Chapter XXVII
 

SOLOMIN rushed out to the factory gates as soon as he was informed that some sort of gentleman, with a lady, who had arrived in a cart, was asking for him. Without a word of greeting to his visitors, merely nodding his head to them several times, he told the peasant to drive into the yard, and asking him to stop before his own little dwelling, helped Mariana out of the cart. Nejdanov jumped out after her. Solomin conducted them both through a long dark passage, up a narrow, crooked little staircase at the back of the house, up to the second floor. He opened a door and they all went into a tiny neat little room with two windows.

"I'm so glad you've come!" Solomin exclaimed, with his habitual smile, which now seemed even broader and brighter than usual.

"Here are your rooms. This one and another adjoining it. Not much to look at, but never mind, one can live here and there's no one to spy on you. Just under your window there is what my employer calls a flower garden, but which I should call a kitchen garden. It lies right up against the wall and there are hedges to right and left. A quiet little spot. Well, how are you, my dear lady? And how are you, Nejdanov?"

He shook hands with them both. They stood motionless, not taking off their things, and with silent, half-bewildered, half-joyful emotion gazed straight in front of them.

"Well? Why don't you take your things off?" Solomin asked. "Have you much luggage?"

Mariana held up her little bundle.

"I have only this."

"I have a portmanteau and a bag, which I left in the cart. I'll go and--"

"Don't bother, don't bother." Solomin opened the door. "Pavel!" he shouted down the dark staircase, "run and fetch the things from the cart!"

"All right!" answered the never-failing Pavel.

Solomin turned to Mariana, who had taken off her shawl and was unfastening her cloak.

"Did everything go off happily?" he asked.

"Quite . . . not a soul saw us. I left a letter for Madame Sipiagina. Vassily Fedotitch, I didn't bring any clothes with me, because you're going to send us ..." (Mariana wanted to say to the people, but hesitated). "They wouldn't have been of any use in any case. I have money to buy what is necessary."

"We'll see to that later on . . . Ah!" he exclaimed, pointing to Pavel who was at that moment coming in together with Nejdanov and the luggage from The cart, "I can recommend you my best friend here. You may rely on him absolutely, as you would on me. Have you told Tatiana about the samovar?" he added in an undertone.

"It will soon be ready," Pavel replied; "and cream and everything."

"Tatiana is Pavel's wife and just as reliable as he is," Solomin continued. "Until you get used to things, my dear lady, she will look after you."

Mariana flung her cloak on to a couch covered with leather, which was standing in a corner of the room.

"Will you please call me Mariana, Vassily Fedotitch; I don't want to be a lady, neither do I want servants. . . I did not go away from there to be waited on. Don't look at my dress--I hadn't any other. I must change all that now."

Her dress of fine brown cloth was very simple, but made by a St. Petersburg dressmaker. It fitted beautifully round her waist and shoulders and had altogether a fashionable air.

"Well, not a servant if you like, but a help, in the American fashion. But you must have some tea. It's early yet, but you are both tired, no doubt. I have to be at the factory now on business, but will look in later on. If you want anything, ask Pavel or Tatiana."

Mariana held out both her hands to him quickly.

"How can we thank you enough, Vassily Fedotitch?" She looked at him with emotion. Solomin stroked one of her hands gently. "I should say it's not worth thanking for, but that wouldn't be true. I had better say that your thanks give me the greatest of pleasure. So we are quits. Good morning. Come along, Pavel."

Mariana and Nejdanov were left alone.

She rushed up to him and looked at him with the same expression with which she had looked at Solomin, only with even greater delight, emotion, radiance: "Oh, my dear!" she exclaimed. "We are beginning a new life . . . at last! At last! You can't believe how this poor little room, where we are to spend a few days, seems sweet and charming compared to those hateful palaces! Are you glad?"

Nejdanov took her hands and pressed them against his breast.

