as fully as you can what it is you're busy about,
where you're going, and where you spend whole days at a time. Though I have
heard something, I want to know about it much more fully."
Such solemnity surprised me and even made me uneasy.
"But what is it? Why do you want to know? You ask so solemnly."
"Well, Vanya, without wasting words, I want to do you a service. You see, my
dear boy, if I weren't straight with you I could get it all out of you without
being so solemn. But you suspect me of not being straight - just now, those
fruit-drops; I understood. But since I'm speaking with such seriousness, you may
be sure it's not my interest but yours I'm thinking of.
So don't have any doubts, but speak out the whole truth."
"But what sort of service? Listen, Masloboev, why won't you tell me anything
about the prince? That's what I want.
That would be a service to me."
"About the prince? H'm! Very well, I'll tell you straight out. I'm going to
question you in regard to the prince now."
"I'll tell you how. I've noticed, my boy, that he seems to be somehow mixed
up in your affairs; for instance, he questioned me about you. How he found out
that we knew each other is not your business. The only thing that matters is
that you should be on your guard against that man. He's a treacherous Judas, and
worse than that too. And so, when I saw that he was mixed up in your affairs I
trembled for you. But of course I knew nothing about it; that's why I asked you
to tell me, that I may judge. . . . And that's why I asked you to come her
to-day. That's what the important business is. I tell you straight out."
"You must tell me something, anyway, if only why I need to be afraid of the
"Very good, so be it. I am sometimes employed, my boy, in certain affairs.
But I'm trusted by certain persons just because I'm not a chatterbox. Judge for
yourself whether I should talk to you. So you mustn't mind if I speak somewhat
generally, very generally in fact, simply to show what a scoundrel he is. Well,
to begin with, you tell your story."
I decided there was really no need to conceal anything in my affairs from
Masloboev. Natasha's affairs were not a secret; moreover I might expect to get
some help for her from Masloboev.
Of course I passed over certain points as far as possible in my story.
Masloboev listened particularly attentively to all that related to Prince
Valkovsky; he stopped me in many places, asked me about several points over
again, so that in the end I told him the story rather fully. The telling of it
lasted half an hour.
"H'm! That girl's got a head," Masloboev commented.
"If she hasn't guessed quite correctly about the prince, it's a good thing
anyway that she recognized from the first the sort of man she had to deal with,
and broke off all relations with him. Bravo, Natalya Nikolaevna! I drink to her
health." (He took a drink.) "It's not only brains, it must have been her heart
too, that saved her from being deceived. And her heart didn't mislead her. Of
course her game is lost. The prince will get his way and Alyosha will give her
up. I'm only sorry for Ichmenyev - to pay ten thousand to that scoundrel.
Why, who took up his case, who acted for him? Managed it himself, I bet!
E-ech! just like all these noble, exalted people! They're no good for anything!
That's not the way to deal with the prince. I'd have found a nice little lawyer
for Ichmenyev - ech!"
And he thumped on the table with vexation.
"Well, now about Prince Valkovsky?"
"Ah, you're still harping on the prince. But what am I to say about him? I'm
sorry I've offered to, I only wanted, Vanya, to warn you against that swindler,
to protect you, so to say, from his influence. No one is safe who comes in
contact with him. So keep your eyes open, that's all. And here you've been
imagining I had some mysteries of Paris I wanted to reveal to you. One can see
you're a novelist. Well, what am I to tell you about the villain? The villain's
a villain. . . . Well, for example, I'll tell you one little story, of course
without men- tioning places, towns, or persons, that is, without the exactitude
of a calendar. You know that when he was very young and had to live on his
official salary, he married a very rich merchant's daughter. Well, he didn't
treat that lady very ceremoniously, and though we're not discussing her case
now, I may mention in passing, friend Vanya, that he has all his life been
particularly fond of turning such affairs to profit. Here's another example of
it. He went abroad. There. . . ."
