Book 8 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?”

“Oh, let me be; why did you hinder everything! Why? why? who asked you to?” cried Natasha, getting up from the sofa, and looking vindictively at Marya Dmitryevna.

“But what was it you wanted?” screamed Marya Dmitryevna, getting hot again. “Why, you weren't shut up, were you? Who hindered his coming to the house? Why carry you off, like some gypsy wench? … If he had carried you off, do you suppose they wouldn't have caught him? Your father, or brother, or betrothed? He's a wretch, a scoundrel, that's what he is!”

“He's better than any of you,” cried Natasha, getting up. “If you hadn't meddled … O my God, what does it mean? Sonya, why did you? Go away! …” And she sobbed with a despair with which people only bewail a trouble they feel they have brought on themselves.

Marya Dmitryevna was beginning to speak again; but Natasha cried, “Go away, go away, you all hate me and despise me!” And she flung herself again on the sofa.

Marya Dmitryevna went on for some time longer lecturing Natasha, and urging on her that it must all be kept from the count, that no one would know anything of it if Natasha would only undertake to forget it all, and not to show a sign to any one of anything having happened. Natasha made no answer. She did not sob any more, but she was taken with shivering fits and trembling. Marya Dmitryevna put a pillow under her head, laid two quilts over her, and brought her some lime-flower water with her own hands; but Natasha made no response when she spoke to her.

“Well, let her sleep,” said Marya Dmitryevna, as she went out of the room, supposing her to be asleep. But Natasha was not asleep, her wide-open eyes gazed straight before her out of her pale face. All that night Natasha did not sleep, and did not weep, and said not a word to Sonya, who got up several times and went in to her.

Next day, at lunch time, as he had promised, Count Ilya Andreitch arrived from his estate in the environs. He was in very good spirits: he had come to terms with the purchaser, and there was nothing now to detain him in Moscow away from his countess, for whom he was pining. Marya Dmitryevna met him, and told him that Natasha had been very unwell on the previous day, that they had sent for a doctor, and that now she was better. Natasha did not leave her room that morning. With tightly shut, parched lips, and dry, staring eyes, she sat at the window uneasily watching the passers-by along the street, and hurriedly looking round at any one who entered her room. She was obviously expecting news of him, expecting that he would come himself or would write to her.

When the count went in to her, she turned uneasily at the sound of his manly tread, and her face resumed its previous cold and even vindictive expression. She did not even get up to meet him.

“What is it, my angel; are you ill?” asked the count.

Natasha was silent a moment.

“Yes, I am ill,” she answered.

In answer to the count's inquiries why she was depressed and whether anything had happened with her betrothed, she assured him that nothing had, and begged him not to be uneasy. Marya Dmitryevna confirmed Natasha's assurances that nothing had happened. From the pretence of illness, from his daughter's agitated state, and the troubled faces of Sonya and Marya Dmitryevna, the count saw clearly that something had happened in his absence. But it was so terrible to him to believe that anything disgraceful had happened to his beloved daughter, and he so prized his own cheerful serenity, that he avoided inquiries and tried to assure himself that it was nothing very out of the way, and only grieved that her indisposition would delay their return to the country.