“Do you know, Marichen, you also please me very much. I would willingly take you and set you up.”
“You’re married,” the girl objected, touching his ring.
“Yes, but, you understand, I don’t live with my wife; she isn’t well, she can’t fulfill her conjugal duties.”
“The poor thing! If she were to find out where you go, daddy, she would cry for sure.”
“Let’s drop that. So, you know, Mary, I am always looking out for such a girl as you for myself, so modest and pretty. I am a man of means, I would find a flat with board for you, with fuel and light. And forty roubles a month pin money. Would you go?”
“Why not go—I’d go.”
He kissed her violently, but a secret apprehension glided swiftly through his cowardly heart.
“But are you healthy?” he asked in an inimical, quavering voice.
“Why, yes, I am healthy. There’s a doctor’s inspection every Saturday in our place.”
After five minutes she went away from him, as she walked putting away in her stocking the earned money, on which, as on the first handsel, she had first spat, after a superstitious custom. There had been no further speech either about maintenance or natural liking. The German was left unsatisfied with the frigidity of Manka and ordered the housekeeper to be summoned to him.
“Housekeeper dear, my husband demands your presence!” said Manya, coming into the drawing room and fixing her hair before a mirror.
Zociya went away, then returned afterwards and called Pasha out into the corridor. Later she came back into the drawing room, but alone.
“How is it, Manka, that you haven’t pleased your cavalier?” she asked with laughter. “He complains about you: ‘This,’ he says, ’is no woman, but some log of wood, a piece of ice.’ I sent him Pashka.”
“Eh, what a disgusting man!” Manka puckered up her face and spat aside. “Butts in with his conversations. Asks: ’Do you feel when I kiss you? Do you feel a pleasant excitement?’ An old hound. ’I’ll take you,’ he says, ‘and set you up!’”
“They all say that,” remarked Zoe indifferently.
But Jennie, who since morning has been in an evil mood, suddenly flared up.
“Oh, the sneak, the big, miserable sneak that he is!” she exclaimed, turning red and energetically putting her hands to her sides. “Why, I would take him, the old, dirty little beast, by the ear, then lead him up to the mirror and show him his disgusting snout. What? Good-looking, aren’t you? And how much better you’ll be when the spit will be running out of your mouth, and you’ll cross your eyes, and begin to choke and rattle in the throat, and to snort right in the face of the woman. And for your damned rouble you want me to go all to pieces before you like a pancake, and that from your nasty love my eyes should pop out onto my forehead? Why, hit him in the snout, the skunk, in the snout! Until there’s blood!”