Everyone who is anyone has been invited to Madame Khokalkov’s. She has the finest drawing room in town, full of stylish furnishings and whatever works of art are currently fashionable. Lately, her drawing room has become especially interesting to the residents of S________, because Katerina Ivanova has been staying there. The regal Katya seems to create drama wherever she goes, and so visiting Madame K’s elegant drawing room has lately been more interesting than attending the theater.
You’ve heard the rumors flying around town. So many rumors! From one source, you have heard that Katya’s engagement to Dmitri Karamazov has been broken. From another, you’ve heard that his Brother Ivan is the root of the trouble. You want to know the truth! So, you set off for Madame K’s. But you don’t go to the drawing room. You don’t even go to the front door. You prefer not be announced. Instead, you steal around to the back entrance and enter the kitchen.
Madame K’s kitchen, though not an elegant room, is no less extravagant than any other room in her home. An abundance of food is everywhere. Sturgeon, caviar, roast beef, vegetables, fruits, breads – all in stacks on the two long tables that divide the room. Busy preparing these foods is Madame K’s cook – a deaf old woman whose exquisite sense of taste clearly compensates for her lack of hearing. The woman is a blessing to Madame K – after all, who can find good help so far from the capital city? But she is also much appreciated by the three skinny kitchen maids, Tanya, Natalie, and Lena, who are able to gossip unashamedly in her presence.
Indeed, they are chopping vegetables and gossiping as you come in.