"I am happy, Mariana, to begin this new life with you! You will be my guiding star, my support, my strength--"

"Dear, darling Aliosha! But stop--we must wash and tidy ourselves a little. I will go into my room . . . and you . . . stay here. I won't be a minute--"

Mariana went into the other room and shut the door. A minute later she opened it half-way and, putting her head through, said: "Isn't Solomin nice!" Then she shut the door again and the key turned in the lock.

Nejdanov went up to the window and looked out into the garden... One old, very old, apple tree particularly attracted his attention. He shook himself, stretched, opened his portmanteau, but took nothing out of it; he became lost in thought. . .

A quarter of an hour later Mariana returned with a beaming, freshly-washed face, brimming over with gaiety, and a few minutes later Tatiana, Pavel's wife, appeared with the samovar, tea things, rolls, and cream.

In striking contrast to her gipsy-like husband she was a typical Russian-- buxom, with masses of flaxen hair, which she wore in a thick plait twisted round a horn comb. She had coarse though pleasant features, good-natured grey eyes, and was dressed in a very neat though somewhat faded print dress. Her hands were clean and well-shaped, though large. She bowed composedly, greeted them in a firm, clear accent without any sing-song about it, and set to work arranging the tea things.

Mariana went up to her.

"Let me help you, Tatiana. Only give me a napkin."

Don't bother, miss, we are used to it. Vassily Fedotitch told me to. If you want anything please let us know. We shall be delighted to do anything we can."

"Please don't call me miss, Tatiana. I am dressed like a lady, but I am . . . I am quite--"

Tatiana's penetrating glance disconcerted Mariana; she ceased.

"And what are you then?" Tatiana asked in her steady voice.

"If you really want to know . . . I am certainly a lady by birth. But I want to get rid of all that. I want to become like all simple women."

"Oh, I see! You want to become simplified, like so many do nowadays."

"What did you say, Tatiana? To become simplified?"

"Yes, that's a word that has sprung up among us. To become simplified means to be like the common people. Teaching the people is all very well in its way, but it must be a difficult task, very difficult! I hope you'll get on."

"To become simplified!" Mariana repeated. "Do you hear, Aliosha, you and I have now become simplified!"

"Is he your husband or your brother?" Tatiana asked, carefully washing the cups with her large, skilful hands as she looked from one to the other with a kindly smile.

"No," Mariana replied; "he is neither my husband nor my brother."

Tatiana raised her head.

"Then you are just living together freely? That also happens very often now. At one time it was to be met with only among nonconformists, but nowadays other folks do it too. Where there is God's blessing you can live in peace without the priest's aid. We have some living like that at the factory. Not the worst of folk either."

"What nice words you use, Tatiana! 'Living together freely' . . . I like that. I'll tell you what I want to ask of you, Tatiana. I want to make or buy a dress, something like yours, only a little plainer. Then I want shoes and stockings and a kerchief-- everything like you have. I've got some money."

"That's quite easy, miss. . . There, there, don't be cross. I won't call you miss if you don't like it. But what am I to call you?"

"Call me Mariana."

"And what is your father's Christian name?"

"Why do you want my father's name? Call me simply Mariana, as I call you Tatiana."

"I don't like to somehow. You had better tell me."

"As you like. My father's name was Vikent. And what was your father's?

"He was called Osip."

"Then I shall call you Tatiana Osipovna."

"And I'll call you Mariana Vikentievna. That will be splendid."

"Won't you take a cup of tea with us, Tatiana Osipovna?"

"For once I will, Mariana Vikentievna, although Egoritch will scold me afterwards."

"Who is Egoritch?"

"Pavel, my husband."

"Sit down, Tatiana Osipovna."

"Thank you, Mariana Vikentievna."

Tatiana sat down and began sipping her tea and nibbling pieces of sugar. She kept turning the lump of sugar round in her fingers, screwing up her eye on the side on which she bit it. Mariana entered into conversation with her and she replied quite at her ease, asked questions in her turn, and volunteered various pieces of information. She simply worshipped Solomin and put her husband only second to him. She did not, however, care for the factory life.

