That very same day, at evening, a very important event took place in the house of Anna Markovna: the whole institution—with land and house, with live and inanimate stock—passed into the hands of Emma Edwardovna.
They had been speaking of this, on and off, for a long time in the establishment; but when the rumours so unexpectedly, immediately right after the death of Jennka, turned into realities, the misses could not for a long time come to themselves for amazement and fear. They knew well, having experienced the sway of the German upon themselves, her cruel, implacable pedantism; her greed, arrogance, and, finally, her perverted, exacting, repulsive love, now for one, now for another favorite. Besides that, it was no mystery to any one, that out of the fifteen thousand which Emma Edwardovna had to pay the former proprietress for the firm and for the property, one third belonged to Kerbesh, who had, for a long time already, been carrying on half-friendy, half-business relations with the fat housekeeper. From the union of two such people, shameless, pitiless, and covetous, the girls could expect all sorts of disasters for themselves.
Anna Markovna had to let the house go so cheaply not simply because Kerbesh, even if he had not known about certain shady little transactions to her credit, could still at any time he liked trip her up and eat her up without leaving anything. Of pretexts and cavils for this even a hundred could be found every day; and certain ones of them not merely threatened the shutting down of the house alone, but, if you like, even with the court.
But, dissembling, oh-ing and sighing, bewailing her poverty, her maladies and orphanhood, Anna Markovna at soul was glad of even such a settlement. And then it must be said: she was already for a long time feeling the approach of senile infirmity, together with all sorts of ailments and the thirst for complete, benevolent rest, undisturbed by anything. All, of which she had not even dared dream in her early youth, when she herself had yet been a prostitute of the rank and file—all had now come to her of itself, one in addition to the other: peaceful old age, a house—a brimming cup on one of the quiet, cozy streets, almost in the centre of the city,—the adored daughter Birdie, who—if not to-day then tomorrow—must marry a respected man, an engineer, a house-owner, and member of the city-council; provided for as she was with a respectable dowry and magnificent valuables ... Now it was possible peacefully, without hurrying, with gusto, to dine and sup on sweet things, for which Anna Markovna had always nourished a great weakness; to drink after dinner good, home-made, strong cherry-brandy; and of evenings to play a bit at “preference,” for kopeck stakes, with esteemed elderly ladies of her acquaintance, who, even although they never as much as let it appear that they knew the real trade