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´╗┐Title: Yama = The Pit, a Novel in Three Parts
Author: Kuprin, A. I. (Aleksandr Ivanovich), 1870-1938
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Yama = The Pit, a Novel in Three Parts" ***

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YAMA [THE PIT]


Of this edition, intended for private circulation only, and printed
from type on Berkeley Antique laid paper, 950 copies have been printed
for America, and 550 for Great Britain. Also, 55 unnumbered copies, for
the press.

This copy is Number 223



YAMA [THE PIT]

A NOVEL IN THREE PARTS

BY ALEXANDRA KUPRIN

TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN

BY BERNARD GUILBERT GUERNEY

"All the horror is in just this, that there is no horror ..."



AUTHOR'S DEDICATION


I know that many will find this novel immoral and indecent;
nevertheless, I dedicate it with all my heart to MOTHERS AND YOUTHS--A.
K.



TRANSLATOR'S DEDICATION


I dedicate the labour of translation, in all humility and sincerity, to
K. ANDRAE. B. G. G.


JTABLE 2 2 1

JTABLE 6 12 1

JTABLE 6 17 1

JTABLE 6 9 1


INTRODUCTION


"With us, you see," Kuprin makes the reporter Platonov, his mouthpiece,
say in Yama, "they write about detectives, about lawyers, about
inspectors of the revenue, about pedagogues, about attorneys, about the
police, about officers, about sensual ladies, about engineers, about
baritones--and really, by God, altogether well--cleverly, with finesse
and talent. But, after all, all these people are rubbish, and their
life is not life, but some sort of conjured up, spectral, unnecessary
delirium of world culture. But there are two singular
realities--ancient as humanity itself: the prostitute and the moujik.
And about them we know nothing, save some tinsel, gingerbread,
debauched depictions in literature..."

Tinsel, gingerbread, debauched depictions... Let us consider some of
the ways in which this monstrous reality has been approached by various
writers. There is, first, the purely sentimental: Prevost's Manon Les
caut. Then there is the slobberingly sentimental: Dumas' Dame aux
Camelias. A third is the necrophilically romantic: Louys' Aphrodite.
The fertile Balzac has given us no less than two: the purely romantic,
in his fascinating portraits of the Fair Imperia; and the romantically
realistic, in his Splendeurs et Miseres des Courtisanes. Reade's Peg
Woffington may be called the literary parallel of the costume drama;
Defoe's Moll Flanders is honestly realistic; Zola's Nana is rabidly so.

There is one singular fact that must be noted in connection with the
vast majority of such depictions. Punk or bona roba, lorette or
drab--put her before an artist in letters, and, lo and behold ye! such
is the strange allure emanating from the hussy, that the resultant
portrait is either that of a martyred Magdalene, or, at the very least,
has all the enigmatic piquancy of a Monna Lisa... Not a slut, but what
is a hetaera; and not a hetaera, but what is well-nigh Kypris herself!
I know of but one depiction in all literature that possesses the
splendour of implacable veracity as well as undiminished artistry;
where the portrait is that of a prostitute, despite all her tirings and
trappings; a depiction truly deserving to be designated a portrait: the
portrait supreme of the harlot eternal--Shakespeare's Cleopatra.

Furthermore, it will be observed that such depictions, for the most
part, are primarily portraits of prostitutes, and not pictures of
prostitution. It is also a singular fact that war, another scourge has
met with similar treatment. We have the pretty, spotless grenadiers and
cuirassiers of Meissonier in plenty; Vereshchagin is still alone in the
grim starkness of his wind-swept, snow-covered battle-fields, with
black crows wheeling over the crumpled masses of gray...

And, curiously enough, it is another great Russian, Kuprin, who is
supreme--if not unique--as a painter of the universal scourge of
prostitution, per se; and not as an incidental background for
portraits. True, he may not have entirely escaped the strange allure,
aforementioned, of the femininity he paints; for femininity--even
though fallen, corrupt, abased, is still femininity, one of the
miracles of life, to Kuprin, the lover of life. But, even if he may be
said to have used too much of the oil of sentimentality in mixing his
colours for the portraits, his portraits are subordinate to the
background; and there his eye is true and keen, his hand steady and
unflinching, his colours and brushwork unimpeachable. Whether, like his
own Platonov--who may be called to some extent an autobiographical
figure, and many of whose experiences are Kuprin's own--"came upon the
brothel" and gathered his material unconsciously, "without any ulterior
thoughts of writing," we do not know, nor need we rummage in his dirty
linen, as he puts it. Suffice it to say here--to cite but two
instances--that almost anyone acquainted with Russia will tell you the
full name of the rich, gay, southern port city of K--; that any
Odessite will tell you that Treppel's is merely transplanted, for
fictional reasons, from his own city to K--...

Alexandre I. Kuprin was born in 1870; 1909 marked the twenty-fifth
anniversary of his literary activity. He attained his fame only upon
the publication of his amazing, epical novel, "The Duel"--which, just
like "YAMA," is an arraignment; an arraignment of militaristic
corruption. Russian criticism has styled him the poet of life. If
Chekhov was the Wunderkind of Russian letters, Kuprin is its enfant
terrible. His range of subjects is enormous; his power of observation
and his versatility extraordinary. Gambrinus alone would justify his
place among the literary giants of Europe. Some of his picaresques,
"THE INSULT," "HORSE-THIEVES," and "OFF THE STREET"--the last in the
form of a monologue--are sheer tours de force. "Olessiya" is possessed
of a weird, unearthly beauty; "The Shulamite" is a prose-poem of
antiquity. He deals with the life of the moujik in "Back-woods" and
"The Swamp"; of the Jews, in "The Jewess" and "The Coward"; of the
soldiers, in "The Cadets," "The Interrogation," "The Night Watch,"
"Delirium"; of the actors, in "How I Was an Actor" and "In Retirement."
We have circus life in "'Allez!'" "In The Circus," "Lolly," "The
Clown"--the last a one-act playlet; factory life, in "Moloch";
provincial life, in "Small Fry"; bohemian life, in "Captain Ribnicov"
and "The River of Life"--which no one but Kuprin could have written.
There are animal stories and flower stories; stories for children--and
for neuropaths; one story is dedicated to a jockey; another to a circus
clown; a third, if I remember rightly, to a race-horse... "Yama"
created an enormous sensation upon the publication of the first part in
volume three of the "Sbornik Zemliya"--"The Earth Anthology"--in 1909;
the second part appeared in volume fifteen, in 1914; the third, in
volume sixteen, in 1915. Both the original parts and the last revised
edition have been followed in this translation. The greater part of the
stories listed above are available in translations, under various
titles; the list, of course, is merely a handful from the vast bulk of
the fecund Kuprin's writings, nor is any group of titles exhaustive of
its kind. "The Star of Solomon," his latest collection of stories,
bears the imprint of Helsingfors, 1920.

It must not be thought, despite its locale, that Kuprin's "Yama" is a
picture of Russian prostitution solely; it is intrinsically universal.
All that is necessary is to change the kopecks into cents, pennies,
sous or pfennings; compute the versts into miles or metres; Jennka may
be Eugenie or Jeannette; and for Yama, simply read Whitechapel,
Montmartre, or the Barbary Coast. That is why "Yama" is a "tremendous,
staggering, and truthful book--a terrific book." It has been called
notorious, lurid--even oleographic. So are, perhaps, the picaresques of
Murillo, the pictorial satires of Hogarth, the bizarreries of Goya...

The best introduction to "Yama," however, can be given in Kuprin's own
words, as uttered by the reporter Platonov. "They do write," he says,
"... but it is all either a lie, or theatrical effects for children of
tender years, or else a cunning symbolism, comprehensible only to the
sages of the future. But the life itself no one as yet has touched...

"But the material here is in reality tremendous, downright crushing,
terrible... And not at all terrible are the loud phrases about the
traffic in women's flesh, about the white slaves, about prostitution
being a corroding fester of large cities, and so on, and so on... an
old hurdy-gurdy of which all have tired! No, horrible are the everyday,
accustomed trifles; these business-like, daily, commercial reckonings;
this thousand-year-old science of amatory practice; this prosaic usage,
determined by the ages. In these unnoticeable nothings are completely
dissolved such feelings as resentment, humiliation, shame. There
remains a dry profession, a contract, an agreement, a well-nigh honest
petty trade, no better, no worse than, say, the trade in groceries. Do
you understand, gentlemen, that all the horror is in just this--that
there is no horror! Bourgeois work days--and that is all...

"More awful than all awful words, a hundredfold more awful--is some
such little prosaic stroke or other as will suddenly knock you all in a
heap, like a blow on the forehead..."

It is in such little prosaic strokes; everyday, accustomed,
characteristic trifles; minute particles of life, that Kuprin excels.
The detailism which crowds his pages is like the stippling of Whistler;
or the enumerations of the Bible; or the chiselling of Rodin, that
endows the back of the Thinker with meaning.

"We all pass by these characteristic trifles indifferently, like the
blind, as though not seeing them scattered about under our feet. But an
artist will come, and he will look over them carefully, and he will
pick them up. And suddenly he will so skillfully turn in the sun a
minute particle of life, that we shall all cry out: 'Oh, my God! But I
myself--myself!--have seen this with my own eyes. Only it simply did
not enter my head to turn my close attention upon it.' But our Russian
artists of the word--the most conscientious and sincere artists in the
whole world--for some reason have up to this time passed over
prostitution and the brothel. Why? Really, it is difficult for me to
answer that. Perhaps because of squeamishness, perhaps out of
pusillanimity, out of fear of being signalized as a pornographic
writer; finally from the apprehension that our gossiping criticism will
identify the artistic work of the writer with his personal life and
will start rummaging in his dirty linen. Or perhaps they can find
neither the time, nor the self-denial, nor the self-possession to
plunge in head first into this life and to watch it right up close,
without prejudice, without sonorous phrases, without a sheepish pity,
in all its monstrous simplicity and everyday activity... That
material... is truly unencompassable in its significance and
weightiness... The words of others do not suffice--even though they be
the most exact--even observations, made with a little note-book and a
bit of pencil, do not suffice. One must grow accustomed to this life,
without being cunningly wise..."

"I believe, that not now, not soon--after fifty years or so--but there
will come a writer of genius, and precisely a Russian one, who will
absorb within himself all the burdens and all the abominations of this
life and will cast them forth to us in the form of simple, fine, and
deathlessly--caustic images. And we shall all say: 'Why, now, we
ourselves have seen and known all this, but we could not even suppose
that this is so horrible! In this coming artist I believe with all my
heart."

Kuprin is too sincere, too big, to have written this with himself in
mind; yet no reader of the scathing, searing arraignment called "Yama,"
will question that the great, the gigantic Kuprin has shown "the
burdens and abominations" of prostitution, in "simple, fine, and
deathlessly-caustic images"; has shown that "all the horror is in just
this--that there is no horror..." For it is as a pitiless reflection of
a "singular," sinister reality that "Yama" stands unsurpassed.

B. G. GUERNEY.

New York City, January, 1922.



TRANSLATOR'S NOTE.


A word must be said of Kuprin's style. He is by no means a purist; his
pages bristle with neologisms and foreign--or, rather,
outlandish--words; nor has he any hesitancy in adapting and
Russianizing such words. He coins words; he is, at times, actually
Borrowesque, and not only does he resort to colloquialisms and slang,
but to dialect, cant, and even actual argot. Therein is his glory--and,
perhaps, his weakness. Therefore, an attempt has been made, wherever
corruptions, slang, and so forth, appear in the original, to render
them through the nearest English equivalents. While this has its
obvious dubieties and disadvantages, any other course would have
smacked of prettification--a fate which such a book as "Yama" surely
does not deserve.



PART ONE



CHAPTER I.


A long, long time ago, long before the railroads, the
stage-drivers--both government and private--used to live, from
generation to generation, at the very farthest confine of a large
southern city. And that is why the entire region was called the
Yamskaya Sloboda--the Stage-drivers' Borough; or simply Yamskaya, or
Yamkas--Little Ditches, or, shorter still, Yama--The Pit. In the course
of time, when hauling by steam killed off transportation by horses, the
mettlesome tribe of the stage-drivers little by little lost its
boisterous ways and its brave customs, went over into other
occupations, fell apart and scattered. But for many years--even up to
this time--a shady renown has remained to Yama, as of a place
exceedingly gay, tipsy, brawling, and in the night-time not without
danger.

Somehow it came about of itself, that on the ruins of those ancient,
long-warmed nests, where of yore the rosy-cheeked, sprightly wives of
the soldiery and the plump widows of Yama, with their black eyebrows,
had secretly traded in vodka and free love, there began to spring up
wide-open brothels, permitted by the authorities, regulated by official
supervision and subject to express, strict rules. Towards the end of
the nineteenth century both streets of Yama--Great Yamskaya and Little
Yamskaya--proved to be entirely occupied, on one side of the street as
well as the other, exclusively with houses of ill-fame.[1] Of the
private houses no more than five or six were left, but even they were
taken up by public houses, beer halls, and general stores, catering to
the needs of Yama prostitution.


[1] "Houses of Suffrance"--i.e., Houses of the Necessary Evil.--Trans.


The course of life, the manners and customs, are almost identical in
all the thirty-odd establishments; the difference is only in the
charges exacted for the briefly-timed love, and consequently in certain
external minutiae as well: in the assortment of more or less handsome
women, in the comparative smartness of the costumes, in the
magnificence of the premises and the luxuriousness of the furnishings.

The most chic establishment is that of Treppel, the first house to the
left upon entering Great Yamskaya. This is an old firm. Its present
owner bears an entirely different name, and fills the post of an
elector in the city council and is even a member of the city board. The
house is of two stories, green and white, built in the debauched
pseudo-Russian style a la Ropetovsky, with little horses, carved
facings, roosters, and wooden towels bordered with lace-also of wood; a
carpet with a white runner on the stairs; in the front hall a stuffed
bear, holding a wooden platter for visiting cards in his out-stretched
paws; a parquet floor in the ballroom, heavy raspberry silk curtains
and tulle on the windows, along the walls white and gold chairs and
mirrors with gilt frames; there are two private cabinets with carpets,
divans, and soft satin puffs; in the bedrooms blue and rose lanterns,
blankets of raw silk stuff and clean pillows; the inmates are clad in
low-cut ball gowns, bordered with fur, or in expensive masquerade
costumes of hussars, pages, fisher lasses, school-girls; and the
majority of them are Germans from the Baltic provinces--large, handsome
women, white of body and with ample breasts. At Treppel's three roubles
are taken for a visit, and for the whole night, ten.

Three of the two-rouble establishments--Sophie Vassilievna's, The Old
Kiev, and Anna Markovna's--are somewhat worse, somewhat poorer. The
remaining houses on Great Yamskaya are rouble ones; they are furnished
still worse. While on Little Yamskaya, which is frequented by soldiers,
petty thieves, artisans, and drab folk In general, and where fifty
kopecks or less are taken for time, things are altogether filthy and
poor-the floor in the parlor is crooked, warped, and full of splinters,
the windows are hung with pieces of red fustian; the bedrooms, just
like stalls, are separated by thin partitions, which do not reach to
the ceiling, and on the beds, on top of the shaken down hay-mattresses,
are scattered torn, spotted bed-sheets and flannel blankets, dark from
time, crumpled any old way, full of holes; the air is sour and full of
fumes, with a mixture of alcohol vapours and the smell of human
emanations; the women, dressed in rags of coloured printed calico or in
sailor costumes, are for the greater part hoarse or snuffling, with
noses half fallen through, with faces preserving traces of yesterday's
blows and scratches and naively bepainted with the aid of a red
cigarette box moistened with spit.

All the year round, every evening--with the exception of the last three
days of Holy Week and the night before Annunciation, when no bird
builds its nest and a shorn wench does not plait her braid--when it
barely grows dark out of doors, hanging red lanterns are lit before
every house, above the tented, carved street doors. It is just like a
holiday out on the street--like Easter. All the windows are brightly
lit up, the gay music of violins and pianos floats out through the
panes, cabmen drive up and drive off without cease. In all the houses
the entrance doors are opened wide, and through them one may see from
the street a steep staircase with a narrow corridor on top, and the
white flashing of the many-facetted reflector of the lamp, and the
green walls of the front hall, painted over with Swiss landscapes. Till
the very morning hundreds and thousands of men ascend and descend these
staircases. Here everybody frequents: half-shattered, slavering
ancients, seeking artificial excitements, and boys-military cadets and
high-school lads--almost children; bearded paterfamiliases; honourable
pillars of society, in golden spectacles; and newly-weds, and enamoured
bridegrooms, and honourable professors with renowned names; and
thieves, and murderers, and liberal lawyers; and strict guardians of
morals--pedagogues, and foremost writers--the authors of fervent,
impassioned articles on the equal rights of women; and catchpoles, and
spies, and escaped convicts, and officers, and students, and Social
Democrats, and hired patriots; the timid and the brazen, the sick and
the well, those knowing woman for the first time, and old libertines
frayed by all species of vice; clear-eyed, handsome fellows and
monsters maliciously distorted by nature, deaf-mutes, blind men, men
without noses, with flabby, pendulous bodies, with malodorous breath,
bald, trembling, covered with parasites--pot-bellied, hemorrhoidal
apes. They come freely and simply, as to a restaurant or a depot; they
sit, smoke, drink, convulsively pretend to be merry; they dance,
executing abominable movements of the body imitative of the act of
sexual love. At times attentively and long, at times with gross haste,
they choose any woman they like and know beforehand that they will
never meet refusal. Impatiently they pay their money in advance, and on
the public bed, not yet grown cold after the body of their predecessor,
aimlessly commit the very greatest and most beautiful of all universal
mysteries--the mystery of the conception of new life. And the women
with indifferent readiness, with uniform words, with practiced
professional movements, satisfy their desires, like machines--only to
receive, right after them, during the same night, with the very same
words, smiles and gestures, the third, the fourth, the tenth man, not
infrequently already biding his turn in the waiting room.

So passes the entire night. Towards daybreak Yama little by little
grows quiet, and the bright morning finds it depopulated, spacious,
plunged into sleep, with doors shut tightly, with shutters fixed on the
windows. But toward evening the women awaken and get ready for the
following night.

And so without end, day after day, for months and years, they live a
strange, incredible life in their public harems, outcast by society,
accursed by the family, victims of the social temperament, cloacas for
the excess of the city's sensuality, the guardians of the honour of the
family--four hundred foolish, lazy, hysterical, barren women.



CHAPTER II.


Two in the afternoon. In the second-rate, two-rouble establishment of
Anna Markovna everything is plunged in sleep. The large square parlor
with mirrors in gilt frames, with a score of plush chairs placed
decorously along the walls, with oleograph pictures of Makovsky's Feast
of the Russian Noblemen, and Bathing, with a crystal lustre in the
middle, is also sleeping, and in the quiet and semi-darkness it seems
unwontedly pensive, austere, strangely sad. Yesterday here, as on every
evening, lights burned, the most rollicking of music rang out, blue
tobacco smoke swirled, men and women careered in couples, shaking their
hips and throwing their legs on high. And the entire street shone on
the outside with the red lanterns over the street doors and with the
light from the windows, and it seethed with people and carriages until
morning.

Now the street is empty. It is glowing triumphantly and joyously in the
glare of the summer sun. But in the parlor all the window curtains are
lowered, and for that reason it is dark within, cool, and as peculiarly
uninviting as the interiors of empty theatres, riding academies and
court buildings usually are in the middle of the day.

The pianoforte glimmers dully with its black, bent, glossy side; the
yellow, old, time-eaten, broken, gap-toothed keys glisten faintly. The
stagnant, motionless air still retains yesterday's odour; it smells of
perfumes, tobacco, the sour dampness of a large uninhabited room, the
perspiration of unclean and unhealthy feminine flesh, face-powder,
boracic-thymol soap, and the dust of the yellow mastic with which the
parquet floor had been polished yesterday. And with a strange charm the
smell of withering swamp grass is blended with these smells. To-day is
Trinity. In accordance with an olden custom, the chambermaids of the
establishment, while their ladies were still sleeping, had bought a
whole waggon of sedge on the market, and had strewn its long, thick
blades, that crunch underfoot, everywhere about--in the corridors, in
the private cabinets, in the drawing room. They, also, had lit the
lamps before all the images. The girls, by tradition, dare not do this
with their hands, which have been denied during the night.

And the house-porter has adorned the house-entrance, which is carved in
the Russian style, with two little felled birch-trees. And so with all
the houses--the thin white trunks with their scant dying verdure adorn
the exterior near the stoops, bannisters and doors.

The entire house is quiet, empty and drowsy. The chopping of cutlets
for dinner can be heard from the kitchen. Liubka, one of the girls,
barefooted, in her shift, with bare arms, not good-looking, freckled,
but strong and fresh of body, has come out into the inner court.
Yesterday she had had but six guests on time, but no one had remained
for the night with her, and because of that she had slept her
fill--splendidly, delightfully, all alone, upon a wide bed. She had
risen early, at ten o'clock, and had with pleasure helped the cook
scrub the floor and the tables in the kitchen. Now she is feeding the
chained dog Amour with the sinews and cuttings of the meat. The big,
rusty hound, with long glistening hair and black muzzle, jumps up on
the girl--with his front paws, stretching the chain tightly and
rattling in the throat from shortness of breath, then, with back and
tail undulating all over, bends his head down to the ground, wrinkles
his nose, smiles, whines and sneezes from the excitement. But she,
teasing him with the meat, shouts at him with pretended severity:

"There, you--stupid! I'll--I'll give it to you! How dare you?"

But she rejoices with all her soul over the tumult and caresses of
Amour and her momentary power over the dog, and because she had slept
her fill, and passed the night without a man, and because of the
Trinity, according to dim recollections of her childhood, and because
of the sparkling sunny day, which it so seldom befalls her to see.

All the night guests have already gone their ways. The most
business-like, quiet and workaday hour is coming on.

They are drinking coffee in the room of the proprietress. The company
consists of five people. The proprietress herself, in whose name the
house is registered, is Anna Markovna. She is about sixty. She is very
small of stature, but dumpy: she may be visualized by imagining, from
the bottom up, three soft, gelatinous globes--large, medium and small,
pressed into each other without any interstices; this--her skirt, torso
and head. Strange, her eyes are a faded blue, girlish, even childish,
but the mouth is that of an old person, with a moist lower lip of a
raspberry colour, impotently hanging down. Her husband--Isaiah
Savvich--is also small, a grayish, quiet, silent little old man. He is
under his wife's thumb; he was doorkeeper in this very house even at
the time when Anna Markovna served here as housekeeper. In order to be
useful in some way, he has learned, through self-instruction, to play
the fiddle, and now at night plays dance tunes, as well as a funeral
march for shopmen far gone on a spree and craving some maudlin tears.

Then, there are the two housekeepers--senior and junior. The senior is
Emma Edwardovna. She is a tall, full woman of forty-six, with chestnut
hair, and a fat goitre of three chins. Her eyes are encircled with
black rings of hemorrhoidal origin. The face broadens out like a pear
from the forehead down to the cheeks, and is of an earthen colour; the
eyes are small, black; the nose humped, the lips sternly pursed; the
expression of the face calmly authoritative. It is no mystery to anyone
in the house that in a year or two Anna Markovna will go into
retirement, and sell her the establishment with all its rights and
furnishings, when she will receive part in cash, and part on terms--by
promissory note. Because of this the girls honour her equally with the
proprietress and fear her somewhat. Those who fall into error she beats
with her own hands, beats cruelly, coolly, and calculatingly, without
changing the calm expression of her face. Among the girls there is
always a favourite of hers, whom she tortures with her exacting love
and fantastic jealousy. And this is far harder than her beatings.

The other one is called Zociya. She has just struggled out of the ranks
of the common girls. The girls, as yet, call her impersonally,
flatteringly and familiarly, "little housekeeper." She is spare, spry,
just a trifle squinting, with a rosy complexion, and hair dressed in a
little curly pompadour; she adores actors--preferably stout comedians.
Toward Emma Edwardovna she is ingratiating.

The fifth person, finally, is the local district inspector, Kerbesh.
This is an athletic man; he is kind of bald, has a red beard like a
fan, vividly blue slumbrous eyes, and a thin, slightly hoarse, pleasant
voice. Everybody knows that he formerly served in the secret service
division and was the terror of crooks, thanks to his terrible physical
strength and cruelty in interrogations.

He has several shady transactions on his conscience. The whole town
knows that two years back he married a rich old woman of seventy, and
that last year he strangled her; however, he was somehow successful in
hushing up this affair. But for that matter, the remaining four have
also seen a thing or two in their chequered life. But, just as the
bretteurs of old felt no twinges of conscience at the recollection of
their victims, even so do these people regard the dark and bloody
things in their past, as the unavoidable little unpleasantness of their
professions.

They are drinking coffee with rich, boiled cream--the inspector with
Benedictine. But he, strictly speaking, is not drinking, but merely
conveying the impression that he is doing it to oblige.

"Well, what is it to be, Phoma Phornich?" asks the proprietress
searchingly. "This business isn't worth an empty eggshell, now... Why,
you have only to say a word..."

Kerbesh slowly draws in half a wine-glass of liqueur, works the oily,
strong, pungent liquid slightly with his tongue over the roof of his
mouth, swallows it, chases it down, without hurrying, with coffee, and
then passes the ring finger of his left hand over his moustaches, to
the right and left.

"Think it over for yourself, Madam Shoibes," he says, looking down at
the table, spreading out his hands and screwing up his eyes. "Think of
the risk to which I'm exposed! The girl through means of deception was
enticed into this... what-you-may-call-it... well, in a word, into a
house of ill-fame, to express it in lofty style. Now the parents are
searching for her through the police. Ve-ery well. She gets into one
place after another, from the fifth into the tenth... Finally the trail
is picked up with you, and most important of all--think of it!--in my
district! What can I do?"

"Mr. Kerbesh, but she is of age," says the proprietress.

"They are of age," confirms Isaiah Savvich. "They gave an
acknowledgment, that it was of their own will..."

Emma Edwardovna pronounces in a bass, with cool assurance:

"Honest to God, she's the same here as an own daughter."

"But that's not what I am talking about," the inspector frowns in
vexation. "Just consider my position... Why, this is duty. Lord,
there's no end of unpleasantnesses without that!"

The proprietress suddenly arises, shuffles in her slippers to the door,
and says, winking to the inspector with a sleepy, expressionless eye of
faded blue:

"Mr. Kerbesh, I would ask you to have a look at our alterations. We
want to enlarge the place a bit."

"A-ah! With pleasure..."

After ten minutes both return, without looking at each other. Kerbesh's
hand is crunching a brand-new hundred rouble note in his pocket. The
conversation about the seduced girl is not renewed. The inspector,
hastily finishing his Benedictine, complains of the present decline in
manners.

"I have a son, now, a schoolboy--Paul. He comes to me, the scoundrel,
and declares: 'Papa, the pupils swear at me, because you are a
policeman, and because you serve on Yamskaya, and because you take
bribes from brothels.' Well, tell me, for God's sake, Madam Shoibes, if
that isn't effrontery?"

"Ai, ai, ai! ... And what bribes can there be? Now with me..."

"I say to him: 'Go, you good-for-nothing, and let the principal know,
that there should be no more of this, otherwise papa will inform on all
of you to the governor.' And what do you think? He comes to me and
says: 'I am no longer a son to you--seek another son for yourself.'
What an argument! Well, I gave him enough to last till the first of the
month! Oho-ho! Now he doesn't want to speak with me. Well, I'll show
him yet!"

"Ah, you don't have to tell us," sighs Anna Markovna, letting her
lower, raspberry-coloured lip hang down and with a mist coming over her
faded eyes. "We keep our Birdie--she is in Fleisher's high school--we
purposely keep her in town, in a respectable family. You understand, it
is awkward, after all. And all of a sudden she brings such words and
expressions from the high school that I just simply turned all red."

"Honest to God, Annochka turned all red," confirms Isaiah Savvich.

"You'll turn red, all right!" warmly agrees the inspector. "Yes, yes,
yes, I understand you fully. But, my God, where are we going! Where are
we only going? I ask you, what are these revolutionaries and all these
various students, or... what-you-may-call-'ems? ... trying to attain?
And let them put the blame on none but themselves. Corruption is
everywhere, morality is falling, there is no respect for parents. They
ought to be shot."

"Well, now, the day before yesterday we had a case," Zociya mixes in
bustlingly. "A certain guest came, a stout man..."

"Drop it!" Emma Edwardovna, who was listening to the inspector, piously
nodding with her head bowed to one side, cuts her short in the jargon
of the brothels. "You'd better go and see about breakfast for the young
ladies."

"And not a single person can be relied upon," continues the
proprietress grumblingly. "Not a servant but what she's a stiff, a
faker. And all the girls ever think about is their lovers. Just so's
they may have their own pleasure. But about their duties they don't
even think."

There is an awkward silence. Some one knocks on the door. A thin,
feminine voice speaks on the other side of the door:

"Housekeeper, dear, take the money and be kind enough to give me the
stamps. Pete's gone."

The inspector gets up and adjusts his sabre.

"Well, it's time I was going to work. Best regards, Anna Markovna. Best
wishes, Isaiah Savvich."

"Perhaps you'll have one more little glass for a stirrup cup?" the
nearly blind Isaiah Savvich thrusts himself over the table.

"Tha-ank you. I can't. Full to the gills. Honoured, I'm sure! ..."

"Thanks for your company. Drop in some time."

"Always glad to be your guest, sir. Au revoir!"

But in the doorway he stops for a minute and says significantly:

"But still, my advice to you is--you'd better pass this girl on to some
place or other in good time. Of course, it's your affair, but as a good
friend of yours I give you warning."

He goes away. When his steps are abating on the stairs and the front
door bangs to behind him, Emma Edwardovna snorts through her nose and
says contemptuously:

"Stool-pigeon! He wants to take money both here and there..."

Little by little they all crawl apart out of the room. It is dark in
the house. It smells sweetly of the half-withered sedge. Quiet reigns.



CHAPTER III.


Until dinner, which is served at six in the evening, the time drags
endlessly long and with intolerable monotony. And, in general, this
daily interval is the heaviest and emptiest in the life of the house.
It remotely resembles in its moods those slothful, empty hours which
are lived through during the great holidays in scholastic institutes
and other private institutions for females, when all the friends have
dispersed, when there is much leisure and much indolence, and a
radiant, agreeable tedium reigns the whole day. In only their
petticoats and white shifts, with bare arms, sometimes barefooted, the
women aimlessly ramble from room to room, all of them unwashed,
uncombed; lazily strike the keys of the old pianoforte with the index
finger, lazily lay out cards to tell their fortune, lazily exchange
curses, and with a languishing irritation await the evening.

Liubka, after breakfast, had carried out the leavings of bread and the
cuttings of ham to Amour, but the dog had soon palled upon her.
Together with Niura she had bought some barberry bon-bons and sunflower
seeds, and now both are standing behind the fence separating the house
from the street, gnawing the seeds, the shells of which remain on their
chins and bosoms, and speculate indifferently about those who pass on
the street: about the lamp-lighter, pouring kerosene into the street
lamps, about the policeman with the daily registry book under his arm,
about the housekeeper from somebody else's establishment, running
across the road to the general store.

Niura is a small girl, with goggle-eyes of blue; she has white, flaxen
hair and little blue veins on her temples. In her face there is
something stolid and innocent, reminiscent of a white sugar lamb on a
Paschal cake. She is lively, bustling, curious, puts her nose into
everything, agrees with everybody, is the first to know the news, and,
when she speaks, she speaks so much and so rapidly that spray flies out
of her mouth and bubbles effervescence on the red lips, as in children.

Opposite, out of the dram-shop, a servant pops out for a minute--a
curly, besotted young fellow with a cast in his eye--and runs into the
neighbouring public house.

"Prokhor Ivanovich, oh Prokhor Ivanovich," shouts Niura, "don't you
want some?--I'll treat you to some sunflower seeds!"

"Come on in and pay us a visit," Liubka chimes in.

Niura snorts and adds through the laughter which suffocates her:

"Warm your feet for a while!"

But the front door opens; in it appears the formidable and stern figure
of the senior housekeeper.

"Pfui![2] What sort of indecency is this!" she cries commandingly. "How
many times must it be repeated to you, that you must not jump out on
the street during the day, and also--pfui!--only in your underwear. I
can't understand how you have no conscience yourselves. Decent girls,
who respect themselves, must not demean themselves that way in public.
It seems, thank God, that you are not in an establishment catering to
soldiers, but in a respectable house. Not in Little Yamskaya."


[2] A German exclamation of disgust or contempt, corresponding to the
English fie.--Trans.


The girls return into the house, get into the kitchen, and for a long
time sit there on tabourets, contemplating the angry cook Prascoviya,
swinging their legs and silently gnawing the sunflower seeds.

In the room of Little Manka, who is also called Manka the Scandaliste
and Little White Manka, a whole party has gathered. Sitting on the edge
of the bed, she and another girl--Zoe, a tall handsome girl, with
arched eyebrows, with grey, somewhat bulging eyes, with the most
typical, white, kind face of the Russian prostitute--are playing at
cards, playing at "sixty-six." Little Manka's closest friend, Jennie,
is lying behind their backs on the bed, prone on her back, reading a
tattered book, The Queen's Necklace, the work of Monsieur Dumas, and
smoking. In the entire establishment she is the only lover of reading
and reads intoxicatingly and without discrimination. But, contrary to
expectation, the forced reading of novels of adventure has not at all
made her sentimental and has not vitiated her imagination. Above all,
she likes in novels a long intrigue, cunningly thought out and deftly
disentangled; magnificent duels, before which the viscount unties the
laces of his shoes to signify that he does not intend to retreat even a
step from his position,[3] and after which the marquis, having spitted
the count through, apologizes for having made an opening in his
splendid new waistcoat; purses, filled to the full with gold,
carelessly strewn to the left and right by the chief heroes; the love
adventures and witticisms of Henry IV--in a word, all this spiced
heroism, in gold and lace, of the past centuries of French history. In
everyday life, on the contrary, she is sober of mind, jeering,
practical and cynically malicious. In her relation to the other girls
of the establishment she occupies the same place that in private
educational institutions is accorded to the first strong man, the man
spending a second year in the same grade, the first beauty in the
class--tyrannizing and adored. She is a tall, thin brunette, with
beautiful hazel eyes, a small proud mouth, a little moustache on the
upper lip and with a swarthy, unhealthy pink on her cheeks.


[3] Probably a sly dig at Gautier's Captain Fracasse.--Trans.


Without letting the cigarette out of her mouth and screwing up her eyes
from the smoke, all she does is to turn the pages constantly with a
moistened finger. Her legs are bare to the knees; the enormous balls of
the feet are of the most vulgar form; below the big toes stand out
pointed, ugly, irregular tumours.

