When she got into the carriage, she first of all let her face rest from smiling. With an angry face she drove through the village, and with an angry face acknowledged the bows of the peasants she met. When she got home, she went to the bedroom by the back way and lay down on her husband’s bed.
“Merciful God!” she whispered. “What is all this hard labour for? Why do all these people hustle each other here and pretend that they are enjoying themselves? Why do I smile and lie? I don’t understand it.”
She heard steps and voices. The visitors had come back.
“Let them come,” thought Olga Mihalovna; “I shall lie a little longer.”
But a maid-servant came and said:
“Marya Grigoryevna is going, madam.”
Olga Mihalovna jumped up, tidied her hair and hurried out of the room.
“Marya Grigoryevna, what is the meaning of this?” she began in an injured voice, going to meet Marya Grigoryevna. “Why are you in such a hurry?”
“I can’t help it, darling! I’ve stayed too long as it is; my children are expecting me home.”
“It’s too bad of you! Why didn’t you bring your children with you?”
“If you will let me, dear, I will bring them on some ordinary day, but to-day . . .”
“Oh, please do,” Olga Mihalovna interrupted; “I shall be delighted! Your children are so sweet! Kiss them all for me. . . . But, really, I am offended with you! I don’t understand why you are in such a hurry!”
“I really must, I really must. . . . Good-bye, dear. Take care of yourself. In your condition, you know . . .”
And the ladies kissed each other. After seeing the departing guest to her carriage, Olga Mihalovna went in to the ladies in the drawing-room. There the lamps were already lighted and the gentlemen were sitting down to cards.
The party broke up after supper about a quarter past twelve. Seeing her visitors off, Olga Mihalovna stood at the door and said:
“You really ought to take a shawl! It’s turning a little chilly. Please God, you don’t catch cold!”
“Don’t trouble, Olga Mihalovna,” the ladies answered as they got into the carriage. “Well, good-bye. Mind now, we are expecting you; don’t play us false!”
“Wo-o-o!” the coachman checked the horses.
“Ready, Denis! Good-bye, Olga Mihalovna!”
“Kiss the children for me!”
The carriage started and immediately disappeared into the darkness. In the red circle of light cast by the lamp in the road, a fresh pair or trio of impatient horses, and the silhouette of a coachman with his hands held out stiffly before him, would come into view. Again there began kisses, reproaches, and entreaties to come again or to take a shawl. Pyotr Dmitritch kept running out and helping the ladies into their carriages.
“You go now by Efremovshtchina,” he directed the coachman; “it’s nearer through Mankino, but the road is worse that way. You might have an upset. . . . Good-bye, my charmer. Mille compliments to your artist!”