Jennie crossed her fingers and nervously cracked them.
“And I, too, don’t know...Therefore, that which I thought—is not the truth. Therefore, there is but one thing left me...This thought came into my head this morning...”
“Don’t, don’t do it, Jennechka! ... Jennie! ...” Platonov quickly interrupted her.
“There’s one thing: to hang myself...”
“No, no, Jennie, only not that! ... If there were other circumstances, unsurmountable, I would, believe me, tell you boldly: well, it’s no use, Jennie; it’s time to close up shop... But what you need isn’t that at all... If you wish, I can suggest one way out to you, no less malicious and merciless; but which, perhaps, will satiate your wrath a hundredfold...”
“What’s that?” asked Jennie, wearily, as though suddenly wilted after her flare-up.
“Well, this is it ... You’re still young, and I’ll tell you the truth, you are very handsome; that is, you can be, if you only want to, unusually stunning ... That’s even more than beauty. But you’ve never yet known the bounds and the power of your appearance; and, mainly, you don’t know to what a degree such natures as yours are bewitching, and how mightily they enchain men to them, and make out of them more than slaves and brutes ... You are proud, you are brave, you are independent, you are a clever woman. I know—you have read a great deal, let’s presuppose even trashy books, but still you have read, you have an entirely different speech from the others. With a successful turn of life, you can cure yourself, you can get out of these ‘Yamkas,’ these ‘Little Ditches,’ into freedom. You have only to stir a finger, in order to see at your feet hundreds of men; submissive, ready for your sake for vileness, for theft, for embezzlement ... Lord it over them with tight reins, with a cruel whip in your hands! ... Ruin them, make them go out of their minds, as long as your desire and energy hold out! ... Look, my dear Jennie, who manages life now if not women! Yesterday’s chambermaid, laundress, chorus girl goes through estates worth millions, the way a country-woman of Tver cracks sunflower seeds. A woman scarcely able to sign her name, at times affects the destiny of an entire kingdom through a man. Hereditary princes marry the street-walkers, the kept mistresses of yesterday... Jennechka, there is the scope for your unbridled vengeance; while I will admire you from a distance... For you—you are made of this stuff—you are a bird of prey, a spoliator... Perhaps not with such a broad sweep—but you will cast them down under your feet.”
“No,” faintly smiled Jennka. “I thought of this before ... But something of the utmost importance has burned out within me. There are no forces within me, there is no will within me, no desires ... I am somehow all empty inside, rotted ... Well, now, you know, there’s a mushroom like that—white, round,—you squeeze it, and snuff pours out of it. And the same way with me. This life has eaten out everything within me save malice. And I am flabby, and my malice is flabby ... I’ll see some little boy again, will have pity on him, will be punishing myself again ... No, it’s better ... better so! ...”