Here also, with her legs crossed, slightly bent, with some sewing, sits
Tamara--a quiet, easy-going, pretty girl, slightly reddish, with that
dark and shining tint of hair which is to be found on the back of a fox
in winter. Her real name is Glycera, or Lukeria, as the common folk say
it. But it is already an ancient usage of the houses of ill-fame to
replace the uncouth names of the Matrenas, Agathas, Cyclitinias with
sonorous, preferably exotic names. Tamara had at one time been a nun,
or, perhaps, merely a novice in a convent, and to this day there have
been preserved on her face timidity and a pale puffiness--a modest and
sly expression, which is peculiar to young nuns. She holds herself
aloof in the house, does not chum with any one, does not initiate any
one into her past life. But in her case there must have been many more
adventures besides having been a nun: there is something mysterious,
taciturn and criminal in her unhurried speech, in the evasive glance of
her deep and dark-gold eyes from under the long, lowered eyelashes, in
her manners, her sly smiles and intonations of a modest but wanton
would-be saint. There was one occurrence when the girls, with well-nigh
reverent awe, heard that Tamara could talk fluently in French and
German. She has within her some sort of an inner, restrained power.
Notwithstanding her outward meekness and complaisance, all in the
establishment treat her with respect and circumspection--the
proprietress, and her mates, and both housekeepers, and even the
doorkeeper, that veritable sultan of the house of ill-fame, that
general terror and hero.

"I've covered it," says Zoe and turns over the trump which had been
lying under the pack, wrong side up. "I'm going with forty, going with
an ace of spades--a ten-spot, Mannechka, if you please. I'm through.
Fifty-seven, eleven, sixty-eight. How much have you?"

"Thirty," says Manka in an offended tone, pouting her lips; "oh, it's
all very well for you--you remember all the plays. Deal ... Well,
what's after that, Tamarochka?" she turns to her friend. "You talk
on--I'm listening."

Zoe shuffles the old, black, greasy cards, allows Manya to cut, then
deals, having first spat upon her fingers.

Tamara in the meanwhile is narrating to Manya in a quiet voice, without
dropping her sewing.

"We embroidered with gold, in flat embroidery--altar covers, palls,
bishops' vestments... With little grasses, with flowers, little
crosses. In winter, you'd be sitting near a casement; the panes are
small, with gratings, there isn't much light, it smells of lamp oil,
incense, cypress; you mustn't talk--the mother superior was strict.
Some one from weariness would begin droning a pre-Lenten first verse of
a hymn ... 'When I consider thy heavens ...' We sang fine, beautifully,
and it was such a quiet life, and the smell was so fine; you could see
the flaky snow out the windows--well, now, just like in a dream..."

Jennie puts the tattered novel down on her stomach, throws the
cigarette over Zoe's head, and says mockingly:

"We know all about your quiet life. You chucked the infants into
toilets. The Evil One is always snooping around your holy places."

"I call forty. I had forty-six. Finished!" Little Manka exclaims
excitedly and claps her palms. "I open with three."

Tamara, smiling at Jennie's words, answers with a scarcely perceptible
smile, which barely distends her lips, but makes little, sly, ambiguous
depressions at their corners, altogether as with Monna Lisa in the
portrait by Leonardo da Vinci.

"Lay folk say a lot of things about nuns ... Well, even if there had
been sin once in a while ..."

"If you don't sin--you don't repent," Zoe puts in seriously, and wets
her finger in her mouth.

"You sit and sew, the gold eddies before your eyes, while from standing
in the morning at prayer your back just aches, and your legs ache. And
at evening there is service again. You knock at the door of the mother
superior's cell: 'Through prayers of Thy saints, oh Lord, our Father,
have mercy upon us.' And the mother superior would answer from the
cell, in a little bass-like 'A-men.'"

Jennie looks at her intently for some time, shakes her head and says
with great significance:

"You're a queer girl, Tamara. Here I'm looking at you and wondering.
Well, now, I can understand how these fools, on the manner of Sonka,
play at love. That's what they're fools for. But you, it seems, have
been roasted on all sorts of embers, have been washed in all sorts of
lye, and yet you allow yourself foolishness of that sort. What are you
embroidering that shirt for?"

Tamara, without haste, with a pin refastens the fabric more
conveniently on her knee, smooths the seam down with the thimble, and
speaks, without raising the narrowed eyes, her head bent just a trifle
to one side:

"One's got to be doing something. It's wearisome just so. I don't play
at cards, and I don't like them."

Jennie continues to shake her head.

"No, you're a queer girl, really you are. You always have more from the
guests than all of us get. You fool, instead of saving money, what do
you spend it on? You buy perfumes at seven roubles the bottle. Who
needs it? And now you have bought fifteen roubles' worth of silk. Isn't
this for your Senka, now?"

"Of course, for Sennechka."

"What a treasure you've found, to be sure! A miserable thief. He rides
up to this establishment like some general. How is it he doesn't beat
you yet? The thieves--they like that. And he plucks you, have no fear?"

"More than I want to, I won't give," meekly answers Tamara and bites
the thread in two.

"Now that is just what I wonder at. With your mind, your beauty, I
would put such rings-around-a-rosie about a guest like that, that he'd
take me and set me up. I'd have horses of my own, and diamonds."

"Everyone to his tastes, Jennechka. You too, now, are a very pretty and
darling girl, and your character is so independent and brave, and yet
you and I have gotten stuck in Anna Markovna's."

Jennie flares up and answers with unsimulated bitterness:

"Yes! Why not! All things come your way! ...You have all the very best
guests. You do what you want with them, but with me it's always either
old men or suckling babies. I have no luck. The ones are snotty, the
others have yellow around the mouth. More than anything else, now, I
dislike the little boys. He comes, the little varmint; he's cowardly,
he hurries, he trembles, but having done the business, he doesn't know
what to do with his eyes for shame. He's all squirming from disgust. I
just feel like giving him one in the snout. Before giving you the
rouble, he holds it in his pocket in his fist, and that rouble's all
hot, even sweaty. The milksop! His mother gives him a ten kopeck piece
for a French roll with sausage, but he's economized out of that for a
wench. I had one little cadet in the last few days. So just on purpose,
to spite him, I say: 'Here, my dearie, here's a little caramel for you
on your way; when you're going back to your corps, you'll suck on it.'
So at first he got offended, but afterwards took it. Later I looked
from the stoop, on purpose; just as soon as he walked out, he looked
around, and right away into his mouth with the caramel. The little
swine!"

"But with old men it's still worse," says Little Manka in a tender
voice, and slyly looks at Zoe. "What do you think, Zoinka?"

Zoe, who had already finished playing, and was just about to yawn, now
cannot in any way give rein to her yawns. She does not know whether she
wants to be angry or to laugh. She has a steady visitor, some little
old man in a high station, with perverted erotic habits. The entire
establishment makes fun of his visits to her.

Zoe at last succeeds in yawning.

"To the devil's dam with all of you," she says, with her voice hoarse
after the yawn; "may he be damned, the old anathema!"

"But still, the worst of all," Jennie continues to discourse, "worse
than your director, Zoinka, worse than my cadet, the worst of all--are
your lovers. What can there be joyous in this: he comes drunk, poses,
makes sport of you, wants to pretend there's something in him--only
nothing comes of it all. Wha-at a lad-die, to be sure! The scummiest of
the scum, dirty, beaten-up, stinking, his whole body in scars, there's
only one glory about him: the silk shirt which Tamarka will embroider
for him. He curses one's mother, the son of a bitch, always aching for
a fight. Ugh! No!" she suddenly exclaimed in a merry provoking voice,
"The one I love truly and surely, for ever and ever, is my Mannechka,
Manka the white, little Manka, my Manka-Scandalistochka."

And unexpectedly, having embraced Manya by the shoulders and bosom, she
drew her toward herself, threw her down on the bed, and began to kiss
deeply and vigorously her hair, eyes, lips. Manka with difficulty tore
herself away from her, with dishevelled, bright, fine, downy hair, all
rosy from the resistance, and with eyes downcast and moist from shame
and laughter.

"Leave off, Jennechka, leave off. Well, now, what are you doing? Let me
go!"

Little Manya is the meekest and quietest girl in the entire
establishment. She is kind, yielding, can never refuse anybody's
request, and involuntarily everybody treats her with great gentleness.
She blushes over every trifle, and at such time becomes especially
attractive, as only very tender blondes with a sensitive skin can be
attractive. But it is sufficient for her to drink three or four glasses
of Liqueur Benedictine, of which she is very fond, for her to become
unrecognizable and to create brawls, such, that there is always
required the intervention of the housekeepers, the porter, at times
even the police. It is nothing for her to hit a guest in the face or to
throw in his face a glass filled with wine, to overturn the lamp, to
curse out the proprietress, Jennie treats her with some strange, tender
patronage and rough adoration.

"Ladies, to dinner! To dinner, ladies!" calls Zociya the housekeeper,
running along the corridor. On the run she opens the door into Manya's
room and drops hurriedly:

"To dinner, to dinner, ladies!"

They go again to the kitchen, all still in their underwear, all
unwashed, in slippers and barefoot. A tasty vegetable soup of pork
rinds and tomatoes, cutlets, and pastry-cream rolls are served. But no
one has any appetite, thanks to the sedentary life and irregular sleep,
and also because the majority of the girls, just like school-girls on a
holiday, had already managed during the day to send to the store for
halvah, nuts, rakkat loukoum (Turkish Delight), dill-pickles and
molasses candy, and had through this spoiled their appetites. Only Nina
alone--a small, pug-nosed, snuffling country girl, seduced only two
months ago by a travelling salesman, and (also by him) sold into a
brothel--eats for four. The inordinate, provident appetite of a woman
of the common people has not yet disappeared in her.

Jennie, who has only picked fastidiously at her cutlet and eaten half
her cream roll, speaks to her in a tone of hypocritical solicitude:

"Really, Pheclusha, you might just as well eat my cutlet, too. Eat, my
dear, eat; don't be bashful--you ought to be gaining in health. But do
you know what I'll tell you, ladies?" she turns to her mates, "Why, our
Pheclusha has a tape-worm, and when a person has a tape-worm, he always
eats for two: half for himself, half for the worm."

Nina sniffs angrily and answers in a bass which comes as a surprise
from one of her stature, and through her nose:

"There are no tape-worms in me. It's you that has the tape-worms,
that's why you are so skinny."

And she imperturbably continues to eat, and after dinner feels herself
sleepy, like a boa constrictor, eructs loudly, drinks water, hiccups,
and, by stealth, if no one sees her, makes the sign of the cross over
her mouth, through an old habit.

But already the ringing voice of Zociya can be heard through the
corridors and rooms:

"Get dressed, ladies, get dressed. There's no use in sitting
around...To work..."

After a few minutes in all the rooms of the establishment there are
smells of singed hair, boric-thymol soap, cheap eau-de-cologne. The
girls are dressing for the evening.



CHAPTER IV.


The late twilight came on, and after it the warm, dark night, but for
long, until very midnight, did the deep crimson glow of the sky still
smoulder. Simeon, the porter of the establishment, has lit all the
lamps along the walls of the drawing room, and the lustre, as well as
the red lantern over the stoop. Simeon was a spare, stocky, taciturn
and harsh man, with straight, broad shoulders, dark-haired,
pock-marked, with little bald spots on his eye-brows and moustaches
from small-pox, and with black, dull, insolent eyes. By day he was free
and slept, while at night he sat without absenting himself in the front
hall under the reflector, in order to help the guests with their coats
and to be ready in case of any disorder.

The pianist came--a tall, elegant young man, with white eyebrows and
eyelashes, and a cataract in his right eye. The while there were no
guests, he and Isaiah Savvich quietly rehearsed Pas d'Espagne, at that
time coming into fashion. For every dance ordered by the guests, they
received thirty kopecks for an easy dance, and a half rouble for a
quadrille. But one-half of this price was taken out by the
proprietress, Anna Markovna; the other, however, the musicians divided
evenly. In this manner the pianist received only a quarter of the
general earnings, which, of course, was unjust, since Isaiah Savvich
played as one self-taught and was distinguished for having no more ear
for music than a piece of wood. The pianist was constantly compelled to
drag him on to new tunes, to correct and cover his mistakes with loud
chords. The girls said of their pianist to the guests, with a certain
pride, that he had been in the conservatory and always ranked as the
first pupil, but since he is a Jew, and in addition to that his eyes
had begun to trouble him, he had not succeeded in completing the
course. They all treated him carefully and considerately, with some
sort of solicitous, somewhat mawkish, commiseration, which chimes so
well with the inner, backstage customs of houses of ill-fame, where
underneath the outer coarseness and the flaunting of obscene words
dwells the same sweetish, hysterical sentimentality as in female
boarding schools, and, so they say, in penal institutions.

In the house of Anna Markovna everybody was already dressed and ready
for the reception of the guests, and languishing from inaction and
expectation. Despite the fact that the majority of the women
experienced toward men--with the exception of their lovers--a complete,
even somewhat squeamish, indifference, before every evening dim hopes
came to life and stirred within their souls; it was unknown who would
choose them, whether something unusual, funny and alluring might not
happen, whether a guest would not astonish with his generosity, whether
there would not be some miracle which would overturn the whole
life...In these presentiments and hopes was something akin to those
emotions which the accustomed gamester experiences when counting his
ready money before starting out for his club. Besides that, despite
their asexuality, they still had not lost the chiefest instinctive
aspiration of women--to please.

And, in truth, altogether curious personages came into the house at
times and ludicrous, motley events arose. The police would appear
suddenly together with disguised detectives and arrest some seemingly
respectable, irreproachable gentlemen and lead them off, pushing them
along with blows in the neck. At times brawls would spring up between
the drunken, trouble-making company and the porters of all the
establishments, who had gathered on the run for the relief of a fellow
porter--a brawl, during which the window-panes and the decks of
grand-pianos were broken, when the legs of the plush chairs were
wrenched out for weapons, blood ran over the parquet floor of the
drawing room and the steps of the stairs, and people with pierced sides
and broken heads fell down into the dirt near the street entrance, to
the feral, avid delight of Jennka, who, with burning eyes, with happy
laughter, went into the thickest of the melee, slapped herself on the
hips, swore and sicked them on, while her mates were squealing from
fear and hiding under the beds.

There were occurrences when there would arrive, with a pack of
parasites, some member of a workingmen's association or a cashier, long
since far gone in an embezzlement of many thousands through gambling at
cards and hideous orgies, and now, in a drunken, senseless delirium,
tossing the last money after the other, before suicide or the
prisoner's box. Then the doors and windows of the house would be
tightly closed, and for two days and nights at a stretch a Russian orgy
would go on--nightmarish, tedious, savage, with screams and tears, with
revilement over the body of woman; paradisaical nights were gotten up,
during which naked, drunken, bow-legged, hairy, pot-bellied men, and
women with flabby, yellow, pendulous thin bodies hideously grimaced to
the music; they drank and guzzled like swine, on the beds and on the
floor, amidst the stifling atmosphere, permeated with spirits, befouled
with human respiration and the exhalations of unclean skins.

Occasionally, there would appear a circus athlete, creating in the
low-ceiled quarters a strangely cumbersome impression, somewhat like
that of a horse led into a room; a Chinaman in a blue blouse, white
stockings, and with a queue; a negro from a cabaret, in a tuxedo coat
and checked pantaloons, with a flower in his button-hole, and with
starched linen, which, to the amazement of the girls, not only did not
soil from the black skin, but appeared still more dazzlingly white.

These rare people fomented the satiated imagination of the prostitutes,
excited their exhausted sensuality and professional curiosity, and all
of them, almost enamoured, would walk in their steps, jealous and
bickering with one another.

There was one incident when Simeon had let into the room an elderly
man, dressed like a bourgeois. There was nothing exceptional about him;
he had a stern, thin face, with bony, evil-looking cheek-bones,
protruding like tumours, a low forehead, a beard like a wedge, bushy
eyebrows, one eye perceptibly higher than the other. Having entered, he
raised his fingers, folded for the sign of the cross, to his forehead,
but having searched the corners with his eyes and finding no image, he
did not in the least grow confused, put down his hand, and at once with
a business-like air walked up to the fattest girl in the
establishment--Kitty.

"Let's go!" he commanded curtly, and with determination nodded his head
in the direction of the door.

During the entire period of her absence the omniscious Simeon, with a
mysterious, and even somewhat proud air, managed to inform Niura, at
that time his mistress, while she, in a whisper, with horror in her
rounded eyes, told her mates, in secret, that the name of the bourgeois
was Dyadchenko, and that last fall he had volunteered, owing to the
absence of the hangman, to carry out the execution of eleven rioters,
and with his own hands had hung them in two mornings. And--monstrous as
it may be--at that hour there was not in the establishment a single
girl who did not feel envy toward the fat Kitty, and did not experience
a painful, keen, vertiginous curiosity. When Dyadchenko was going away
half an hour later--with his sedate and stern air, all the women
speechlessly, with their mouths gaping, escorted him to the street door
and afterwards watched him from the windows as he walked along the
street. Then they rushed into the room of the dressing Kitty and
overwhelmed her with interrogations. They looked with a new feeling,
almost with astonishment, at her bare, red, thick arms, at the bed,
still crumpled, at the old, greasy, paper rouble, which Kitty showed
them, having taken it out of her stocking. Kitty could tell them
nothing. "A man like any man, like all men," she said with a calm
incomprehension; but when she found out who her visitor had been, she
suddenly burst into tears, without herself knowing why.

This man, the outcast of outcasts, fallen as low as the fancy of man
can picture, this voluntary headsman, had treated her without rudeness,
but with such absence of even a hint at endearment, with such disdain
and wooden indifference, as no human being is treated; not even a dog
or a horse, and not even an umbrella, overcoat or hat, but like some
dirty, unclean object, for which a momentary, unavoidable need arises,
but which, at the passing of its needfulness, becomes foreign, useless,
and disgusting. The entire horror of this thought the fat Kate could
not embrace with her brain of a fattened turkey hen, and because of
that cried--as it seemed even to her--without cause and reason.

There were also other happenings, which stirred up the turbid, foul
life of these poor, sick, silly, unfortunate women. There were cases of
savage, unbridled jealousy with pistol shots and poisoning;
occasionally, very rarely, a tender, flaming and pure love would
blossom out upon this dung; occasionally the women even abandoned an
establishment with the help of the loved man, but almost always came
back. Two or three times it happened that a woman from a brothel would
suddenly prove pregnant--and this always seemed, on the face of it,
laughable and disgraceful, but touching in the profundity of the event.

And no matter what may have happened, every evening brought with it
such an irritating, strained, spicy expectation of adventures that
every other life, after that in a house of ill-fame, would have seemed
flat and humdrum to these lazy women of no will power.



CHAPTER V.


The windows are opened wide to the fragrant darkness of the evening,
and the tulle curtains stir faintly back and forth from the
imperceptible movement of the air. It smells of dewy grass from the
consumptive little garden in front of the house, and just the least wee
bit of lilac and the withering birch leaves of the little trees placed
near the entrance because of the Trinity. Liuba, in a blue velvet
blouse with low cut bosom, and Niura, dressed as a "baby," in a pink,
wide sacque to the knees, with her bright hair loose and with little
curls on her forehead, are lying embraced on the window-sill, and are
singing in a low voice a song about the hospital, which song is the
rage of the day and exceedingly well known among prostitutes. Niura,
through her nose, leads in a high voice.

Liuba seconds her with a stifled alto:

    "Monday now is come again,
    They're supposed to get me out;
    Doctor Krasov won't let me out ..."

In all the houses the windows are brightly lit, while hanging lanterns
are burning before the entrances. To both girls the interior in the
establishment of Sophia Vasilievna, which is directly opposite, is
distinctly visible--the shining yellow parquet, draperies of a dark
cherry colour on the doors, caught up with cords, the end of a black
grand-piano, a pier glass in a gilt frame, and the figures of women in
gorgeous dresses, now flashing at the windows, now disappearing, and
their reflections in the mirrors. The carved stoop of Treppel, to the
right, is brightly illuminated by a bluish electric light in a big
frosted globe.

The evening is calm and warm. Somewhere far, far away, beyond the line
of the railroads, beyond some black roofs and the thin black trunks of
trees, down low over the dark earth in which the eye does not see but
rather senses the mighty green tone of spring, reddens with a scarlet
gold the narrow, long streak of the sunset glow, which has pierced the
dove-coloured mist. And in this indistinct, distant light, in the
caressing air, in the scents of the oncoming night, was some secret,
sweet, conscious mournfulness, which usually is so gentle in the
evenings between spring and summer. The indistinct noise of the city
floated in, the dolorous, snuffling air of an accordeon, the mooing of
cows could be heard; somebody's soles were scraping dryly and a
ferruled cane rapped resoundingly on the flags of the pavement; lazily
and irregularly the wheels of a cabman's victoria, rolling at a pace
through Yama, would rumble by, and all these sounds mingled with a
beauty and softness in the pensive drowsiness of the evening. And the
whistles of the locomotives on the line of the railroad, which was
marked out in the darkness with green and red lights, sounded with a
quiet, singing caution.

    "Now the nurse is co-oming in,
    Bringing sugar and a roll,
    Bringing sugar and a roll,
    Deals them equally to all."

"Prokhor Ivanich!" Niura suddenly calls after the curly waiter from the
dram-shop, who, a light black silhouette, is running across the road.
"Oh, Prokhor Ivanich!"

"Oh, bother you!" the other snarls hoarsely. "What now?"

"A friend of yours sent you his regards. I saw him today."

"What sort of friend?"

"Such a little good-looker! An attractive little brunet ...No, but
you'd better ask--where did I see him?"

"Well, where?" Prokhor Ivanovich comes to a stop for a minute.

"And here's where: nailed over there, on the fifth shelf with old hats,
where we keep all dead cats."

"Scat! You darn fool!"

Niura laughs shrilly over all Yama, and throws herself down on the
sill, kicking her legs in high black stockings. Afterward, having
ceased laughing, she all of a sudden makes round astonished eyes and
says in a whisper:

"But do you know, girlie--why, he cut a woman's throat the year before
last--that same Prokhor. Honest to God!"

"Is that so? Did she die?"

"No, she didn't. She got by," says Niura, as though with regret. "But
just the same she lay for two months in the Alexandrovskaya Hospital.
The doctors said, that if it were only this teen-weeny bit higher--then
it would have been all over. Bye-bye!"

"Well, what did he do that to her for?"

"How should I know? Maybe she hid money from him or wasn't true to him.
He was her lover--her pimp."

"Well, and what did he get for it?"

"Why, nothing. There was no evidence of any kind. There had been a
free-for-all mix-up. About a hundred people were fighting. She also
told the police that she had no suspicions of any sort. But Prokhor
himself boasted afterwards: 'I,' says he, 'didn't do for Dunka that
time, but I'll finish her off another time. She,' says he, 'won't get
by my hands. I'm going to give her the works.'"

A shiver runs all the way down Liuba's back.

"They're desperate fellows, these pimps!" she pronounces quietly, with
horror in her voice.

"Something terrible! I, you know, played at love with our Simeon for a
whole year. Such a Herod, the skunk! I didn't have a whole spot on me.
I always went about in black and blue marks. And it wasn't for any
reason at all, but just simply so--he'd go in the morning into a room
with me, lock himself in, and start in to torture me. He'd wrench my
arms, pinch my breasts, grab my throat and begin to strangle me. Or
else he'd be kissing, kissing, and then he'd bite the lips so that the
blood would just spurt out ... I'd start crying--but that's all he was
looking for. Then he'd just pounce an me like a beast--simply shivering
all over. And he'd take all my money away--well, now, to the very last
little copper. There wasn't anything to buy ten cigarettes with. He's
stingy, this here Simeon, that's what, always into the bank-book with
it, always putting it away into the bank-book... Says when he gets a
thousand roubles together--he'll go into a monastery."

"Go on!"

"Honest to God. You look into his little room: the twenty-four hours
round, day and night, the little holy lamp burns before the images.
He's very strong for God ... Only I think that he's that way because
there's heavy sins upon him. He's a murderer."

"What are you saying?"

"Oh, let's drop talking about him, Liubochka. Well, let's go on further:

"I'll go to the drug store, buy me some poison, And I will poison then
meself."

Niura starts off in a very high, thin voice.

Jennie walks back and forth in the room, with arms akimbo, swaying as
she walks, and looking at herself in all the mirrors. She has on a
short orange satin dress, with straight deep pleats in the skirt, which
vacillates evenly to the left and right from the movement of her hips.
Little Manka, a passionate lover of card games, ready to play from
morning to morning, without stopping, is playing away at "sixty-six"
with Pasha, during which both women, for convenience in dealing, have
left an empty chair between them, while they gather their tricks into
their skirts, spread out between their knees. Manka has on a brown,
very modest dress, with black apron and pleated black bib; this dress
is very becoming to her dainty, fair little head and small stature; it
makes her younger and gives her the appearance of a high-school
undergraduate.

Her partner Pasha is a very queer and unhappy girl. She should have
been, long ago, not in a house of ill-fame, but in a psychiatric ward,
because of an excruciating nervous malady, which compels her to give
herself up, frenziedly, with an unwholesome avidity, to any man
whatsoever who may choose her, even the most repulsive. Her mates make
sport of her and despise her somewhat for this vice, just as though for
some treason to their corporate enmity toward men. Niura, with very
great versimilitude, mimics her sighs, groans, outcries and passionate
words, from which she can never refrain in the moments of ecstasy and
which are to be heard in the neighbouring rooms through two or three
partitions. There is a rumour afloat about Pasha, that she got into a
brothel not at all through necessity or temptation or deception, but
had gone into it her own self, voluntarily, following her horrible,
insatiable instinct. But the proprietress of the house and both the
housekeepers indulge Pasha in every way and encourage her insane
weakness, because, thanks to it, Pasha is in constant demand and earns
four, five times as much as any one of the remaining girls--earns so
much, that on busy gala days she is not brought out to the more drab
guests at all, or else refused them under the pretext of Pasha's
illness, because the steady, paying guests are offended if they are
told that the girl they know is busy with another. And of such steady
guests Pasha has a multitude; many are with perfect sincerity, even
though bestially, in love with her, and even not so long ago two,
almost at the same time, offered to set her up: a Georgian--a clerk in
a store of Cakhetine wines, and some railroad agent, a very proud and
very poor nobleman, with shirt cuffs the colour of a cabbage rose, and
with an eye which had been replaced by a black circle on an elastic.
Pasha, passive in everything save her impersonal sensuality, would go
with anybody who might call her, but the administration of the house
vigilantly guards its interests in her. A near insanity already flits
over her lovely face, in her half-closed eyes, always smiling with some
heady, blissful, meek, bashful and unseemly smile, in her languorous,
softened, moist lips, which she is constantly licking; in her short,
quiet laugh--the laugh of an idiot. Yet at the same time she--this
veritable victim of the social temperament--in everyday life is very
good-natured, yielding, entirely uncovetous and is very much ashamed of
her inordinate passion. Toward her mates she is tender, likes very much
to kiss and embrace them and sleep in the same bed with them, but still
everybody has a little aversion for her, it would seem.

"Mannechka, sweetie, dearie," says Pasha lightly touching Manya's hand
with emotion, "tell my fortune, my precious little child."

"We-ell," Manya pouts her lips just like a child, "let's play a little
more."

"Mannechka, my little beauty, you little good-looker, my precious, my
own, my dear..."

Manya gives in and lays out the pack on her knees. A suit of hearts
comes out, a small monetary interest and a meeting in the suit of
spades with a large company in the king of clubs.

Pasha claps her hands joyously:

"Ah, it's my Levanchik! Well, yes, he promised to come to-day. Of
course, it's Levanchik."

"That's your Georgian!"

"Yes, yes, my little Georgian. Oh, how nice he is. I'd just love never
to let him go away from me. Do you know what he told me the last time?
'If you'll go on living in a sporting house, then I'll make both you
dead, and make me dead.' And he flashed his eyes at me so!"

Jennie, who had stopped near, listens to her words and asks haughtily:

"Who was it said that?"

"Why, my little Georgian, Levan. 'Both for you death and for me death.'"

"Fool! He isn't any little Georgian at all, but simply a common
Armenian. You're a crazy fool."

"Oh no, he isn't--he's a Georgian. And it is quite strange on your
part..."

"I'm telling you--a common Armenian. I can tell better. Fool!"

"What are you cursing for, Jennie? I didn't start cursing you first
off, did I?"

"You just try and be the first to start cursing! Fool! Isn't it all the
same to you what he is? Are you in love with him, or what?"

"Well, I am in love with him!"

"Well, and you're a fool. And the one with the badge in his cap, the
lame one--are you in love with him too?"

"Well, what of it? I respect him very much. He is very respectable."

"And with Nicky the Book-keeper? And with the contractor? And with
Antoshka-Kartoshka?[4] And with the fat actor? Oo-ooh, you shameless
creature!" Jennie suddenly cries out. "I can't look at you without
disgust. You're a bitch! In your place, if I was such a miserable
thing, I'd rather lay hands on myself, strangle myself with a cord from
my corset. You vermin!"


[4] Tony the Potato.--Trans.


Pasha silently lowers her eyelashes over her tear-filled eyes. Manya
tries to defend her.

"Really, what are you carrying on like that for, Jennechka? What are
you down on her like that for..."

"Eh, all of you are fine!" Jennie sharply cuts her short. "No
self-respect of any sort! Some scum comes along, buys you like a piece
of meat, hires you like a cabby, at a fixed rate, for love for an hour,
but you go all to pieces: 'Ah, my little lover! Ah, what unearthly
passion!' Ugh!" she spat in disgust.

She wrathfully turns her back upon them and continues to promenade on a
diagonal through the room, swinging her hips and blinking at herself in
every mirror.

During this time Isaac Davidovich, the piano player, is still
struggling with the refractory violinist.

"Not that way, not that way, Isaiah Savvich. You throw the fiddle away
for one little minute. Listen a little to me. Here is the tune."

He plays with one finger and hums in that horrible goatish voice that
all musical directors--for which calling he had been at one time
preparing--possess.

"Ess-tam, ess-tam, ess-tiam-tiam. Well, now, repeat after me the first
part, first time off..... Well..... ein, zwei..."

Their rehearsal is being attentively watched by the grey-eyed,
round-faced, arch-browed Zoe, mercilessly bedaubed with cheap rouges
and whiteners, leaning with her elbows on the pianoforte, and the
slight Vera, with drink-ravaged face, in the costume of a jockey--in a
round little cap with straight brim, in a little silk jacket, striped
blue and white, in tightly stretched trunks and in little patent
leather boots with yellow facings. And really, Vera does resemble a
jockey, with her narrow face, in which the exceedingly sparkling blue
eyes, under a smart bob coming down on the forehead, are set too near
the humped, nervous, very handsome nose. When, at last, after long
efforts the musicians agree, the somewhat small Verka walks up to the
large Zoe, in that mincing, tethered walk, the hind part sticking out,
and elbows spread as though for flight, with which only women in male
costume can walk, and makes a comical masculine bow to her, spreading
her arms wide and lowering them. And, with great enjoyment, they begin
careering over the room.

The nimble Niura, always the first to announce all the news, suddenly
jumps down from the window sill, and calls out, spluttering from the
excitement and hurry:

"A swell carriage...has driven up...to Treppel ...with electricity...
Oi, goils...may I die on the spot...there's electricity on the shafts."

All the girls, save the proud Jennie, thrust themselves out of the
windows. A driver with a fine carriage is indeed standing near the
Treppel entrance. His brand-new, dashing victoria glistens with new
lacquer; at the ends of the shafts two tiny electric lights burn with a
yellow light; the tall white horse, with a bare pink spot on the septum
of its nose, shakes its handsome head, shifts its feet on the same
spot, and pricks up its thin ears; the bearded, stout driver himself
sits on the coach-box like a carven image, his arms stretched out
straight along his knees.

"Oh, for a ride!" squeals Niura. "Oh, uncle! Oh you swell coachman!"
she cries out, hanging over the window sill. "Give a poor little girlie
a ride... Give us a ride for love."

But the swell coachman laughs, makes a scarcely noticeable movement
with his fingers, and immediately the white horse, as though it had
been waiting just for that, starts from its place at a goodly trot,
handsomely turns around and with measured speed floats away into the
darkness together with the victoria and the broad back of the coachman.

"Pfui! What indecency!" the indignant voice of Emma Edwardovna sounds
in the room. "Well, where did you see that respectable girls should
allow themselves to climb out of the windows and holler all over the
street. O, scandal! And it's all Niura, and it's always this horrible
Niura!"

She is majestic in her black dress, with her yellow flabby face, with
the dark pouches under her eyes, with the three pendulous, quivering
chins. The girls, like boarding school misses, staidly seat themselves
on the chairs along the walls, except Jennie, who continues to
contemplate herself in all the mirrors. Two more cabbies drive up
opposite, to the house of Sophia Vasilievna. Yama is beginning to liven
up. At last one more victoria rattles along the paved road and its
noise is cut short abruptly at the entrance to Anna Markovna's.

The porter Simeon helps someone take off his things in the front hall.
Jennie looks in there, holding on with both hands to the door jambs,
but immediately turns back, and as she walks shrugs her shoulders and
shakes her head negatively.

"Don't know him, someone who's an entire stranger," she says in a low
voice. "He has never been in our place. Some daddy or other, fat, in
gold eye-glasses and a uniform."

Emma Edwardovna commands in a voice which sounds like a summoning
cavalry trumpet:

"Ladies, into the drawing room! Into the drawing room, ladies!"

One after the other, with haughty gaits, into the drawing room enter:
Tamara, with bare white arms and bared neck, wound with a string of
artificial pearls; fat Kitty with her fleshy, quadrangular face and low
forehead--she, too, is in decollete, but her skin is red and in
goose-pimples; Nina, the very newest one, pug-nosed and clumsy, in a
dress the colour of a green parrot; another Manka--Big Manka, or Manka
the Crocodile, as they call her, and--the last--Sonka the Rudder, a
Jewess, with an ugly dark face and an extraordinarily large nose,
precisely for which she has received her nickname, but with such
magnificent large eyes, at the same time meek and sad, burning and
humid, as, among the women of all the terrestrial globe, are to be
found only among the Jewesses.



CHAPTER VI.


The elderly guest in the uniform of the Department of Charity walked in
with slow, undecided steps, at each step bending his body a little
forward and rubbing his palms with a circular motion, as though washing
them. Since all the women were pompously silent, as though not noticing
him, he traversed the drawing room and let himself down on a chair
alongside of Liuba, who, in accordance with etiquette, only gathered up
her skirt a little, preserving the abstracted and independent air of a
girl from a respectable house.

"How do you do, miss?" he said.

"How do you do?" answered Liuba abruptly.

"How are you getting along?"

"Thanks--thank you. Treat me to a smoke."

"Pardon me--I don't smoke."

"So that's how. A man--and he doesn't smoke, just like that. Well,
then, treat me to some Lafitte with lemonade. I am terribly fond of
Lafitte with lemonade."

He let that pass in silence.

"Ooh, what a stingy daddy! Where do you work, now? Are you one of the
government clerks?"

"No, I'm a teacher. I teach the German language."

"But I have seen you somewhere, daddy. Your physiognomy is familiar to
me. Where have I met you before?"