"Stop, Masloboev, what journey abroad are you speaking of? In what year?"
"Just ninety-nine years and three months ago. Well, there he seduced the
daughter of a certain father, and carried her off with him to Paris. And this is
what he did! The father was some sort of a manufacturer, or was a partner in
some enterprise of that sort. I don't know for sure. What I tell you is what
I've gathered from my own conjectures, and what I've concluded from other facts.
Well, the prince cheated him, worming himself into his business too. He swindled
him out and out, and got hold of his money. The old man, of course, had some
legal documents to prove that the prince had had the money from him. The prince
didn't want to give it back; that is, in plain Russian, wanted to steal it. The
old man had a daughter, and she was a beauty, and she had an ideal lover, one of
the Schiller brotherhood, a poet, and at the same time a merchant, a young
dreamer; in short a regular German, one Pfefferkuchen."
"Do you mean to say Pfefferkuchen was his surname?"
"Well, perhaps it wasn't Pfefferkuchen. Hang the man, he doesn't matter. But
the prince made up to the daughter, and so successfully that she fell madly in
love with him. The prince wanted two things at that time, first to possess the
daughter, and secondly the documents relating to the money he had had from the
old man. All the old man's keys were in his daughter's keeping. The old man was
passionately fond of his daughter, so much so that he didn't want her to be
married. Yes, really. He was jealous of every suitor she had, he didn't
contemplate parting with her, and he turned Pfefferkuchen out. He was a queer
fish the father, an Englishman. . . ."
"An Englishman? But where did it all happen?"
"I only called him an Englishman, speaking figuratively, and you catch me up.
It happened in the town of Santa-fe-da- Bogota, or perhaps it was Cracow, but
more likely it was in the principality of Nassau, like the label on the
seltzer-water bottles; certainly it was Nassau. Is that enough for you? Well, so
the prince seduced the girl and carried her off from her father, and managed to
induce the girl to lay hands on the documents and take them with her. There are
cases of love like that, you know, Vanya. Fugh! God have mercy upon us! She was
an honest girl, you know, noble, exalted. It's true she very likely didn't know
much about the documents. The only thing that troubled her was that her father
might curse her. The prince was equal to the occasion this time too; he gave her
a formal, legal promise of marriage in writing. By so doing he persuaded her
that they were only going abroad for a time, for a holiday tour, and that when
the old father's anger had subsided they would return to him married, and would,
the three of them, live happy ever after, and so on, to infinity. She ran away,
the old father cursed her and went bankrupt. She was followed to Paris by
Frauenmilch, who chucked up everything, chucked up his business even; he was
very much in love with her."
"Stop, who's Frauenmilch?"
"Why, that fellow! Feurbach, wasn't it? Damn the fellow, Pfefferkuchen! Well,
of course, the prince couldn't marry her: what would Countess Hlestov* have
said? What would Baron Slops have thought? So he had to deceive her.
And he did deceive her, too brutally. To begin with, he almost beat her, and
secondly, he purposely invited Pfefferkuchen to visit them. Well, he used to go
and see them and became her friend.
They would spend whole evenings alone, whimpering together, weeping over
their troubles, and he would comfort her. To be sure, dear, simple souls! The
prince brought things to this pass on purpose. Once, he found them late at
night, and pre- tended that they had an intrigue, caught at some pretext; said
he'd seen it with his own eyes. Well, he turned them both out of the house, and
took his departure to London for a time.
She was just on the eve of her confinement; when he turned her out she gave
birth to a daughter, that is, not a daughter but a son, to be sure, a little
son. He was christened Volodka.
Pfefferkuchen stood godfather. Well, so she went off with Pfefferkuchen. He
had a little money. She travelled in Switzer- land and Italy, through all the
poetical places to be sure, most *The Russian "Mrs.
appropriately. She cried all the time, and Pfefferkuchen whimpered, and many
years passed like that, and the baby grew into a little girl. And everything
went right for the prince, only one thing was wrong, he hadn't succeeded in
getting back the promise of marriage. 'You're a base man,' she had said to him
at parting. 'You have robbed me, you have dishonoured me and now you abandon me.
