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HOME > Short Stories > Nacha Regules > CHAPTER XIX
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 That same afternoon, while Monsalvat was wrestling with his doubts, Nacha was on the way to Belgrano to see Julieta. Tormented by her anxieties, the slow progress of the street-car racked her nerves. She would never get there! And now it was stopping again! She looked angrily at the woman who dawdled cumbersomely in getting on or off. Didn't they care how long they took? Why were they so fat? Two or three men near her attempted to flirt, but Nacha's contemptuous eyes discouraged them. At the end of the first half hour she bought a newspaper, but when she tried to read it, she found that she did not understand a word. She made repeated efforts to fix her attention on the police news. At the end of two or three phrases, a line perhaps, her mind jumped to other things. Then she realized that she was not reading and began again, with the same result. At last she tossed the newspaper away.
The car had now reached streets where there was little traffic, and went more rapidly. At the end of an hour, it had arrived at Belgrano. Nacha got out and walked along silent avenues that were well shaded by fine trees. In her nervous haste she almost ran past pretty villas, with their flower-filled gardens, that spoke of peace and comfort. Over some of the streets the trees formed an arch and the air was sweet with perfume. Only the footsteps of an occasional passer-by broke the silence of this suburb, apparently the home of calm and contentment. But Nacha could not yield to this atmosphere. Grief and terror drove her relentlessly on.
Julieta was working in Belgrano in a shop on Cabildo Street. Like Nacha, she earned very little; but her expenses were slight, for she was living with friends who accepted only a small sum in payment for her room and board. Before concluding arrangements with the husband and wife, people from her home town who had known her family, she told them the kind of life she had led up to that time. The wife hesitated a moment; but the husband, who was a militant Socialist, declared in a loud voice, with sweeping gestures and oratorical phrases, that there were no prejudices in his home, that he considered it a duty to contribute to the moral regeneration of anyone who needed it!
While Nacha waited for Julieta to come home, the Socialist and his wife chatted with her while their brood of children flocked around with staring eyes. The man's countless questions distracted her a little from her worries. But it required a great effort to attend to what he was saying. Every once in a while her expression grew blank, and her eyes opened wide as though she were in a paroxysm? of fear.
When Julieta finally appeared, she took Nacha to her room.
"What is the trouble?" she exclaimed. "Something has happened! Come, tell me about it," and they sat down on the edge of the bed.
"I am running away!" Nacha said in a quivering voice.
"Running away! From whom?"
"I don't know. From Monsalvat, from Arnedo, from that awful man in the house there—from myself! I am afraid of myself, Julieta! If you knew what presentiments I have! Everything is black, and full of horror—and crimes—and ... oh, I don't know what!"
"Yes, something horrible is going to happen to me. Julieta listen! I have a presentiment that...."
She could not go on, for her teeth chattered; her throat worked convulsively, and her eyes were starting from her head with terror. Julieta looked at her with gentle, sad eyes, and murmured affectionately to her, as to a child.
"No, no! I must tell you. You must know about it—this feeling I have almost drives me crazy! It makes me desperate!"
"But," said Julieta, "what is the matter?"
Nacha told her about Arnedo's renewed pursuit of her. He wanted to carry her off! And he was obstinate, and wild, and bad! And he always got what he wanted! And what could she do to stop him? He had such will power! And then ... why did she feel this strange attraction towards him? She didn't love him. She hated him rather—he was so brutal with her! And yet, she never would have left him of her own accord; and now she was sure she would go away with him if he insisted very much. That was what terrified her. To go away with Arnedo, after all her struggles to be decent! To make Monsalvat suffer so, when he was so good to her, and had given up everything for her sake! To go down again into that evil world from which he had rescued her!
"But Nacha, you must not lose courage! I thought you were quite safe. It was you who saved me! Why must you go back again, if you don't want to?"
"I have to! It's Fate! I always said I was destined to be a bad woman! Every time I tried to be good something happened to break up all my plans. Now it seems impossible for me to be decent. Everything is against me! Look at what happened to me in the store! Why should everything be so hard for me?"
"But why don't you tell him about it—Fernando, I mean? He worships you, and he'll make everything right. I am sure that he is more than a match for Arnedo. Why doesn't he have the man arrested? Or you can both leave the house!"
"But Julieta, you don't know what has happened! That awful man, Mauli, knows about me; and he told everyone in the building—that's why they're all after me, laughing at me and insulting me! The superintendent called me a name—that I deserved perhaps, once.... Oh, if you only knew! And they say Mauli is a police agent, a spy—Today, when I left the store, I saw him talking to Pampa! I couldn't move I was so scared—just stood there frozen on the sidewalk. They tried to get out of sight, but I could see they were on friendly terms. Who knows but that they are planning something, Julieta! I have imagined so many awful things. I couldn't go home, that's why I came here. I want to get away from those men, from Monsalvat, from myself, from all the things I am afraid of! For something is sure to happen—today or tomorrow, or ... sometime."
Julieta insisted that Nacha should tell Monsalvat everything.
"But how can I tell him that I am likely to go away with Pampa!"
"Don't you love Monsalvat, Nacha? I don't understand you! You used to adore him! Why, you talked of nothing else! And now...."
"Now I love him more than I ever did. I know how fine he is, how good—whatever you want to call it! He wanted to marry me...."
"And why didn't you let him, Nacha?"
"Just because I love him so much. He has lost everything on my account, position, money, friends—even his health! I can't let him go on like that. He ought to go back to his place in life, and leave me to my fate. A girl like me has no right to marry a man as good as he is and ruin him. He was generous towards me, and I want to be generous too. If he has sacrificed everything for me, and the sacrifice turns out to be of no avail, I ought to pay him back, make him give up leading a life that is so useless!"
"Useless, Nacha? Haven't we both a chance to be decent? Didn't he make you become the girl you are? What more could any one do?"
Nacha was silent. Then she came closer to Julieta and said, speaking very low:
"I'll be good, yes! But I shall never, never be happy. I am more unhappy now than I ever was. Bad luck follows me everywhere. I can't be meant for this kind of life! If I was, I ought not to be so uneasy all the time, I ought to feel contented at least! But I don't, I don't! And it grows worse every day!"
Julieta, however, was determined to convince her friend that she must talk things over with Monsalvat. Nacha consented finally to go back with her after supper, and discuss her fears with him.
Monsalvat meanwhile was anxiously awaiting Nacha's return. When, after reaching home from his visit to Police Headquarters, he discovered that she was not in, he became alarmed. A woman who lived next door told him that Nacha had probably gone out to find new quarters, as the superintendent had "ordered her out." Monsalvat at once went down to the patio in search of an explanation of this report.
It was already dark. The air in the courtyard was heavy with the smell of cooking. Mothers were crooning to their babies, and children were whimpering. From one of the windows came the strumming of a guitar; and in a corner of the courtyard two old men were gossiping in Genoese.
The superintendent had, until that moment, been quite servile in his attitude toward Monsalvat. But he knew now that this tenant of his had been called to account by the police, and he intended to use this bit of information. He began, however, by attracting an audience. He intensified his attitude of humility. As he bent his head before Monsalvat's energetic accusations, he had all the appearance of being bullied by his lodger.
"Yes, sir. You can shout if you like, and insult me, and even strike me. I'm only a poor man, so what does it matter? But I have to carry out my orders. And the landlady, who is a fine woman, and highly respectable, doesn't want anyone in this house with dangerous ideas in their heads, nor any woman like that!"
Monsalvat lost all the serenity that still remained to him after the e............
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