When I took in the coffee to the study, Orlov was standing with his back to the fire and she was sitting in an arm-chair facing him.
“I am not in a bad temper at all,” she was saying in French. “But I have been putting things together, and now I see it clearly. I can give you the day and the hour when she stole my watch. And the purse? There can be no doubt about it. Oh!” she laughed as she took the coffee from me. “Now I understand why I am always losing my handkerchiefs and gloves. Whatever you say, I shall dismiss the magpie to-morrow and send Stepan for my Sofya. She is not a thief and has not got such a repulsive appearance.”
“You are out of humour. To-morrow you will feel differently, and will realise that you can’t discharge people simply because you suspect them.”
“It’s not suspicion; it’s certainty,” said Zinaida Fyodorovna. “So long as I suspected that unhappy-faced, poor-looking valet of yours, I said nothing. It’s too bad of you not to believe me, George.”
“If we think differently about anything, it doesn’t follow that I don’t believe you. You may be right,” said Orlov, turning round and flinging his cigarette-end into the fire, “but there is no need to be excited about it, anyway. In fact, I must say, I never expected my humble establishment would cause you so much serious worry and agitation. You’ve lost a gold coin: never mind—you may have a hundred of mine; but to change my habits, to pick up a new housemaid, to wait till she is used to the place—all that’s a tedious, tiring business and does not suit me. Our present maid certainly is fat, and has, perhaps, a weakness for gloves and handkerchiefs, but she is perfectly well behaved, well trained, and does not shriek when Kukushkin pinches her.”
“You mean that you can’t part with her? . . . Why don’t you say so?”
“Are you jealous?”
“Yes, I am,” said Zinaida Fyodorovna, decidedly.
“Yes, I am jealous,” she repeated, and tears glistened in her eyes. “No, it’s something worse . . . which I find it difficult to find a name for.” She pressed her hands on her temples, and went on impulsively. “You men are so disgusting! It’s horrible!”
“I see nothing horrible about it.”
“I’ve not seen it; I don’t know; but they say that you men begin with housemaids as boys, and get so used to it that you feel no repugnance. I don’t know, I don’t know, but I have actually read . . ._George_, of course you are right,” she said, going up to Orlov and changing to a caressing and imploring tone. “I really am out of humour to-day. But, you must understand, I can’t help it. She disgusts me and I am afraid of her. It makes me miserable to see her.”
“Surely you can rise above such paltriness?” said Orlov, shrugging his shoulders in perplexity, and walking away from the fire. “Nothing could be simpler: take no notice of her, and then she won’t disgust you, and you won’t need to make a regular tragedy out of a trifle.”