Nastasya Karpovna was a woman of the most cheerful and gentle disposition, a widow without children, of a poor noble family; she had a round grey head, soft white hands, a soft face with large mild features, and a rather absurd turned-up nose; she stood in awe of Marfa Timofyevna, and the latter was very fond of her, though she laughed at her susceptibility. She had a soft place in her heart for every young man, and could not help blushing like a girl at the most innocent joke. Her whole fortune consisted of only 1200 roubles; she lived at Marfa Timofyevna’s expense, but on an equal footing with her: Marfa Timofyevna would not have put up with any servility.
“Ah! Fedya,” she began, directly she saw him, “last night you did not see my family, you must admire them, we are all here together for tea; this is our second, holiday tea. You can make friends with them all; only Shurotchka won’t let you, and the cat will scratch. Are you starting to-day?”
“Yes.” Lavretsky sat down on a low seat, “I have just said good-bye to Marya Dmitrievna. I saw Lisaveta Mihalovna too.”
“Call her Lisa, my dear fellow. Mihalovna indeed to you! But sit still, or you will break Shurotchka’s little chair.”
“She has gone to church,” continued Lavretsky. “Is she religious?”
“Yes, Fedya, very much so. More than you and I, Fedya.”
“Aren’t you religious then?” lisped Nastasya Karpovna. “To-day, you have not been to the early service, but you are going to the late.”
“No, not at all; you will go alone; I have grown too lazy, my dear,” relied Marfa Timofyevna. “Already I am indulging myself with tea.” She addressed Nastasya Karpovna in the singular, though she treated her as an equal. She was not a Pestov for nothing: three Pestovs had been on the death-list of Ivan the Terrible, Marfa Timofyevna was well aware of the fact.
“Tell me please,” began Lavretsky again, “Marya Dmitrievna has just been talking to me about this—what’s his name? Panshin. What sort of a man is he?”