"It's neither town nor country here. I wouldn't stop an hour if it were not for Vassily Fedotitch!"

Mariana listened to her attentively, while Nejdanov, sitting a little to one side, watched her and wondered at her interest. For Mariana it was all so new, but it seemed to him that he had seen crowds of women like Tatiana and spoken to them hundreds of times.

"Do you know, Tatiana Osipovna?" Mariana began at last; "you think that we want to teach the people, but we want to serve them."

"Serve them? Teach them; that's the best thing you can do for them. Look at me, for instance. When I married Egoritch I didn't so much as know how to read and write. Now I've learned, thanks to Vassily Fedotitch. He didn't teach me himself, he paid an old man to do it. It was he who taught me. You see I'm still young, although I'm grown up."

Mariana was silent.

"I wanted to learn some sort of trade, Tatiana Osipovna," Mariana began; "we must talk about that later on. I'm not good at sewing, but if I could learn to cook, then I could go out as a cook."

Tatiana became thoughtful.

"Why a cook? Only rich people and merchants keep cooks; the poor do their own cooking. And to cook at a mess for workmen . . . why you couldn't do that!"

"But I could live in a rich man's house and get to know poor people. How else can I get to know them? I shall not always have such an opportunity as I have with you."

Tatiana turned her empty cup upside down on the saucer.

"It's a difficult matter," she said at last with a sigh, "and can't be settled so easily. I'll do what I can, but I'm not very clever. We must talk it over with Egoritch. He's clever if you like! Reads all sorts of books and has everything at his fingers' ends." At this point she glanced at Mariana who was rolling up a cigarette.

"You'll excuse me, Mariana Vikentievna, but if you really want to become simplified you must give that up." She pointed to the cigarette. "If you want to be a cook, that would never do. Everyone would see at once that you are a lady."

Mariana threw the cigarette out of the window.

"I won't smoke any more. . . It's quite easy to give that up. Women of the people don't smoke, so I suppose I ought not to."

"That's quite true, Mariana Vikentievna. Our men indulge in it, but not the women. And here's Vassily Fedotitch coming to see you. Those are his steps. You ask him. He'll arrange everything for you in the best possible way."

Solomin's voice was heard at the door.

"Can I come in?"

"Come in, come in!" Mariana called out.

"It's an English habit of mine," Solomin observed as he came in. "Well, and how are you getting on? Not homesick yet, eh? I see you're having tea with Tatiana. You listen to her, she's a sensible person. My employer is coming today. It's rather a nuisance. He's staying to dinner. But it can't be helped. He's the master."

"What sort of a man is he?" Nejdanov asked, coming out of his corner.

"Oh, he's not bad . . . knows what he's about. One of the new generation. He's very polite, wears cuffs, and has his eyes about him no less than the old sort. He would skin a flint with his own hands and say, 'Turn to this side a little, please . . . there is still a living spot here . . . I must clean it!' He's nice enough to me, because I'm necessary to him. I just looked in to say that I may not get a chance of seeing you again today. Dinner will be brought to you here, and please don't show yourselves in the yard. Do you think the Sipiagins will make a search for you, Mariana? Will they make a hunt?"

"I don't think so," Mariana replied.

"And I think they will," Nejdanov remarked.

"It doesn't matter either way," Solomin continued. "You must be a little careful at first, but in a short time you can do as you like."

"Yes; only there's one thing," Nejdanov observed, "Markelov must know where I am; he must be informed."

"But why?"

"I am afraid it must be done--for the cause. He must always know my whereabouts. I've given my word. But he's quite safe, you know!"

Very well. We can send Pavel."

"And will my clothes be ready for me?"

"Your special costume you mean? Why, of course. . . the same masquerade. It's not expensive at any rate. Goodbye. You must be tired. Come, Tatiana."

Mariana and Nejdanov were left alone again.