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In the evening the police captain and Masha were at the theatre again. A week later the actors dined at the police captain's again, and after that came almost every day either to dinner or supper. Masha became more and more devoted to the theatre, and went there every evening.
She fell in love with the tragedian. One fine morning, when the police captain had gone to meet the bishop, Masha ran away with Limonadov's company and married her hero on the way. After celebrating the wedding, the actors composed a long and touching letter and sent it to the police captain.
It was the work of their combined efforts.
"Bring out the motive, the motive!" Limonadov kept saying as he dictated to the comic man. "Lay on the respect.... These official chaps like it. Add something of a sort... to draw a tear."
The answer to this letter was most discomforting. The police captain disowned his daughter for marrying, as he said, "a stupid, idle Little Russian with no fixed home or occupation."
And the day after this answer was received M asha was writing to her father.
"Papa, he beats me! Forgive us!"
He had beaten her, beaten her behind the scenes, in the presence of Limonadov, the washerwoman, and two lighting men. He remembered how, four days before the wedding, he was sitting in the London Tavern with the whole company, and all were talking about Masha. The company were advising him to "chance it," and Limonadov, with tears in his eyes urged: "It would be stupid and irrational to let slip such an opportunity! Why, for a sum like that one would go to Siberia, let alone getting married! When you marry and have a theatre of your own, take me into your company. I shan't be master then, you'll be master."
Fenogenov remembered it, and muttered with clenched fists:
"If he doesn't send money I'll smash her! I won't let myself be made a fool of, damn my soul!"
At one provincial town the company tried to give Masha the slip, but Masha found out, ran to the station, and got there when the second bell had rung and the actors had all taken their seats.
"I've been shamefully treated by your father," said the tragedian; "all is over between us!"
And though the carriage was full of people, she went down on her knees and held out her hands, imploring him:
"I love you! Don't drive me away, Kondraty Ivanovitch," she besought him. "I can't live without you!"
They listened to her entreaties, and after consulting together, took her into the company as a "countess"--the name they used for the minor actresses who usually came on to the stage in crowds or in dumb parts. To begin with Masha used to play maid-servants and pages, but when Madame Beobahtov, the flower of Limonadov's company, eloped, they made her _ingenue_. She acted badly, lisped, and was nervous. She soon grew used to it, however, and began to be liked by the audience. Fenogenov was much displeased.