During the ninth symphony she passed again as though by accident, but the crowd of men standing like a thick wall behind the columns prevented her going further, and she remained beside him. Laptev saw that she was wearing the same little velvet blouse she had worn at concerts last year and the year before. Her gloves were new, and her fan, too, was new, but it was a common one. She was fond of fine clothes, but she did not know how to dress, and grudged spending money on it. She dressed so badly and untidily that when she was going to her lessons striding hurriedly down the street, she might easily have been taken for a young monk.
The public applauded and shouted encore.
“You’ll spend the evening with me,” said Polina Nikolaevna, going up to Laptev and looking at him severely. “When this is over we’ll go and have tea. Do you hear? I insist on it. You owe me a great deal, and haven’t the moral right to refuse me such a trifle.”
“Very well; let us go,” Laptev assented.
Endless calls followed the conclusion of the concert. The audience got up from their seats and went out very slowly, and Laptev could not go away without telling his wife. He had to stand at the door and wait.
“I’m dying for some tea,” Polina Nikolaevna said plaintively. “My very soul is parched.”
“You can get something to drink here,” said Laptev. “Let’s go to the buffet.”
“Oh, I’ve no money to fling away on waiters. I’m not a shopkeeper.”
He offered her his arm; she refused, in a long, wearisome sentence which he had heard many times, to the effect that she did not class herself with the feebler fair sex, and did not depend on the services of gentlemen.
As she talked to him she kept looking about at the audience and greeting acquaintances; they were her fellow-students at the higher courses and at the conservatorium, and her pupils. She gripped their hands abruptly, as though she were tugging at them. But then she began twitching her shoulders, and trembling as though she were in a fever, and at last said softly, looking at Laptev with horror:
“Who is it you’ve married? Where were your eyes, you mad fellow? What did you see in that stupid, insignificant girl? Why, I loved you for your mind, for your soul, but that china doll wants nothing but your money!”
“Let us drop that, Polina,” he said in a voice of supplication. “All that you can say to me about my marriage I’ve said to myself many times already. Don’t cause me unnecessary pain.”
Yulia Sergeyevna made her appearance, wearing a black dress with a big diamond brooch, which her father-in-law had sent her after the service. She was followed by her suite—Kotchevoy, two doctors of their acquaintance, an officer, and a stout young man in student’s uniform, called Kish.
“You go on with Kostya,” Laptev said to his wife. “I’m coming later.”
Yulia nodded and went on. Polina Nikolaevna gazed after her, quivering all over and twitching nervously, and in her eyes there was a look of repulsion, hatred, and pain.