Good-bye. But I won't give you back your promise. Not because I ever want to
marry you, but because you're afraid of that document. So I shall always keep it
in my hands.' She lost her temper in fact, but the prince felt quite easy. Such
scoundrels always come off well in their dealings with so-called lofty souls.
They're so noble that it's always easy to deceive them, and besides they
invariably confine themselves to lofty and noble contempt instead of practically
applying the law to the case if it can be applied. That young mother, for
instance, she took refuge in haughty contempt, and though she kept the promise
of marriage, the prince knew, of course, that she'd sooner hang herself than
make use of it; so he felt secure for the time. And though she spat in his nasty
face, she had her Volodka left on her hands; if she had died what would have
become of him? But she didn't think about that. Bruderschaft, too, encouraged
her and didn't think about it. They read Schiller. At last Bruderschaft sickened
of something and died."
"You mean Pfefferkuchen?"
"To be sure-hang him! And she . . ."
"Stay. How many years had they been travelling?"
"Exactly two hundred. Well, she went back to Cracow.
Her father wouldn't receive her, cursed her. She died, and the prince crossed
himself for joy. I was there too, drank goblets not a few, our ears full of
mead, but our mouths full of need; they gave me a flip, and I gave them the
slip. . . . Let's drink, brother Vanya."
"I suspect that you are helping him in that business, Masloboev."
"You will have it so, will you?
"Only I can't understand what you can do in it."
"Why, you see, when she went back under another name to Madrid after being
away for ten years, all this had to be verified, and about Bruderschaft too, and
about the old man and about the kid, and whether she was dead, and whether she'd
any papers, and so on, to infinity. And something else besides, too. He's a
horrid man, be on your guard, Vanya, and remember one thing about Masloboev,
don't let anything make you call him a scoundrel. Though he's a scoundrel (to my
thinking there's no man who isn't) he's not a scoundrel in his dealings with
I'm very drunk, but listen. If ever, sooner or later, now or next year, it
seems to you that Masloboev has hoodwinked you (and please don't forget that
word hoodwinked), rest assured that it's with no evil intent. Masloboev is
watching over you.
And so don't believe your suspicions, but come to Masloboev and have it out
with him like a friend. Well, now, will you have a drink?"
"Something to eat?"
"No, brother, excuse me."
"Well then, get along with you. It's a quarter to nine and you're in a hurry.
It's time for you to go."
"Well, what next? He's been drinking till he's drunk and now he sends away a
guest. He's always like that. Ach, you shameless fellow!" cried Alexandra
Semyonovna, almost in tears.
"A man on foot's poor company for a man on horseback, Alexandra Semyonovna;
we shall be left alone to adore on another. And this is a general! No, Vanya,
I'm lying, you're not a general, but I'm a scoundrel! Only see what I look like
now! What am I beside you? Forgive me, Vanya, don't judge me and let me pour out
. . ."
He embraced me and burst into tears. I prepared to go away.
"Good heavens! And we've prepared supper for you!" cried Alexandra Semyonovna
in terrible distress. "And will you come to us on Friday?"
"I will, Alexandra Semyonovna. Honour bright, I will."
"Perhaps you look down on him because he's so . . . tipsy.
Don't look down upon him, Ivan Petrovitch! He's a good- hearted man, such a
good-hearted man, and how he loves you.
He talks to me about you day and night, nothing but you. He bought your books
on purpose for me. I haven't read the yet. I'm going to begin to-morrow. And how
glad I shall be when you come! I never see anyone. No one ever comes to sit with
us. We've everything we can want, but we're always alone. Here I've been sitting
listening all the while you've been talking, and how nice it's been. . . . So
good-by till Friday."