“She won’t listen to anybody,” gloomily answered Jennka. “And you did have to tie up with a fool and a low-down fellow like that.”
“Jennechka, but you yourself advised me to,” timidly retorted Liubka.
“I advised you? ... I didn’t advise you anything. What are you lying on me for, just as though I was dead... Well, all right then—let’s go.”
Emma Edwardovna had already known for a long while about the return of Liubka; and had even seen her at that moment when she had passed through the yard of the house, looking all around her. At soul she was not at all against taking Liubka back. It must be said, that she had even let her go only because she had been tempted by the money, one-half of which she had appropriated for herself. And in addition to that, she had reckoned that with the present seasonal influx of new prostitutes she would have a large choice; in which, however, she had made a mistake, because the season had terminated abruptly. But in any case, she had firmly resolved to take Liubka. Only it was necessary, for the preservation and rounding out of prestige, to give her a scare befittingly.
“Wha-at?” she began to yell at Liubka, scarcely having heard her out, babbling in confusion. “You want to be taken on again? ... You wallowed the devil knows with whom in the streets, under the fences; and now, you scum, you’re again shoving your way into a respectable, decent establishment! ... Pfui, you Russian swine! Out! ...”
Liubka was catching her hands, aiming to kiss them, but the housekeeper roughly snatched them away. Then, suddenly paling, with a distorted face, biting her trembling, twisted lower lip, Emma calculatingly and with good aim struck Liubka on her cheek, with all her might; from which the other went down on her knees, but got up right away, gasping for breath and stammering from the sobs.
“Darlingest, don’t beat me... Oh my dear, don’t beat me...”
And again fell down, this time flat upon the floor.
And this systematic, malignant slaughter, in cold blood, continued for some two minutes. Jennka, who had at first been looking on with her customary malicious, disdainful air, suddenly could not stand it; she began to squeal savagely, threw herself upon the housekeeper, clutched her by the hair, tore off her chignon and began to vociferate in a real hysterical fit:
“Fool! ... Murderer! ... Low-down go-between! ... Thief! ...”
All the three women vociferated together, and at once enraged wails resounded through all the corridors and rooms of the establishment. This was that general fit of grand hysterics, which takes possession of those confined in prisons, or that elemental insanity (raptus), which envelops unexpectedly and epidemically an entire lunatic asylum, from which even experienced psychiatrists grow pale.