"Well, now, I don't know, really. Unless it was on the street."

"It might have been on the street, likely as not... You ought to treat
me to an orange, at least. May I ask for an orange?"

He again grew quiet, looking about him. His face began to glisten and
the pimples on his forehead became red. He was mentally appraising all
the women, choosing a likely one for himself, and was at the same time
embarrassed by his silence. There was nothing at all to talk about;
besides that the indifferent importunity of Liuba irritated him. Fat
Katie pleased him with her large, bovine body, but she must be--he
decided in his mind--very frigid in love, like all stout women, and in
addition to that not handsome of face. Vera also excited him, with her
appearance of a little boy, and her firm thighs, closely enveloped by
the white tights; and Little White Manya, looking so like an innocent
school-girl; and Jennie with her energetic, swarthy, handsome face. For
one minute he was all ready to stop at Jennie, but only started in his
chair and did not venture--by her easy, inaccessible and negligent air,
and because she in all sincerity did not pay him the least attention,
he surmised that she was the most spoilt of all the girls in the
establishment, accustomed to having the visitors spend more money on
her than on the others. But the pedagogue was a calculating man,
burthened with a large family and an exhausted wife, destroyed by his
masculine demands and suffering from a multiplicity of female ills.
Teaching in a female high school and in an institute, he lived
constantly in a sort of secret sensual delirium, and only his German
training, stinginess and cowardice helped him to hold his constantly
aroused desires in check. But two or three times a year, with
incredible privations, he would cut five or ten roubles out of his
beggarly budget, denying himself in his beloved evening mug of beer and
contriving to save on the street cars, which necessitated his making
enormous distances on foot through the town. This money he set aside
for women and spent it slowly, with gusto, trying to prolong and
cheapen down the enjoyment as much as possible. And for his money he
wanted a very great deal, almost the impossible; his German sentimental
soul dimly thirsted after innocence, timidity, poesy, in the flaxen
image of Gretchen; but as a man he dreamt, desired, and demanded that
his caresses should bring a woman into rapture and palpitation and into
a sweet exhaustion.

However, all the men strove for the very same thing--even the most
wretched, monstrous, misshapen and impotent of them--and ancient
experience had long ago taught the women to imitate with voice and
movements the most flaming passion, retaining in the most tempestuous
minutes the fullest sang froid.

"You might at least order the musicians to play a polka. Let the girls
dance a little," asked Liuba grumblingly.

That suited him. Under cover of the music, amid the jostling of the
dances, it was far more convenient to get up courage, arise, and lead
one of the girls out of the drawing room, than to do it amid the
general silence and the finical immobility.

"And how much does that cost?" he asked cautiously.

"A quadrille is half a rouble; but ordinary dances are thirty kopecks.
Is it all right then?"

"Well, of course...if you please...I don't begrudge it," he agreed,
pretending to be generous...

"Whom do you speak to?"

"Why, over there--to the musicians."

"Why not? ... I'll do it with pleasure...Mister musician, something in
the light dances, if you please," he said, laying down his silver on
the pianoforte.

"What will you order?" asked Isaiah Savvich, putting the money away in
his pocket. "Waltz, polka, polka-mazourka?"

"Well...Something sort of..."

"A waltz, a waltz!" Vera, a great lover of dancing, shouted from her
place.

"No, a polka! ... A waltz! ... A vengerka! ... A waltz!" demanded
others.

"Let them play a polka," decided Liuba in a capricious tone. "Isaiah
Savvich, play a little polka, please. This is my husband, and he is
ordering fox me," she added, embracing the pedagogue by the neck.
"Isn't that true, daddy?"

But he freed himself from under her arm, drawing his head in like a
turtle, and she without the least offence went to dance with Niura.
Three other couples were also whirling about. In the dances all the
girls tried to hold the waist as straight as possible, and the head as
immobile as possible, with a complete unconcern in their faces, which
constituted one of the conditions of the good taste of the
establishment. Under cover of the slight noise the teacher walked up to
Little Manka.

"Let's go?" he said, offering her his bent arm.

"Let's go," answered she, laughing.

She brought him into her room, gotten up with all the coquettishness of
a bedroom in a brothel of the medium sort, with a bureau, covered with
a knit scarf, and upon it a mirror, a bouquet of paper flowers, a few
empty bonbonierres, a powder box, a faded photograph of a young man
with white eyebrows and eyelashes and a haughtily astonished face, as
well as several visiting cards. Above the bed, which is covered with a
pink pique blanket, along the wall, is nailed up a rug with a
representation of a Turkish sultan luxuriating in his harem, a narghili
in his mouth; on the walls, several more photographs of dashing men of
the waiter and actor type; a pink lantern hangs down from the ceiling
by chains; there are also a round table under a carpet cover, three
vienna chairs, and an enameled bowl with a pitcher of the same sort in
the corner on a tabouret, behind the bed.

"Darling, treat me to Lafitte with lemonade," in accordance with
established usage asked Little Manka, unbuttoning her corsage.

"Afterwards," austerely answered the pedagogue. "It will all depend
upon yourself. And then--what sort of Lafitte can you have here? Some
muddy brew or other?"

"We have good Lafitte," contradicted the girl touchily. "Two roubles a
bottle. But if you are so stingy, then buy me beer at least. All right?"

"Well, beer is all right..."

"And for me lemonade and oranges. Yes?"

"A bottle of lemonade, yes; but oranges, no. Later, maybe, I will treat
you to champagne even. It will all depend on you. If you'll exert
yourself."

"Then, daddy, I'll ask for four bottles of beer and two bottles of
lemonade? Yes? And for me just a little cake of chocolate. All right?
Yes?"

"Two bottles of beer, a bottle of lemonade, and nothing more. I don't
like when I'm bargained with. If need be, I'll order myself."

"And may I invite a friend of mine?"

"No, let it be without any friends, if you please."

Manka leaned out of the door into the corridor and called out
resoundingly:

"Housekeeper, dear! Two bottles of beer and a bottle of lemonade for
me."

Simeon came with a tray and began with an accustomed rapidity to uncork
the bottles. Following him came Zociya, the housekeeper.

"There, now, how well you've made yourself at home here. Here's to your
lawful marriage!" she congratulated them.

"Daddy, treat the little housekeeper with beer," begged Manka. "Drink,
housekeeper dear."

"Well, in that case here's to your health, mister. Somehow, your face
seems kind of familiar to me?"

The German drank his beer, sucking and licking his moustache, and
impatiently waited for the housekeeper to go away. But she, having put
down her glass and thanked him, said:

"Let me get the money coming from you, mister. As much as is coming for
the beer and the time. That's both better for you and more convenient
for us."

The demand for the money went against the grain of the teacher, because
it completely destroyed the sentimental part of his intentions. He
became angry:

"What sort of boorishness is this, anyway! It doesn't look as if I were
preparing to run away from here. And besides, can't you discriminate
between people at all? You can see that a man of respectability, in a
uniform, has come to you, and not some tramp. What sort of importunity
is this!"

The housekeeper gave in a little.

"Now, don't get offended, mister. Of course, you'll pay the young lady
yourself for the visit. I don't think you will do her any wrong, she's
a fine girl among us. But I must trouble you to pay for the beer and
lemonade. I, too, have to give an account to the proprietress. Two
bottles at fifty is a rouble and the lemonade thirty--a rouble thirty."

"Good Lord, a bottle of beer fifty kopecks!" the German waxed
indignant. "Why, I will get it in any beer-shop for twelve kopecks."

"Well, then, go to a beer-shop if it's cheaper there," Zociya became
offended. "But if you've come to a respectable establishment, the
regular price is half a rouble. We don't take anything extra. There,
that's better. Twenty kopecks change coming to you?"

"Yes, change, without fail," firmly emphasized the German teacher. "And
I would request of you that nobody else should enter."

"No, no, no, what are you saying," Zociya began to bustle near the
door. "Dispose yourself as you please, to your heart's content. A
pleasant appetite to you."

Manka locked the door on a hook after her and sat down on the German's
knee, embracing him with her bare arm.

"Are you here long?" he asked, sipping his beer. He felt dimly that
that imitation of love which must immediately take place demanded some
sort of psychic propinquity, a more intimate acquaintance, and on that
account, despite his impatience, began the usual conversation, which is
carried on by almost all men--when alone with prostitutes, and which
compels the latter to lie almost mechanically, to lie without
mortification, enthusiasm or malice, according to a single, very
ancient stencil.

"Not long, only the third month."

"And how old are you?"

"Sixteen," fibbed Little Manka, taking five years off her age.

"O, such a young one!" the German wondered, and began, bending down and
grunting, to take off his boots. "Then how did you get here?"

"Well, a certain officer deprived me of my innocence there...near his
birthplace. And it's terrible how strict my mamma is. If she was to
find out, she'd strangle me with her own hands. Well, so then I ran
away from home and got in here..."

"And did you love that same officer, the one who was the first one,
now?"

"If I hadn't loved him, I wouldn't have gone to him. He promised to
marry me, the scoundrel, but then managed to get what he was after, and
abandoned me."

"Well, and were you ashamed the first time?"

"Of course, you'd be ashamed...How do you like it, daddy, with light or
without light? I'll turn, down the lantern a little. All right?"

"Well, and aren't you bored here? What do they call you?"

"Manya. To be sure I'm bored. What sort of a life is ours!"

The German kissed her hard on her lips and again asked:

"And do you love the men? Are there men who please you? Who afford you
pleasure?"

"How shouldn't there be?" Manka started laughing. "I love the ones like
you especially, such nice little fatties."

"You love them? Eh? Why do you love them?"

"Oh, I love them just so. You're nice, too."

The German meditated for a few seconds, pensively sipping away at his
beer. Then he said that which every man tells a prostitute in these
moments preceding the casual possession of her body:

"Do you know, Marichen, you also please me very much. I would willingly
take you and set you up."

"You're married," the girl objected, touching his ring.

"Yes, but, you understand, I don't live with my wife; she isn't well,
she can't fulfill her conjugal duties."

"The poor thing! If she were to find out where you go, daddy, she would
cry for sure."

"Let's drop that. So, you know, Mary, I am always looking out for such
a girl as you for myself, so modest and pretty. I am a man of means, I
would find a flat with board for you, with fuel and light. And forty
roubles a month pin money. Would you go?"

"Why not go--I'd go."

He kissed her violently, but a secret apprehension glided swiftly
through his cowardly heart.

"But are you healthy?" he asked in an inimical, quavering voice.

"Why, yes, I am healthy. There's a doctor's inspection every Saturday
in our place."

After five minutes she went away from him, as she walked putting away
in her stocking the earned money, on which, as on the first handsel,
she had first spat, after a superstitious custom. There had been no
further speech either about maintenance or natural liking. The German
was left unsatisfied with the frigidity of Manka and ordered the
housekeeper to be summoned to him.

"Housekeeper dear, my husband demands your presence!" said Manya,
coming into the drawing room and fixing her hair before a mirror.

Zociya went away, then returned afterwards and called Pasha out into
the corridor. Later she came back into the drawing room, but alone.

"How is it, Manka, that you haven't pleased your cavalier?" she asked
with laughter. "He complains about you: 'This,' he says, 'is no woman,
but some log of wood, a piece of ice.' I sent him Pashka."

"Eh, what a disgusting man!" Manka puckered up her face and spat aside.
"Butts in with his conversations. Asks: 'Do you feel when I kiss you?
Do you feel a pleasant excitement?' An old hound. 'I'll take you,' he
says, 'and set you up!'"

"They all say that," remarked Zoe indifferently.

But Jennie, who since morning has been in an evil mood, suddenly flared
up.

"Oh, the sneak, the big, miserable sneak that he is!" she exclaimed,
turning red and energetically putting her hands to her sides. "Why, I
would take him, the old, dirty little beast, by the ear, then lead him
up to the mirror and show him his disgusting snout. What? Good-looking,
aren't you? And how much better you'll be when the spit will be running
out of your mouth, and you'll cross your eyes, and begin to choke and
rattle in the throat, and to snort right in the face of the woman. And
for your damned rouble you want me to go all to pieces before you like
a pancake, and that from your nasty love my eyes should pop out onto my
forehead? Why, hit him in the snout, the skunk, in the snout! Until
there's blood!"

"O, Jennie! Stop it now! PFUI!" the susceptible Emma Edwardovna, made
indignant by her tone, stopped her.

"I won't stop!" she cut her short abruptly. But she grew quiet by
herself and wrathfully walked away with distending nostrils and with
fire in the darkened, handsome eyes.



CHAPTER VII.


Little by little the drawing room was filling. There came Roly-Poly,
long known to all Yama--a tall, thin, red-nosed, gray old man, in the
uniform of a forest ranger, in high boots, with a wooden yard-stick
always sticking out of his side-pocket. He passed whole days and
evenings as a habitue of the billiard parlor in the tavern, always
half-tipsy, shedding his little jokes, jingles and little sayings,
acting familiarly with the porters, with the housekeepers and the
girls. In the houses everybody from the proprietress to the
chamber-maids--treated him with a bit of derision--careless, a trifle
contemptuous, but without malice. At times he was even not without use:
he could transmit notes from the girls to their lovers, and run over to
the market or to the drug-store. Not infrequently, thanks to his
loosely hung tongue and long extinguished self respect, he would worm
himself into a gathering of strangers and increase their expenditures,
nor did he carry elsewhere the money gotten as "loans" on such
occasions, but spent it right here for women--unless, indeed, he left
himself some change for cigarettes. And, out of habit, he was
good-naturedly tolerated.

"And here's Roly-Poly arrived," announced Niura, when he, having
already managed to shake hands amicably with Simeon the porter, stopped
in the doorway of the drawing room, lanky, in a uniform cap knocked at
a brave slant over one side of his head. "Well, now, Roly-Poly, fire
away!"

"I have the honour to present myself," Roly-Poly immediately commenced
to grimace, putting his hand up to his brim in military fashion, "a
right honourable privy frequenter of the local agreeable
establishments, Prince Bottlekin, Count Liquorkin, Baron
Whoatinkevich-Giddapkovski--Mister Beethoven! Mister Chopin!" he
greeted the musicians. "Play me something from the opera The Brave and
Charming General Anisimov, or, A Hubbub in the Coolidor. My regards to
the little political economist Zociya.[5] A-ha! Then you kiss only at
Easter? We shall write that down. Ooh-you, my Tomalachka, my pitty-itty
tootsicums!"


[5] An untranslatable pun on Economochka, a diminutive for
"housekeeper."--Trans.


And so with jests and with pinches he went the round of all the girls
and at last sat down alongside of the fat Katie, who put her fat leg
upon his, leant with her elbow upon her knee, while upon the palm she
laid her chin, and began to watch indifferently and closely the
surveyor rolling a cigarette for himself.

"And how is it that you don't ever get tired of it, Roly-Poly? You're
forever rolling a coffin nail."

Roly-Poly at once commenced to move his eye-brows and the skin of his
scalp and began to speak in verse:

    "Dear cigarette, my secret mate,
    How can I help loving thee?
    Not through mere whim, prompted by fate,
    All have started smoking thee."

"Why, Roly-Poly, but you are going to croak soon," said Kitty
indifferently.

"And a very simple matter, that."

"Roly-Poly, say something still funnier, in verse," begged Verka.

And at once, obediently, having placed himself in a funny pose, he
began to declaim:

    "Many stars are in the bright sky,
    But to count them there's no way.
    Yes, the wind whispers there can be,
    But there really is no way.
    Blossoming now are burdocks,
    Now sing out the birds called cocks."

Playing the tom-fool in this manner, Roly-Poly would sit whole evenings
and nights through in the drawing rooms of the establishments. And
through some strange psychic fellow feeling the girls counted him
almost as one of their own; occasionally rendered him little temporary
services and even bought him beer and vodka at their expense.

Some time after Roly-Poly a large company of hairdressers, who were
that day free from work, tumbled in. They were noisy, gay, but even
here, in a brothel, did not cease their petty reckonings and
conversations about closed and open theatrical benefits, about the
bosses, about the wives of the bosses. All these were people corrupt to
a sufficient degree, liars, with great hopes for the future--such as,
for example, entering the service of some countess as a kept lover.
They wanted to utilize to the widest possible extent their rather
hard-earned money, and on that account decided to make a review of
absolutely all the houses of Yama; only Treppel's they could not
resolve to enter, as that was too swell for them. But at Anna
Markovna's they at once ordered a quadrille and danced it, especially
the fifth figure, where the gents execute a solo, perfectly, like real
Parisians, even putting their thumbs in the arm holes of their vests.
But they did not want to remain with the girls; instead, they promised
to come later, when they had wound up the complete review of the
brothels.

And there also came and went government clerks of some sort; crisp
young people in patent leather boots; several students; several
officers, who were horribly afraid of losing their dignity in the eyes
of the proprietress and the guests of the brothel. Little by little in
the drawing room was created such a noisy, fumy setting that no one
there any longer felt ill at ease. There came a steady visitor, the
lover of Sonka the Rudder, who came almost every day and sat whole
hours through near his beloved, gazed upon her with languishing
oriental eyes, sighed, grew faint and created scenes for her because
she lives in a brothel, because she sins against the Sabbath, because
she eats meat not prepared in the orthodox Hebrew manner, and because
she has strayed from the family and the great Hebrew church.

As a usual thing--and this happened often--Zociya the housekeeper would
walk up to him under cover of the hubbub and would say, twisting her
lips:

"Well, what are you sitting there for mister? Warming your behind? You
might go and pass the time with the young lady."

Both of them, the Jew and the Jewess, were by birth from Homel, and
must have been created by God himself for a tender, passionate, mutual
love; but many circumstances--as, for example, the pogrom which took
place in their town, impoverishment, a complete confusion, fright--had
for a time parted them. However, love was so great that the junior drug
clerk Neiman, with great difficulty, efforts, and humiliations,
contrived to find for himself the place of a junior in one of the local
pharmacies, and had searched out the girl he loved. He was a real,
orthodox Hebrew, almost fanatical. He knew that Sonka had been sold by
her very mother to one of the buyers-up of live merchandise, knew many
humiliating, hideous particulars of how she had been resold from hand
to hand, and his pious, fastidious, truly Hebraic soul writhed and
shuddered at these thoughts, but nevertheless love was above all. And
every evening he would appear in the drawing room of Anna Markovna. If
he was successful, at an enormous deprivation, in cutting out of his
beggarly income some chance rouble, he would take Sonka into her room,
but this was not at all a joy either for him or for her: after a
momentary happiness--the physical possession of each other--they cried,
reproached each other, quarreled with characteristic Hebraic,
theatrical gestures, and always after these visits Sonka the Rudder
would return into the drawing room with swollen, reddened eyelids.

But most frequently of all he had no money, and would sit whole
evenings through near his mistress, patiently and jealously awaiting
her when Sonka through chance was taken by some guest. And when she
would return and sit down beside him, he would, without being
perceived, overwhelm her with reproaches, trying not to turn the
general attention upon himself and without turning his head in her
direction. And in her splendid, humid, Hebraic eyes during these
conversations there was always a martyr-like but meek expression.

There arrived a large company of Germans, employed in an optical shop;
there also arrived a party of clerks from the fish and gastronomical
store of Kereshkovsky, and two young people very well known in the
Yamas--both bald, with sparse, soft, delicate hairs around the bald
spots: Nicky the Book-keeper and Mishka the Singer--so were they both
called in the houses. They also were met very cordially, just like Karl
Karlovich of the optical shop and Volodka of the fish store--with
raptures, cries and kisses, flattering to their self-esteem. The spry
Niurka would jump out into the foyer, and, having informed herself as
to who had come, would report excitedly, after her wont:

    "Jennka, your husband has come!"

Or:

    "Little Manka, your lover has come!"

And Mishka the Singer, who was no singer at all, but the owner of a
drug warehouse, at once, upon entering, sang out in a vibrating,
quavering, goatish voice:

    "They fe-e-e-l the tru-u-u-u-uth!
    Come thou daw-aw-aw-aw-ning..."

which he perpetrated at every visit of his to Anna Markovna.

Almost incessantly they played the quadrille, waltz, polka, and danced.
There also arrived Senka--the lover of Tamara--but, contrary to his
wont, he did not put on airs, did not go in for "ruination," did not
order a funeral march from Isaiah Savvich, and did not treat the girls
to chocolate ... For some reason he was gloomy, limped on his right
leg, and sought to attract as little attention as possible--probably
his professional affairs were at this time in a bad way. With a single
motion of his head, while walking, he called Tamara out of the drawing
room and vanished with her into her room. And there also arrived
Egmont-Lavretzki the actor, clean-shaven, tall, resembling a court
flunky with his vulgar and insolently contemptuous face.

The clerks from the gastronomical store danced with all the ardour of
youth and with all the decorum recommended by Herman Hoppe, the
self-instructor of good manners. In this regard the girls also
responded to their intentions. Both with these and with the others it
was accounted especially decorous and well-bred to dance as rigidly as
possible, keeping the arms hanging down, while the heads were raised
high and inclined to one side with a certain proud, and, at the same
time, tired and enervated air. In the intermissions, between the
figures of the dance, it was necessary to fan one's self with a
handkerchief, with a bored and negligent air ... In a word, they all
made believe that they belonged to the choicest society, and that if
they do dance, they only do it out of condescension, as a little
comradely turn. But still they danced so ardently that the perspiration
rolled down in streams from the clerks of Kereshkovsky.

Two or three rows had already happened in different houses. Some man,
all in blood, whose face in the pale light of the moon's crescent
seemed black from the blood, was running around in the street, cursing,
and, without paying the least attention to his wounds, was searching
for his cap which had been lost in the brawl. On Little Yamskaya some
government scribes had had a fight with a ship's company. The tired
pianists and musicians played as in a delirium, in a doze, through
mechanical habit. This was towards the waning of the night.

Altogether unexpectedly, seven students, a sub-professor, and a local
reporter walked into the establishment of Anna Markovna.



CHAPTER VIII.


They had all, except the reporter, passed the whole day together, from
the very morning, celebrating May Day with some young women of their
acquaintance. They had rowed in boats on the Dnieper, had cooked field
porridge on the other side of the river, in the thick, bitter-smelling
underbrush; had bathed--men and women by turns--in the rapid, warm
water; had drunk home-made spiced brandy, sung sonorous songs of Little
Russia, and had returned to town only late in the evening, when the
dark, broad, running river so eerily and merrily plashed against the
sides of their boats, playing with the reflections of the stars, the
silvery shimmering paths of the electric lamps, and the bowing lights
of the can-buoys. And when they had stepped out on the shore, the palms
of each burned from the oars, the muscles of the arms and legs ached
pleasantly, and suffusing the whole body was a blissful, healthy
fatigue.

Then they had escorted the young women to their homes and at the
garden-gates and entrances had taken leave of them long and cordially,
with laughter and with such swinging hand-shakes as if they were
working the lever of a pump.

The whole day had passed in gaiety and noise, even a trifle
clamorously, and just the least wee bit tiresomely, but with youth-like
continence; without intoxication, and, which happens especially rarely,
without the least shadow of mutual affronts, or jealousy, or unvoiced
mortifications. Of course, such a benign mood had been helped by the
sun, the fresh river breeze, the sweet exhalations of the grasses and
the water, the joyous sensation of the strength and alertness of one's
body while bathing and rowing, and the restraining influence of the
clever, kind, pure and handsome girls from families they were
acquainted with. But, almost without the knowledge of their
consciousness, their sensuousness--not imagination, but the simple,
healthy, instinctive sensuousness of young playful males--kindled from
chance encounters of their hands with feminine hands and from comradely
obliging embraces, when the occasion arose to help the young ladies
enter a boat or jump out on shore; from the tender odour of maiden
apparel, warmed by the sun; from the feminine cries of coquettish
fright on the river; from the sight of feminine figures, negligently
half-reclining with a naive immodesty on the green grass around the
samovar--from all these innocent liberties, which are so usual and
unavoidable on picnics, country outings and river excursions, when
within man, in the infinite depth of his soul, secretly awakens from
the care-free contact with earth, grasses, water and sun, the
beast-ancient, splendid, free, but disfigured and intimidated of men.

And for that reason, at two o'clock in the night, when THE SPARROWS, a
cozy students' restaurant, had barely closed, and all the eight,
excited by alcohol and the plentiful food, had come out of the smoky,
fumy underground place into the street, into the sweet, disquieting
darkness of the night, with its beckoning fires in the sky and on the
earth, with its warm, heady air, from which the nostrils dilate avidly,
with its aromas, gliding from unseen gardens and flower-beds,--the head
of each one of them was aflame and the heart quietly and languishingly
yearning from vague desires. It was joyous and arrogant to sense after
the rest the new, fresh strength in all the sinews, the deep breathing
of the lungs, the red, resilient blood in the veins, the supple
obedience of all the members. And--without words, without thoughts,
without consciousness--one was drawn on this night to be running
without raiment in the somnolent forest, to be sniffing hurriedly the
tracks of some one's feet on the dewy grass, with a loud call to be
summoning a female unto one's self.

But to separate was now very difficult. The whole day, passed together,
had shaken them into an accustomed, tenacious herd. It seemed that if
even one were to go away from the company, a certain attained
equilibrium would be disturbed and could not be restored afterwards.
And so they dallied and stamped upon the sidewalk, near the exit of the
tavern's underground vault, interfering with the progress of the
infrequent passers-by. They discussed hypocritically where else they
might go to wind up the night. It proved to be too far to the Tivoli
Garden, and in addition to that one also had to pay for admission
tickets, and the prices in the buffet were outrageous, and the program
had ended long ago. Volodya Pavlov proposed going to him--he had a
dozen of beer and a little cognac home. But it seemed a bore to all of
them to go in the middle of the night to a family apartment, to enter
on tiptoes up the stairs and to talk in whispers all the time.

"Tell you what, brethren ... Let's better ride to the girlies, that
will be nearer the mark," said peremptorily Lichonin, an old student, a
tall, stooping, morose and bearded fellow. By convictions he was an
anarchist--theoretic, but by avocation a passionate gambler at
billiards, races and cards--a gambler with a very broad, fatalistic
sweep. Only the day before he had won a thousand roubles at macao in
the Merchants' Club, and this money was still burning a hole in his
pockets.

"And why not? Right-o!" somebody sustained him. "Let's go, comrades?"

"Is it worth while? Why, this is an all night affair ..." spoke another
with a false prudence and an insincere fatigue.

And a third said through a feigned yawn:

"Let's better go home, gentlemen ... a-a-a ... go bye-bye ... That's
enough for to-day."

"You won't work any wonders when you're asleep," Lichonin remarked
sneeringly. "Herr professor, are you coming?"

But the sub-professor Yarchenko was obstinate and seemed really
angered, although, perhaps, he himself did not know what was lurking
within him, in some dark cranny of his soul.

"Leave me in peace, Lichonin. As I see it, gentlemen, this is downright
and plain swinishness--that which you are about to do. We have passed
the time so wonderfully, amiably and simply, it seems,--but no, you
needs must, like drunken cattle, clamber into a cesspool. I won't go."

"Still, if my memory does not play me false," said Lichonin, with calm
causticity, "I recollect that no further back than past autumn we with
a certain future Mommsen were pouring in some place or other a jug of
ice into a pianoforte, delineating a Bouratian god, dancing the
belly-dance, and all that sort of thing?"

Lichonin spoke the truth. In his student days, and later, being
retained at the university, Yarchenko had led the most wanton and
crack-brained life. In all the taverns, cabarets, and other places of
amusement his small, fat, roundish little figure, his rosy cheeks,
puffed out like those of a painted cupid, and the shining, humid kindly
eyes were well known, his hurried, spluttering speech and shrill
laughter remembered.

His comrades could never fathom where he found the time to employ in
study, but nevertheless he went through all examinations and prescribed
work with distinction and from the first course the professors had him
in view. Now Yarchenko was beginning little by little to quit his
former comrades and bottle companions. He had just established the
indispensable connections with the professorial circle; the reading of
lectures in Roman history for the coming year had been offered him, and
not infrequently in conversation he would use the expression current
among the sub-professors: "We, the learned ones!" The student
familiarity, the compulsory companionship, the obligatory participation
in all meetings, protests and demonstrations, were becoming
disadvantageous to him, embarrassing, and even simply tedious. But he
knew the value of popularity among the younger element, and for that
reason could not decide to sever relations abruptly with his former
circle. Lichonin's words, however, provoked him.

"Oh, my God, what does it matter what we did when we were youngsters?
We stole sugar, soiled our panties, tore the wings off beetles,"
Yarchenko began to speak, growing heated, and spluttering. "But there
is a limit and a mean to all this. I, gentlemen, do not presume, of
course, to give you counsels and to teach you, but one must be
consistent. We are all agreed that prostitution is one of the greatest
calamities of humanity, and are also agreed, that in this evil not the
women are guilty, but we, men, because the demand gives birth to the
offer. And therefore if, having drunk a glass of wine too much, I
still, notwithstanding my convictions, go to the prostitutes, I am
committing a triple vileness: before the unfortunate, foolish woman,
whom I subject to the most degrading form of slavery for my filthy
rouble; before humanity, because, hiring a public woman for an hour or
two for my abominable lust, I through this justify and uphold
prostitution; and finally, this is a vileness before one's own
conscience and mind. And before logic."

"Phew-ew!" Lichonin let out a long-drawn whistle and chanted in a thin,
dismal voice, nodding in time with his head hanging down to one side:
"The philosopher is off on our usual stuff: 'A rope--is a common cord.'"

"Of course, there's nothing easier than to play the tom-fool,"
responded Yarchenko. "But in my opinion there is not in the sorrowful
life of Russia a more mournful phenomenon than this lackadaisicalness
and vitiation of thought. To-day we will say to ourselves: Eh! It's all
the same, whether I go to a brothel or whether I do not go, from this
one time things will get neither worse nor better. And after five years
we will be saying: Undoubtedly a bribe is a horribly nasty bit of
business, but you know--children ... the family ... And just the same
way after ten years we, having remained fortuitous Russian liberals,
will be sighing about personal freedom and bowing low before worthless
scoundrels, whom we despise, and will be cooling our heels in their
ante-rooms. 'Because, don't you know,' we will say, tittering, 'when
you live with wolves, you must howl like a wolf.' By God, it wasn't in
vain that some minister called the Russian students future head-clerks!"

"Or professors," Lichonin put in.

"But most important of all," continued Yarchenko, letting this pointed
remark pass by, "most important of all is this, that I have seen all of
you to-day on the river and afterwards there ... on the other shore ...
with these charming, fine girls. How attentive, well-bred, obliging you
all were--but scarcely have you taken leave of them, when you are drawn
to public women. Let each one of you imagine for a moment, that we all
had been visiting his sisters and straight from them had driven to Yama
... What? Is such a supposition pleasant?"

"Yes, but there must exist some valves for the passions of society,"
pompously remarked Boris Sobashnikov, a tall, somewhat supercilious and
affected young man, upon whom the short, white summer uniform jacket,
which scarcely covered his fat posteriors, the modish trousers, of a
military cut, the PINCE-NEZ on a broad, black ribbon, and a cap after a
Prussian model, all bestowed the air of a coxcomb. "Surely, it isn't
more respectable to enjoy the caresses of your chambermaid, or to carry
on an intrigue on the side with another man's wife? What am I to do if
woman is indispensable to me!"

"Eh, very indispensable indeed!" said Yarchenko with vexation and
feebly made a despondent gesture.

But here a student who was called Ramses in the friendly coterie
intervened. This was a yellowish-swarthy, hump-nosed man of small
stature; his clean-shaven face seemed triangular, thanks to a broad
forehead, beginning to get bald, with two wedge-like bald spots at the
temples, fallen-in cheeks and a sharp chin. He led a mode of life
sufficiently queer for a student. While his colleagues employed
themselves by turns with politics, love, the theatre, and a little in
study, Ramses had withdrawn entirely into the study of all conceivable
suits and claims, into the chicane subtleties of property, hereditary,
land and other business law-suits, into the memorizing and logical
analysis of quashed decisions. Perfectly of his own will, without in
the least needing the money, he served for a year as a clerk at a
notary's for another as a secretary to a justice of the peace, while
all of the past year, being in the last term, he had conducted in a
local newspaper the reports of the city council and had borne the
modest duty of an assistant to a secretary in the management of a
syndicate of sugar manufacturers. And when this same syndicate
commenced the well-known suit against one of its members, Colonel
Baskakov, who had put up the surplus sugar for sale contrary to
agreement, Ramses from the very beginning guessed beforehand and very
subtly engineered, precisely that decision which the senate
subsequently handed down in this suit.

Despite his comparative youth, rather well-known jurists gave heed to
his opinions--true, a little loftily. None of those who knew Ramses
closely doubted that he would make a brilliant career, and even Ramses
himself did not conceal his confidence in that toward thirty-five he
would knock together a million, exclusively through his practice as a
civil lawyer. His comrades not infrequently elected him chairman of
meetings and head of the class, but this honour Ramses invariably
declined, excusing himself with lack of time. But still he did not
avoid participation in his comrades' trials by arbitration, and his
arguments--always incontrovertibly logical--were possessed of an
amazing virtue in ending the trials with peace, to the mutual
satisfaction of the litigating parties. He, as well as Yarchenko, knew
well the value of popularity among the studying youths, and even if he
did look upon people with a certain contempt, from above, still he
never, by as much as a single movement of his thin, clever, energetical
lips, showed this.

"Well, Gavrila Petrovich, no one is necessarily dragging you into
committing a fall from grace," said Ramses in a conciliatory manner,
"What is all this pathos and melancholy for, when the matter as it
stands is altogether simple? A company of young Russian gentlemen
wishes to pass the remnant of the night modestly and amicably, to make
merry, to sing a little, and to take internally several gallons of wine
and beer. But everything is closed now, except these very same houses.
ERGO! ..."

"Consequently, we will go merry-making to women who are for sale? To
prostitutes? Into a brothel?" Yarchenko interrupted him, mockingly and
inimically.

"And even so? A certain philosopher, whom it was desired to humiliate,
was given a seat at dinner near the musicians. But he, sitting down,
said: 'Here is a sure means of making the last place the first.' And
finally I repeat: If your conscience does not allow you, as you express
yourself, to buy a woman, then you can go there and come away,
preserving your innocence in all its blossoming inviolability."

"You overdo it, Ramses," objected Yarchenko with displeasure. "You
remind me of those bourgeois, who, while it is still dark, have
gathered to gape at an execution and who say: we have nothing to do
with this, we are against capital punishment, this is all the
prosecuting attorney's and the executioner's doing."

"Superbly said and partly true, Gavrila Petrovich. But to us,
precisely, this comparison may not even apply. One cannot, you see,
treat some malignant disease while absent, without seeing the sufferer
in person. And yet all of us, who are now standing here in the street
and interfering with the passers-by, will be obliged at some time in
our work to run up against the terrible problem of prostitution, and
what a prostitution at that--the Russian! Lichonin, I, Borya
Sobashnikov and Pavlov as jurists, Petrovsky and Tolpygin as medicos.
True, Veltman has a distinct specialty--mathematics. But then, he will
be a pedagogue, a guide of youth, and, deuce take it, even a father!
And if you are going to scare with a bugaboo, it is best to look upon
it one's self first. And finally, you yourself, Gavrila
Petrovich--expert of dead languages and future luminary of grave
digging--is the comparison, then, of the contemporary brothels, say,
with some Pompeian lupanaria, or the institution of sacred prostitution
in Thebes and Nineveh, not important and instructive to you? ..."

