“What! it’s not true?” retorted the lady, flushing up to her eyes.
“It is not true, before God it is not true,” exclaimed Marya. “I know all; I will tell you all. It is for me only that he exposed himself to all the misfortunes which have overtaken him. And if he did not vindicate himself before the judges, it is because he did not wish me to be mixed up in the affair.”
And Marya eagerly related all the reader already knows.
The lady listened with deep attention.
“Where do you lodge?” she asked, when the young girl concluded her story. And when she heard that it was with Anna Vlassiefna, she added, with a smile: “Ah! I know! Good-bye! Do not tell anyone of our meeting. I hope you will not have to wait long for an answer to your letter.”
Having said these words, she rose and went away by a covered walk.
Marya returned home full of joyful hope.
Her hostess scolded her for her early morning walk—bad, she said, in the autumn for the health of a young girl. She brought the “samovar,” and over a cup of tea she was about to resume her endless discussion of the Court, when a carriage with a coat-of-arms stopped before the door.
A lackey in the Imperial livery entered the room, announcing that the Tzarina deigned to call to her presence the daughter of Captain Mironoff.
Anna Vlassiefna was quite upset by this news.
“Oh, good heavens!” cried she; “the Tzarina summons you to Court! How did she know of your arrival? And how will you acquit yourself before the Tzarina, my little mother? I think you do not even know how to walk Court fashion. I ought to take you; or, stay, should I not send for the midwife, that she might lend you her yellow gown with flounces?”
But the lackey declared that the Tzarina wanted Marya Ivanofna to come alone, and in the dress she should happen to be wearing. There was nothing for it but to obey, and Marya Ivanofna started.
She foresaw that our fate was in the balance, and her heart beat violently. After a few moments the coach stopped before the Palace, and Marya, after crossing a long suite of empty and sumptuous rooms, was ushered at last into the boudoir of the Tzarina. Some lords, who stood around there, respectfully opened a way for the young girl.
The Tzarina, in whom Marya recognized the lady of the garden, said to her, graciously—
“I am delighted to be able to accord you your prayer. I have had it all looked into. I am convinced of the innocence of your betrothed. Here is a letter which you will give your future father-in-law.” Marya, all in tears, fell at the feet of the Tzarina, who raised her, and kissed her forehead. “I know,” said she, “you are not rich, but I owe a debt to the daughter of Captain Mironoff. Be easy about your future.”
After overwhelming the poor orphan with caresses, the Tzarina dismissed her, and Marya started the same day for my father’s country house, without having even had the curiosity to take a look at Petersburg.