At ten o'clock the big bell in the village church began to sound for Mass.
Tatiana Markovna's household was full of stir and bustle. The horses wer_eing harnessed to the calèche and to an old fashioned carriage. The coachmen, already drunk, donned their new dark blue caftans, and their hair shone wit_rease. The women servants made a gay picture in their many coloured cotto_resses, head and neck kerchiefs, and the maids employed in the house diffuse_ scent of cloves within a ten yards radius. The cooks had donned their whit_aps in the early morning, and had been incessantly busy in the preparation o_he breakfast, dinner and supper to be served to the family and their guests, the kitchen, and the servants the visitors brought with them.
Tatiana Markovna had begun to make her toilet at eight o'clock, as soon as sh_ad given her orders; she descended to the hall to greet her guests with th_eserved dignity of a great lady, and the gentle smile of a happy mother and _ospitable hostess. She had set a small simple cap on her grey hair; the ligh_rown silk dress that Raisky had brought from St. Petersburg suited her well, and round her neck she wore beautiful old lace; the Turkish shawl lay on th_rm-chair in her room.
Now she was preparing to drive to Mass, and walked slowly up and down the hal_ith crossed hands, awaiting the assembly of the household. She hardly notice_he bustle around her, as the servants went hither and thither, sweeping th_arpets, cleaning the lamps, dusting the mirrors, and taking the covers fro_he furniture. She went first to one window and then to the other, looking ou_editatively on the road, the garden and the courtyards.
Vikentev's mother was dressed in pearl grey with dark lace trimmings. Vikente_imself had been in his dress coat and white gloves from eight o'cloc_nwards.
Tatiana Markovna's pride and joy knew no bounds when Marfinka appeared, radiating gaiety from her bright eyes. While she slept the walls of her tw_ooms had been decorated with flowers and garlands. She was going to put o_er simple blouse when she woke, but instead there lay on the chair by her be_ morning gown of lace and muslin with pink ribbons. She had not had time t_ive vent to her admiration when she saw on two other chairs two lovel_resses, one pink and one blue, for her to make her choice for the gala day.
She jumped up, and threw on her new morning gown without waiting to put on he_tockings, and when she approached her mirror she found a new surprise in th_ifts that lay on her toilet table. She did not know which to look at, o_hich to take up.
First she opened a lovely rosewood casket which contained a complete dressin_et, flasks, combs, brushes and endless trifles in glass and silver, with _ard bearing the name of her future Mama. Beside it lay cases of differen_izes. She threw a quick glance in the mirror, smoothed back her abundant hai_rom her eyes, seized all the cases in a heap, and sat down on the bed to loo_t them. She hesitated to open them, and finally began with the smallest, which contained an emerald ring, which she hastily put on her finger. A large_ase held earrings which she inserted in her ears and admired in the glas_rom the bed. There were massive gold bracelets, set with rubies and diamonds, which she also put on. Last of all she opened the largest case, and looke_stonished and dazzled at its splendid contents: a chain of strung diamonds, twenty-one to match her years. The accompanying card said: "With this gift _onfide to you another, a costly one, my best of friends—myself. Take care o_im. Your lover, Vikentev."
She laughed, looked round, kissed the card, blushed, sprang from the bed an_aid the case in her cupboard, in the box where she kept her bonbons. Ther_as still another case on the table, containing Raisky's gift of a watch, whose enamel cover bore her monogram, and its chain.
She looked at it with wide eyes, threw another glance at the other gifts an_he garlanded walls, then threw herself on a chair and wept hot tears of joy.
"Oh, God!" she sobbed happily. "Why does everyone love me so. I do no good t_nyone, and never shall."
And so, undressed, without shoes and stockings, but adorned with rings, bracelets, diamond earrings, she tearfully sought her aunt, who caressed an_issed her darling when she heard the cause of her tears.
"God loves you, Marfinka, because you love others, because all who see you ar_nfected by your happiness."
Marfinka dried her tears.
"Nikolai Andreevich loves me, but he is my fiancé; so does his Mama, but s_oes my cousin, Boris Pavlovich, and what am I to him?"
"The same as you are to everyone. No one can look at you and not be happy; yo_re modest, pure and good, obedient to your Grandmother. Spendthrift," sh_urmured in an aside, to hide her pleasure. "Such a costly gift! You shal_ear of this, Borushka!"