"Bravo, Ramses, magnificent!" roared Lichonin. "And what's there to
talk so much about, fellows? Take the professor under the gills and put
him in a cab!"

The students, laughing and jostling, surrounded Yarchenko, seized him
under the arms, caught him around the waist. All of them were equally
drawn to the women, but none, save Lichonin, had enough courage to take
the initiative upon himself. But now all this complicated, unpleasant
and hypocritical business was happily resolved into a simple, easy joke
upon the older comrade. Yarchenko resisted, and was angry, and
laughing, trying to break away. But at this moment a tall,
black-moustached policeman, who had long been eyeing them keenly and
inimically, walked up to the uproarious students.

"I'd ask you stewdent gents not to congregate. It's not allowed! Keep
on going!"

They moved on in a throng. Yarchenka was beginning to soften little by
little.

"Gentlemen, I am ready to go with you, if you like ... Do not think,
however, that the sophistries of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses have
convinced me ... No, I simply would be sorry to break up the party ...
But I make one stipulation: we will drink a little there, gab a little,
laugh a little, and so forth ... but let there be nothing more, no
filth of any kind ... It is shameful and painful to think that we, the
flower and glory--of the Russian intelligentzia, will go all to pieces
and let our mouths water at the sight of the first skirt that comes our
way."

"I swear it!" said Lichonin, putting up his hand.

"I can vouch for myself," said Ramses.

"And I! And I! By God, gentlemen, let's pledge our words ... Yarchenko
is right," others took up.

They seated themselves in twos and threes in the cabs--the drivers of
which had been long since following them in a file, grinning and
cursing each other--and rode off. Lichonin, for the sake of assurance,
sat down beside the sub-professor, having embraced him around the waist
and seated him on his knees and those of his neighbour, the little
Tolpygin, a rosy, pleasant-faced boy on whose face, despite his
twenty-three years, the childish white down--soft and light--still
showed.

"The station is at Doroshenko's!" called out Lichonin after the cabbies
driving off. "The stop is at Doroshenko's," he repeated, turning around.

They all stopped at Doroshenko's restaurant, entered the general room,
and crowded about the bar. All were satiated and no one wanted either
to drink or to have a bite. But in the soul of each one still remained
a dark trace of the consciousness that right now they were getting
ready to commit something needlessly shameful, getting ready to take
part in some convulsive, artificial, and not at all a merry merriment.
And in each one was the yearning to bring himself through intoxication
to that misty and rainbow condition when nothing makes any difference,
and when the head does not know what the arms and legs are doing, and
what the tongue is babbling. And, probably, not the students alone, but
all the casual and constant visitors of Yama experienced in greater or
lesser degree the friction of this inner psychic heart-sore, because
Doroshenko did business only late in the evening and night, and no one
lingered long in his place but only turned in in passing, half-way on
the journey.

While the students were drinking cognac, beer and vodka, Ramses was
constantly and intently looking into the farthest corner of the
restaurant hall, where two men were sitting--a tattered, gray, big old
man, and, opposite him, his back to the bar, with his elbows spread out
upon the table and his chin resting on the fists folded upon each
other, some hunched up, stout, closely-propped gentleman in a gray
suit. The old man was picking upon a dulcimer lying before him and
quietly singing, in a hoarse but pleasing voice:

     "Oh my valley, my little valley,
     Bro-o-o-o-o-oad land of plenty."

"Excuse me, but that is a co-worker of ours," said Ramses, and went to
greet the gentleman in the gray suit. After a minute he led him up to
the bar and introduced him to his comrades.

"Gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you my companion in arms in the
newspaper game, Sergei Ivanovich Platonov. The laziest and most
talented of newspaper workers."

They all introduced themselves, indistinctly muttering out their names.

"And therefore, let's have a drink," said Uchonin, while Yarchenko
asked with the refined amiability which never forsook him:

"Pardon me, pardon me, but I am acquainted with you a little, even
though not personally. Weren't you in the university when Professor
Priklonsky defended the doctor's dissertation?"

"It was I," answered the reporter.

"Ah, that's very nice," smiled Yarchenko charmingly, and for some
reason once more pressed Platonov's hand vigorously. "I read your
report afterwards: very exactly, circumstantially and skillfully put
together ... Won't you favor me? ... To your health!"

"Then allow me, too," said Platonov. "Onuphriy Zakharich, pour out for
us again ... one ... two, three, four ... nine glasses of cognac..."

"Oh no, you can't do that ... you are our guest, colleague,"
remonstrated Lichonin.

"Well, now, what sort of colleague am I to you?" good-naturedly laughed
the reporter. "I was only in the first class and then only for half a
year--as an unmatriculated student. Here you are, Onuphriy Zakharich.
Gentlemen, I beg you..."

The upshot of it was that after half an hour Lichonin and Yarchenko did
not under any consideration want to part with the reporter and dragged
him with them to Yama. However, he did not resist.

"If I am not a burden to you, I would be very glad," he said simply.
"All the more since I have easy money to-day. THE DNIEPER WORD has paid
me an honorarium, and this is just as much of a miracle as winning two
hundred thousand on a check from a theatre coat room. Pardon me, I'll
be right back..."

He walked up to the old man with whom he had been sitting before,
shoved some money into his hand, and gently took leave of him.

"Where I'm going, grandpa, there you mustn't go--to-morrow we will meet
in the same place as to-day. Good-bye!"

They all walked out of the restaurant. At the door Borya Sobashnikov,
always a little finical and unnecessarily supercilious, stopped
Lichonin and called him to one side.

"I'm surprised at you, Lichonin," he said squeamishly. "We have
gathered together in our own close company, yet you must needs drag in
some vagabond. The devil knows who he is!"

"Quit that, Borya," answered Lichonin amicably. "He's a warm-hearted
fellow."



CHAPTER IX.


"Well now, gentlemen, this isn't fit for pigs," Yarchenko was saying,
grumblingly, at the entrance of Anna Markovna's establishment. "If we
finally have gone, we might at least have chosen a decent place, and
not some wretched hole. Really, gentlemen, let's better go to Treppel's
alongside; there it's clean and light, at any rate."

"If you please, if you please, signior," insisted Lichonin, opening the
door before the sub-professor with courtly urbanity, bowing and
spreading his arms before him. "If you please."

"But this is an abomination ... At Treppel's the women are
better-looking, at least."

Ramses, walking behind, burst into dry laughter.

"So, so, Gavrila Petrovich. Let us continue in the same spirit. Let us
condemn the hungry, petty thief who has stolen a five-kopeck loaf out
of a tray, but if the director of a bank has squandered somebody else's
million on race horses and cigars, let us mitigate his lot."

"Pardon me, but I do not understand this comparison," answered
Yarchenko with restraint. "However, it's all the same to me; let's go."

"And all the more so," said Lichonin, letting the subprofessor pass
ahead; "all the more so, since this house guards within it so many
historical traditions. Comrades! Decades of student generations gaze
upon us from the heights of the coat-hooks, and, besides that, through
the power of the usual right, children and students pay half here, as
in a panopticon. Isn't that so, citizen Simeon?"

Simeon did not like to have people come in large parties--this always
smacked of scandal in the not distant future; moreover, he despised
students in general for their speech, but little comprehensible to him,
for their propensity towards frivolous jokes, for their godlessness,
and chiefly because they were in constant revolt against officialdom
and order. It was not in vain that on the day when on the Bessarabian
Square the cossacks, meat-sellers, flour dealers and fish mongers were
massacring the students, Simeon having scarce found it out had jumped
into a fine carriage passing by, and, standing just like a chief of
police in the victoria, tore off to the scene of the fray in order to
take part in it. He esteemed people who were sedate, stout and elderly,
who came singly, in secret, peeped in cautiously from the ante-room
into the drawing room, fearing to meet with acquaintances, and very
soon and with great haste went away, tipping him generously. Such he
always styled "Your Excellency."

And so, while taking the light grey overcoat off Yarchenko, he sombrely
and with much significance snarled back in answer to Lichonin's banter:

"I am no citizen here, but the bouncer."

"Upon which I have the honour to congratulate you," answered Lichonin
with a polite bow.

There were many people in the drawing room. The clerks, having danced
their fill, were sitting, red and wet, near their ladies, rapidly
fanning themselves with their handkerchiefs; they smelt strongly of old
goats' wool. Mishka the Singer and his friend the Book-keeper, both
bald, with soft, downy hairs around the denuded skulls, both with
turbid, nacreous, intoxicated eyes, were sitting opposite each other,
leaning with their elbows on a little marble table, and were constantly
trying to start singing in unison with such quavering and galloping
voices as though some one was very, very often striking them in the
cervical vertebrae:

    "They fe-e-e-l the tru-u-u-u-uth!"

while Emma Edwardovna and Zociya with all their might were exhorting
them not to behave indecently. Roly-Poly was peacefully slumbering on a
chair, his head hanging down, having laid one long leg over the other
and grasped the sharp knee with his clasped hands.

The girls at once recognized some of the students and ran to meet them.

"Tamarochka, your husband has come--Volodenka. And my husband
too!--Mishka!" cried Niura piercingly, hanging herself on the neck of
the lanky, big-nosed, solemn Petrovsky. "Hello, Mishenka. Why haven't
you come for so long? I grew weary of waiting for you."

Yarchenko with a feeling of awkwardness was looking about him on all
sides.

"We'd like to have in some way ... don't you know ... a little private
room," he said with delicacy to Emma Edwardovna who had approached.
"And give us some sort of red wine, please ... And then, some coffee as
well ... You know yourself."

Yarchenko always instilled confidence in servants and MAITRES D'HOTEL,
with his dashing clothes and polite but seigniorial ways. Emma
Edwardovna started nodding her head willingly, just like an old, fat
circus horse.

"It can be done ... it can be done ... Pass this way, gentlemen, into
the parlor. It can be done, it can be done ... What liqueur? We have
only Benedictine ... Benedictine, then? It can be done, it can be done
... And will you allow the young ladies to come in?"

"Well, if that is so indispensable?" Yarchenko spread out his hands
with a sigh.

And at once the girls one after the other straggled into the parlor
with its gray plush furniture and blue lantern. They entered, extended
to every one in turn their unbending palms, unused to hand-clasps, gave
their names abruptly in a low voice--Manya, Katie, Liuba ... They sat
down on somebody's knees, embraced him around the neck, and, as usual,
began to importune:

"Little student, you're such a little good-looker. May I ask for
oranzes?"

"Volodenka, buy me some candy! All right?"

"And me chocolate!"

"Fatty," Vera, dressed as a jockey, wheedled the sub-professor,
clambering up on his knees, "I have a friend, only she's sick and can't
come out into the drawing room. I'll carry her some apples and
chocolate. Will you let me?"

"Well, now, those are all just stories about a friend! But above all,
don't be thrusting your tenderness at me. Sit as smart children sit,
right here alongside, on the arm chair, just so. And fold your little
hands."

"Ah, but what if I can't!" writhed Vera in coquetry, rolling her eyes
up under her upper lids ... "When you are so nice."

But Lichonin, in answer to this professional beggary, only nodded his
head gravely and good-naturedly, just like Emma Edwardovna, and
repeated over and over again, mimicking her German accent:

"Itt can pe done, itt can pe done, itt can pe done..."

"Then I will tell the waiter, honey, to carry my friend some sweets and
apples?" pestered Vera.

Such importunity entered the round of their tacit duties. There even
existed among the girls some captious, childish, strange rivalry as to
the ability to "ease a guest of his money"--strange enough because they
did not derive any profit out of this, unless, indeed, a certain
affection from the housekeeper or a word of approbation from the
proprietress. But in their petty, monotonous, habitually frivolous life
there was, in general, a great deal of semi-puerile, semi-hysterical
play.

Simeon brought a coffee pot, cups, a squatty bottle of Benedictine,
fruits and bon-bons in glass vases, and gaily and easily began making
the corks of the beer and wine pop.

"But why don't you drink?" Yarchenko turned to the reporter Platonov.
"Allow me ... I do not mistake? Sergei Ivanovich, I believe?"

"Right."

"Allow me to offer you a cup of coffee, Sergei Ivanovich. It's
refreshing. Or perhaps, let's drink this same dubious Lafitte?"

"No, you really must allow me to refuse. I have a drink of my own ...
Simeon, give me..."

"Cognac!" cried out Niura hurriedly.

"And with a pear!" Little White Manka caught up just as fast.

"I heard you, Sergei Ivanich--right away," unhurriedly but respectfully
responded Simeon, and, bending down and letting out a grunt,
resoundingly drew the cork out of the neck of the bottle.

"It's the first time I hear of cognac being served in Yama," uttered
Lichonin with amazement. "No matter how much I asked, they always
refused me."

"Perhaps Sergei Ivanich knows some sort of magic word," jested Ramses.

"Or is held here in an especially honoured state?" Boris Sobashnikov
put in pointedly, with emphasis.

The reporter listlessly, without turning his head, looked askance at
Sobashnikov, at the lower row of buttons on his short, foppish, white
summer uniform jacket, and answered with a drawl:

"There is nothing honourable in that I can drink like a horse and never
get drunk; but then, I also do not quarrel with anyone or pick upon
anybody. Evidently, these good sides of my character are sufficiently
known here, and because of that confidence is shown me."

"Good for you, old fellow!" joyously exclaimed Lichonin, who was
delighted by a certain peculiar, indolent negligence--of few words, yet
at the same time self-confident--in the reporter. "Will you share the
cognac with me also?"

"Very, very gladly," affably answered Platonov and suddenly looked at
Lichonin with a radiant, almost child-like smile, which beautified his
plain face with the prominent cheek-bones. "You, too, appealed to me
from the first. And even when I saw you there, at Doroshenko's, I at
once thought that you are not at all as rough as you seem."

"Well, now, we have exchanged pleasantries," laughed Lichonin. "But
it's amazing that we haven't met once just here. Evidently, you come to
Anna Markovna's quite frequently?"

"Even too much so."

"Sergei Ivanich is our most important guest!" naively shrieked Niura.
"Sergei Ivanich is a sort of brother among us!"

"Fool!" Tamara stopped her.

"That seems strange to me," continued Lichonin. "I, too, am a habitue.
In any case, one can only envy everybody's cordiality toward you."

"The local chieftain!" said Boris Sobashnikov, curling his lips
downward, but said it so low that Platanov, if he chose to, could
pretend that he had not heard anything distinctly. This reporter had
for long aroused in Boris some blind and prickling irritation. That he
was not one of his own herd really meant nothing. But Boris, like many
students (and also officers, junkers, and high-school boys) had grown
accustomed to the fact that the outside "civilian" people, who
accidentally fell into a company of students on a spree, should hold
themselves somewhat subordinately and with servility in it, flatter the
studying youths, be struck with its daring, laugh at its jokes, admire
its self-admiration, recall their own student years with a sigh of
suppressed envy. But in Platonov there not only was none of this
customary wagging of the tail before youth, but, on the contrary, there
was to be felt a certain abstracted, calm and polite indifference.

Besides that, Sobashnikov was angered--and angered with a petty,
jealous vexation--by that simple and yet anticipatory attention which
was shown to the reporter by everybody in the establishment, beginning
with the porter and ending with the fleshy, taciturn Katie. This
attention was shown in the way he was listened to, in that triumphal
carefulness with which Tamara filled his glass, and in the way Little
White Manka pared a pear for him solicitously, and in the delight of
Zoe, who had caught the case skillfully thrown to her across the table
by the reporter, when she had vainly asked for a cigarette from her two
neighbors, who were lost in conversation; and in the way none of the
girls begged either chocolate or fruits from him, in the lively
gratitude for his little services and his treating. "Pimp!" Sobashkinov
had almost decided mentally with malice, but did not believe it even
himself--the reporter was altogether too homely and too carelessly
dressed, and moreover he bore himself with great dignity.

Platonov again made believe that he had not heard the insolent remark
made by the student. He only nervously crumpled a napkin in his fingers
and lightly threw it aside from him. And again his eyelids quivered in
the direction of Boris Sobashnikov.

"Yes, true, I am one of the family here," he continued calmly, moving
his glass in slow circles on the table. "Just think, I dined in this
very house, day after day, for exactly four months."

"No? Seriously?" Yarchenko wondered and laughed.

"In all seriousness. The table here isn't at all bad, by the way. The
food is filling and savory, although exceedingly greasy."

"But how did you ever..."

"Why, just because I was tutoring for high school a daughter of Anna
Markovna, the lady of this hospitable house. Well, I stipulated that
part of my monthly pay should be deducted for my dinners."

"What a strange fancy!" said Yarchenko. "And did you do this of your
own will? Or ... Pardon me, I am afraid of seeming indiscreet to you
... Perhaps at that time ... extreme necessity? ..."

"Not at all. Anna Markovna soaked me three times as much as it would
have cost in a student's dining room. I simply wanted to live here a
while on a somewhat nearer, closer footing, to enter intimately into
this little world, so to speak."

"A-ah! It seems I am beginning to understand!" beamed Yarchenko. "Our
new friend--pardon me for the little familiarity--is, apparently,
gathering material from life? And, perhaps, in a few years we will have
the pleasure of reading ..."

"A t-r-ragedy out of a brothel!" Boris Sobashnikov put in loudly, like
an actor.

While the reporter had been answering Yarchenko, Tamara quietly got up
from her place, walked around the table, and, bending down over
Sobashnikov, spoke in a whisper in his ear:

"Dearie, sweetie, you'd better not touch this gentleman. Honest to God,
it will be better for you, even."

"Wass that?" the student looked at her superciliously, fixing his
PINCE-NEZ with two spread fingers. "Is he your lover? Your pimp?"

"I swear by anything you want that not once in his life has he stayed
with any one of us. But, I repeat, don't pick on him."

"Why, yes! Why, of course!" retorted Sobashnikov, grimacing scornfully.
"He has such a splendid defense as the entire brothel. And it's a sure
thing that all the bouncers on Yamskaya are his near friends and
cronies."

"No, not that," retorted Tamara in a kind whisper. "Only he'll take you
by the collar and throw you out of the window, like a puppy. I've
already seen such an aerial flight. God forbid its happening to anyone.
It's disgraceful, and bad for the health."

"Get out of here, you filth!" yelled Sobashnikov, swinging his elbow at
her.

"I'm going, dearie," meekly answered Tamara, and walked away from him
with her light step.

Everybody for an instant turned toward the student.

"Behave yourself, barberry!" Lichonin threatened him with his finger.
"Well, well, go on," he begged the reporter; "all that you're saying is
so interesting."

"No, I'm not gathering anything," continued the reporter calmly and
seriously. "But the material here is in reality tremendous, downright
crushing, terrible ... And not at all terrible are the loud phrases
about the traffic in women's flesh, about the white slaves, about
prostitution being a corroding fester of large cities, and so on, and
so on ... an old hurdy-gurdy of which all have tired! No, horrible are
the everyday, accustomed trifles, these business-like, daily,
commercial reckonings, this thousand year old science of amatory
practice, this prosaic usage, determined by the ages. In these
unnoticeable nothings are completely dissolved such feelings as
resentment, humiliation, shame. There remains a dry profession, a
contract, an agreement, a well-nigh honest petty trade, no better, no
worse than, say, the trade in groceries. Do you understand, gentlemen,
that all the horror is in just this, that there is no horror! Bourgeois
work days--and that is all. And also an after taste of an exclusive
educational institution, with its NAIVETE, harshness, sentimentality
and imitativeness."

"That's right," confirmed Lichonin, while the reporter continued,
gazing pensively into his glass:

"We read in the papers, in leading articles, various wailings of
anxious souls. And the women-physicians are also endeavouring in this
matter, and endeavouring disgustingly enough. 'Oh, dear, regulation!
Oh, dear, abolition! Oh, dear, live merchandise! A condition of
slavery! The mesdames, these greedy haeterae! These heinous degenerates
of humanity, sucking the blood of prostitutes!' ... But with clamour
you will scare no one and will affect no one. You know, there's a
little saying: much cry, little wool. More awful than all awful
words--a hundredfold more awful--is some such little prosaic stroke or
other as will suddenly knock you all in a heap, like a blow on the
forehead. Take even Simeon, the porter here. It would seem, according
to you, there is no sinking lower--a bouncer in a brothel, a brute,
almost certainly a murderer, he plucks the prostitutes, gives them
"black eyes," to use a local expression--that is, just simply beats
them. But, do you know on what grounds he and I came together and
became friendly? On the magnificent details of the divine service of
the prelate, on the canon of the honest Andrew, pastor of Crete, on the
works of the most beatific father, John the Damascene. He is
religious--unusually so! I used to lead him on, and he would sing to me
with tears in his eyes: 'Come ye brethren, and we will give the last
kiss to him who has gone to his rest...' From the ritual of the burial
of laymen. No, just think: it is only in the Russian soul alone that
such contradictions may dwell together!"

"Yes. A fellow like that will pray, and pray, then cut a throat, and
then wash his hands and put a candle before an image," said Ramses.

"Just so. I know of nothing more uncanny than this fusion of fully
sincere devoutness with an innate leaning toward crime. Shall I confess
to you? I, when I talk all alone to Simeon--and we talk with each other
long and leisurely, for hours--I experience at moments a genuine
terror. A superstitious terror! Just as though, for instance, I am
standing in the dusk upon a shaking little board, bending over some
dark, malodorous well, and just barely distinguish how there, at the
bottom, reptiles are stirring. And yet, he is devout in a real way, and
I am sure will some time join the monks and will be a great faster and
sayer of prayers, and the devil knows how, in what monstrous fashion, a
real religious ecstasy will entwine in his soul with blasphemy, with
scoffing at sacred things, with some repulsive passion or other, with
sadism or something else of that nature!"

"However, you do not spare the object of your observations," said
Yarchenko, and carefully indicated the girls with his eyes.

"Eh, it's all the same. Our relations are cool now."

"How so?" asked Volodya Pavlov, who had caught the end of the
conversation.

"Just so ... It isn't even worth the telling..." smiled the reporter
evasively. "A trifle ... Let's have your glass here, Mr. Yarchenko."

But the precipitate Niura, who could never keep her tongue behind her
teeth, suddenly shot oat in rapid patter:

"It's because Sergei Ivanich gave him one in the snout ... On account
of Ninka. A certain old man came to Ninka ... And stayed for the night
... And Ninka had the flowers ... And the old man was torturing her all
the time ... So Ninka started crying and ran away."[6]


[6] The Russian expression is "the red flag."--TRANS.


"Drop it, Niura; it's boring," said Platonov with a wry face.

"Can it!" (leave off) ordered Tamara severely, in the jargon of houses
of prostitution.

But it was impossible to stop Niura, who had gotten a running start.

"But Ninka says: 'I,' she says, 'won't stay with him for anything,
though you cut me all to pieces ... He,' she says, 'has made me all wet
with his spit.' Well, the old man complained to the porter, to be sure,
and the porter starts in to beat up Ninka, to be sure. And Sergei
Ivanich at this time was writing for me a letter home, to the province,
and when he heard that Ninka was hollering..."

"Zoe, shut her mouth!" said Platonov.

"He just jumped up at once and ... app! ..." and Niura's torrent
instantly broke off, stopped up by Zoe's palm.

Everybody burst out laughing, only Boris Sobashnikov muttered under
cover of the noise with a contemptuous look:

"OH, CHEVALIER SANS PEUR ET SANS REPROCHE!"

He was already pretty far gone in drink, stood leaning against the
wall, in a provoking pose, and was nervously chewing a cigarette.

"Which Ninka is this?" asked Yarchenko with curiosity. "Is she here?"

"No, she isn't here. Such a small, pug-nosed little girl. Naive and
very angry." The reporter suddenly and sincerely burst into laughter.
"Excuse me ... It's just so ... over my thoughts," explained he through
laughter. "I recalled this old man very vividly just now, as he was
running along the corridor in fright, having grabbed his outer clothing
and shoes ... Such a respectable ancient, with the appearance of an
apostle, I even know where he serves. Why, all of you know him. But the
funniest of all was when he, at last, felt himself out of danger in the
drawing room. You understand--he is sitting on a chair, putting on his
pantaloons, can't put his foot where it ought to go, by any means, and
bawls all over the house: 'It's an outrage! This is an abominable dive!
I'll show you up! ... To-morrow I'll give you twenty-four hours to
clear out! ... Do you know, this combination of pitiful helplessness
with the threatening cries was so killing that even the gloomy Simeon
started laughing ... Well, now, apropos of Simeon ... I say, that life
dumfounds, with its wondrous muddle and farrago, makes one stand
aghast. You can utter a thousand sonorous words against souteneurs, but
just such a Simeon you will never think up. So diverse and motley is
life! Or else take Anna Markovna, the proprietress of this place. This
blood-sucker, hyena, vixen and so on ... is the tenderest mother
imaginable. She has one daughter--Bertha, she is now in the fifth grade
of high school. If you could only see how much careful attention, how
much tender care Anna Markovna expends that her daughter may not
somehow, accidentally, find out about her profession. And everything is
for Birdie, everything is for the sake of Birdie. And she herself dare
not even converse before her, is afraid of her lexicon of a bawd and an
erstwhile prostitute, looks into her eyes, holds herself servilely,
like an old servant, like a foolish, doting nurse, like an old,
faithful, mange-eaten poodle. It is long since time for her to retire
to rest, because she has money, and because her occupation is both
arduous and troublesome, and because her years are already venerable.
But no and no; one more extra thousand is needed, and then more and
more--everything for Birdie. And so Birdie has horses, Birdie has an
English governess, Birdie is every year taken abroad, Birdie has
diamonds worth forty thousand--the devil knows whose they are, these
diamonds? And it isn't that I am merely convinced, but I know well,
that for the happiness of this same Birdie, nay, not even for her
happiness, but, let us suppose that Birdie gets a hangnail on her
little finger--well then, in order that this hangnail might pass
away--imagine for a second the possibility of such a state of
things!--Anna Markovna, without the quiver of an eyelash, will sell
into corruption our sisters and daughters, will infect all of us and
our sons with syphilis. What? A monster, you will say? But I will say
that she is moved by the same grand, unreasoning, blind, egoistical
love for which we call our mothers sainted women."

"Go easy around the curves!" remarked Boris Sobashnikov through his
teeth.

"Pardon me: I was not comparing people, but merely generalizing on the
first source of emotion. I might have brought out as an example the
self-denying love of animal-mothers as well. But I see that I have
started on a tedious matter. Better let's drop it."

"No, you finish," protested Lichonin. "I feel that you have a massive
thought."

"And a very simple one. The other day a professor asked me if I am not
observing the life here with some literary aims. And all I wanted to
say was, that I can see, but precisely can not observe. Here I have
given you Simeon and the bawd for example. I do not know myself why,
but I feel that in them lurks some terrible, insuperable actuality of
life, but either to tell it, or to show it, I can not. Here is
necessary the great ability to take some picayune trifle, an
insignificant, paltry little stroke, and then will result a dreadful
truth, from which the reader, aghast, will forget that his mouth is
agape. People seek the terrible in words, in cries, in gestures. Well,
now, for example, I am reading a description of some pogrom or of a
slaughter in jail, or of a riot being put down. Of course, the
policemen are described, these servants of arbitrariness, these
lifeguards of contemporaneousness, striding up to their knees in blood,
or how else do they write in such cases? Of course, it is revolting and
it hurts, and is disgusting, but all this is felt by the mind, and not
the heart. But here I am walking along Lebyazhia Street, and see that a
crowd has collected, a girl of five years in the centre--she has lagged
behind the mother and has strayed, or it may be that the mother had
abandoned her. And before the girl, squatting down on his heels, is a
roundsman. He is interrogating her, how she is called, and where is she
from, and how do they call papa, and how do they call mamma. He has
broken out into sweat, the poor fellow, from the effort, the cap is at
the back of his neck, the whiskered face is such a kindly and woeful
and helpless one, while the voice is gentle, so gentle. At last, what
do you think? As the girl has become all excited, and has already grown
hoarse from tears, and is shy of everybody--he, this same 'roundsman on
the beat,' stretches out two of his black, calloused fingers, the index
and the little, and begins to imitate a nanny goat for the girl and
reciting an appropriate nursery rhyme! ... And so, when I looked upon
this charming scene and thought that half an hour later at the station
house this same patrolman will be beating with his feet the face and
chest of a man whom he had not till that time seen once, and whose
crime he is entirely ignorant of--then--you understand!--I began to
feel inexpressibly eerie and sad. Not with the mind, but the heart.
Such a devilish muddle is this life. Shall we drink some cognac,
Lichonin?"

"What do you say to calling each other thou?" suddenly proposed
Lichonin.

"All right. Only, really, without any of this business of kissing, now.
Here's to your health, old man ... Or here is another instance ... I
read a certain French classic, describing the thoughts and sensations
of a man condemned to capital punishment. He describes it all
sonorously, powerfully, brilliantly, but I read and ... well, there is
no impression of any sort; neither emotion nor indignation--just ENNUI.
But then, within the last few days I come across a brief newspaper
notice of a murderer's execution somewhere in France. The Procureur,
who was present at the last toilet of the criminal, sees that he is
putting on his shoes on his bare feet, and--the blockhead!--reminds
him: 'What about the socks?' But the other gives him a look and says,
sort of thoughtfully: 'Is it worth while?' Do you understand, these two
remarks, so very short, struck me like a blow on the skull! At once all
the horror and all the stupidity of unnatural death were revealed to me
... Or here is something else about death ... A certain friend of mine
died, a captain in the infantry--a drunkard, a vagabond, and the finest
soul in the world. For some reason we called him the Electrical
Captain. I was in the vicinity, and it fell to me to dress him for the
last parade. I took his uniform and began to attach the epaulettes to
it. There's a cord, you know, that's drawn through the shank of the
epaulette buttons, and after that the two ends of this cord are shoved
through two little holes under the collar, and on the inside--the
lining--are tied together. Well, I go through all this business, and
tie the cord with a slipknot, and, you know, the loop won't come out,
nohow--either it's too loosely tied, or else one end's too short. I am
fussing over this nonsense, and suddenly into my head comes the most
astonishingly simple thought, that it's far simpler and quicker to tie
it in a knot--for after all, it's all the same, NO ONE IS GOING TO
UNTIE IT. And immediately I felt death with all my being. Until that
time I had seen the captain's eyes, grown glassy, had felt his cold
forehead, and still somehow had not sensed death to the full, but I
thought of the knot--and I was all transpierced, and the simple and sad
realization of the irrevocable, inevitable perishing of all our words,
deeds, and sensations, of the perishing of all the apparent world,
seemed to bow me down to the earth ... And I could bring forward a
hundred such small but staggering trifles ... Even, say, about what
people experienced in the war ... But I want to lead my thought up to
one thing. We all pass by these characteristic trifles indifferently,
like the blind, as though not seeing them scattered about under our
feet. But an artist will come, and he will look over them carefully,
and he will pick them up. And suddenly he will so skillfully turn in
the sun a minute bit of life that we shall all cry out: 'Oh, my God!
But I myself--myself--have seen this with my own eyes. Only it simply
did not enter my head to turn my close attention upon it.' But our
Russian artists of the word--the most conscientious and sincere artists
in the whole world--for some reason have up to this time passed over
prostitution and the brothel. Why? Really, it is difficult for me to
answer that. Perhaps because of squeamishness, perhaps because of
pusillanimity, out of fear of being signalized as a pornographic
writer; finally, from the apprehension that our gossiping criticism
will identify the artistic work of the writer with his personal life
and will start rummaging in his dirty linen. Or perhaps they can find
neither the time, nor the self-denial, nor the self-possession to
plunge in head first into this life and to watch it right up close,
without prejudice, without sonorous phrases, without a sheepish pity,
in all its monstrous simplicity and every-day activity. Oh, what a
tremendous, staggering and truthful book would result!"

"But they do write!" unwillingly remarked Ramses.

"They do write," wearily repeated Platonov in the same tone as he. "But
it is all either a lie, or theatrical effects for children of tender
years, or else a cunning symbolism, comprehensible only to the sages of
the future. But the life itself no one as yet has touched. One big
writer--a man with a crystal-pure soul and a remarkable talent for
delineation--once approached this theme,[7] and then all that could
catch the eye of an outsider was reflected in his soul, as in a
wondrous mirror. But he could not decide to lie to and to frighten
people. He only looked upon the coarse hair of the porter, like that of
a dog, and reflected: 'But, surely, even he had a mother.' He passed
with his wise, exact gaze over the faces of the prostitutes and
impressed them on his mind. But that which he did not know he did not
dare to write. It is remarkable, that this same writer, enchanting with
his honesty and truthfulness, has looked at the moujik as well, more
than once. But he sensed that both the tongue and the turn of mind, as
well as the soul of the people, were for him dark and incomprehensible
... And he, with an amazing tact, modestly went around the soul of the
people, but refracted all his fund of splendid observation through the
eyes of townsfolk. I have brought this up purposely. With us, you see,
they write about detectives, about lawyers, about inspectors of the
revenue, about pedagogues, about attorneys, about the police, about
officers, about sensual ladies, about engineers, about baritones--and
really, by God, altogether well--cleverly, with finesse and talent.
But, after all, all these people, are rubbish, and their life is not
life but some sort of conjured up, spectral, unnecessary delirium of
world culture. But there are two singular realities--ancient as
humanity itself: the prostitute and the moujik. And about them we know
nothing save some tinsel, gingerbread, debauched depictions in
literature. I ask you: what has Russian literature extracted out of all
the nightmare of prostitution? Sonechka Marmeladova alone.[8]

What has it given us about the moujik save odious, false, nationalistic
pastorals? One, altogether but one, but then, in truth, the greatest
work in all the world--a staggering tragedy, the truthfulness of which
takes the breath away and makes the hair stand on end. You know what I
am speaking of ..."


[7] The reference here is most probably to Chekhov.--TRANS.

[8] The heroine of Dostoievsky's "Crime and Punishment."--Trans.


"'The little claw is sunk in...'"[9] quietly prompted Lichonin.


[9] "The little claw is sunk in, the whole bird is bound to perish"--a
folk proverb used by Tolstoi as a sub-title to his "The Power of
Darkness."--Trans.


"Yes," answered the reporter, and looked kindly at the student with
gratefulness.

"But as regards Sonechka--why, this is an abstract type," remarked
Yarchenko with assurance. "A psychological scheme, so to speak..."

