'Rupture! rupture of the external... of the external covering.... You understand.., the envelopes of the heart!' said Mr. Ratsch, directly the door closed. 'Such a misfortune! Only yesterday evening there was nothi ng to notice, and all of a sudden, all in a minute, all was over! It's a true saying, "heute roth, morgen todt!" It's true; it's what was to be expected. I always expected it. At Tambov the regimental doctor, Galimbovsky, Vikenty Kasimirovitch.... you've probably heard of him... a first-rate medical man, a specialist—'
'It's the first time I've heard the name,' I observed.
'Well, no matter; any way he was always,' pursued Mr. Ratsch, at first in a low voice, and then louder and louder, and, to my surprise, with a perceptible German accent, 'he was always warning me: "Ay, Ivan Demianitch! ay! my dear boy, you must be careful! Your stepdaughter has an organic defect in the heart—hypertrophia cordialis! The least thing and there'll be trouble! She must avoid all exciting emotions above all.... You must appeal to her reason."... But, upon my word, with a young lady... can one appeal to reason? Ha... ha... ha...'
Mr. Ratsch was, through long habit, on the point of laughing, but he recollected himself in time, and changed the incipient guffaw into a cough.
And this was what Mr. Ratsch said! After all that I had found out about him!... I thought it my duty, however, to ask him whether a doctor was called in.
Mr. Ratsch positively bounced into the air.
'To be sure there was.... Two were summoned, but it was already over—abgemacht! And only fancy, both, as though they were agreeing' (Mr. Ratsch probably meant, as though they had agreed), 'rupture! rupture of the heart! That's what, with one voice, they cried out. They proposed a post-mortem; but I... you understand, did not consent to that.'
'And the funeral's to-morrow?' I queried.
'Yes, yes, to-morrow, to-morrow we bury our dear one! The procession will leave the house precisely at eleven o'clock in the morning.... From here to the church of St. Nicholas on Hen's Legs... what strange names your Russian churches do have, you know! Then to the last resting-place in mother earth. You will come! We have not been long acquainted, but I make bold to say, the amiability of your character and the elevation of your sentiments!...'
I made haste to nod my head.
'Yes, yes, yes,' sighed Mr. Ratsch. 'It... it really has been, as they say, a thunderbolt from a clear sky! Ein Blitz aus heiterem Himmel!'
'And Susanna Ivanovna said nothing before her death, left nothing?'
'Nothing, positively! Not a scrap of anything! Not a bit of paper! Only fancy, when they called me to her, when they waked me up—she was stiff already! Very distressing it was for me; she has grieved us all terribly! Alexander Daviditch will be sorry too, I dare say, when he knows.... They say he is not in Moscow.'
'He did leave town for a few days...' I began.
'Viktor Ivanovitch is complaining they're so long getting his sledge harnessed,' interrupted a servant girl coming in—the same girl I had seen in the passage. Her face, still looking half-awake, struck me this time by the expression of coarse insolence to be seen in servants when they know that their masters are in their power, and that they do not dare to find fault or be exacting with them.
'Directly, directly,' Ivan Demianitch responded nervously. 'Eleonora Karpovna! Leonora! Lenchen! come here!'
There was a sound of something ponderous moving the other side of the door, and at the same instant I heard Viktor's imperious call: 'Why on earth don't they put the horses in? You don't catch me trudging off to the police on foot!'
'Directly, directly,' Ivan Demianitch faltered again. 'Eleonora Karpovna, come here!'
'But, Ivan Demianitch,' I heard her voice, 'ich habe keine Toilette gemacht!'
'Macht nichts. Komm herein!'
Eleonora Karpovna came in, holding a kerchief over her neck with two fingers. She had on a morning wrapper, not buttoned up, and had not yet done her hair. Ivan Demianitch flew up to her.
'You hear, Viktor's calling for the horses,' he said, hurriedly pointing his finger first to the door, then to the window. 'Please, do see to it, as quick as possible! Der Kerl schreit so!'
'Der Viktor schreit immer, Ivan Demianitch, Sie wissen wohl,' responded Eleonora Karpovna, 'and I have spoken to the coachman myself, but he's taken it into his head to give the horses oats. Fancy, what a calamity to happen so suddenly,' she added, turning to me; 'who could have expected such a thing of Susanna Ivanovna?'
'I was always expecting it, always!' cried Ratsch, and threw up his arms, his dressing-gown flying up in front as he did so, and displaying most repulsive unmentionables of chamois leather, with buckles on the belt. 'Rupture of the heart! rupture of the external membrane! Hypertrophy!'
'To be sure,' Eleonora Karpovna repeated after him, 'hyper... Well, so it is. Only it's a terrible, terrible grief to me, I say again...' And her coarse-featured face worked a little, her eyebrows rose into the shape of triangles, and a tiny tear rolled over her round cheek, that looked varnished like a doll's.... 'I'm very sorry that such a young person who ought to have lived and enjoyed everything... everything... And to fall into despair so suddenly!'
'Na! gut, gut... geh, alte!' Mr. Ratsch cut her short.
'Geh' schon, geh' schon,' muttered Eleonora Karpovna, and she went away, still holding the kerchief with her fingers, and shedding tears.
And I followed her. In the passage stood Viktor in a student's coat with a beaver collar and a cap stuck jauntily on one side. He barely glanced at me over his shoulder, shook his collar up, and did not nod to me, for which I mentally thanked him.
I went back to Fustov.