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 Arnedo kept her locked up in first one house and then another, and Nacha's hatred of him grew until the intensity of her feeling frightened her. Such hate as this threatened to swallow up all other feelings, to absorb her utterly in itself, poisoning and destroying her. If she had been attracted to him before he carried her off, it was because she believed that he desired her. When she discovered, however, that his abduction of her was not for love, but for vengeance, to get even with Monsalvat; when she saw that he was actuated by something evil in him, which he could not have changed even though he had wanted to, she began to think of him as something monstrous and diabolical. He was the savage with no r?le to play in civilization, powerless—save for evil! In the first prison he put her in she saw him only once, on the occasion when, pointing a revolver at her, he forced her to write the letter which was to be a final blow at Monsalvat. The effect of this incident on Nacha had been to rouse in her profound pity for the man she was so wounding. Again she was causing him suffering! She imagined him searching for her through all the dreary reaches of the city; and her constant thinking of him always brought her to one conclusion; for her, happiness could consist only in offering up her whole being in sacrifice for this man!
The owners of both houses had presented her to their best patrons. Nacha, frantic with rage, had driven them out of her presence. She was determined to escape and threatened to get the police. But so close was the watch kept over her that she could not even get a letter into the mail-box. In the second house she was sent to she made friends with one of the girls, the unfortunate daughter of an English drunkard whose stepmother had driven her away from home. Nacha, through Laura's help, succeeded in having her case brought to the attention of two men who frequented the house on Laura's account. One of them, an influential lawyer, informed the police of the situation and Nacha was given her freedom. Pampa would have gone to prison if Nacha had not refused to admit that she knew who was responsible for her abduction.
Nacha was taken from this house to the police station, to state her case. The lawyer talked to her awhile; and, when he understood her situation, offered her money, and asked her what she was going to do.
"What can I do, sir? Follow my destiny...."
"Your destiny? That word doesn't mean anything. Every one makes his own destiny. You ought to go back to your mother's."
"They won't take me back!"
"Very well then. I'll go see them and settle the matter."
Nacha meanwhile lived in the house where Julieta was lodged. Together the two girls went to the tenement where Nacha had been living, to get her furniture and clothes. Although the room had been rented to someone else the caretaker very humbly and sanctimoniously collected half a month's rent from them, saying that Nacha would have to pay storage on her things before she could have them. She inquired for Monsalvat and learned that he had gone away. A few days later the lawyer told Nacha that she could return to her home. Her mother had died, and her sister, Catalina, was running the house.
Her sister received her with the indifference she might have shown to a stranger. When she found herself in her childhood home, Nacha could have wept, so many were the scenes that passed again through her memory. She thought of her absent mother, and of her meeting in that very house with Riga! But her sister's abrupt manner, assumed to conceal her feelings, Nacha believed—restrained her.
"When did—it happen?" asked Nacha.
"A month ago."
"Did she speak of me? Did she forgive me before she died?"
"Yes. And she asked me to look for you. But I scarcely knew where to find you."
This implied an effort which Catalina, as a matter of fact, had never made; nor had she any intention of looking for her sister. Her hope was that Nacha would never turn up, that she would thus be left in undisturbed possession of her mother's house. Soon after Nacha's disappearance, Cata had married a fellow quite inferior to her own station. Her mother had been much offended at the match and refused to see Cata, choosing to consider her as completely lost as Nacha. But when the husband died, her mother consented to have her return to live with her. The property left the two daughters consisted of a small house in Liniers and the furnishings of the pensión—some thirty thousand pesos all told.
Nacha found her sister much changed. Ten years earlier Cata had been a lively and not unattractive young person. Now she was slow in movement and heavy, and as she was very short, there was nothing graceful about her figure. In the old days, although they squabbled a great deal, the sisters had managed to get along together. But Cata's disposition had soured, though her ill-temper could not have been guessed from her fair-skinned and pretty face. Nacha noticed this change with alarm. How could she have become so bitter, and sharp-tongued, when she had once been so cheerful? What made her sister so envious and jealous, and full of petty meanness?
Nacha settled down in the house. She rarely went out, because she did not want to arouse suspicions in her sister. She helped with the multitudinous tasks of the household, and little by little took on all the work, as Cata skillfully disengaged herself from it. With the students and other men boarders Nacha's dealings were of the briefest. She barely spoke to them, so fearful was she of having Cata doubt her intentions of being an honest woman.
But it was written that Nacha must suffer in every relationship. Cata was constantly spying upon her. If Nacha stopped a moment in the patio to exchange a few words with a boarder, her sister would eye her suspiciously and take up a position somewhere near at hand, so as to observe her. Nacha could not discuss the most trifling matter with her sister without hearing allusions to her past life. If they happened to be commenting on some one of the boarders, such as, for instance, the desirability of giving the preference to one student instead of another, in the question of terms, Cata would grow impatient.
"Of course, you must be right. You have known so many men...."
Nacha might have borne such jibes in private. But her sister often got them off at table in front of everyone. Some of the boarders would laugh. Others felt secretly sorry for Nacha. Once, when Nacha did not eat what was on the plate before her, Cata asked:
"Doesn't this fare suit you? I suppose at the famous houses that you are used to living in, they had better cooks."
She was no more successful in finding happiness in other quarters. At first she had searched persistently for Monsalvat but had not obtained the slightest news of him. Torres or Ruiz de Castro could, she believed, have told her where he was, but she did not care to see either of these men. She remembered how Torres had lied to her, telling her that Monsalvat was in love with another woman. She had no reason to believe that he would not lie to her again. In Torres' opinion, as doubtless in Ruiz de Castro's, she was to blame for Monsalvat's situation; she was an enemy, to be kept at a distance! Nevertheless, as the months went by and her anxiety concerning him increased, she went one day to Torres' office, and with tears in her eyes asked for news of her friend. Torres told her the truth. Monsalvat had been very ill, had fled from the sanatorium, and no one had the slightest idea where he was. Nacha, however, believed that Torres was trying to put her off, and left after reproaching him for his past cruelty towards her.
One morning there arrived at the pensión a boarder who seemed startlingly out of place in that student boarding house. He was a corpulent fellow, heavy-shouldered, slow-moving, with enormous hands, and short fat fingers. His face was not altogether ugly: the features were large and firmly cut, and as immobile as though carved in oakwood. On the day of his arrival he wore riding breeches and boots. He spoke rarely, as though he feared his voice might sound too loud; but he burst into great shouts of laughter at the nonsensical stories with which the students regaled the dinner-table. Cata found out all there was to learn about his life. He was rich—owned a ranch in Pergamino—and had come to the pensión because it had been recommended to him by one of the students who worked as one of............
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