Platonov, who up to now had been speaking as though unwillingly, at a
slow rate, suddenly grew heated:

"A hundred times have I heard this opinion, a hundred times! And it is
entirely an untruth. Underneath the coarse and obscene profession,
underneath the foulest oaths--about one's mother--underneath the
drunken, hideous exterior--Sonechka Marmeladova still lives! The fate
of the Russian prostitute--oh, what a tragic, piteous, bloody,
ludicrous and stupid path it is! Here everything has been juxtaposed:
the Russian God, Russian breadth and unconcern, Russian despair in a
fall, Russian lack of culture, Russian naivete, Russian patience,
Russian shamelessness. Why, all of them, whom you take into
bedrooms,--look upon them, look upon them well,--why, they are all
children; why, each of them is but eleven years old. Fate has thrust
them upon prostitution and since then they live in some sort of a
strange, fairy-like, toy existence, without developing, without being
enriched by experience, naive, trusting, capricious, not knowing what
they will say and do half an hour later--altogether like children. This
radiant and ludicrous childishness I have seen in the very oldest
wenches, fallen as low as low can be, broken-winded and crippled like a
cabby's nags. And never does this impotent pity, this useless
commiseration toward human suffering die within them ... For
example..."

Platonov looked over all the persons sitting with a slow gaze, and
suddenly, waving his hand despondently, said in a tired voice:

"However ... The devil take it all! To-day I have spoken enough for ten
years ... And all of it to no purpose."

"But really, Sergei Ivanich, why shouldn't you try to describe all this
yourself?" asked Yarchenko. "Your attention is so vitally concentrated
on this question."

"I did try!" answered Platonov with a cheerless smile. "But nothing
came of it. I started writing and at once became entangled in various
'whats,' 'which's,' 'was's.' The epithets prove flat. The words grow
cold on the page. It's all a cud of some sort. Do you know, Terekhov
was here once, while passing through ... You know ... The well-known
one ... I came to him and started in telling him lots and lots about
the life here, which I do not tell you for fear of boring you. I begged
him to utilize my material. He heard me out with great attention, and
this is what he said, literally: 'Don't get offended, Platonov, if I
tell you that there's almost not a single person of those I have met
during my life, who wouldn't thrust themes for novels and stories upon
me, or teach me as to what ought to be written up. That material which
you have just communicated to me is truly unencompassable in its
significance and weightiness. But what shall I do with it? In order to
write a colossal book such as the one you have in mind, the words of
others do not suffice--even though they be the most exact--even
observations, made with a little note-book and a bit of pencil, do not
suffice. One must grow accustomed to this life, without being cunningly
wise, without any ulterior thoughts of writing. Then a terrific book
will result.'

"His words discouraged me and at the same time gave me wings. Since
that time I believe, that now, not soon--after fifty years or so--but
there will come a writer of genius, and precisely a Russian one, who
will absorb within himself all the burdens and all the abominations of
this life and will cast them forth to us in the form of simple, fine,
and deathlessly-caustic images. And we shall all say: 'Why, now, we,
ourselves, have seen and known all this, but we could not even suppose
that this is so horrible!' In this coming artist I believe with all my
heart."

"Amen!" said Lichonin seriously. "Let us drink to him."

"But, honest to God," suddenly declared Little Manka, "If some one
would only write the truth about the way we live here, miserable
w--that we are..."

There was a knock at the door, and at once Jennie entered in her
resplendent orange dress.



CHAPTER X.


She greeted all the men without embarrassment, with the independent
bearing of the first personage in the house, and sat down near Sergei
Ivanich, behind his chair. She had just gotten free from that same
German in the uniform of the benevolent organization, who early in the
evening had made Little White Manka his choice, but had afterwards
changed her, at the recommendation of the housekeeper, for Pasha. But
the provoking and self-assured beauty of Jennie must have smitten
deeply his lecherous heart, for, having prowled some three hours
through certain beer emporiums and restaurants, and having there
gathered courage, he had again returned into the house of Anna
Markovna, had waited until her time-guest--Karl Karlovich, from the
optical store--had gone away from Jennie, and had taken her into a room.

To the silent question in Tamara's eyes Jennie made a wry face of
disgust, shivered with her back and nodded her head affirmatively.

"He's gone... Brrr! ..."

Platonov was looking at Jennie with extraordinary attentiveness. He
distinguished her from the rest of the girls and almost respected her
for her abrupt, refractory, and impudently mocking character. And now,
turning around occasionally, by her flaming, splendid eyes, by the
vividly and unevenly glowing unhealthy red of her cheeks, by the much
bitten parched lips, he felt that her great, long ripening rancour was
heavily surging within the girl and suffocating her. And it was then
that he thought (and subsequently often recalled this) that he had
never yet seen Jennie so radiantly beautiful as on this night. He also
noticed, that all the men present in the private cabinet, with the
exception of Lichonin, were looking at her--some frankly, others by
stealth and as though in passing--with curiosity and furtive desire.
The beauty of this woman, together with the thought of her altogether
easy accessibility, at any minute, agitated their imagination.

"There's something working upon you, Jennie," said Platonov quietly.

Caressingly, she just barely drew her fingers over his arm.

"Don't pay any attention. Just so ... our womanish affairs ... It won't
be interesting to you."

But immediately, turning to Tamara, she passionately and rapidly began
saying something in an agreed jargon, which presented a wild mixture
out of the Hebrew, Tzigani and Roumanian tongues and the cant words of
thieves and horse-thieves.

"Don't try to put anything over on the fly guy, the fly guy is next,"
Tamara cut her short and with a smile indicated the reporter with her
eyes.

Platonov had, in fact, understood. Jennie was telling with indignation
that during this day and night, thanks to the influx of a cheap public,
the unhappy Pashka had been taken into a room more than ten times--and
all by different men. Only just now she had had a hysterical fit,
ending in a faint. And now, scarcely having brought Pashka back to
consciousness and braced her up on valerian drops in a glass of
spirits, Emma Edwardovna had again sent her into the drawing room.
Jennie had attempted to take the part of her comrade, but the
house-keeper had cursed the intercessor out and had threatened her with
punishment.

"What is it all about?" asked Yarchenko in perplexity, raising high his
eyebrows.

"Don't trouble yourself ... nothing out of the way..." answered Jennie
in a still agitated voice. "Just so ... our little family trifles ...
Sergei Ivanich, may I have some of your wine?"

She poured out half a glass for herself and drank the cognac off at a
draught, distending her thin nostrils wide.

Platonov got up in silence and went toward the door.

"It's not worth while, Sergei Ivanich. Drop it..." Jennie stopped him.

"Oh no, why not?" objected the reporter. "I shall do a very simple and
innocent thing, take Pasha here, and if need be--pay for her, even. Let
her lie down here for a while on the divan and rest, even though a
little ... Niura, run for a pillow quick!"

Scarcely had the door shut behind his broad, ungainly figure in its
gray clothes, when Boris Sobashnikov at once commenced speaking with a
contemptuous bitterness:

"Gentlemen, what the devil for have we dragged into our company this
peach off the street? We must needs tie up with all sorts of riff-raff?
The devil knows what he is--perhaps he's even a dinny? Who can vouch
for him? And you're always like that, Lichonin."

"It isn't Lichonin but I who introduced him to everybody,"' said
Ramses. "I know him for a fully respectable person and a good
companion."

"Eh! Nonsense! A good companion to drink at some one else's expense.
Why, don't you see for yourselves that this is the most ordinary type
of habitue attached to a brothel, and, most probably, he is simply the
pimp here, to whom a percentage is paid for the entertainment into
which he entices the visitors."

"Leave off, Borya. It's foolish," remarked Yarchenko reproachfully.

But Borya could not leave off. He had an unfortunate
peculiarity--intoxication acted neither upon his legs nor his tongue,
but put him in a morose, touchy frame of mind and egged him on into
quarrels. And Platonov had already for a long time irritated him with
his negligently sincere, assured and serious bearing, so little
suitable to the private cabinet of a brothel. But the seeming
indifference with which the reporter let pass the malicious remarks
which he interposed into the conversation angered Sobashnikov still
more.

"And then, the tone in which he permits himself to speak in our
company!" Sobashnikov continued to seethe. "A certain aplomb,
condescension, a professorial tone ... The scurvy penny-a-liner! The
free-lunch grafter!"

Jennie, who had all the time been looking intently at the student,
gaily and maliciously flashing with her sparkling dark eyes, suddenly
began to clap her hands.

"That's the way! Bravo, little student! Bravo, bravo, bravo! ... That's
the way, give it to him good! ... Really, what sort of a disgrace is
this! When he'll come, now, I'll repeat everything to him."

"I--if you please! A--as much as you like!" Sobashnikov drawled out
like an actor, making superciliously squeamish creases about his mouth.
"I shall repeat the very same things myself."

"There's a fine fellow, now,--I love you for that!" exclaimed Jennie
joyously and maliciously, striking her fist on the table. "You can tell
an owl at once by its flight, a good man by his snot!"

Little White Manya and Tamara looked at Jennie with wonder, but, noting
the evil little lights leaping in her eyes and her nervously quivering
nostrils, they both understood and smiled.

Little White Manya, laughing, shook her head reproachfully. Jennie
always had such a face when her turbulent soul sensed that a scandal
was nearing which she herself had brought on.

"Don't get your back up, Borinka," said Lichonin. "Here all are equal."

Niura came with a pillow and laid it down on the divan.

"And what's that for?" Sobashnikov yelled at her. "Git! take it away at
once. This isn't a lodging house."

"Now, leave her be, honey. What's that to you?" retorted Jennie in a
sweet voice and hid the pillow behind Tamara's back. "Wait, sweetie,
I'd better sit with you for a while."

She walked around the table, forced Boris to sit on a chair, and
herself got up on his knees. Twining his neck with her arm, she pressed
her lips to his mouth, so long and so vigorously that the student
caught his breath. Right up close to his eyes he saw the eyes of the
woman--strangely large, dark, luminous, indistinct and unmoving. For a
quarter of a second or so, for an instant, it seemed to him that in
these unliving eyes was impressed an expression of keen, mad hate; and
the chill of terror, some vague premonition of an ominous, inevitable
calamity flashed through the student's brain. With difficulty tearing
the supple arms of Jennie away from him, and pushing her away, he said,
laughing, having turned red and breathing hard:

"There's a temperament for you! Oh, you Messalina Paphnutievna! ...
They call you Jennka, I think? You're a good-looking little rascal."

Platonov returned with Pasha. Pasha was pitiful and revolting to look
at. Her face was pale, with, a bluish cast as though the blood had run
off; the glazed, half-closed eyes were smiling with a faint, idiotic
smile; the parted lips seemed to resemble two frayed, red, wet rags,
and she walked with a sort of timid, uncertain step, just as though
with one foot she were making a large step, and with the other a small
one. She walked with docility up to the divan and with docility laid
her head down on the pillow, without ceasing to smile faintly and
insanely. Even at a distance it was apparent that she was cold.

"Pardon me, gentlemen, I am going to undress," said Lichonin, and
taking his coat off he threw it over the shoulders of the prostitute.
"Tamara, give her chocolate and wine."

Boris Sobashnikov again stood up picturesquely in the corner, in a
leaning position, one leg in front of the other and his head held high.
Suddenly he spoke amid the general silence, addressing Platonov
directly, in a most foppish tone:

"Eh ... Listen ... what's your name? ... This, then, must be your
mistress? Eh?" And with the tip of his boot he pointed in the direction
of the recumbent Pasha.

"Wha-at?" asked Platonov in a drawl, knitting his eyebrows.

"Or else you are her lover--it's all one ... What do they call this
duty here? Well, now, these same people for whom the women embroider
shirts and with whom they divide their honest earnings? ... Eh? ..."

Platonov looked at him with a heavy, intent gaze through his narrowed
lids.

"Listen," he said quietly, in a hoarse voice, slowly and ponderously
separating his words. "This isn't the first time that you're trying to
pick a quarrel with me. But, in the first place, I see that despite
your sober appearance you are exceedingly and badly drunk; and, in the
second place, I spare you for the sake of your comrades. However, I
warn you, that if you think of talking that way to me again, take your
eyeglasses off."

"What's this stuff?" exclaimed Boris, raising his shoulders high and
snorting through his nose. "What eyeglasses? Why eyeglasses?" But
mechanically, with two extended fingers, he fixed the bow of the
PINCE-NEZ on the bridge of his nose.

"Because I'm going to hit you, and the pieces may get in your eye,"
said the reporter unconcernedly.

Despite the unexpectedness of such a turn of the quarrel, nobody
started laughing. Only Little White Manka oh'd in astonishment and
clapped her hands. Jennie, with avid impatience, shifted her eyes from
one to the other.

"Well, now! I'll give you change back myself so's you won't like it!"
roughly, altogether boyishly, cried out Sobashnikov. "Only it's not
worth while mussing one's hands with every ..." he wanted to add a new
invective, but decided not to, "with every ... And besides, comrades, I
do not intend to stay here any longer. I am too well brought up to be
hail-fellow-well-met with such persons."

He rapidly and haughtily walked to the door.

It was necessary for him to pass almost right up against Platonov, who,
out of the corner of his eye, animal-like, was watching his every
movement. For a moment in the mind of the student flashed a desire to
strike Platonov unexpectedly, from the side, and jump away--the
comrades would surely part them and not allow a fight. But immediately,
almost without looking at the reporter, with some sort of deep,
unconscious instinct, he saw and sensed those broad hands, lying
quietly on the table, that obdurately bowed head with its broad
forehead, and all the ungainly, alert, powerful body of his foe, so
neligently hunched up and spread out on the chair, but ready at any
second for a quick and terrific blow. And Sobashnikov walked out into
the corridor, loudly banging the door after him.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," said Jennie after him in a mocking
patter. "Tamarochka, pour me out some more cognac."

But the lanky student Petrovsky got up from his place and considered it
necessary to defend Sobashnikov.

"Just as you wish, gentlemen; this is a matter of your personal view,
but out of principle I go together with Boris. Let him be not right and
so on, we can express censure to him in our own intimate company, but
when an insult has been rendered our comrade--I can't remain here. I am
going away."

"Oh, my God!" And Lichonin nervously and vexedly scratched his temple.
"Boris behaved himself all the time in the highest degree vulgarly,
rudely and foolishly. What sort of corporate honour do you think this
is? A collective walk-out from editorial offices, from political
meetings, from brothels. We aren't officers to screen the foolishness
of each comrade."

"All the same, just as you wish, but I am going away out of a sense of
solidarity!" said Petrovsky importantly and walked out.

"May the earth be as down upon you!" Jennie sent after him.

But how tortuous and dark the ways of the human soul! Both of
them--Sobashnikov as well as Petrovsky--acted in their indignation
rather sincerely, but the first only half so, while the second only a
quarter in all. Sobashnikov, despite his intoxication and wrath, still
had knocking at the door of his mind the alluring thought that now it
would be more convenient and easier before his comrades to call out
Jennka on the quiet and to be alone with her. While Petrovsky, with
exactly the same aim, went after Sobashnikov in order to make a loan of
three roubles from him. In the general drawing room they made things up
between them, and after ten minutes Zociya, the housekeeper, shoved in
her little, squinting, pink, cunning face through the half-open door of
the private room.

"Jennechka," she called, "go, they have brought your linen, go count
it. And you, Niura, the actor begs to come for just a minute, to drink
some champagne. He's with Henrietta and Big Manya."

The precipitate and incongruous quarrel of Platonov and Sobashnikov
long served as a subject of conversation. The reporter, in cases like
this, always felt shame, uneasiness, regret and the torments of
conscience. And despite the fact that all those who remained were on
his side, he was speaking with weariness in his voice:

"By God, gentlemen! I'll go away, best of all. Why should I disrupt
your circle? We were both at fault. I'll go away. Don't bother about
the bill. I've already paid Simeon, when I was going after Pasha."

Lichonin suddenly rumpled up his hair and stood up

"Oh, no, the devil take it! I'll go and drag him here. Upon my word of
honour, they're both fine fellows--Boris as well as Vaska. But they're
young yet, and bark at their own tails. I'm going after them, and I
warrant that Boris will apologize."

He went away, but came back after five minutes.

"They repose," said he, sombrely, and made a hopeless gesture with his
hand. "Both of them."



CHAPTER XI.


At this moment Simeon walked into the cabinet with a tray upon which
stood two goblets of a bubbling golden wine and lay a large visiting
card.

"May I ask which of you here might be Mister Gavrila Petrovich
Yarchenko?" he said, looking over all those sitting.

"I," responded Yarchenko.

"If youse please. The actor gent sent this."

Yarchenko took the visiting card and read aloud:

  Eumenii Poluectovich
  EGMONT--LAVRETZKI
  Dramatic Artist of Metropolitan Theatres

"It's remarkable," said Volodya Pavlov, "that all the Russian Garricks
bear such queer names, on the style of Chrysantov, Thetisov, Mamontov
and Epimhakov."

"And besides that, the best known of them must needs either speak
thickly, or lisp, or stammer," added the reporter.

"Yes, but most remarkable of all is the fact that I do not at all have
the honour of knowing this artist of the metropolitan theatres.
However, there's something else written on the reverse of this card.
Judging by the handwriting, it was written by a man greatly drunk and
little lettered.

"'I dreenk'--not drink, but dreenk," explained Yarchenko. "'I dreenk to
the health of the luminary of Russian science, Gavrila Petrovich
Yarchenko, whom I saw by chance when I was passing by through the
collidor. Would like to clink glasses together personally. If you do
not remember, recollect the National Theatre, Poverty Is No Disgrace,
and the humble artist who played African.' Yes, that's right," said
Yarchenko. "Once, somehow, they saddled me with the arrangement of this
benefit performance in the National Theatre. Also, there dimly glimmers
some clean-shaven haughty visage, but ... What shall it be, gentlemen?"

Lichonin answered good-naturedly:

"Why, drag him here. Perhaps he's funny."

"And you?" the sub-professor turned to Platonov.

"It's all the same to me. I know him slightly. At first he'll shout:
'KELLNER, champagne!' then burst into tears about his wife, who is an
angel, then deliver a patriotic speech and finally raise a row over the
bill, but none too loudly. All in all he's entertaining."

"Let him come," said Volodya, from behind the shoulder of Katie, who
was sitting on his knees, swinging her legs.

"And you, Veltman?"

"What?" the student came to with a start. He was sitting on the divan
with his back to his companions, near the reclining Pasha, bending over
her, and already for a long time, with the friendliest appearance of
sympathy, had been stroking her, now on the shoulder, now on the hair
at the nape of the neck, while she was smiling at him with her shyly
shameless and senselessly passionate smile through half-closed and
trembling eyelashes. "What? What's it all about? Oh yes,--is it all
right to let the actor in? I've nothing against it. Please do ..."

Yarchenko sent an invitation through Simeon, and the actor came and
immediately commenced the usual actor's play. In the door he paused, in
his long frock coat, shining with its silk lapels, with a glistening
opera hat, which he held with his arm in the middle of his chest, like
an actor portraying in the theatre an elderly worldly lion or a bank
director. And approximately these persons he was inwardly picturing to
himself.

"May I be permitted, gentlemen, to intrude into your intimate company?"
he asked in an unctuous, kindly voice, with a half-bow done somewhat to
one side.

They asked him in, and he began to introduce himself. Shaking hands, he
stuck out his elbow forward and raised it so high that the hand proved
to be far lower. Now it was no longer a bank director, but such a
clever, splendid fellow, a sportsman and a rake of the golden youths.
But his face--with rumpled, wild eyebrows and with denuded lids without
lashes--was the vulgar, harsh and low face of a typical alcoholic,
libertine, and pettily cruel man. Together with him came two of his
ladies: Henrietta the eldest girl in years in the establishment of Anna
Markovna, experienced, who had seen everything and had grown accustomed
to everything, like an old horse on the tether of a threshing machine,
the possessor of a thick bass, but still a handsome woman; and Big
Manka, or Manka the Crocodile. Henrietta since still the preceding
night had not parted from the actor, who had taken her from the house
to a hotel.

Having seated himself alongside of Yarchenko, he straight off began to
play a new role--he became something on the order of an old good soul
of a landed proprietor, who had at one time been at a university
himself, and now can not look upon the students without a quiet,
fatherly emotion.

"Believe me, gentlemen, that one's soul rests from all these worldly
squabbles in the midst of youth," he was saying, imparting to his
depraved and harsh face an actor-like, exaggerated and improbable
expression of being moved. "This faith in a high ideal, these honest
impulses! ... What can be loftier and purer than our Russian students
as a body? ... KELLNER! Chompa-a-agne!" he yelled deafeningly all of a
sudden, and dealt a heavy blow on the table with his fist.

Lichonin and Yarchenka did not wish to remain in debt to him. A spree
began. God knows in what manner Mishka the Singer and Nicky the
Book-keeper soon found themselves in the cabinet, and at once began
singing in their galloping voices:

    "They fe-e-e-el the tru-u-u-uth,
    Come thou daw-aw-aw-awning quicker ..."

There also appeared Roly-Poly, who had awakened. Letting his head drop
touchingly to one side and having made little narrowed, lachrymose,
sweet eyes in his wrinkled old face of a Don Quixote, he was speaking
in a persuasively begging tone:

"Gentlemen students ... you ought to treat a little old man. I love
education, by God! ... Allow me!"

Lichonin was glad to see everybody, but Yarchenko in the
beginning--until the champagne had mounted to his head--only raised
high his small, short eyebrows with a timorous, wondering and naive
air. It suddenly became crowded, smoky, noisy and close in the cabinet.
Simeon, with rattling, closed the blinds with bolts on the outside. The
women, just having gotten done with a visit or in the interim between
dances, walked into the room, sat on somebody's knees, smoked, sang
disjointedly, drank wine, kissed and again went away, and again came.
The clerks of Kereshkovsky, offended because the damsels bestowed more
attention upon the cabinet than the drawing room, did start a row and
tried to enter into a provoking explanation with the students, but
Simeon in a moment quelled them with two or three authoritative words,
thrown out as though in passing.

Niura came back from her room and a little later Petrovsky followed
her. Petrovsky with an extremely serious air declared that he had been
walking on the street all this time, thinking over the incident which
had taken place and in the end had come to the conclusion that comrade
Boris was in reality not in the right, but that there also was a
circumstance in extenuation of his fault--intoxication. Also, Jennie
came later, but alone--Sobashnikov had fallen asleep in her room. The
actor proved to have no end of talents. He very faithfully imitated the
buzzing of a fly which an intoxicated man is catching on a window-pane,
and the sounds of a saw; drolly performed, standing with his face in
the corner, the conversation of a nervous lady over the telephone;
imitated the singing of a phonograph record, and in the end, with
exceeding likeness to life, showed a little Persian lad with a little
trained monkey. Holding on with his hand to an imaginary small chain
and at the same time baring his teeth, squatting like a monkey, winking
his eyelids often, and scratching now his posteriors, now the hair on
his head, he sang through his nose, in a monotonous and sad voice,
distorting the words:

    "The i-young cissack to the war has went,
     The i-young ladee underneath the fence lies spraw-aw-ling.
     AINA, AINA, AI-NA-NA-NA, AI-NA NA-NA-NA."

In conclusion he took Little White Manka in his arms, wrapped her up in
the skirts of his frock and, stretching out his hand and making a
tearful face, began to nod his head, bent to one side, as is done by
little swarthy, dirty, oriental lads who roam over all Russia in long,
old, soldiers' overcoats, with bared chest of a bronze colour, holding
a coughing, moth-eaten little monkey in their bosom.

"And who may you be?" severely asked fat Kate, who knew and loved this
joke.

"Me Serbian, lady-y-y," piteously moaned the actor through his nose.
"Give me somethin', lady-y-y."

"And what do they call your little monkey?"

"Matreshka-a-a ... Him 'ungry-y-y, lady ... him want eat..."

"And have you got a passport?"

"We Serbia-a-an. Gimme something lady-y-y..."

The actor proved not superfluous on the whole. He created at once a
great deal of noise and raised the spirits of the company, which were
beginning to be depressing. And every minute he cried out in a
stentorian voice:

"KELLNER! Chompa-a-agne!"--although Simeon, who was accustomed to his
manner paid very little attention to these cries.

There began a truly Russian hubbub, noisy and senseless. The rosy,
flaxen-haired, pleasing Tolpygin was playing LA SEGUIDILLE from CARMEN
on the piano, while Roly-Poly was dancing a Kamarinsky peasant dance to
its tune. His narrow shoulders hunched up, twisted all to one side, the
fingers of his hanging hands widely spread, he intricately hopped on
one spot from one long, thin leg to the other, then suddenly letting
out a piercing grunt, would throw himself upward and shout out in time
to his wild dance:

    "Ugh! Dance on, Matthew,
     Don't spare your boots, you! ..."

"Eh, for one stunt like that a quartern of brandy isn't enough!" he
would add, shaking his long, graying hair.

"They fee-ee-eel! the tru-u-u-uth!" roared the two friends, raising
with difficulty their underlids, grown heavy, beneath dull, bleary eyes.

The actor commenced to tell obscene anecdotes, pouring them out as from
a bag, and the women squealed from delight, bent in two from laughter
and threw themselves against the backs of their chairs. Veltman, who
had long been whispering with Pasha, inconspicuously, in the hubbub,
slipped out of the cabinet, while a few minutes after him Pasha also
went away, smiling with her quiet, insane and bashful smile.

But all of the remaining students as well, save Lichonin, one after the
other, some on the quiet, some under one pretext or another, vanished
from the cabinet and did not return for long periods. Volodya Pavlov
experienced a desire to look at the dancing; Tolpygin's head began to
ache badly, and he asked Tamara to lead him somewhere where he might
wash up; Petrovski, having "touched" Lichonin for three roubles on the
quiet, went out into the corridor and only from there despatched the
housekeeper Zociya for Little White Manka. Even the prudent and
fastidious Ramses could not cope with that spicy feeling which to-day's
strange, vivid and unwholesome beauty of Jennie excited in him. It
proved that he had some important, undeferrable business this morning;
it was necessary to go home and snatch a bit of sleep if only for a
couple of hours. But, having told good-bye to his companions, he,
before going out of the cabinet, rapidly and with deep significance
pointed the door out to Jennie with his eyes. She understood, slowly,
scarcely perceptibly, lowered her eyelashes as a sign of consent, and,
when she again raised them, Platonov, who almost without looking had
seen this silent dialogue, was struck by that expression of malice and
menace in her eyes which she sped the back of the departing Ramses.
Having waited for five minutes she got up, said "Excuse me, I'll be
right back," and went out, swinging her short orange skirt.

"Well, now? Is it your turn, Lichonin?" asked the reporter banteringly.

"No, brother, you're mistaken!" said Lichonin and clacked his tongue.
"And I'm not doing it out of conviction or on principle, either ... No!
I, as an anarchist, proclaim the gospel that the worse things are, the
better ... But, fortunately, I am a gambler and spend all my
temperament on gaming; on that account simple squeamishness speaks
louder within me than this same unearthly feeling. But it's amazing our
thoughts coincided. I just wanted to ask you about the same thing."

"I--no. Sometimes, if I become very much tired out, I sleep here over
night. I take from Isaiah Savvich the key to his little room and sleep
on the divan. But all the girls here are already used to the fact that
I am a being of the third sex."

"And really ... never? ..."

"Never."

"Well, what's right is right!" exclaimed Nhira. "Sergei Ivanich is like
a holy hermit."

"Previously, some five years ago, I experienced this also," continued
Platonov. "But, do you know, it's really too tedious and disgusting.
Something on the nature of these flies which the actor gentleman just
represented. They're stuck together on the window sill, and then in
some sort of fool wonder scratch their backs with their little hind
legs and fly apart forever. And to play at love here? ... Well, for
that I'm no hero out of their sort of novel. I'm not handsome, am shy
with women, uneasy, and polite. While here they thirst for savage
passions, bloody jealousy, tears, poisonings, beatings, sacrifices,--in
a word, hysterical romanticism. And it's easy to understand why. The
heart of woman always wants love, while they are told of love every day
with various sour, drooling words. Involuntarily one wants pepper in
one's love. One no longer wants words of passion, but
tragically-passionate deeds. And for that reason thieves, murderers,
souteners and other riff-raff will always be their lovers."

"And most important of all," added Platonov, "that would at once spoil
for me all the friendly relations which have been so well built up."

"Enough of joking!" incredulously retorted Lichonin. "Then what compels
you to pass days and nights here? Were you a writer--it would be a
different matter. It's easy to find an explanation; well, you're
gathering types or something ... observing life ... After the manner of
that German professor who lived for three years with monkeys, in order
to study closely their language and manners. But you yourself said that
you don't indulge in writing?"

"It isn't that I don't indulge, but I simply don't know how--I can't."

"We'll write that down. Now let's suppose another thing--that you come
here as an apostle of a better, honest life, in the nature of a, now,
saviour of perishing souls. You know, as in the dawn of Christianity
certain holy fathers instead of standing on a column for thirty years
or living in a cave in the woods, went to the market places, into
houses of mirth, to the harlots and scaramuchios. But you aren't
inclined that way."

"I'm not."

"Then why, the devil take it, do you hang around here? I can see very
well that a great deal here is revolting and oppressive and painful to
your own self. For example, this fool quarrel with Boris or this flunky
who beats a woman, and--, in general, the constant contemplation of
every kind of filth, lust, bestiality, vulgarity, drunkenness. Well,
now, since you say so--I believe that you don't give yourself up to
lechery. But then, still more incomprehensible to me is your MODUS
VIVENDI, to express myself in the style of leading articles."

The reporter did not answer at once:

"You see," he began speaking slowly, with pauses, as though for the
first time lending ear to his thoughts and weighing them. "You see, I'm
attracted and interested in this life by its ... how shall I express
it? ... its fearful, stark truth. Do you understand, it's as though all
the conventional coverings were ripped off it. There is no falsehood,
no hypocrisy, no sanctimoniousness, there are no compromises of any
sort, neither with public opinion, nor with the importunate authority
of our forefathers, nor with one's own conscience. No illusions of any
kind, nor any kind of embellishments! Here she is--'I! A public woman,
a common vessel, a cloaca for the drainage of the city's surplus lust.
Come to me any one who wills--thou shalt meet no denial, therein is my
service. But for a second of this sensuality in haste--thou shalt pay
in money, revulsion, disease and ignominy.' And that is all. There is
not a single phase of human life where the basic main truth should
shine with such a monstrous, hideous, stark clearness, without any
shade of human prevarication or self-whitewashing."

"Oh, I don't know! These women lie like the very devil. You just go and
talk with her a bit about her first fall. She'll spin you such a yarn!"

"Well, don't you ask then. What business is that of yours? But even if
they do lie, they lie altogether like children. But then, you know
yourself that children are the foremost, the most charming fibsters,
and at the same time the sincerest people on earth. And it's
remarkable, that both they and the others--that is, both prostitutes
and children--lie only to us--men--and grown-ups. Among themselves they
don't lie--they only inspiredly improvise. But they lie to us because
we ourselves demand this of them, because we clamber into their souls,
altogether foreign to us, with our stupid tactics and questionings,
because they regard us in secret as great fools and senseless
dissemblers. But if you like, I shall right now count off on my fingers
all the occasions when a prostitute is sure to lie, and you yourself
will be convinced that man incites her to lying."

"Well, well, we shall see." "First: she paints herself mercilessly, at
times even in detriment to herself. Why? Because every pimply military
cadet, who is so distressed by his sexual maturity that he grows stupid
in the spring, like a wood-cock on a drumming-log; or some sorry petty
government clerk or other from the department of the parish, the
husband of a pregnant woman and the father of nine infants--why, they
both come here not at all with the prudent and simple purpose of
leaving here the surplus of their passion. He, the good for nothing,
has come to enjoy himself; he needs beauty, d'you see--aesthete that he
is! But all these girls, these daughters of the simple, unpretentious,
great Russian people--how do they regard aesthetics? 'What's sweet,
that's tasty; what's red, that's handsome.' And so, there you are,
receive, if you please, a beauty of antimony, white lead and rouge.

"That's one. Secondly, his desire for beauty isn't enough for this
resplendent cavalier--no, he must in addition be served with a
similitude of love, so that from his caresses there should kindle in
the woman this same 'fa-hire of in-sane pahass-ssion!' which is sung
about In idiotical ballads. Ah! Then THAT is what you want? There
y'are! And the woman lies to him with countenance, voice, sighs, moans,
movements of the body. And even he himself in the depths of his soul
knows about this professional deception, but--go along with you!--still
deceives himself: 'Ah, what a handsome man I am! Ah, how the women love
me! Ah, into what an ecstasy I bring them ...' You know, there are
cases when a man with the most desperate brazenness, in the most
unlikely manner, is flattered to his face, and he himself sees and
knows it very plainly, but--the devil take it!--despite everything a
delightful feeling of some sort lubricates his soul. And so here.
Query: whose is the initiative in the lie?

"And here's a third point for you, Lichonin. You prompted it yourself.
They lie most of all when they are asked: 'How did you come to such a
life?' But what right have you to ask her about that, may the devil
take you! For she does not push her way into your intimate life? She
doesn't interest herself with your first, 'holy' love or the virtue of
your sisters and your bride. Aha! You pay money? Splendid! The bawd and
the bouncer, and the police, and medicine, and the city government,
watch over your interests. Polite and seemly conduct on the part of the
prostitute hired by you for love is guaranteed you, and your
personality is immune ... even though in the most direct sense, in the
sense of a slap in the face, which you, of course, deserve through your
aimless, and perhaps tormenting interrogations. But you desire truth as
well for your money? Well, that you are never to discount and to
control. They will tell you just such a conventionalized history as
you--yourself a man of conventionality and a vulgarian--will digest
easiest of all. Because by itself life is either exceedingly humdrum
and tedious to you, or else as exceedingly improbable as only life can
be improbable. And so you have the eternal mediocre history about an
officer, about a shop clerk, about a baby and a superannuated father,
who there, in the provinces, bewails his strayed daughter and implores
her to return home. But mark you, Lichonin, all that I'm saying doesn't
apply to you; in you, upon my word of honour, I sense a sincere and
great soul ... Let's drink to your health?"

They drank.

"Shall I speak on?" continued Platonov undecidedly.

"Are you bored?"

"No, no, I beg of you, speak on."

"They also lie, and lie especially innocently, to those who preen
themselves before them on political hobby horses. Here they agree with
anything you want. I shall tell her to-day: Away with the modern
bourgeois order! Let us destroy with bombs and daggers the capitalists,
landed proprietors, and the bureaucracy! She'll warmly agree with me.
But to-morrow the hanger-on Nozdrunov will yell that it's necessary to
string up all the socialists, to beat up all the students and massacre
all the sheenies, who partake of communion in Christian blood. And
she'll gleefully agree with him as well. But if in addition to that
you'll also inflame her imagination, make her fall in love with
yourself, then she'll go with you everywhere you may wish--on a pogrom,
on a barricade, on a theft, on a murder. But then, children also are
yielding. And they, by God, are children, my dear Lichonin...

