“Yes,” she said; “here, now, I understand Tamara. You hear, Tamara, I apologize before you. I’ve often laughed over your being in love with your thief Senka. But here, now, I’ll say that of all the men the most decent is a thief or a murderer. He doesn’t hide the fact that he loves a girlie, and, if need be, will commit a crime for her—a theft or a murder. But these—the rest of them! All lying, falsehood, petty cunning, depravity on the sly. The nasty beast has three families, a wife and five children. A governess and two children abroad. The eldest daughter from the first marriage, and a child by her. And this everybody, everybody in town knows, save his little children. And even they, perhaps, guess it and whisper among themselves. And, just imagine, he’s a respected person, honoured by the whole world ... My children, it seems we’ve never had occasion to enter into confidences with each other, and yet I’ll tell you, that I when I was ten and a half, was sold by my own mother in the city of Zhitomir to Doctor Tarabukin. I kissed his hands, implored him to spare me, I cried out to him: ‘I’m little!’ But he’d answer me: ’That’s nothing, that’s nothing: you’ll grow up.’ Well, of course, there was pain, aversion, nastiness ... And he afterwards spread it around as a current anecdote. The desperate cry of my soul.”
“Well, as long as we do speak, let’s speak to the end,” suddenly and calmly said Zoe, and smiled negligently and sadly. “I was deprived of innocence by a teacher in the ministerial school, Ivan Petrovich Sus. He simply called me over to his rooms, and his wife at that time had gone to market for a suckling pig—it was Christmas. Treated me with candies, and then said it was going to be one of two things: either I must obey him in everything, or he’d at once expel me out of school for bad conduct. But then you know yourselves, girls, how we feared the teachers. Here they aren’t terrible to us, because we do with them whatever we want— but at that time! For then he seemed to us greater than Czar and God.”
“And me a stewdent. He was teaching the master’s boys in our place. There, where I was a servant ...”
“No, but I ...” exclaimed Niura, but, turning around unexpectedly, remained as she was with her mouth open. Looking in the direction of her gaze, Jennka had to wring her hands. In the doorway stood Liubka, grown thin, with dark rings under her eyes, and, just like a somnambulist, was searching with her hand for the door-knob, as a point of support.
“Liubka, you fool, what’s the matter with you?’ yelled Jennka loudly. “What is it?”
“Well, of course, what: he took and chased me out.”
No one said a word. Jennka hid her eyes with her hands and started breathing hard, and it could be seen how under the skin of her cheeks the taut muscles of the jaws were working.
“Jennechka, all my hope is only in you,” said Liubka with a deep expression of weary helplessness. “Everybody respects you so. Talk it over, dearie, with Anna Markovna or with Simeon ... Let them take me back.”