All night long Nikolai keeps hitting on this woman right in front of her husband. It’s kind of gross.
Finally, the governor’s wife calls him away and tells him that Marya is in town. Seems everyone knows the whole story about how he rescued her from the peasants who didn’t want to let her leave her estate.
Nikolai is hemming and hawing, talking about Sonya, but at the same time he asks the governor’s wife to figure out a way to get the marriage ball rolling with Marya. He definitely has feelings for her, and it would be a financially good marriage that would make his mom happy.
It’s not the proper time for all this to be out in the open, since Marya is still in mourning, but the governor’s wife is all, um there are other, more discreet ways.
Shmoop brain snack: back in the day, mourning wasn’t just a personal period of grief after someone died. It was an actual official-ish length of time when the survivors were expected to lead drastically restricted social lives. So no balls, no dinner parties, no theater or opera, and certainly no romance. Just a really quiet life at home. And how long would this last? Depends on how close the dead person was to the mourner. For Marya, since it’s her dad, the mourning period would be pretty long.