"At fourteen years she was seduced, and at sixteen she became a patent
prostitute, with a yellow ticket and a venereal disease. And here is
all her life, surrounded and fenced off from the universe with a sort
of a bizarre, impenetrable and dead wall. Turn your attention to her
everyday vocabulary--thirty or forty words, no more--altogether as with
a baby or a savage: to eat, to drink, to sleep, man, bed, the madam,
rouble, lover, doctor, hospital, linen, policeman--and that's all. And
so her mental development, her experience, her interests, remain on an
infantile plane until her very death, exactly as in the case of a gray
and naive lady teacher who has not crossed over the threshold of a
female institute since she was ten, as in the case of a nun given as a
child into a convent. In a word, picture to yourself a tree of a
genuinely great species, but raised in a glass bell, in a jar from jam.
And precisely to this childish phase of their existence do I attribute
their compulsory lying--so innocent, purposeless and habitual ... But
then, how fearful, stark, unadorned with anything the frank truth in
this business-like dickering about the price of a night; in these ten
men in an evening; in these printed rules, issued by the city fathers,
about the use of a solution of boric acid and about maintaining one's
self in cleanliness; in the weekly doctors' inspections; in the nasty
diseases, which are looked upon as lightly and facetiously, just as
simply and without suffering, as a cold would be; in the deep revulsion
of these women to men--so deep, that they all, without conception,
compensate for it in the Lesbian manner and do not even in the least
conceal it. All their incongruous life is here, on the palm of my hand,
with all its cynicism, monstrous and coarse injustice; but there is in
it none of that falsehood and that hypocrisy before people and before
one's self, which enmesh all humanity from top to bottom. Consider, my
dear Lichonin, how much nagging, drawn out, disgusting deception, how
much hate, there is in any marital cohabitation in ninety-nine cases
out of a hundred. How much blind, merciless cruelty--precisely not
animal, but human, reasoned, far-sighted, calculated cruelty--there is
in the sacred maternal instinct--and behold, with what tender colours
this instinct is adorned! Then what about all these unnecessary,
tom-fool professions, invented by cultured man for the safeguarding of
my nest, my bit of meat, my woman, my child, these different overseers,
controllers, inspectors, judges, attorneys, jailers, advocates, chiefs,
bureaucrats, generals, soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of titles
more. They all subserve human greed, cowardice, viciousness, servility,
legitimised sensuality, laziness-beggarliness!--yes, that is the real
word!--human beggarliness. But what magnificent words we have! The
altar of the fatherland, Christian compassion for our neighbor,
progress, sacred duty, sacred property, holy love. Ugh! I do not
believe in a single fine word now, and I am nauseated to infinity with
these petty liars, these cowards and gluttons! Beggar women! ... Man is
born for great joy, for ceaseless creation, in which he is God; for a
broad, free love, unhindered by anything,--love for everything: for a
tree, for the sky, for man, for a dog, for the dear, benign, beautiful
earth,--oh, especially for the earth with its beatific motherhood, with
its mornings and nights, with its magnificent everyday miracles. But
man has lied himself out so, has become such an importunate beggar, and
has sunk so low! ... Ah, Lichonin, but I am weary!"

"I, as an anarchist, partly understand you," said Lichonin
thoughtfully. It was as though he heard and yet did not hear the
reporter. Some thought was with difficulty, for the first time, being
born in his mind. "But one thing I can not comprehend. If humanity has
become so malodorous to you, then how do you stand--and for so long,
too,--all this,--" Lichonin took in the whole table with a circular
motion of his hand,--"the basest thing that mankind could invent?"

"Well, I don't even know myself," said Platonov with artlessness. "You
see, I am a vagabond, and am passionately in love with life. I have
been a turner, a compositor; I have sown and sold tobacco--the cheap
Silver Makhorka kind--have sailed as a stoker on the Azov Sea, have
been a fisherman on the Black--on the Dubinin fisheries; I have loaded
watermelons and bricks on the Dnieper, have ridden with a circus, have
been an actor--I can't even recall everything. And never did need drive
me. No, only an immeasurable thirst for life and an insupportable
curiosity. By God, I would like for a few days to become a horse, a
plant, or a fish, or to be a woman and experience childbirth; I would
like to live with the inner life, and to look upon the universe with
the eyes of every human being I meet. And so I wander care-free over
towns and hamlets, bound by nothing; know and love tens of trades and
joyously float wherever it suits fate to set my sail... And so it was
that I came upon the brothel, and the more I look at it, the more there
grows within me alarm, incomprehension, and very great anger. But even
this will soon be at an end. When things get well into autumn--away
again! I'll get into a rail-rolling mill. I've a certain friend, he'll
manage it ... Wait, wait, Lichonin ... Listen to the actor ... That's
the third act."

Egmont-Lavretzki, who until this had been very successfully imitating
now a shoat which is being put into a bag, now the altercation of a cat
with a dog, was beginning little by little to wilt and droop. Upon him
was already advancing the stage of self-revelation, next in order, in
the paroxysm of which he several times attempted to kiss Yarchenko's
hand. His lids had become red; around the shaven, prickly lips had
deepened the tearful wrinkles that gave him an appearance of weeping;
and it could be heard by his voice that his nose and throat were
already overflowing with tears.

"I serve in a farce!" he was saying, smiting himself on the breast with
his fist. "I disport myself in striped trunks for the sport of the
sated mob! I have put out my torch, have hid my talent in the earth,
like the slothful servant! But fo-ormerly!" he began to bray
tragically, "Fo-ormerly-y-y! Ask in Novocherkassk, ask in Tvier, in
Ustejne, in Zvenigorodok, in Krijopole.[10] What a Zhadov and Belugin I
was! How I played Max! What a figure I created of Veltishchev--that was
my crowning ro-ole ... Nadin-Perekopski was beginning with me at
Sumbekov's! With Nikiphorov-Pavlenko did I serve. Who made the name for
Legunov-Pochainin? I! But no-ow ..."


[10] All provincial towns.--Trans.


He sniveled, and sought to kiss the sub-professor.

"Yes! Despise me, brand me, ye honest folk. I play the tom-fool. I
drink ... I have sold and spilt the sacred ointment! I sit in a dive
with vendable merchandise. While my wife ... she is a saint, and pure,
my little dove! ... Oh, if she knew, if she only knew! she works hard,
she runs a modiste's shop; her fingers--the fingers of an angel--are
pricked with the needle, but I! Oh, sainted woman! And I--the
scoundrel!--whom do I exchange thee for! Oh, horror!" The actor seized
his hair. "Professor, let me, I'll kiss your scholarly hand. You alone
understand me. Let us go, I'll introduce you, you'll see what an angel
this is! ... She awaits me, she does not sleep nights, she folds the
tiny hands of my little ones and together with them whispers: 'Lord,
save and preserve papa.'"

"You're lying about it all, you ham!" said the drunken Little White
Manka suddenly, looking with hatred upon Egmont-Lavretzki. "She isn't
whispering anything, but most peacefully sleeping with a man in your
bed."

"Be still, you w--!" vociferated the actor beside himself; and seizing
a bottle by the neck raised it high over his head. "Hold me, or else
I'll brain this carrion. Don't you dare besmirch with your foul
tongue..."

"My tongue isn't foul--I take communion," impudently replied the woman.
"But you, you fool, wear horns. You go traipsing around with
prostitutes yourself, and yet want your wife not to play you false. And
look where the dummy's found a place to slaver, till he looks like he
had reins in his mouth. And what did you mix the children in for, you
miserable papa you! Don't you roll your eyes and gnash your teeth at
me. You won't frighten me! W--yourself!"

It required many efforts and much eloquence on the part of Yarchenko in
order to quiet the actor and Little White Manka, who always after
Benedictine ached for a row. The actor in the end burst into copious
and unbecoming tears and blew his nose, like an old man; he grew weak,
and Henrietta led him away to her room.

Fatigue had already overcome everybody. The students, one after
another, returned from the bedrooms; and separately from them, with an
indifferent air, came their chance mistresses. And truly, both these
and the others resembled flies, males and females, just flown apart on
the window pane. They yawned, stretched, and for a long time an
involuntary expression of wearisomeness and aversion did not leave
their faces, pale from sleeplessness, unwholesomely glossy. And when
they, before going their ways, said good-bye to each other, in their
eyes twinkled some kind of an inimical feeling, just as with the
participants of one and the same filthy and unnecessary crime.

"Where are you going right now?" Lichonin asked the reporter in a low
voice.

"Well, really, I don't know myself. I did want to spend the night in
the cabinet of Isaiah Savvich, but it's a pity to lose such a splendid
morning. I'm thinking of taking a bath, and then I'll get on a steamer
and ride to the Lipsky monastery to a certain tippling black friar I
know. But why?"

"I would ask you to remain a little while and sit the others out. I
must have a very important word or two with you."

"It's a go."

Yarchenko was the last to go. He averred a headache and fatigue. But
scarcely had he gone out of the house when the reporter seized Lichonin
by the hand and quickly dragged him into the glass vestibule of the
entrance.

"Look!" he said, pointing to the street.

And through the orange glass of the little coloured window Lichonin saw
the sub-professor, who was ringing at Treppel's. After a minute the
door opened and Yarchenko disappeared through it.

"How did you find out?" asked Lichonin with astonishment.

"A mere trifle! I saw his face, and saw his hands smoothing Verka's
tights. The others were less restrained. But this fellow is bashful."

"Well, now, let's go," said Lichonin. "I won't detain you long."



CHAPTER XII.


Of the girls only two remained in the cabinet-Jennie, who had come in
her night blouse, and Liuba, who had long been sleeping under cover of
the conversation, curled up into a ball in the large plush armchair.
The fresh, freckled face of Liuba had taken on a meek, almost
childlike, expression, while the lips, just as they had smiled in
sleep, had preserved the light imprint of a radiant, peaceful and
tender smile. It was blue and biting in the cabinet from the dense
tobacco smoke; guttered, warty little streams had congealed on the
candles in the candelabras; the table, flooded with coffee and wine,
scattered all over with orange peels, seemed hideous.

Jennie was sitting on the divan, her knees clasped around with her
arms. And again was Platonov struck by the sombre fire in her deep
eyes, that seemed fallen in underneath the dark eyebrows, formidably
contracted downward, toward the bridge of the nose.

"I'll put out the candles," said Lichonin.

The morning half-light, watery and drowsy, filled the room through the
slits of the blinds. The extinguished wicks of the candles smoked with
faint streams. The tobacco smoke swirled in blue, layered shrouds, but
a ray of sunlight that had cut its way through the heart-shaped hollow
in a window shutter, transpierced the cabinet obliquely with a joyous,
golden sword of dust, and in liquid, hot gold splashed upon the paper
on the wall.

"That's better," said Lichonin, sitting down. "The conversation will be
short, but ... the devil knows ... how to approach it."

He looked at Jennie in abstraction.

"Shall I go away, then?" said she indifferently.

"No, you sit a while," the reporter answered for Lichonin. "She won't
be in the way," he turned to the student and slightly smiled. "For the
conversation will be about prostitution? Isn't that so?"

"Well, yes... sort of..."

"Very well, then. You listen to her carefully. Her opinions happen to
be of an unusually cynical nature, but at times of exceeding weight."

Lichonin vigorously rubbed and kneaded his face with his palms, then
intertwined his fingers and nervously cracked them twice. It was
apparent that he was agitated and was himself constrained about that
which he was getting ready to say.

"Oh, but isn't it all the same!" he suddenly exclaimed angrily. "You
were to-day speaking about these women ... I listened... True, you
haven't told me anything new. But-strangely-I, for some reason, as
though for the first time in my loose life, have looked upon this
question with open eyes... I ask you, what is prostitution in the end?
What is it? The extravagant delirium of large cities, or an eternal
historical phenomenon? Will it cease some time? Or will it die only
with the death of all mankind? Who will answer me that?"

Platonov was looking at him intently, narrowing his eyes slightly,
through habit. He wanted to know what main thought was inflicting such
sincere torture on Lichonin.

"When it will cease, none will tell you. Perhaps when the magnificent
Utopias of the socialists and anarchists will materialize, when the
world will become everyone's and no one's, when love will be absolutely
free and subject only to its own unlimited desires, while mankind will
fuse into one happy family, wherein will perish the distinction between
mine and thine, and there will come a paradise upon earth, and man will
again become naked, glorified and without sin. Perhaps it may be
then..."

"But now? Now?" asks Lichonin with growing agitation. "Shall I look on,
with my little hands folded? 'It's none of my affair?' Tolerate it as
an unavoidable evil? Put up with it, and wash my hands of it? Shall I
pronounce a benediction upon it?"

"This evil is not unavoidable, but insuperable. But isn't it all the
same to you?" asked Platonov with cold wonder. "For you're an
anarchist, aren't you?"

"What the devil kind of an anarchist am I! Well, yes, I am an
anarchist, because my reason, when I think of life, always leads me
logically to the anarchistic beginning. And I myself think in theory:
let men beat, deceive, and fleece men, like flocks of sheep--let
them!--violence will breed rancour sooner or later. Let them violate
the child, let them trample creative thought under foot, let there be
slavery, let there be prostitution, let them thieve, mock, spill
blood...Let them! The worse, the better, the nearer the end. There is a
great law, I think, the same for inanimate objects as well as for all
the tremendous and many-millioned human life: the power of effort is
equal to the power of resistance. The worse, the better. Let evil and
vindictiveness accumulate in mankind, let them grow and ripen like a
monstrous abscess--an abscess the size of the whole terrestrial sphere.
For it will burst some time! And let there be terror and insufferable
pain. Let the pus deluge all the universe. But mankind will either
choke in it and perish, or, having gone through the illness, will be
regenerated to a new, beautiful life."

Lichonin avidly drank off a cup of cold black coffee and continued
vehemently:

"Yes. Just so do I and many others theorize, sitting in our rooms, over
tea with white bread and cooked sausage, when the value of each
separate human life is so-so, an infinitesimally small numeral in a
mathematical formula. But let me see a child abused, and the red blood
will rush to my head from rage. And when I look and look upon the
labour of a moujik or a labourer, I am thrown into hysterics for shame
at my algebraic calculations. There is--the devil take it!--there is
something incongruous, altogether illogical, but which at this time is
stronger than human reason. Take to-day, now ... Why do I feel at this
minute as though I had robbed a sleeping man or deceived a
three-year-old child, or hit a bound person? And why does it seem to me
to-day that I myself am guilty of the evil of prostitution--guilty in
my silence, my indifference, my indirect permission? What am I to do,
Platonov!" exclaimed the student with grief in his voice.

Platonov kept silent, squinting at him with his little narrow eyes. But
Jennie unexpectedly said in a caustic tone:

"Well, you do as one Englishwoman did ... A certain red-haired
clodhopper came to us here. She must have been important, because she
came with a whole retinue ... all some sort of officials ... But before
her had come the assistant of the commissioner, with the precinct
inspector Kerbesh. And the assistant directly forewarned us, just like
that: 'If you stiffs, and so on and so on, will let out even one little
rude word, or something, then I won't leave one stone upon another of
your establishment, while I'll flog all the wenches soundly in the
station-house and make 'em rot in jail!' Well, at last this galoot
came. She gibbered and she gibbered something in a foreign language,
all the time pointed to heaven with her hand, and then distributed a
five-kopeck Testament to every one of us and rode away. Now you ought
to do the same, dearie."

Platonov burst into loud laughter. But seeing the naive and sad face of
Lichonin, who did not seem to understand, nor even suspect mockery, he
restrained his laughter and said seriously:

"You won't accomplish anything, Lichonin. While there will be property,
there will also be poverty. While marriage exists, prostitution also
will not die. Do you know who will always sustain and nourish
prostitution? It is the so-called decent people, the noble
paterfamiliases, the irreproachable husbands, the loving brothers. They
will always find a seemly motive to legitimize, normalize and put a
wrapper all around paid libertinage, because they know very well that
otherwise it would rush in a torrent into their bedrooms and nurseries.
Prostitution is for them a deflection of the sensuousness of others
from their personal, lawful alcove. And even the respectable
paterfamilias himself is not averse to indulge in a love debauch in
secret. And really, it is palling to have always the one and the same
thing the wife, the chambermaid, and the lady on the side. Man, as a
matter of fact, is a poly--and exceedingly so--a polygamous animal. And
to his rooster-like amatory instincts it will always be sweet to unfold
in such a magnificent nursery garden, A LA Treppel's or Anna
Markovna's. Oh, of course, a well-balanced spouse or the happy father
of six grown-up daughters will always be clamouring about the horror of
prostitution. He will even arrange with the help of a lottery and an
amateur entertainment a society for the saving of fallen women, or an
asylum in the name of St. Magdalene. But the existence of prostitution
he will bless and sustain."

"Magdalene asylums!" with quiet laughter, full of an ancient hatred the
ache of which had not yet healed, repeated Jennie.

"Yes, I know that all these false measures undertaken are stuff and a
total mockery," cut in Lichonin. "But let me be ridiculous and stupid,
yet I do not wish to remain a commiserating spectator, who sits on a
warm ledge, gazes upon a conflagration, and is saying all the time:
'Oh, my, but it's burning ... by God, it is burning! Perhaps there are
even people burning!'--but for his part merely laments and slaps his
thighs."

"Well, now," said Platonov harshly, "would you take a child's syringe
and go to put out the fire with it?"

"No!" heatedly exclaimed Lichonin ... "Perhaps--who knows?--perhaps
I'll succeed in saving at least one living soul? It was just this that
I wanted to ask you about, Platonov, and you must help me ... Only, I
implore you, without jeers, without cooling off ..."

"You want to take a girl out of here? To save her?" asked Platonov,
looking at him attentively. He now understood the drift of this entire
conversation.

"Yes ... I don't know ... I'll try ..." answered Lichonin uncertainly.

"She'll come back," said Platonov.

"She will," Jennie repeated with conviction.

Lichonin walked up to her, took her by the hands and began to speak in
a trembling whisper:

"Jennechka ... Perhaps you ... eh? For I don't call you as a mistress
... but a friend ... It's all a trifle, half a year of rest ... and
then we'll master some trade or other ... we'll read..."

Jennie snatched her hands out of his with vexation.

"Oh, into a bog with you!" she almost shouted. "I know you! Want me to
darn socks for you? Cook on a kerosene stove? Pass nights without
sleeping on account of you when you'll be chitter-chattering with your
short-haired friends? But when you get to be a doctor or a lawyer, or a
government clerk, then it's me will get a knee in the back: 'Out on the
street with you, now, you public hide, you've ruined my young life. I
want to marry a decent girl, pure, and innocent! ..."

"I meant it as a brother ... I meant it without that ..." mumbled
Lichonin in confusion.

"I know that kind of brothers. Until the first night ... Leave off and
don't talk nonsense to me! It makes me tired to listen to it!"

"Wait, Lichonin!" began the reporter seriously. "Why, you will pile a
load beyond your strength upon yourself as well. I've known idealists,
among the populists, who married peasant girls out of principle. This
is just the way they thought--nature, black-loam, untapped forces. ...
But this black-loam after a year turned into the fattest of women, who
lies the whole day in bed and chews cookies, or studs her fingers with
penny rings, spreads them out and admires them. Or else sits in the
kitchen, drinks sweet liquor with the coachman and carries on a natural
romance with him. Look out, here it will be worse!"

All three became silent. Lichonin was pale and was wiping his moist
forehead with a handkerchief.

"No, the devil take it!" he cried out suddenly with obstinacy. "I don't
believe you! I don't want to believe! Liuba" he called loudly the girl
who had fallen asleep. "Liubochka!"

The girl awoke, passed her palm over her lips, first to one side, then
the other, yawned, and smiled, in a funny, child-like manner.

"I wasn't sleeping, I heard everything," she said. "I only dozed off
for a teeny-weeny bit."

"Liuba, do you want to go away from here with me?" asked Lichonin and
took her by the hand. "But entirely, forever, to go away so's never to
return either to a brothel or the street?"

Liuba questioningly, with perplexity, looked at Jennie, as though
seeking from her an explanation of this jest.

"That's enough for you," she said slyly. "You're still studying
yourself. Where do you come in, then, to take a girl and set her up?"

"Not to set you up, Liuba ... I simply want to help you ... For it
isn't very sweet for you in a brothel, is it now!"

"Naturally, it isn't all sugar! If I was as proud as Jennechka, or so
enticing like Pasha ... but I won't get used to things here for
anything ..."

"Well, then, let's go, let's go! ..." entreated Lichonin. "Surely, you
know some manual work--well, now, sewing something, embroidering,
cutting?"

"I don't know anything!" answered Liuba bashfully and started laughing
and turned red, covering her mouth with the elbow of her free arm.
"What's asked of us in the village, that I know, but anything more I
don't know. I can cook a little ... I lived at the priest's--cooked for
him."

"That's splendid! That's excellent!" Lichonin grew joyous. "I will
assist you, you'll open a dining room ... A cheap dining room, you
understand ... I'll advertise it for you ... The students will come!
That's magnificent! ..."

"That's enough of making fun of me!" retorted Liuba, a bit offended,
and again looked askance and questioningly at Jennie.

"He's not joking," answered Jennie with a voice which quavered
strangely. "He's in earnest, seriously."

"Here's my word of honour that I'm serious! Honest to God, now!" the
student caught her up with warmth and for some reason even made the
sign of the cross in the direction of the empty corner.

"And really," said Jennie, "take Liubka. That's not the same thing as
taking me. I'm like an old dragoon's nag, and used to it. You can't
make me over, neither with hay nor a stick. But Liubka is a simple girl
and a kind one. And she hasn't grown used to our life yet. What are you
popping your eyes out at me for, you ninny? Answer when you're asked.
Well? Do you want to or don't you want to?"

"And why not? If they ain't laughing, but for real ... And you,
Jennechka, what would you advise me ..."

"Oh, you're such wood!" Jennie grew angry. "What's better according to
you--to rot on straw with a nose fallen through? To croak under the
fence like a dog? Or to turn honest? Fool! You ought to kiss his hands;
but no, you're getting particular."

The naive Liuba did, in fact, extend her lips toward Lichonin's hand,
and this movement made everybody laugh, and touched them just the least
trifle.

"And that's very good! It's like magic!" bustled the overjoyed
Lichonin. "Go and notify the proprietress at once that you're going
away from here forever. And take the most necessary things; it isn't as
it used to be; now a girl can go away from a brothel whenever she wants
to."

"No, it can't be done that way," Jennie stopped him; "she can go away,
that's so, but you'll have no end of unpleasantness and hullabaloo.
Here's what you do, student. You won't regret ten roubles?"

"Of course, of course ... if you please."

"Let Liuba tell the housekeeper that you're taking her to your rooms
for to-day. That's the fixed rate--ten roubles. And afterwards, well,
even to-morrow--come after the ticket and things. That's nothing; we'll
work this thing roundly. And after that you must go to the police with
her ticket and declare, that Liubka So-and-so has hired herself to you
as chambermaid, and that you desire to exchange her blank for a real
passport. Well, Liubka, lively! Take the money and march. And, look
out, be as quick as possible with the housekeeper, or else she, the
bitch, will read it in your eyes. And also don't forget," she cried,
now after Liuba, "wipe the rouge off your puss, now. Or else the
drivers will be pointing their fingers at you."

After half an hour Liuba and Lichonin were getting on a cab at the
entrance. Jennie and the reporter were standing on the sidewalk.

"You're committing a great folly, Lichonin," Platonov was saying
listlessly, "but I honour and respect the fine impulse within you.
Here's the thought--and here's the deed. You're a brave and a splendid
fellow."

"Here's to your commencement!" laughed Jennie. "Look out, don't forget
to send for me to the christening."

"You won't see it, no matter how long you wait for it!" laughed
Lichonin, waving his cap about.

They rode off. The reporter looked at Jennie, and with astonishment saw
tears in her softened eyes.

"God grant it, God grant it," she was whispering.

"What has been the matter with you to-day, Jennie?" he asked kindly.
"What? Are you oppressed? Can't I do anything?"

She turned her back to him and leaned over the bent balustrade of the
stoop.

"How shall I write to you, if need be?" she asked in a stifled voice.

"Why, it's simple. Editorial rooms of Echoes. So-and-so. They'll pass
it on to me pretty fast."

"I ... I ... I ..." Jennie just began, but suddenly burst into loud,
passionate sobs and covered her face with her hands, "I'll write you
..."

And without taking her hands away from her face, her shoulders
quivering, she ran up the stoop and disappeared in the house, loudly
banging the door after her.



PART TWO



CHAPTER I.


Even to this day, after a lapse of ten years, the erstwhile inhabitants
of the Yamkas recall that year, abounding in unhappy, foul, bloody
events, which began with a series of trifling, small affrays, but
terminated in the administration's, one fine day, taking and destroying
completely the ancient, long-warmed nest of legalized prostitution,
which nest it had itself created--scattering its remains over the
hospitals, jails and streets of the big city. Even to this day a few of
the former proprietresses who have remained alive and have reached the
limit of decrepitude, and quondam housekeepers, fat and hoarse, like
pug-dogs grown old, recall this common destruction with sorrow, horror,
and stolid perplexity.

Just like potatoes out of a sack, brawls, robberies, diseases, murders
and suicides began to pour down, and, it seemed, no one was to blame
for this. All these misfortunes just simply began to be more frequent
of their own accord, to pile one upon the other, to expand and grow;
just as a small lump of snow, pushed by the feet of urchins, becomes
constantly bigger and bigger by itself from the thawing snow sticking
to it, grows bigger than the stature of a man, and, finally, with one
last, small effort is precipitated into a ravine and rolls down as an
enormous avalanche. The old proprietresses and housekeepers, of course,
had never heard of fatality; but inwardly, with the soul, they sensed
its mysterious presence in the inevitable calamities of that terrible
year.

And, truly, everywhere in life where people are bound by common
interests, blood relationship, or the benefits of a profession into
close, individualized groups--there inevitably can be observed this
mysterious law of sudden accumulation, of a piling up, of events; their
epidemicity, their strange succession and connectedness, their
incomprehensible lingering. This occurs, as popular wisdom has long ago
noted, in isolated families, where disease or death suddenly falls upon
the near ones in an inevitable, enigmatic order. "Misfortune does not
come alone." "Misfortune without waits--open wide the gates." This is
to be noticed also in monasteries, banks, governmental departments,
regiments, places of learning and other public institutions, where for
a long time, almost for decades, life flows evenly, like a marshy
river; and, suddenly, and after some altogether insignificant incident
or other, there begin transfers, changes in positions, expulsions from
service, losses, sicknesses. The members of society, just as though
they had conspired, die, go insane, are caught thieving, shoot or hang
themselves; vacancy after vacancy is freed; promotions follow
promotions, new elements flow in, and, behold, after two years there is
not a one of the previous people on the spot; everything is new, if
only the institution has not fallen into pieces completely, has not
crept apart. And is it not the same astounding destiny which overtakes
enormous social, universal organizations--cities, empires, nations,
countries, and, who knows, perhaps whole planetary worlds?

Something resembling this incomprehensible fatality swept over the
Yamaskya Borough as well, bringing it to a rapid and scandalous
destruction. Now in place of the boisterous Yamkas is left a peaceful,
humdrum outskirt, in which live truck-farmers, cat's-meat men, Tartars,
swineherds and butchers from the near-by slaughterhouses. At the
petition of these worthy people even the designation of Yamaskya
Borough itself, as disgracing the inhabitants with its past, has been
named over into Golubovka, in honour of the merchant Golubov, owner of
a shop dealing in groceries and delicacies, and warden of the local
church.

The first subterranean shocks of this catastrophe began in the heat of
summer, at the time of the annual summer fair, which this year was
unbelievably brilliant. Many circumstances contributed to its
extraordinary success, multitudes, and the stupendousness of the deals
concluded during it: the building in the vicinity of three new sugar
refineries, and the unusually abundant crop of wheat, and, in
particular, of sugar beets; the commencement of work in the laying of
an electric trolley and of canalization; the building of a new road to
the distance of 750 versts; but mainly, the fever of building which
seized the whole town, all the banks and financial institutions, and
all the houseowners. Factories for making brick sprang up on the
outskirts of the town like mushrooms. A grandiose agricultural
exposition opened. Two new steamer lines came into being, and they,
together with the previously established ones, frenziedly competed with
each other, transporting freight and pilgrims. In competition they
reached such a state, that they lowered their passenger rates for the
third class from seventy-five kopecks to five, three, two, and even one
kopeck. In the end, ready to fall from exhaustion in the unequal
struggle, one of the steamship companies offered a free passage to all
the third-class passengers. Then its competitor at once added to the
free passage half a loaf of white bread as well. But the biggest and
most significant enterprise of this city was the engineering of the
extensive river port, which had attracted to it hundreds of thousands
of labourers and which cost God knows what money.

It must also be added, that the city was at this time celebrating the
millennial anniversary of its famous abbey, the most honoured and the
richest among all the monasteries of Russia. From all the ends of
Russia, out of Siberia, from the shores of the Frozen Ocean, from the
extreme south--the Black and Caspian Seas--countless pilgrims had
gathered for the worship of the local sanctities: the abbey's saints,
reposing deep underground in calcareous caverns. Suffice it to say,
that the monastery gave shelter, and food of a sort, to forty thousand
people daily; while those for whom there was not enough room lay, at
night, side by side, like logs, in the extensive yards and lanes of the
abbey.

This was a summer out of some fairy-tale. The population of the city
increased well-nigh fourfold through every sort of newly-come people.
Stone-masons, carpenters, painters, engineers, technicians, foreigners,
agriculturists, brokers, shady business men, river navigators,
unoccupied knaves, tourists, thieves, card sharpers--they all
overflowed the city, and not in a single hotel, the most dirty and
dubious one, was there a vacant room. Insane prices were paid for
quarters. The stock exchange gambled on a grand scale, as never before
or since that summer. Money in millions simply flowed from hands to
hands, and thence to a third pair. In one hour colossal riches were
created, but then many former firms burst, and yesterday's men of
wealth turned into beggars. The commonest of labourers bathed and
warmed themselves in this golden flood. Stevedores, draymen, street
porters, roustabouts, hod carriers and ditch diggers still remember to
this day what money they earned by the day during this mad summer. Any
tramp received no less than four of five roubles a day at the unloading
of barges laden with watermelons. And all this noisy, foreign band,
locoed by the easy money, intoxicated with the sensual beauty of the
ancient, seductive city, enchanted by the delightful warmth of the
southern nights, made drunk by the insidious fragrance of the white
acacias--these hundreds of thousands of insatiable, dissolute beasts in
the image of men, with all their massed will clamoured: "Give us woman!"

In a single month new amusement enterprises--chic Tivolis, CHATEAUX DES
FLEURES, Olympias, Alcazars, etc., with a chorus and an operetta; many
restaurants and beerhouses, with little summer gardens, and common
little taverns--sprang up by the score in the city, in the vicinity of
the building port. On every crossing new "violet-wine" houses were
opened every day--little booths of boards, in each of which, under the
pretext of selling bread-cider, old wenches trafficked in themselves by
twos and threes, right alongside behind a partition of deal, and to
many mothers and fathers is this summer painful and memorable through
the degrading diseases of their sons--schoolboys and military cadets.
For the casual arrivals servants were demanded, and thousands of
peasant girls started out from the surrounding villages toward the
city. It was inevitable that the demand on prostitution should become
unusually high. And so, from Warsaw, from Lodz, from Odessa, from
Moscow, and even from St. Petersburg, even from abroad, flocked
together an innumerable multitude of foreign women; cocottes of Russian
fabrication, the most ordinary prostitutes of the rank and file, and
chic Frenchwomen and Viennese. Imperiously told the corrupting
influence of the hundreds of millions of easy money. It was as though
this cascade of gold had lashed down upon, had set to whirling and
deluged within it, the whole city. The number of thefts and murders
increased with astounding rapidity. The police, collected in augmented
proportions, lost its head and was swept off its feet. But it must also
be said that, having gorged itself with plentiful bribes, it resembled
a sated python, willy-nilly drowsy and listless. People were killed for
anything and nothing, just so. It happened that men would walk up to a
person in broad daylight somewhere on an unfrequented street and ask:
"What's your name?" "Fedorov." "Aha, Federov? Then take this!" and they
would slit his belly with a knife. They nicknamed these blades just
that in the city--"rippers"; and there were among them names of which
the city news seemed actually proud: the two brothers Polishchuk (Mitka
and Dundas), Volodka the Greek, Fedor Miller, Captain Dmitriev,
Sivocho, Dobrovolski, Shpachek, and many others.

Both day and night on the main streets of the frenzied city stood,
moved, and yelled the mob, as though at a fire. It would be almost
impossible to describe what went on in the Yamkas then. Despite the
fact that the madams had increased the staff of their patients to more
than double and increased their prices trebly, their poor demented
girls could not catch up in satisfying the demands of the drunken,
crazed public, which threw money around like chips. It happened that in
the drawing room, filled to overflowing with people, each girl would be
awaited for by some seven, eight, at times even ten, men. It was,
truly, some kind of a mad, intoxicated, convulsive time!

And from that very time began all the misfortunes of the Yamkas, which
brought them to ruin. And together with the Yamkas perished also the
house, familiar to us, of the stout, old, pale-eyed Anna Markovna.



CHAPTER II.


The passenger train sped merrily from the south to the north,
traversing golden fields of wheat and beautiful groves of oak,
careering with rumbling upon iron bridges over bright rivers, leaving
behind it whirling clouds of smoke.

In the COUPE of the second class, even with open windows, there was a
fearful stuffiness, and it was hot. The smell of sulphurous smoke
irritated the throat. The rocking and the heat had completely tired out
the passengers, save one, a merry, energetic, mobile Hebrew, splendidly
dressed, accommodating, sociable and talkative. He was travelling with
a young woman, and it was at once apparent, especially through her,
that they were newly-weds; so often did her face flare up with an
unexpected colour at every tenderness of her husband, even the least.
And when she raised her eyelashes to look upon him, her eyes would
shine like stars, and grow humid. And her face was as beautiful as only
the faces of young Hebrew maidens in love can be beautiful--all
tenderly rosy, with rosy lips, rounded out in beautiful innocence, and
with eyes so black that their pupils could not be distinguished from
the irises.

Unabashed by the presence of three strange people, he showered his
caresses upon his companion every minute, and, it must be said,
sufficiently coarse ones. With the unceremoniousness of an owner, with
that especial egoism of one in love, who, it would seem, is saying to
the whole universe: "See, how happy we are--this makes you happy also,
isn't that so?"--he would now pass his hand over her leg, which
resiliently and in relief stood out beneath her dress, now pinch her on
the cheek, now tickle her neck with his stiff, black, turned-up
moustache ... But, even though he did sparkle with delight, there was
still something rapacious, wary, uneasy to be glimpsed in his
frequently winking eyes, in the twitching of the upper lip, and in the
harsh outline of his shaved, square chin, jutting out, with a scarcely
noticeable dent in the middle.

