Prince Vereisky's intention of getting married was no longer a secret in the neighbourhood. Kirila Petrovitch received the congratulations of his acquaintances, and preparations were made for the wedding. Masha postponed from day to day the decisive explanation. In the meantime her manner towards her elderly lover was cold and constrained. The Prince did not trouble himself about that; the question of love gave him no concern; her silent consent was quite sufficient for him.
But the time went past. Masha at last decided to act, and wrote a letter to Prince Vereisky. She tried to awaken within his heart a feeling of magnanimity, candidly confessing that she had not the least attachment for him, and entreating him to renounce her hand and even to protect her from the tyranny of her father. She furtively delivered the letter to Prince Vereisky. The latter read it alone, but was not in the least moved by the candour of his betrothed. On the contrary, he perceived the necessity of hastening the marriage, and therefore he showed the letter to his future father-in-law.
Kirila Petrovitch was furious, and it was with difficulty that the Prince succeeded in persuading him not to let Masha see that he was acquainted with the contents of the letter. Kirila Petrovitch promised not to speak about the matter to her, but he resolved to lose no time and fixed the wedding for the next day. The Prince found this very reasonable, and he went to his betrothed and told her that her letter had grieved him very much, but that he hoped in time to gain her affection; that the thought of resigning her was too much for him to bear, and that he had not the strength to consent to his own sentence of death. Then he kissed her hand respectfully and took his departure, without saying a word to her about Kirila Petrovitch's decision.
But scarcely had he left the house, when her father entered and peremptorily ordered her to be ready for the next day. Maria Kirilovna, already agitated by the interview with Prince Vereisky, burst into tears and threw herself at her father's feet.
"Papa!" she cried in a plaintive voice, "papa! do not destroy me. I do not love the Prince, I do not wish to be his wife."
"What does this mean?" said Kirila Petrovitch, fiercely. "Up till the present you have kept silent and consented, and now, when everything is decided upon, you become capricious and refuse to accept him. Don't act the fool; you will gain nothing from me by so doing."
"Do not destroy me!" repeated poor Masha. "Why are you sending me away from you and giving me to a man that I do not love? Do I weary you? I want to stay with you as before. Papa, you will be sad without me, and sadder still when you know that I am unhappy. Papa, do not force me: I do not wish to marry."
Kirila Petrovitch was touched, but he concealed his emotion, and pushing her away from him, said harshly:
"That is all nonsense, do you hear? I know better than you what is necessary for your happiness. Tears will not help you. The day after to-morrow your wedding will take place.
"The day after to-morrow!" exclaimed Masha. "My God! No, no, impossible; it cannot be! Papa, hear me: if you have resolved to destroy me, then I will find a protector that you do not dream of. You will see, and then you will regret having driven me to despair."
"What? What?" said Troekouroff. "Threats! threats to me? Insolent girl! Do you know that I will do with you what you little imagine. You dare to frighten me, you worthless girl! We will see who this protector will be."
"Vladimir Doubrovsky," replied Masha, in despair.
Kirila Petrovitch thought that she had gone out of her mind, and looked at her in astonishment.
"Very well!" said he to her, after an interval of silence; "expect whom you please to deliver you, but, in the meantime, remain in this room—you shall not leave it till the very moment of the wedding."
With these words Kirila Petrovitch went out, locking the door behind him.
For a long time the poor girl wept, imagining all that awaited her. But the stormy interview had lightened her soul, and she could more calmly consider the question of her future and what it behoved her to do. The principal thing was—to free herself from this odious marriage. The lot of a brigand's wife seemed paradise to her in comparison with the fate prepared for her. She glanced at the ring given to her by Doubrovsky. Ardently did she long to see him alone once more before the decisive moment, so that she might concert measures with him. A presentiment told her that in the evening she would find Doubrovsky in the garden, near the arbour; she resolved to go and wait for him there.
As soon as it began to grow dark, Masha prepared to carry out her intention, but the door of her room was locked. Her maid told her from the other side of the door, that Kirila Petrovitch had given orders that she was not to be let out. She was under arrest. Deeply hurt, she sat down by the window and remained there till late in the night, without undressing, gazing fixedly at the dark sky. Towards dawn she began to doze; but her light sleep was disturbed by sad visions, and she was soon awakened by the rays of the rising sun.