“Oh, how I have been longing to see you,” she went on, mastering her tears. “How thin you’ve grown, how ill and pale you are. You really have been ill, haven’t you, Vanya? And I haven’t even asked! I keep talking of myself University partnership How are you getting on with the reviewers now? what about your new novel? Is it going well?”
“As though we could talk about novels, as though we could talk about me now, Natasha! As though my work mattered. That’s all right, let it be! But tell me, Natasha, did he insist himself that you should go to him?”
“No, not only he, it was more I. He did say so, certainly, but I too. . . . You see, dear, I’ll tell you everything; they’re making a match for him with a very rich girl, of very high rank and related to very grand people. His father absolutely insists on his marrying her, and his father, as you know, is an awful schemer; he sets every spring working; and it’s a chance that wouldn’t come once in ten years. . . . Connexions, money . . . and they say she’s very pretty, and she has education, a good heart, everything good; Alyosha’s attracted by her already, and what’s more his father’s very anxious to get it over, so as to get married himself. And so he’s determined to break it off between us. He’s afraid of me and my influence on Alyosha. . .”
“But do you mean to say that the prince knows of your love?” I interrupted in surprise. “Surely he only suspects it; and is not at all sure of it?”
“He knows it. He knows all about it.”
“Why, who told him dermes? ”
“Alyosha told him everything a little while ago. He told me himself that he had told him all about it.”
“Good God, what is going on! He tells all this himself and at such a time?”
“Don’t blame him, Vanya,” Natasha broke in; “don’t jeer at him. He can’t be judged like other people. Be fair. He’s not like you and me. He’s a child. He’s not been properly brought up. He doesn’t understand what he’s doing. The first impression, the influence of the first person he meets can turn him away from what he has promised a minute before. He has no character. He’ll vow to be true to you, and that very day he will just as truthfully, just as sincerely, devote himself to someone else; and what’s more he’ll be the first person to come and tell you about it. He may do something bad; but yet one can’t blame him for it, but can only feel sorry for him. He’s even capable of self-sacrifice, and if you knew what sacrifice! But only till the next new impression, then he’ll forget it all. So he’ll forget me if I’m not continually with him. That’s what he’s like!”
“Ach, Natasha, but perhaps that’s all not true, that’s only gossip. How can a boy like that get married!”
“I tell you his father has special objects of his own.”
“But how do you know that this young lady is so charming, and that he is already attracted by her?”
“Why, he told me so himself.”
“What! Told you himself that he might love another woman, and demands this sacrifice from you now?”
“No, Vanya, no. You don’t know him. You’ve not been much with him. You must know him better before you judge of him. There isn’t a truer and purer heart than his in the world. Why, would it be better if he were to he? And as for his being attracted by her, why, if he didn’t see me for a week he’d fall in love with some one else and forget me, and then when he saw me he’d be at my feet again. No! It’s a good thing I know it, that it’s not concealed from me, or else I should be dying of suspicion. Yes, Vanya! I have come to the conclusion; if I’m not always with him continually, every minute, he will cease to love me, forget me, and give me up. He’s like that; any other woman can attract him. And then what should I do? I should die . . . die indeed I I should be glad to die now. But what will it be for me to live without him? That would be worse than death itself, worse than any agony! Oh, Vanya, Vanya! It does mean something that I’ve abandoned my father and mother for him! Don’t try and persuade me, everything’s decided! He must be near me every hour, every minute. I can’t go back. I know that I am ruined and that I’m ruining others. . . . Ach, Vanya!” she cried suddenly and began“what if he doesn’t love me even now! What if it’s true what you said of him just now” (I had never said it), “that he’s only deceiving me, that he only seems to be so truthful and sincere, and is really wicked and vain! I’m defending him to you now, and perhaps this very minute he’s laughing at me with another woman . . . and I, I’m so abject that I’ve thrown up everything and am walking about the streets looking for him. . . . Ach, Vanya!”
This moan broke with such anguish from her heart that my whole soul filled with grief. I realized that Natasha had lost all control of herself. Only a blind, insane, intense jealousy could have brought her to this frantic resolution. But jealousy flamed up in my heart, too, and suddenly burst out. I could not restrain myself. A horrid feeling drew me on.