Opposite this infatuated couple were placed three passengers--a retired
general, a spare, neat little old man, with pomade on his hair, with
curls combed forward to the temples; a stout land-owner, who had taken
off his starched collar, but was still gasping from the heat and
mopping his face every minute with a wet handkerchief; and a young
infantry officer. The endless talkativeness of Simon Yakovlevich (the
young man had already managed to inform his neighbours that he was
called Simon Yakovlevich Horizon) tired and irritated the passengers a
trifle, just like the buzzing of a fly, that on a sultry summer day
rhythmically beats against a window pane of a closed, stuffy room. But
still, he knew how to raise their spirits: he showed tricks of magic;
told Hebrew anecdotes, full of a fine humour of their own. When his
wife would go out on the platform to refresh herself, he would tell
such things that the general would melt into a beatific smile, the
land-owner would neigh, rocking his black-loam stomach, while the
sub-lieutenant, a smooth-faced boy, only a year out of school, scarcely
controlling his laughter and curiosity, would turn away to one side,
that his neighbours might not see him turning red.

His wife tended Horizon with a touching, naive attention; she wiped his
face with a handkerchief, waved upon him with a fan, adjusted his
cravat every minute. And his face at these times became laughably
supercilious and stupidly self-conceited.

"But allow me to ask," asked the spare little general, coughing
politely, "allow me to ask, my dear sir, what occupation might you
pursue?"

"Ah, my God!" with a charming frankness retorted Simon Yakovlevich.
"Well, what can a poor Jew do in our time? It's a bit of a travelling
salesman and a commission broker by me. At the present time I'm far
from business. You--he! he! he!--understand yourselves, gentlemen. A
honeymoon--don't turn red, Sarochka--it don't repeat itself three times
in a year. But afterwards I'll have to travel and work a great deal.
Here we'll come with Sarochka to town, will pay the visits to her
relatives, and then again on the road. On my first trip I'm thinking of
taking my wife. You know, sort of a wedding journey. I'm a
representative from Sidris and two English firms. Wouldn't you like to
have a look? Here are the samples with me ..."

He very rapidly took out of a small, elegant case of yellow leather a
few long cardboard folding books, and with the dexterity of a tailor
began to unfold them, holding one end, from which their folds fell
downward with a light crackling.

"Look, what splendid samples: they don't give in to foreign ones at
all. Please notice. Here, for instance, is Russian and here English
tricot, or here, cangan and cheviot. Compare, feel it, and you'll be
convinced that the Russian samples almost don't give in to the foreign.
Why, that speaks of progress, of the growth of culture. So it's
absolutely for nothing that Europe counts us Russians such barbarians.

"And so we'll pay our family visits, will look at the fair, pay a visit
to the CHATEAU DES FLEURS, enjoy ourselves a little, stroll a bit, and
then to the Volga down to Tzaritzin, to the Black Sea, and then again
home to our native Odessa."

"That's a fine journey," said the sub-lieutenant modestly.

"I should say it's fine," agreed Simon Yakovlevich; "but there are no
roses without thorns. The work of a travelling salesman is exceedingly
difficult and requires many kinds of knowledge, and not so much the
knowledge of business as the knowledge of--how shall I say it?--the
knowledge of the human soul. Another man may not even want to give an
order, but you must work like an elephant to convince him, and argue
until he feels the clearness and justice of your words. Because I take
only absolutely clean lines exclusively, of which there can be no
doubts. A fake or a bad line I will not take, although they should
offer me millions for it. Ask wherever you like, in any store which
deals in cloths or suspenders GLOIRE--I'm also a representative from
this firm--or buttons HELIOS--you just ask who Simon Yakovlevich
Horizon is, and everyone will answer you: 'Simon Yakovlevich is not a
man, but gold; this is a disinterested man, as honest as a diamond.'"
And Horizon was already unpacking long boxes with patented suspenders,
and was showing the glistening leaves of cardboard, covered with
regular rows of vari-coloured buttons.

"There happen great unpleasantnesses, when the place has been worked
out, when a lot of travelling salesmen have appeared before you. Here
you can't do anything; they absolutely won't listen to you, only wave
their arms. But that's only for others. I am Horizon! I can talk him
over, the same like a camel from a menagerie. But it happens still more
unpleasant, when two competitors in one and the same line come together
in the same town. And it happens even worse when it's some chimney
sweep and can't do business himself and spoils business for you too.
Here you go to all sorts of tricks: let him drink till he's drunk or
let him go off somewhere on a false track. Not an easy trade! Besides
that, I have one more line--that's false eyes and teeth. But it ain't a
profitable line. I want to drop it. And besides I'm thinking of leaving
all this business. I understand, it's all right for a young man, in the
bloom of his powers, to flutter around like a moth, but once you have a
wife, and may be a whole family even ..." he playfully patted the woman
on the knee, from which she became scarlet and looked uncommonly
better. "For the Lord has blessed us Jews with fecundity for all our
misfortunes ... Then you want to have some business of your own, you
want, you understand, to become settled in one place, so's there should
be a shack of your own, and your own furniture, and your own bedroom,
and kitchen ... Isn't that so, your excellency?"

"Yes ... Yes ... eh--eh ... Yes, of course, of course," condescendingly
responded the general.

"And so I took with Sarochka a little dowry. What do I mean, a little
dowry? Such money that Rothschild would not even want to look at it are
in my hands a whole capital already. But it must be said that there are
some savings by me, too. The firms I know will give me credit. If God
grant it, we shall still eat a piece of bread and a little butter--and
on the Sabbaths the tasty GEFILTEH FISCH."

"That's fine fish: pike the way the sheenies make it!" said the gasping
land-owner.

"We shall open up for ourselves the firm of 'Horizon and Son.' Isn't
that true, Sarochka--'and Son?' And you, I hope, will honour me with
your esteemed orders? When you see the sign, 'Horizon and Son,' then
straight off recollect that you once rode in a car together with a
young man, who had grown as foolish as hell from love and from
happiness."

"Ab-solutely!" said the land-owner.

And Simon Yakovlevich at once turned to him:

"But I also work by commission broking. To sell an estate, to buy an
estate, to arrange a second mortgage--you won't find a better
specialist than me, and such a cheap one at that. I can be of service
to you, should the need arise," and he extended his visiting card to
the land-owner with a bow, and, by the way, handed a card each to his
two neighbours as well.

The land-owner dived into a side pocket and also dragged out a card.

"Joseph Ivanovich Vengjenovski," Simon Yakovlevich read out loud.
"Very, very pleased! And so, should you need me ..."

"Why not? It's possible ..." said the land-owner meditatively. "Why,
yes: perhaps, indeed, a favourable chance has brought us together! Why,
I'm just journeying to K----about the sale of a certain forest country
house. Suppose you do that, then,--drop in to see me. I always stop at
the Grand Hotel. Perhaps we may be able to strike up a deal."

"Oh, I'm already almost sure, my dearest Joseph Ivanovich!" exclaimed
the rejoicing Horizon, and slightly, with the very tips of his fingers,
patted Vengjenovski's kneecap carefully. "You just rest assured; if
Horizon has undertaken anything, then you'll be thanking him like your
own father, no more, no less."

Half an hour later Simon Yakovlevich and the smooth-faced
sub-lieutenant were standing on the platform of the car and smoking.

"Do you often visit K----, mister sub-lieutenant?" asked Horizon.

"Only for the first time--just imagine! Our regiment is stationed at
Chernobob. I was born in Moscow, myself."

"AI, AI, AI! How'd you come to get into such a faraway place?"

"Well, it just fell out so. There was no other vacancy when I was let
out."

"But then--Chernobob is a hole! The worst little town in all Podolia."

"That's true, but it just fell out so."

"That means, then, that the young officer gent is going to K----to
divert himself a little?"

"Yes. I'm thinking of stopping there for two or three days. I'm
travelling to Moscow, really. I have received a two months' leave, but
it would be interesting to look over the city on the way. It's very
beautiful, they say."

"Oh, what are you trying to tell me? A remarkable city! Well,
absolutely a European city. If you only knew, what streets,
electricity, trolleys, theatres! And if you only knew what cabarets!
You'll lick your own fingers. Positively, positively, I advise you,
young man, to pay a visit to the CHATEAU DES FLEURS, to the Tivoli, and
also to ride out to the island. That's something special. What women,
wha-a-at women!"

The lieutenant turned red, took his eyes away, and asked in a voice
that quavered:

"Yes, I've happened to hear that. Is it possible that they're really so
handsome?"

"Oi! Strike me God! Believe me, there are no handsome women there at
all."

"But--how's that?"

"Why, this way: there are only raving beauties there. You
understand--what a happy blending of bloods! Polish, Little Russian,
and Hebrew. How I envy you, young man, that you're free and alone. In
my time I sure would have shown myself! And what's most remarkable of
all, they're unusually passionate women! Well, just like fire! And do
you know something else?" he asked in a whisper of great significance.

"What?" asked the sub-lieutenant in a fright.

"It's remarkable, that nowheres, neither in Paris, nor in
London--believe me, this was told me by people who had seen the whole
wide world--never, nowhere, will you meet with such exquisite ways of
making love as in this town. That's something especial, as us little
Jews say. They think up such things that no imagination can picture to
itself. It's enough to drive you crazy!"

"But is that possible?" quietly spoke the sub-lieutenant, whose breath
had been cut off.

"Well, strike me God! But permit me, young man, by the way! You
understand yourself. I was single, and of course, every man is liable
to sin ... It's different now, of course. I've had myself written in
with the invalids. But from the former days a remarkable collection has
remained to me. Just wait, I'll show it to you right away. Only,
please, be as careful as possible in looking at it."

Horizon with trepidation looked around to the right and left and
extracted from his pocket a long, narrow little box of morocco, in the
style of those in which playing cards are usually kept, and extended it
to the sub-lieutenant.

"Here you are, have a look. Only, I beg of you, be very careful."

The sub-lieutenant applied himself to picking out, one after the other,
the cards of plain and coloured photography, in which in all possible
aspects was depicted in the most beastly ways, in the most impossible
positions, the external side of love which at times makes man
immeasurably lower and viler than a baboon. Horizon would look over his
shoulder, nudge him with his elbow, and whisper:

"Tell me, ain't that swell, now? Why, this is genuine Parisian and
Viennese chic!"

The sub-lieutenant looked through the whole collection from the
beginning to the end. When he was giving back the little box, his hand
was shaking, his temples and forehead were moist, his eyes had dimmed,
and over his cheeks had mantled a blush, mottled like marble.

"But do you know what?" Horizon exclaimed gaily, all of a sudden. "It's
all the same to me--the Indian sign has been put upon me. I, as they
used to say in the olden times, have burned my ships ... I have burned
all that I used to adore before. For a long time already I've been
looking for an opportunity to pass these cards on to some one. I ain't
especially chasing after a price. You wish to acquire them, mister
officer?"

"Well, now ... I,--that is ... Why not? ... Let's ..."

"That's fine! On account of such a pleasant acquaintanceship, I'll take
fifty kopecks apiece. What, is that expensive? Well, what's the
difference, God be with you! I see you're a travelling man, I don't
want to rob you; let it go at thirty, then. What? That ain't cheap
either? Well, shake hands on it! Twenty-five kopecks apiece. OI! What
an intractable fellow you are! At twenty! You'll thank me yourself
later! And then, do you know what else? When I come to K--, I always
stop at the Hotel Hermitage. You can very easily find me there either
very early in the morning, or about eight o'clock in the evening. I
know an awful lot of the finest little ladies. So I'll introduce you.
And, you understand, not for money. Oh, no. It's just simply nice and
gay for them to pass the time with a young, healthy, handsome man of
your sort. There's absolutely no money of any kind necessary. And for
that matter--they themselves will willingly pay for wine, for a bottle
of champagne! So remember then; The Hermitage, Horizon. And if it isn't
that, remember it anyway! Maybe I can be of use to you. And the cards
are such a thing, such a thing, that it will never lay on the shelf by
you. Those who like that sort of thing give three roubles for each
specimen. But these, of course, are rich people, little old men. And
then, you know"--Horizon bent over to the officer's very ear, winked
one eye, and pronounced in a sly whisper--"you know, many ladies adore
these cards. Why, you're a young man, and handsome; how many romances
you will have yet!"

Having received the money and counted it over painstakingly, Horizon
had the brazenness to extend his hand in addition, and to shake the
hand of the sub-lieutenant, who did not dare to lift up his eyes to
him; and, having left him on the platform, went back into the
passageway of the car, as though nothing had happened.

This was an unusually communicative man. On the way to his COUPE he
came to a stop before a beautiful little girl of three years, with whom
he had for some time been flirting at a distance and making all sorts
of funny grimaces at. He squatted down on his heels before her, began
to imitate a nanny goat for her, and questioned her in a lisping voice:

"May I athk where the young lady ith going? OI, OI, OI! Thuch a big
girl! Travelling alone, without mamma? Bought a ticket all by herthelf
and travelth alone! AI! What a howwid girl! And where ith the girl'th
mamma?" At this moment a tall, handsome, self-assured woman appeared
from the COUPE and said calmly:

"Get away from the child. What a despicable thing to annoy strange
children!"

Horizon jumped up on his feet and began to bustle:

"Madam! I could not restrain myself ... Such a wonderful, such a
magnificent and swell child! A regular cupid! You must understand,
madam, I am a father myself--I have children of my own ... I could not
restrain myself from delight! ..."

But the lady turned her back upon him, took the girl by the hand and
went with her into the COUPE, leaving Horizon shuffling his feet and
muttering his compliments and apologies.

Several times during the twenty-four hours Horizon would go into the
third class, of two cars, separated from each other by almost the
entire train. In one care were sitting three handsome women, in the
society of a black-bearded, taciturn, morose man. Horizon and he would
exchange strange phrases in some special jargon. The women looked at
him uneasily, as though wishing, yet not daring, to ask him about
something. Only once, toward noon, did one of them allow herself to
utter:

"Then that's the truth? That which you said about the place? ... You
understand--I'm somewhat uneasy at heart!"

"Ah, what do you mean, Margarita Ivanovna? If I said it, then it's
right, just like by the National Bank. Listen, Lazer," he turned to him
of the beard. "There will be a station right away. Buy the girls all
sorts of sandwiches, whichever they may desire. The train stops here
for twenty-five minutes."

"I'd like to have bouillon," hesitatingly uttered a little blonde, with
hair like ripened rye, and with eyes like corn-flowers.

"My dear Bella, anything you please! At the station I'll go and see
that they bring you bouillon with meat and even stuffed dumplings.
Don't you trouble yourself, Lazer, I'll do all that myself."

In another car he had a whole nursery garden of women, twelve or
fifteen people, under the leadership of an old, stout woman, with
enormous, awesome, black eyebrows. She spoke in a bass, while her fat
chins, breasts, and stomachs swayed under a broad morning dress in time
to the shaking of the car, just like apple jelly. Neither the old woman
nor the young women left the least doubts as to their profession.

The women were lolling on the benches, smoking, playing cards--at
"sixty-six,"--drinking beer. Frequently the male public of the car
provoked them, and they swore back in unceremonious language, in hoarse
voices. The young people treated them with wine and cigarettes.

Horizon was here altogether unrecognizable; he was majestically
negligent and condescendingly jocose. On the other hand, cringing
ingratiation sounded in every word addressed to him by his female
clients. But he, having looked over all of them--this strange mixture
of Roumanians, Jewesses, Poles and Russians--and having assured himself
that all was in order, gave orders about the sandwiches and
majestically withdrew. At these moments he very much resembled a
drover, who is transporting by railroad cattle for slaughter, and at a
station drops in to look it over and to feed it. After that he would
return to his COUPE and again begin to toy with his wife, and Hebrew
anecdotes just poured from his mouth.

At the long stops he would go out to the buffet only to see about his
lady clients. But he himself said to his neighbours:

"You know, it's all the same to me if it's TREIF or KOSHER. I don't
recognize any difference. But what can I do with my stomach! The devil
knows what stuff they'll feed you sometimes at these stations. You'll
pay some three or four roubles, and then you'll spend a hundred roubles
on the doctors curing yourself. But maybe you, now, Sarochka"--he would
turn to his wife--"maybe you'll get off at the station to eat
something? Or shall I send it up to you here?"

Sarochka, happy over his attention, would turn red, beam upon him with
grateful eyes, and refuse.

"You're very kind, Senya, only I don't want to. I'm full."

Then Horizon would reach out of a travelling hamper a chicken, boiled
meat, cucumbers, and a bottle of Palestine wine; have a snack, without
hurrying, with appetite; regale his wife, who ate very genteelly,
sticking out the little fingers of her magnificent white hands; then
painstakingly wrap up the remnants in paper and, without hurrying, lay
them away accurately in the hamper.

In the distance, far ahead of the locomotive, the cupolas and belfries
were already beginning to sparkle with fires of gold. Through the COUPE
passed the conductor and made some imperceptible sign to Horizon. He
immediately followed the conductor out to the platform.

"The inspector will pass through right away," said the conductor, "so
you'll please be so kind as to stand for a while here on the platform
of the third class with your spouse."

"NU, NU, NU!" concurred Horizon.

"And the money as agreed, if you please."

"How much is coming to you, then?"

"Well, just as we agreed; half the extra charge, two roubles eighty
kopecks."

"What?" Horizon suddenly boiled over. "Two roubles eighty kopecks? You
think you got it a crazy one in me, what? Here's a rouble for you and
thank God for that!"

"Pardon me, sir. This is even absurd--didn't you and I agree?"

"Agree, agree! ... Here's a half more, and not a thing besides. What
impudence! I'll tell the inspector yet that you carry people without
tickets. Don't you think it, brother--you ain't found one of that sort
here!"

The conductor's eyes suddenly widened, became blood-shot.

"O-oh! You sheeny!" he began to roar. "I ought to take a skunk like you
and under the train with you!"

But Horizon at once flew at him like a cock.

"What? Under the train? But do you know what's done for words like
that? A threat by action! Here, I'll go right away and will yell
'help!' and will turn the signal handle," and he seized the door-knob
with such an air of resolution that the conductor just made a gesture
of despair with his hand and spat.

"May you choke with my money, you mangy sheeny!"

Horizon called his wife out of the COUPE:

"Sarochka! Let's go out on the platform for a look; one can see better
there. Well, it's so beautiful--just like on a picture!"

Sarah obediently went after him, holding up with an unskilled hand the
new dress, in all probability put on for the first time, bending out
and as though afraid of touching the door or the wall.

In the distance, in the rosy gala haze of the evening glow, shone the
golden cupolas and crosses. High up on the hill the white, graceful
churches seemed to float in this flowery, magic mirage. Curly woods and
coppices had run down from above and had pushed on over the very
ravine. And the sheer, white precipice which bathed its foot in the
blue river, was all furrowed over with occasional young woods, just
like green little veins and warts. Beautiful as in a fairy tale, the
ancient town appeared as though it were itself coming to meet the train.

When the train stopped, Horizon ordered three porters to carry the
things into the first class, and told his wife to follow him. But he
himself lingered at the exit in order to let through both his parties.
To the old woman looking after the dozen women he threw briefly in
passing:

"So remember, madam Berman! Hotel America, Ivanukovskaya, twenty-two!"

While to the black-bearded man he said:

"Don't forget, Lazer, to feed the girls at dinner and to bring them
somewhere to a movie show. About eleven o'clock at night wait for me.
I'll come for a talk. But if some one will be calling for me extra,
then you know my address--The Hermitage. Ring me up. But if I'm not
there for some reason, then run into Reiman's cafe, or opposite, into
the Hebrew dining room. I'll be eating GEFILTEH FISCH there. Well, a
lucky journey!"



CHAPTER III.


All the stories of Horizon about his commercial travelling were simply
brazen and glib lying. All the samples of drapers' goods, suspenders
gloire and buttons helios, the artificial teeth and insertible eyes,
served only as a shield, screening his real activity--to wit, the
traffic in the body of woman. True, at one time, some ten years ago, he
had travelled over Russia as the representative for the dubious wines
of some unknown firm; and this activity had imparted to his tongue that
free-and-easy unconstraint for which, in general, travelling salesmen
are distinguished. This former activity had, as well, brought him up
against his real profession. In some way, while going to
Rostov-on-the-Don, he had contrived to make a very young sempstress
fall in love with him. This girl had not as yet succeeded in getting on
the official lists of the police, but upon love and her body she looked
without any lofty prejudices. Horizon, at that time altogether a green
youth, amorous and light-minded, dragged the sempstress after him on
his wanderings, full of adventures and unexpected things. After half a
year she palled upon him dreadfully. She, just like a heavy burden,
like a millstone, hung around the neck of this man of energy, motion
and aggressiveness. In addition to that, there were the eternal scenes
of jealousy, mistrust, the constant control and tears ... the
inevitable consequences of long living together ... Then he began
little by little to beat his mate. At the first time she was amazed,
but from the second time quieted down, became tractable. It is known,
that "women of love" never know a mean in love relations. They are
either hysterical liars, deceivers, dissemblers, with a
coolly-perverted mind and a sinuous dark soul; or else unboundedly
self-denying, blindly devoted, foolish, naive animals, who know no
bounds either in concessions or loss of self-esteem. The sempstress
belonged to the second category, and Horizon was soon successful,
without great effort, in persuading her to go out on the street to
traffic in herself. And from that very evening, when his mistress
submitted to him and brought home the first five roubles earned,
Horizon experienced an unbounded loathing toward her. It is remarkable,
that no matter how many women Horizon met after this--and several
hundred of them had passed through his hands--this feeling of loathing
and masculine contempt toward them would never forsake him. He derided
the poor woman in every way, and tortured her morally, seeking out the
most painful spots. She would only keep silent, sigh, weep, and getting
down on her knees before him, kiss his hands. And this wordless
submission irritated Horizon still more. He drove her away from him.
She would not go away. He would push her out into the street; but she,
after an hour or two, would come back shivering from cold, in a soaked
hat, in the turned-up brims of which the rain-water splashed as in
waterspouts. Finally, some shady friend gave Simon Yakovlevich the
harsh and crafty counsel which laid a mark on all the rest of his life
activity--to sell his mistress into a brothel. To tell the truth, in
going into this enterprise, Horizon almost disbelieved at soul in its
success. But contrary to his expectation, the business could not have
adjusted itself better. The proprietress of an establishment (this was
in Kharkov) willingly met his proposition half-way. She had known long
and well Simon Yakovlevich, who played amusingly on the piano, danced
splendidly, and set the whole drawing room laughing with his pranks;
but chiefly, could, with unusually unabashed dexterity, make any
carousing party "shell out the coin." It only remained to convince the
mate of his life, and this proved the most difficult of all. She did
not want to detach herself from her beloved for anything; threatened
suicide, swore that she would burn his eyes out with sulphuric acid,
promised to go and complain to the chief of police--and she really did
know a few dirty little transactions of Simon Yakovlevich's that
smacked of capital punishment. Thereupon Horizon changed his tactics.
He suddenly became a tender, attentive friend, an indefatigable lover.
Then suddenly he fell into black melancholy. The uneasy questionings of
the woman he let pass in silence; at first let drop a word as though by
chance; hinted in passing at some mistake of his life; and then began
to lie desperately and with inspiration. He said that the police were
watching him; that he could not get by the jail, and, perhaps, even
hard labour and the gallows; that it was necessary for him to disappear
abroad for several months. But mainly, what he persisted in especially
strongly, was some tremendous fantastic business, in which he stood to
make several hundred thousands of roubles. The sempstress believed and
became alarmed with that disinterested, womanly, almost holy alarm, in
which, with every woman, there is so much of something maternal. It was
not at all difficult now to convince her that for Horizon to travel
together with her presented a great danger for him; and that it would
be better for her to remain here and to bide the time until the affairs
of her lover would adjust themselves fortuitously. After that to talk
her into hiding, as in the most trustworthy retreat, in a brothel,
where she would be in full safety from the police and the detectives,
was a mere nothing. One morning Horizon ordered her to dress a little
better, curl her hair, powder herself, put a little rouge on her
cheeks, and carried her off to a den, to his acquaintance. The girl
made a favourable impression there, and that same day her passport was
changed by the police to a so-called yellow ticket. Having parted with
her, after long embraces and tears, Horizon went into the room of the
proprietress and received his payment, fifty roubles (although he had
asked for two hundred). But he did not grieve especially over the low
price; the main thing was, that he had found his calling at last, all
by himself, and had laid the cornerstone of his future welfare.

Of course, the woman sold by him just remained forever so in the
tenacious hands of the brothel. Horizon forgot her so thoroughly that
after only a year he could not even recall her face. But who knows ...
perhaps he merely pretended?

Now he was one of the chief speculators in the body of woman in all the
south of Russia. He had transactions with Constantinople and with
Argentine; he transported, in whole parties, girls from the brothels of
Odessa into Kiev; those from Kiev he brought over into Kharkov; and
those from Kharkov into Odessa. He it was also who stuck away over
second rate capital cities, and those districts which were somewhat
richer, the goods which had been rejected or had grown too noticeable
in the big cities. He had struck up an enormous clientele, and in the
number of his consumers Horizon could have counted not a few people
with a prominent social position: lieutenant governors, colonels of the
gendarmerie, eminent advocates, well-known doctors, rich land-owners,
carousing merchants. All the shady world--the proprietresses of
brothels, cocottes solitaires, go-betweens, madams of houses of
assignation, souteneurs, touring actresses and chorus girls--was as
familiar to him as the starry sky to an astronomer. His amazing memory,
which permitted him prudently to avoid notebooks, held in mind
thousands of names, family names, nicknames, addresses,
characteristics. He knew to perfection the tastes of all his highly
placed consumers: some of them liked unusually odd depravity, others
paid mad sums for innocent girls, for others still it was necessary to
seek out girls below age. He had to satisfy both the sadistic and the
masochistic inclinations of his clients, and at times to cater to
altogether unnatural sexual perversions, although it must be said that
the last he undertook only in rare instances which promised a large,
undoubted profit. Two or three times he had to sit in jail, but these
sessions went to his benefit; he not only did not lose his rapacious
high-handedness and springy energy in his transactions, but with every
year became more daring, inventive, and enterprising. With the years to
his brazen impetuousness was joined a tremendous worldly business
wisdom.

Fifteen times, during this period, he had managed to marry and every
time had contrived to take a decent dowry. Having possessed himself of
his wife's money, he, one fine day, would suddenly vanish without a
trace, and, if there was a possibility, he would sell his wife
profitably into a secret house of depravity or into a chic public
establishment. It would happen that the parents of the deluded victim
would search for him through the police. But while inquiries would be
carried on everywhere about him as Shperling, he would already be
travelling from town to town under the name of Rosenblum. During the
time of his activity, in despite of an enviable memory, he had changed
so many names that he had not only forgotten what year he had been
Nathanielson, and during what Bakalyar, but even his own name was
beginning to seem to him one of his pseudonyms.

It was remarkable, that he did not find in his profession anything
criminal or reprehensible. He regarded it just as though he were
trading in herrings, lime, flour, beef or lumber. In his own fashion he
was pious. If time permitted, he would with assiduity visit the
synagogue of Fridays. The Day of Atonement, Passover, and the Feast of
the Tabernacles were invariably and reverently observed by him
everywhere wherever fate might have cast him. His mother, a little old
woman, and a hunch-backed sister, were left to him in Odessa, and he
undeviatingly sent them now large, now small sums of money, not
regularly but pretty frequently, from all towns from Kursk to Odessa
and from Warsaw to Samara. Considerable savings of money had already
accumulated to him in the Credit Lyonnaise, and he gradually increased
them, never touching the interest. But to greed or avarice he was
almost a stranger. He was attracted to the business rather by its tang,
risk and a professional self-conceit. To the women he was perfectly
indifferent, although he understood and could value them, and in this
respect resembled a good chef, who together with a fine understanding
of the business, suffers from a chronic absence of appetite. To induce,
to entice a woman, to compel her to do all that he wanted, did not
require any efforts on his part; they came of themselves to his call
and became in his hands passive, obedient and yielding. In his
treatment of them a certain firm, unshakable, self-assured aplomb had
been worked out, to which they submitted just as a refractory horse
submits instinctively to the voice, glance, stroking of an experienced
horseman.

He drank very moderately, and without company never drank. Toward
eating he was altogether indifferent. But, of course, as with every
man, he had a little weakness of his own: he was inordinately fond of
dress and spent no little money on his toilet. Modish collars of all
possible fashions, cravats, diamond cuff links, watch charms, the
underwear of a dandy, and chic footwear constituted his main
distractions.

From the depot he went straight to The Hermitage. The hotel porters, in
blue blouses and uniform caps, carried his things into the vestibule.
Following them, he too entered, arm in arm with his wife; both smartly
attired, imposing, but he just simply magnificent, in his wide,
bell-shaped English overcoat, in a new broad-brimmed panama, holding
negligently in his hand a small cane with a silver handle in the form
of a naked woman.

"You ain't supposed to be here without a permit for your residence,"
said an enormous, stout doorkeeper, looking down upon him from above
and preserving on his face a sleepy and immovably-frigid expression.

"Ach, Zachar! Again 'you ain't supposed to!'" merrily exclaimed
Horizon, and patted the giant on his shoulder. "What does it mean, 'you
ain't supposed to'? Every time you shove this same 'you ain't supposed
to' at me. I must be here for three days in all. Soon as I conclude the
rent agreement with Count Ipatiev, right away I go away. God be with
you! Live even all by yourself in all your rooms. But you just give a
look, Zachar, what a toy I brought you from Odessa! You'll be just
tickled with it!"

With a careful, deft, accustomed movement he thrust a gold piece into
the doorkeeper's hand, who was already holding it behind his back,
ready and folded in the form of a little boat.

The first thing that Horizon did upon installing himself in the large,
spacious room with an alcove, was to put out into the corridor at the
door of the room six pairs of magnificent shoes, saying to the bell-hop
who ran up in answer to the bell:

"Immediately all should be cleaned! So it should shine like a mirror!
They call you Timothy, I think? Then you should know me--if you work by
me it will never go for nothing. So it should shine like a mirror!"



CHAPTER IV.


Horizon lived at the Hotel Hermitage for not more than three days and
nights, and during this time he managed to see some three hundred
people. His arrival seemed to enliven the big, gay port city. To him
came the keepers of employment offices for servants, the proprietresses
of cheap hotels, and old, experienced go-betweens, grown gray in the
trade in women. Not so much out of an interest in booty as out of
professional pride, Horizon tried, at all costs, to bargain for as much
profit as possible, to buy a woman as cheaply as possible. Of course,
to receive ten, fifteen roubles more was not the reason for him, but
the mere thought that competitor Yampolsky would receive at the sale
more than he brought him into a frenzy.

After his arrival, the next day, he set off to Mezer the photographer,
taking with him the straw-like girl Bella, and had pictures taken in
various poses together with her; at which for every negative he
received three roubles, while he gave the woman a rouble. After that he
rode off to Barsukova.

This was a woman, or, speaking more correctly, a retired wench, whose
like can be found only in the south of Russia; neither a Pole nor a
Little Russian; already sufficiently old and rich in order to allow
herself the luxury of maintaining a husband (and together with him a
cabaret), a handsome and kindly little Pole. Horizon and Barsukova met
like old friends. They had, it seemed, no fear, no shame, no conscience
when they conversed with each other.

"Madam Barsukova! I can offer you something special! Three women: one a
large brunette, very modest; another a little one, a blonde, but who,
you understand, is ready for everything; the third is a woman of
mystery, who merely smiles and doesn't say anything, but promises much
and is a beauty!"

Madam Barsukova was gazing at him with mistrust, shaking her head.

"Mister Horizon! What are you trying to fill my head with? Do you want
to do the same with me that you did last time?"

"By God, I should live so, how I want to deceive you! But that's not
the main thing. I'm also offering you a perfectly educated woman. Do
with her what you like. In all probability you'll find a connoisseur."

Barsukova smiled artfully and asked:

"Again a wife?"

"No. But she's of the nobility."

"Then that means unpleasantnesses with the police again?"

"Ach! My God! I don't take big money from you; all the three for a
lousy thousand roubles."

"Well, let's talk frankly; five hundred. I don't want to buy a cat in a
bag."

"It seems, Madam Barsukova, that it isn't the first time you and I have
done business together, I won't deceive you and will bring her here
right away. Only I beg you not to forget that you're my aunt, and
please work in that direction. I won't be more than three days here in
the city."

Madam Barsukova, with all her breasts, bellies and chins, began to sway
merrily.

"We won't dicker over trifles. All the more so since you don't deceive
me, nor I you. There's a great demand for women now. What would you
say, Mister Horizon, if I offered you some red wine?"

"Thank you, Madam Barsukova, with pleasure."

"Let's talk a while like old friends. Tell me, how much do you make a
year?"

"Ach, madam, what shall I say? Twelve, twenty thousand, approximately.
But think what tremendous expenses there are in constantly travelling."

"Do you put away a little?"

"Well, that's trifles; some two or three thousand a year."

"I thought ten, twenty ..."

Horizon grew wary. He sensed that he was beginning to be drawn out and
asked insidiously:

"But why does this interest you?"

Anna Michailovna pressed the button of an electric bell and ordered the
dressy maid to bring coffee with steamed cream and a bottle of
Chambertaine. She knew the tastes of Horizon. Then she asked:

"Do you know Mr. Shepsherovich?"

Horizon simply pounced upon her.

"My God! Who don't know Shepsherovich! This is a god, this is a genius!"

And, having become animated, forgetting that he was being dragged into
a trap, he began speaking exaltedly:

"Just imagine what Shepsherovich did last year! He carried to Argentine
thirty women from Kovno, Vilno, Zhitomir. Each one of them he sold at a
thousand roubles--a total, madam--count it--of thirty thousand! Do you
think Shepsherovich calmed down with this? For this money, in order to
repay his expenses on the steamer, he bought several negresses and
stuck them about in Moscow, Petersburg, Kiev, Odessa, and Kharkov. But,
you know, madam, this isn't a man, but an eagle. There's a man who can
do business!"

Barsukova caressingly laid her hand on his knee. She had been waiting
for this moment and said to him amicably:

"And so I propose to you, Mr.----however, I don't know how you are
called now..."

"Horizon, let's say..."

"So I propose to you, Mr. Horizon--could you find some innocent girls
among yours? There's an enormous demand for them now. I'm playing an
open hand with you. We won't stop at money. Now it's in fashion.
Notice, Horizon, your lady clients will be returned to you in exactly
the same state in which they were. This, you understand, is a little
depravity, which I can in no way make out..."

Horizon cast down his eyes, rubbed his head, and said:

"You see, I've a wife ... You've almost guessed it."

"So. But why almost?"

"I'm ashamed to confess, that she--how shall I say it ... she is my
bride ..."

Barsukova gaily burst into laughter.

"You know, Horizon, I couldn't at all expect that you're such a nasty
villain! Let's have your wife, it's all the same. But is it possible
that you've really refrained?"

"A thousand?" asked Horizon seriously.

"Ah! What trifles; a thousand let's say. But tell me, will I be able to
manage her?"

"Nonsense!" said Horizon self-assuredly. "Let's again suppose that
you're my aunt, and I leave my wife with you. Just imagine, Madam
Barsukova, that this woman is in love with me like a cat. And if you'll
tell her, that for my good she must do so and so and thus and
thus--then there won't be no arguments!"