"Grandmother! As if Boris Pavlovich could have guessed it. I have wanted _ittle enamelled watch like this for a long time."
"You haven't asked your Grandmother why she gives you nothing?"
Marfinka shut her mouth with a kiss.
"Grandmother," she said, "love me always, if you want to make me happy."
"With my love I will give you my enduring gift," she said, making the sign o_he cross over Marfinka. "So that you shall not forget my blessing," she wen_n, feeling in her pocket—"You have given me two dresses, Grandmother, but wh_ecorated my room so magnificently?"
"Your fiancé and Paulina Karpovna sent the things yesterday, and kept them ou_f your sight. Vassilissa and Pashutka hung the garlands up at daybreak. Th_resses are part of your trousseau, and there are more to follow." Then takin_rom its case a gold cross with four large diamonds she hung it round th_irl's neck, and gave her a plain, simple bracelet with the inscription: "Fro_randmother to her Grandchild," and with the name and the date.
Marfinka kissed her aunt's hand, and nearly wept once more.
"All that Grandmother has, and she has many things, will be divided betwee_ou and Veroshka. Now make haste."
"How lovely you are to-day, Grandmother. Cousin is right. Tiet Nikonich wil_all in love with you."
"Nonsense, chatterbox. Go to Veroshka, and tell her not to be late for Mass. _ould have gone myself, but am afraid of the steps."
"Directly, Grandmother," cried Marfinka, and hastened to change her dress.
Vera lay unconscious for half an hour before she came to herself. The col_ind that streamed through the open window fell on her face, and she sat up t_ook around her. Then she rose, shut the window, walked unsteadily to the bed, sank down on it, and drawing the cover over herself, lay motionless.
Overpowered with weakness she fell into a deep sleep, with her hair loose ove_he pillow. She slept heavily for about three hours until she was awakened b_he noise in the courtyard, the many voices, the creaking of wheels and th_ound of bells. She opened her eyes, looked round, and listened.
There was a light knock at the door, but Vera did not stir. There was a loude_nock, but she remained motionless. At the third she got up, glanced in th_lass, and was terrified by the sight of her own face. She pushed her hai_nto order, threw a shawl over her shoulders, picked up Marfinka's bouque_rom the floor, and laid it on the table. There was another knock and sh_pened the door. Marfinka, gay and lovely, gleaming like a rainbow in he_retty clothes, flew into the room. When she saw her sister she stood still i_mazement.
"What is the matter with you, Veroshka? Aren't you well?"
"Not quite. I offer you my congratulations."
The sisters kissed one another.
"How lovely you are, and how beautifully dressed!" said Vera, making a fain_ttempt to smile. Her lips framed one, but her eyes were like the eyes of _orpse that no one has remembered to close. But she felt she must contro_erself, and hastened to present Marfinka with the bouquet.
"What a lovely bouquet! And what is this?" asked Marfinka as she felt a har_ubstance, and discovered the holder set with her name and the pearls. "You, too, Veroshka! How is it you all love me so? I love you all, how I love you!
But how and when you found out that I did, I cannot think."
Vera was not capable of answering, but she caressed Marfinka's shoulde_ffectionately.
"I must sit down," she said. "I have slept badly through the night."
"Grandmother calls you to Mass."
"I cannot, darling. Tell her I am unwell, and cannot leave the house to-day."
"What! you are not coming?"
"I shall stay in bed. Perhaps I caught cold yesterday. Tell Grandmother."
"We will come to you."
"You would only disturb me."
"Then we shall send everything over. Ah, Veroshka, people have sent me so man_resents, and flowers and bonbons. I must show them to you," and she ran ove_ list of them.
"Yes, show me everything; perhaps I will come later," said Vera absently.
"Another bouquet?" asked Marfinka, pointing to the one that lay on the floor.
"For whom? How lovely!"
"For you too," said Vera, turning paler. She picked a ribbon hastily from _rawer and fastened the bouquet with it. Then she kissed her sister, and san_own on the divan.
"You are really ill. How pale you are! Shall I tell Grandmother, and let he_end for the doctor? How sad that it should be on my birthday. The day i_poiled for me!"
"It will pass. Don't say a word to Grandmother. Don't frighten her. Leave m_ow, for I must rest."
At last Marfinka went. Vera shut the door after her, and lay down on th_ivan.