Apparently, there was nothing more for them to talk over. Madam
Barsukova brought out a promissory note, whereon she with difficulty
wrote her name, her father's name, and her last name. The promissory
note, of course, was fantastic; but there is a tie, a welding, an
honour among thieves. In such deals people do not deceive. Death
threatens otherwise. It is all the same, whether in prison, or on the
street, or in a brothel.

Right after that, just like an apparition out of a trapdoor, appeared
the friend of her heart, the master of the cabaret, a young little
Pole, with moustaches twirled high. They drank some wine, talked a bit
about the fair, about the exposition, complained a little about bad
business. After that Horizon telephoned to his room in the hotel, and
called out his wife. He introduced her to his aunt and his aunt's
second cousin, and said that mysterious political reasons were calling
him out of town. He tenderly kissed Sarah, shed a tear, and rode away.



CHAPTER V.


With the arrival of Horizon (however, God knows how he was called:
Gogolevich, Gidalevich, Okunev, Rosmitalsky), in a word, with the
arrival of this man everything changed on Yamskaya Street. Enormous
shufflings commenced. From Treppel girls were transferred to Anna
Markovna, from Anna Markovna into a rouble establishment, and from the
rouble establishment into a half-rouble one. There were no promotions:
only demotions. At each change of place Horizon earned from five to a
hundred roubles. Verily, he was possessed of an energy equal,
approximately, to the waterfall of Imatra! Sitting in the daytime at
Anna Markovna's, he was saying, squinting from the smoke of the
cigarette, and swinging one leg crossed over the other:

"The question is ... What do you need this same Sonka for? It's no
place for her in a decent establishment. If we'll float her down the
stream, then you'll make a hundred roubles for yourself, I twenty-five
for myself. Tell me frankly, she isn't in demand, is she, now?"

"Ah, Mr. Shatzky! You can always talk a person over! But just imagine,
I'm sorry for her. Such a nice girl ..."

Horizon pondered for a moment. He was seeking an appropriate citation
and suddenly let out:

"'Give the falling a shove!'[11] And I'm convinced, Madam Shaibes, that
there's no demand of any sort for her."


[11] Horizon is quoting a Nietzscheism of Gorky's.--TRANS.


Isaiah Savvich, a little, sickly, touchy old man, but in moments of
need very determined, supported Horizon:

"And that's very simple. There is really no demand of any sort for her.
Think it over for yourself, Annechka; her outfit costs fifty roubles,
Mr. Shatzky will receive twenty-five roubles, fifty roubles will be
left for you and me. And, glory be to God, we have done with her! At
least, she won't be compromising our establishment."

In such a way Sonka the Rudder, avoiding a rouble establishment, was
transferred into a half-rouble one, where all kinds of riff-raff made
sport of the girls at their own sweet will, whole nights through. There
tremendous health and great nervous force were requisite. Sonka once
began shivering from terror, in the night, when Thekla, a mountain of a
woman of some two hundred pounds, jumped out into the yard to fulfill a
need of nature, and cried out to the housekeeper who was passing by her:

"Housekeeper, dear! Listen--the thirty-sixth man! ... Don't forget!"

Fortunately, Sonka was not disturbed much; even in this establishment
she was too homely. No one paid any attention to her splendid eyes, and
they took her only in those instances when there was no other at hand.
The pharmacist sought her out and came every evening to her. But
cowardice, or a special Hebrew fastidiousness, or, perhaps, even
physical aversion, would not permit him to take the girl and carry her
away with him from the house. He would sit whole nights through near
her, and, as of yore, patiently waited until she would return from a
chance guest; created scenes of jealousy for her and yet loved her
still, and, sticking in the daytime behind the counter in his drug
store and rolling some stinking pills or other, ceaselessly thought of
her and yearned.



CHAPTER VI.


Immediately at the entrance to a suburban cabaret an artificial flower
bed shone with vari-colored lights, with electric bulbs instead of
flowers; and just such another fiery alley of wide, half-round arches,
narrowing toward the end, led away from it into the depths of the
garden. Further on was a broad, small square, strewn with yellow sand;
to the left an open stage, a theatre, and a shooting gallery; straight
ahead a stand for the military band (in the form of a seashell) and
little booths with flowers and beer; to the right the long terrace of
the restaurant. Electric globes from their high masts illuminated the
small square with a pale, dead-white brightness. Against their frosted
glass, with wire nets stretched over them, beat clouds of night moths,
whose shadows--confused and large--hovered below, on the ground. Hungry
women, too lightly, dressily, and fancifully attired, preserving on
their faces an expression of care-free merriment or haughty, offended
unapproachability, strolled back and forth in pairs, with a walk
already tired and dragging.

All the tables in the restaurant were taken--and over them floated the
continuous noise of knives upon plates and a motley babel, galloping in
waves. It smelt of rich and pungent kitchen fumes. In the middle of the
restaurant, upon a stand, Roumanians in red frocks were playing; all
swarthy, white-toothed, with the faces of whiskered, pomaded apes, with
their hair licked down. The director of the orchestra, bending forward
and affectedly swaying, was playing upon a violin and making unseemly
sweet eyes at the public--the eyes of a man-prostitute. And everything
together--this abundance of tiresome electric lights, the exaggeratedly
bright toilettes of the ladies, the odours of modish, spicy perfumes,
this ringing music, with willful slowings up of the tempo, with
voluptuous swoonings in the transitions, with the tempestuous passages
screwed up--everything fitted the one to the other, forming a general
picture of insane and stupid luxury, a setting for an imitation of a
gay, unseemly carouse.

Above, around the entire hall, ran open galleries, upon which, as upon
little balconies, opened the doors of the private cabinets. In one of
these cabinets four were sitting--two ladies and two men; an artiste
known to all Russia, the cantatrice Rovinskaya, a large, handsome
woman, with long, green, Egyptian eyes, and a long, red, sensuous
mouth, the lips of which were rapaciously drooping at the corners; the
baroness Tefting, little, exquisite, pale--she was everywhere seen with
the artiste; the famous lawyer Ryazanov; and Volodya Chaplinsky, a rich
young man of the world, a composer-dilettante, the author of several
darling little ballads and many witticisms upon the topics of the day,
which circulated all over town.

The walls of the cabinet were red, with a gold design. On the table,
among the lighted candelabra, two white, tarred necks of bottles stuck
up out of an electroplated vase, which had sweated from the cold, and
the light in a tenuous gold played in the shallow goblets of wine.
Outside, near the doors, a waiter was on duty, leaning against the
wall; while the stout, tall, important maitre d'hotel, on whose right
little finger, always sticking out, sparkled a huge diamond, would
frequently stop at these doors, and attentively listen with one ear to
what was going on in the cabinet.

The baroness, with a bored, pale face, was listlessly gazing through a
lorgnette down at the droning, chewing, swarming crowd. Among the red,
white, blue and straw-coloured feminine dresses the uniform figures of
the men resembled large, squat, black beetles. Rovinskaya negligently,
yet at the same time intently as well, was looking down upon the stand
and the spectators, and her face expressed fatigue, ennui, and perhaps
also that satiation with all spectacles, which are such matters of
course to celebrities. The splendid, long, slender fingers of her left
hand were lying upon the crimson velvet of the box-seat. Emeralds of a
rare beauty hung upon them so negligently that it seemed as though they
would fall off at any second, and suddenly she began laughing.

"Look" she said; "what a funny figure, or, to put it more correctly,
what a funny profession! There, there, that one who's playing on a
'syrinx of seven reeds.'"

Everyone looked in the direction of her hand. And really, the picture
was funny enough. Behind the Roumanian orchestra was sitting a stout,
whiskered man, probably the father, and perhaps even the grandfather,
of a numerous family, and with all his might was whistling into seven
little pipes glued together. As it was difficult for him, probably, to
move this instrument between his lips, he therefore, with an unusual
rapidity, turned his head now to the left, now to the right.

"An amazing occupation," said Rovinskaya. "Well now, Chaplinsky, you
try to toss your head about like that."

Volodya Chaplinsky, secretly and hopelessly in love with the artiste,
immediately began obediently and zealously to do this, but after half a
minute desisted.

"It's impossible," he said, "either long training, or, perhaps,
hereditary abilities, are necessary for this."

The baroness during this time was tearing away the petals of her rose
and throwing them into a goblet; then, with difficulty suppressing a
yawn, she said, making just the least bit of a wry face:

"But, my God, how drearily they divert themselves in our K--! Look: no
laughter, no singing, no dances. Just like some herd that's been driven
here, in order to be gay on purpose!"

Ryazanov listlessly took his goblet, sipped it a little, and answered
apathetically in his enchanting voice:

"Well, and is it any gayer in your Paris, or Nice? Why, it must be
confessed--mirth, youth and laughter have vanished forever out of human
life, and it is scarcely possible that they will ever return. One must
regard people with more patience, it seems to me. Who knows, perhaps
for all those sitting here, below, the present evening is a rest, a
holiday?"

"The speech for the defense," put in Chaplinsky in his calm manner.

But Rovinskaya quickly turned around to the men, and her long emerald
eyes narrowed. And this with her served as a sign of wrath, from which
even crowned personages committed follies at times. However, she
immediately restrained herself and continued languidly:

"I don't understand what you are talking about. I don't understand even
what we came here for. For there are no longer any spectacles in the
world. Now I, for instance, have seen bull-fights in Seville, Madrid
and Marseilles--an exhibition which does not evoke anything save
loathing. I have also seen boxing and wrestling nastiness and
brutality. I also happened to participate in a tiger hunt, at which I
sat under a baldachin on the back of a big, wise white elephant ... in
a word, you all know this well yourselves. And out of all my great,
chequered, noisy life, from which I have grown old ..."

"Oh, what are you saying, Ellena Victorovna!" said Chaplinsky with a
tender reproach.

"Abandon compliments, Volodya! I know myself that I'm still young and
beautiful of body, but, really, it seems to me at times that I am
ninety. So worn out has my soul become. I continue. I say, that during
all my life only three strong impressions have sunk into my soul. The
first, while still a girl, when I saw a cat stealing upon a
cock-sparrow, and I with horror and with interest watched its movements
and the vigilant gaze of the bird. Up to this time I don't know myself
which I sympathized with more: the skill of the cat or the slipperiness
of the sparrow. The cock-sparrow proved the quicker. In a moment he
flew up on a tree and began from there to pour down upon the cat such
sparrow swearing that I would have turned red for shame if I had
understood even one word. While the cat, as though it had been wronged,
stuck up its tail like a chimney and tried to pretend to itself that
nothing out of the way had taken place. Another time I had to sing in
an opera a duet with a certain great artist ..."

"With whom?" asked the baroness quickly.

"Isn't it all the same? Of what need names? And so, when he and I were
singing, I felt all of me in the sway of genius. How wonderfully, into
what a marvelous harmony, did our voices blend! Ah! It is impossible to
describe this impression. Probably, it happens but once in a lifetime.
According to the role, I had to weep, and I wept with sincere, genuine
tears. And when, after the curtain, he walked up to me and patted my
hair with his big warm hand and with his enchanting, radiant smile
said, 'Splendid! for the first time in my life have I sung so' ... and
so I--and I am a very proud being--I kissed his hand. And the tears
were still standing in my eyes ..."

"And the third?" asked the baroness, and her eyes lit up with the evil
sparks of jealousy.

"Ah, the third," answered the artiste sadly, "the third is as simple as
simple can be. During the last season I lived at Nice, and so I saw
Carmen on the open stage at Frejus with the anticipation of Cecile
Ketten, who is now," the artiste earnestly made the sign of the cross,
"dead--I don't really know, fortunately or unfortunately for herself?"

Suddenly, in a moment, her magnificent eyes filled with tears and began
to shine with a magic green light, such as the evening star gives
forth, on warm summer twilights. She turned her face around to the
stage, and for some time her long, nervous fingers convulsively
squeezed the upholstery of the barrier of the box. But when she again
turned around to her friends, her eyes were already dry, and the
enigmatic, vicious and wilful lips were resplendent with an
unconstrained smile.

Then Ryazanov asked her politely, in a tender but purposely calm tone:

"But then, Ellena Victorovna, your tremendous fame, admirers, the roar
of the mob ... finally, that delight which you afford to your
spectators. Is it possible that even this does not titillate your
nerves?"

"No, Ryazanov," she answered in a tired voice. "You know no less than
myself what this is worth. A brazen interviewer, who needs passes for
his friends, and, by the way, twenty-five roubles in an envelope. High
school boys and girls, students and young ladies attending courses, who
beg you for autographed photographs. Some old blockhead with a
general's rank, who hums loudly with me during my aria. The eternal
whisper behind you, when you pass by: 'there she is, that same famous
one!' Anonymous letters, the brazenness of back-stage habitues ... why,
you can't enumerate everything! But surely, you yourself are often
beset by female psychopathics of the court-room?"

"Yes," said Ryazanov decisively.

"That's all there is to it. But add to that the most terrible thing,
that every time I have come to feel a genuine inspiration, I
tormentingly feel on the spot the consciousness that I'm pretending and
grimacing before people ... And the fear of the success of your rival?
And the eternal dread of losing your voice, of straining it or catching
a cold? The eternal tormenting bother of throat bandages? No, really,
it is heavy to bear renown on one's shoulders."

"But the artistic fame?" retorted the lawyer. "The might of genius!
This, verily, is a true moral might, which is above the might of any
king on earth!"

"Yes, yes, of course you're right, my dear. But fame, celebrity, are
sweet only at a distance, when you only dream about them. But when you
have attained them you feel only their thorns. But then, with what
anguish you feel every dram of their decrease. And I have forgotten to
say something else. Why, we artists undergo a sentence at hard labour.
In the morning, exercises; in the daytime, rehearsals; and then there's
scarcely time for dinner and you're due for the performance. An hour or
so for reading or such diversion as you and I are having now, may be
snatched only by a miracle. And even so... the diversion is altogether
of the mediocre..."

She negligently and wearily made a slight gesture with the fingers of
the hand lying on the barrier.

Volodya Chaplinsky, agitated by this conversation, suddenly asked:

"Yes, but tell me, Ellena Victorovna, what would you want to distract
your imagination and ennui?"

She looked at him with her enigmatic eyes and answered quietly, even a
trifle shyly, it seemed:

"Formerly, people lived more gaily and did not know prejudices of any
sort. Well, it seems to me that then I would have been in my place and
would have lived with a full life. O, ancient Rome!"

No one understood her, save Ryazanov, who, without looking at her,
slowly pronounced in his velvety voice, like that of an actor, the
classical, universally familiar, Latin phrase:

"Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant!"

"Precisely! I love you very much, Ryazanov, because you are a clever
child. You will always catch a thought in its flight; although, I must
say, that this isn't an especially high property of the mind. And
really, two beings come together, the friends of yesterday, who had
conversed with each other and eaten at the same table, and this day one
of them must perish. You understand depart from life forever. But they
have neither malice nor fear. There is the most real, magnificent
spectacle, which I can only picture to myself!"

"How much cruelty there is in you," said the baroness meditatively.

"Well, nothing can be done about it now! My ancestors were cavaliers
and robbers. However, shan't we go away now?"

They all went out of the garden. Volodya Chaplinsky ordered his
automobile called. Ellena Victorovna was leaning upon his arm. And
suddenly she asked:

"Tell me, Volodya, where do you usually go when you take leave of
so-called decent women?"

Volodya hemmed and hawed. However, he knew positively that he could not
lie to Rovinskaya.

"M-m-m ... I'm afraid of offending your hearing. To the Tzigani, for
instance ... to night cabarets ..."

"And somewhere else? Worse?"

"Really, you put me in an awkward position. From the time that I've
become so madly in love with you ..."

"Leave out the romancing!"

"Well, how shall I say it?" murmured Volodya, feeling that he was
turning red, not only in the face, but with his body, his back. "Well,
of course, to the women. Now, of course, this does not occur with me
personally ..."

Rovinskaya maliciously pressed Chaplinsky's elbow to her side.

"To a brothel?"

Volodya did not answer anything. Then she said:

"And so, you'll carry us at once over there in the automobile and
acquaint us with this existence, which is foreign to me. But remember,
that I rely upon your protection."

The remaining two agreed to this, unwillingly, in all probability; but
there was no possibility of opposing Ellena Victorovna. She always did
everything that she wanted to. And then they had all heard and knew
that in Petersburg carousing worldly ladies, and even girls, permit
themselves, out of a modish snobbism, pranks far worse than the one
which Rovinskaya had proposed.



CHAPTER VII.


On the way to Yamskaya Street Rovinskaya said to Chaplinsky:

"You'll bring me at first into the most luxurious place, then into a
medium one, and then into the filthiest."

"My dear Ellena Victorovna," warmly retorted Chaplinsky, "I'm ready to
do everything for you. It is without false boasting when I say that I
would give my life away at your order, ruin my career and position at a
mere sign of yours ... But I dare not bring you to these houses.
Russian manners are coarse, and often simply inhuman manners. I'm
afraid that you will be insulted by some pungent, unseemly word, or
that a chance visitor will play some senseless prank before you ..."

"Ah, my God," impatiently interrupted Rovinskaya; "when I was singing
in London, there were many at that time paying court to me, and I did
not hesitate to go and see the filthiest dens of Whitechapel in a
choice company. I will say, that I was treated there very carefully and
anticipatingly. I will also say, that there were with me at that time
two English aristocrats; lords, both sportsmen, both people unusually
strong physically and morally, who, of course, would never have allowed
a woman to be offended. However, perhaps you, Volodya, are of the race
of cowards?"

Chaplinsky flared up:

"Oh, no, no, Ellena Victorovna. I forewarned you only out of love for
you. But if you command, then I'm ready to go where you will. Not only
on this dubious undertaking, but even very death itself."

By this time they had already driven up to the most luxurious
establishment in the Yamkas--Treppel's. Ryazanov the lawyer said,
smiling with his usual ironic smile:

"And so, the inspection of the menagerie begins."

They were led into a cabinet with crimson wall paper, and on the wall
paper was repeated, in the "empire" style, a golden design in the form
of small laurel wreaths. And at once Rovinskaya recognized, with the
keen memory of an artiste, that exactly the same paper had also been in
that cabinet in which they had just been sitting.

Four German women from the Baltic provinces came out. All of them
stout, full-breasted, blonde, powdered, very important and respectful.
The conversation did not catch on at first. The girls sat immovable,
like carvings of stone, in order to pretend with all their might that
they were respectable ladies. Even the champagne, which Ryazanov called
for, did not improve the mood. Rovinskaya was the first to come to the
aid of the party. Turning to the stoutest, fairest German of all, who
resembled a loaf, she asked politely in German:

"Tell me, where were you born? Germany, in all probability?"

"No, gnadige Frau, I am from Riga."

"What compels you to serve here, then? Not poverty, I hope?"

"Of course not, gnadige Frau. But, you understand, my bridegroom, Hans,
works as a kellner in a restaurant-automat, and we are too poor to be
married now. I bring my savings to a bank, and he does the same. When
we have saved the ten thousand roubles we need, we will open our own
beer-hall, and, if God will bless us, then we shall allow ourselves the
luxury of having children. Two children. A boy and a girl."

"But, listen to me, mein Fraulein!" Rovinskaya was amazed. "You are
young, handsome, know two languages ..."

"Three, madam," proudly put in the German. "I know Esthonian as well. I
finished the municipal school and three classes of high school."

"Well, then, you see, you see ..." Rovinskaya became heated. "With such
an education you could always find a place with everything found, and
about thirty roubles. Well, in the capacity of a housekeeper, bonne,
senior clerk in a good store, a cashier, let's say ... And if your
future bridegroom ... Fritz ..."

"Hans, madam ..."

"If Hans proved to be an industrious and thrifty man, then it would not
be at all hard for you to get up on your feet altogether, after three
or four years. What do you think?"

"Ah, madam, you are a little mistaken. You have overlooked that, in the
very best of positions, I, even denying myself in everything, will not
be able to put aside more than fifteen, twenty roubles a month; whereas
here, with a prudent economy, I gain up to a hundred roubles and at
once carry them away with a book into the savings bank. And besides
that, just imagine, gnadige Frau, what a humiliating position to be the
servant in a house! Always to depend on the caprice or the disposition
of the spirits of the masters! And the master always pesters you with
foolishness. Pfui! .. And the mistress is jealous, picks, and scolds."

"No ... I don't understand ..." meditatively drawled Rovinskaya,
without looking the German in the eyes, but casting hers on the floor.
"I've heard a great deal of your life here, in these ... what do you
call them? .. these houses. They say it is something horrible. That
you're forced to love the most repulsive, old and hideous men, that you
are plucked and exploited in the most cruel manner ..."

"Oh, never, madam ... Each one of us has an account book, wherein is
written accurately the income and expense. During last month I earned a
little more than five hundred roubles. As always, two-thirds went to
the proprietress for board, quarters, fuel, light, linen ... There
remains to me more than a hundred and fifty, it is not so? Fifty I
spent on costumes and all sorts of trifles. A hundred I save. What
exploitation is it, then, madam, I ask you? And if I do not like a man
at all--true, there are some who are exceedingly nasty--I can always
say I am sick, and instead of me will go one of the newest girls ..."

"But then ... pardon me, I do not know your name ..."

"Elsa."

"They say, that you're treated very roughly ... beaten at times ...
compelled to do that which you don't want to and which is repulsive to
you?"

"Never, madam!" dropped Elsa haughtily. "We all live here as a friendly
family of our own. We are all natives of the same land or relatives,
and God grant that many should live so in their own families as we live
here. True, on Yamskaya Street there happen various scandals and fights
and misunderstandings. But that's there ... in these ... in the rouble
establishments. The Russian girls drink a lot and always have one
lover. And they do not think at all of their future."

"You are prudent, Elsa," said Rovinskaya in an oppressed tone. "All
this is well. But, what of the chance disease? Infection? Why, that is
death? And how can you guess?"

"And again--no, madam. I won't let a man into my bed before I make a
detailed medical inspection of him ... I am guaranteed, at the least,
against seventy-five per cent."

"The devil!" suddenly exclaimed Rovinskaya with heat and hit the table
with her fist. "But, then, what of your Albert ..."

"Hans," the German corrected her meekly.

"Pardon me ... Your Hans surely does not rejoice greatly over the fact
that you are living here, and that you betray him every day?"

Elsa looked at her with sincere, lively amazement.

"But gnadige Frau ... I have never yet betrayed him! It is other lost
wenches, especially Russian, who have lovers for themselves, on whom
they spend their hard-earned money. But that I should ever let myself
go as far as that? Pfui!"

"A greater fall I have not imagined!" said Rovinskaya loudly and with
aversion, getting up. "Pay gentlemen, and let's go on from here."

When they had gone out into the street, Volodya took her arm and said
in an imploring voice:

"For God's sake, isn't one experiment enough for you?"

"Oh, what vulgarity! What vulgarity!"

"That's why I'm saying, let's drop this experiment."

"No, in any case I am going through with it to the finish. Show me
something simpler, more of the medium."

Volodya Chaplinsky, who was all the time in a torment over Ellena
Victorovna, offered the most likely thing--to drop into the
establishment of Anna Markovna, which was only ten steps away.

But it was just here that strong impressions awaited them. Simeon did
not want to let them in, and only several gold pieces, which Ryazanov
gave him, softened him. They took up a cabinet, almost the same as at
Treppel's, only somewhat shabbier and more faded. At the command of
Emma Edwardovna, the girls were herded into the cabinet. But it was the
same as letting a goat into a truck-garden or mixing soda and acid. The
main mistake, however, was that they let Jennka in there as
well--wrathful, irritated, with impudent fires in her eyes. The modest,
quiet Tamara was the last to walk in, with her shy and depraved smile
of a Monna Lisa. In the end, almost the entire personnel of the
establishment gathered in the cabinet. Rovinskaya no longer risked
asking "How did you come to this life?" But it must be said, that the
inmates of the house met her with an outward hospitality. Ellena
Victorovna asked them to sing their usual canonical songs, and they
willingly sang:

    Monday now is come again,
    They're supposed to get me out;
    Doctor Krassov won't let me out,
    Well, the devil take him then.

And further:

    Poor little, poor little, poor little me,
    The public house is closed,
    My head's aching me...

    The love of a loafer
    Is spice, is spice;
    But the prostitute
    Is as cold as ice.
    Ha-ha-ha!

    They came together
    Matched as well as might be,
    She is a prostitute,
    A pickpocket he.
    Ha-ha-ha!

    Now morning has come,
    He is planning a theft;
    While she lies in her bed
    And laughs like she's daft.
    Ha-ha-ha!

    Comes morning, the laddie
    Is led to the pen;
    But for the prostitute
    His pals await then.
    Ha-ha-ha! ...

[12] While there can be but little doubt that these four stanzas are an
actual transcript from life, Heinrich Heine's "Ein Weib" is such a
striking parallel that it may be reproduced here as a matter of
interest. The translation is by Mr. Louis Untermeyer.--Trans.


    A WOMAN

    They loved each other beyond belief--
    She was a strumpet, he was a thief;
    Whenever she thought of his tricks, thereafter
    She'd throw herself on the bed with laughter.

    The day was spent with a reckless zest;
    At night she lay upon his breast.
    So when they took him, a while thereafter
    She watched at the window--with laughter.

    He sent word pleading "Oh come to me,
    I need you, need you bitterly,
    Yes, here and in the hereafter."
    Her little head shook with laughter.

    At six in the morning they swung him high;
    At seven the turf on his grave was dry;
    At eight, however, she quaffed her
    Red wine and sang with laughter!

And still further a convict song:

    I'm a ruined laddie,
    Ruined for alway;
    While year after year
    The days go away.

And also:

    Don't you cry, my Mary,
    You'll belong to me;
    When I've served the army
    I will marry thee.

But here suddenly, to the general amazement, the stout Kitty, usually
taciturn, burst into laughter. She was a native of Odessa.

"Let me sing one song, too. It's sung by thieves and badger queens in
the drink shops on our Moldavanka and Peresip."

And in a horrible bass, in a rusty and unyielding voice, she began to
sing, making the most incongruous gestures, but, evidently, imitating
some cabaret cantatrice of the third calibre that she had sometime seen:

    "Ah, I'll go to Dukovka,
    Sit down at the table,
    Now I throw my hat off,
    Toss it under table.
    Then I athk my dearie,
    'What will you drink, sweet?'
    But all the answer that she makes:
    'My head aches fit to split.'
    'I ain't a-athking you
    What your ache may be,
    But I am a-athking you
    What your drink may be:
    Will it be beer, or for wine shall I call,
    Or for violet wine, or nothing else at all?'"

And all would have turned out well, if suddenly Little White Manka, in
only her chemise and in white lace drawers, had not burst into the
cabinet. Some merchant, who the night before had arranged a
paradisaical night, was carousing with her, and the ill-fated
Benedictine, which always acted upon the girl with the rapidity of
dynamite, had brought her into the usual quarrelsome condition. She was
no longer "Little Manka" and "Little White Manka," but she was "Manka
the Scandaliste." Having run into the cabinet, she suddenly, from
unexpectedness, fell down on the floor, and, lying on her back, burst
into such sincere laughter that all the rest burst out laughing as
well. Yes. But this laughter was not prolonged ... Manka suddenly sat
up on the floor and began to shout:

"Hurrah! new wenches have joined our place!"

This was altogether an unexpected thing. The baroness did a still
greater tactlessness. She said:

"I am a patroness of a convent for fallen girls, and therefore, as a
part of my duty, I must gather information about you."

But here Jennka instantly flared up:

"Get out of here right away, you old fool! You rag! You floor mop! ...
Your Magdalene asylums--they're worse than a prison. Your secretaries
use us, like dogs carrion. Your fathers, husbands, and brothers come to
us, and we infect them with all sorts of diseases ... Purposely ... And
they in their turn infect you. Your female superintendents live with
the drivers, janitors and policemen, while we are put in a cell if we
happen to laugh or joke a little among ourselves. And so, if you've
come here as to a theatre, then you must hear the truth out, straight
to your face."

But Tamara calmly stopped her:

"Stop, Jennie, I will tell them myself ... Can it be that you really
think, baroness, that we are worse than the so-called respectable
women? A man comes to me, pays me two roubles for a visit or five
roubles for a night, and I don't in the least conceal this, from any
one in the world ... But tell me, baroness, do you possibly know even
one married lady with a family who isn't in secret giving herself up
either for the sake of passion to a young man, or for the sake of money
to an old one? I know very well that fifty percent of you are kept by
lovers, while the remaining fifty, of those who are older, keep young
lads. I also know that many--ah, how many!--of you cohabit with your
fathers, brothers, and even sons, but these secrets you hide in some
sort of a hidden casket. And that's all the difference between us. We
are fallen, but we don't lie and don't pretend, but you all fall, and
lie to boot. Think it over for yourself; now--in whose favour is this
difference?"

"Bravo, Tamarochka, that's the way to serve them!" shouted Manka,
without getting up from the floor; dishevelled, fair, curly, resembling
at this moment a thirteen-year-old girl.

"Now, now!" urged Jennka as well, flashing with her flaming eyes.

"Why not, Jennechka? I'll go further than that. Out of us scarcely,
scarcely one in a thousand has committed abortion. But all of you
several times over. What? Or isn't that the truth? And those of you
who've done this, did it not out of desperation or cruel poverty, but
you simply were afraid of spoiling your figure and beauty--that's your
sole capital! Or else you've been seeking only beastly carnal pleasure,
while pregnancy and feeding interfered with your giving yourself up to
it!"

Rovinskaya became confused and uttered in a quick whisper:

"Faites attention, baronne, que dans sa position cette demoiselle est
instruite."[13]


[13] "Pay attention, baroness, the girl is rather educated for one of
her position."


"Figurez-vous, que moi, j'ai aussi remarque cet etrange visage. Comme
si je l'ai deja vu ... est-ce en reve? ... en demi-delire? Ou dans sa
petite enfance?"[14]


[14] "Just imagine, I, too, have remarked this strange face. But where
have I seen it ... was it in a dream? ... in semi-delirium? Or in her
early infancy?"


"Ne vous donnez pas la peine de chercher dans vos souvenirs, baronne,"
Tamara suddenly interposed insolently. "Je puis de suite vous venir
aide. Rappelez-vous seulement Kharkoff, et la chambre d'hotel de
Koniakine, l'entrepreneur Solovieitschik, et le tenor di grazzia ... A
ce moment vous n'etiez pas encore m-me la baronne de ... [15] However,
let's drop the French tongue ... You were a common chorus girl and
served together with me."


[15] "Don't trouble to strain your memory, baroness. I will come to
your aid at once. Just recall Kharkov, a room in Koniakine's hotel, the
theatrical manager, Solovieitschik, and a certain lyrical tenor ... At
that time you were not yet baroness de ..."


"Mais, dites-moi, au nom de dieu, comment vous trouvez vous ici,
Mademoiselle Marguerite."[16]


[16] "But tell me, in God's name, how you have come to be here,
Mademoiselle Marguerite?"


"Oh, they ask us about that every day. I just up and came to be here
..."

And with an inimitable cynicism she asked:

"I trust you will pay for the time which we have passed with you?"

"No, may the devil take you!" suddenly shouted out Little White Manka,
quickly getting up from the rug.

And suddenly, pulling two gold pieces out of her stocking, she flung
them upon the table.

"There, you! .. I'm giving you that for a cab. Go away right now,
otherwise I'll break up all the mirrors and bottles here..."

Rovinskaya got up and said with sincere, warm tears in her eyes:

"Of course, we'll go away, and the lesson of Mlle. Marguerite will
prove of benefit to us. Your time will be paid for--take care of it,
Volodya. Still, you sang so much for us, that you must allow me to sing
for you as well."

Rovinskaya went up to the piano, took a few chords, and suddenly began
to sing the splendid ballad of Dargomyzhsky:

    "We parted then with pride--
    Neither with sighs nor words
    Proffered I thee reproach of jealousy ...
    We went apart for aye,
    Yet only if with thee
    I might but chance to meet! ..
    Ah, that with thee I might but chance to meet!

    "I weep not nor complain--
    To fate I bend my knee...
    I know not, if you loved,
    So greatly wronging me?
    Yet only if with thee
    I might but chance to meet! ...
    Ah, that with thee I might but chance to meet!"

This tender and passionate ballad, executed by a great artiste,
suddenly reminded all these women of their first love; of their first
fall; of a late leave-taking at a dawn in the spring, in the chill of
the morning, when the grass is gray from the dew, while the red sky
paints the tips of the birches a rosy colour; of last embraces, so
closely entwined, and of the unerring heart's mournful whispers: "No,
this will not be repeated, this will not be repeated!" And the lips
were then cold and dry, while the damp mist of the morning lay upon the
hair.

Silence seized Tamara; silence seized Manka the Scandaliste; and
suddenly Jennka, the most untamable of all the girls, ran up to the
artiste, fell down on her knees, and began to sob at her feet.

And Rovinskaya, touched herself, put her arms around her head and said:

"My sister, let me kiss you!"

Jennka whispered something into her ear.

"Why, that's a silly trifle," said Rovinskaya. "A few months of
treatment and it will all go away."

"No, no, no ... I want to make all of them diseased. Let them all rot
and croak."

"Ah, my dear," said Rovinskaya, "I would not do that in your place."

And now Jennka, the proud Jennka began kissing the knees and hands of
the artiste and was saying:

"Then why have people wronged me so? ... Why have they wronged me so?
Why? Why? Why?"

Such is the might of genius!

The only might which takes into its beautiful hands not the abject
reason, but the warm soul of man! The self-respecting Jennka was hiding
her face in Rovinskaya's dress; Little White Manka was sitting meekly
on a chair, her face covered with a handkerchief; Tamara, with elbow
propped on her knee and head bowed on the palm of her hand, was
intently looking down, while Simeon the porter, who had been looking in
against any emergency, only opened his eyes wide in amazement.

Rovinskaya was quietly whispering into Jennka's very ear:

"Never despair. Sometimes things fall out so badly that there's nothing
for it but to hang one's self--but, just look, to-morrow life has
changed abruptly. My dear, my sister, I am now a world celebrity. But
if you only knew what seas of humiliation and vileness I have had to
wade through! Be well, then, my dear, and believe in your star."

She bent down to Jennka and kissed her on the forehead. And never
afterwards could Volodya Chaplinsky, who had been watching this scene
with a painful tension, forget those warm and beautiful rays, which at
this moment kindled in the green, long, Egyptian eyes of the artiste.

The party departed gloomily, but Ryazanov lingered behind for a minute.

He walked up to Jennka, respectfully and gently kissed her hand, and
said:

"If possible, forgive our prank ... This, of course, will not be
repeated. But if you ever have need of me, I am always at your service.
Here is my visiting card. Don't stick it out on your bureau; but
remember, that from this evening on I am your friend."

And, having kissed Jennka's hand once more, he was the last to go down
the stairs.



CHAPTER VIII.


On Thursday, since very morning, a ceaseless, fine drizzle had begun to
fall, and so the leaves of the chestnuts, acacias, and poplars had at
once turned green. And, suddenly, it became somehow dreamily quiet and
protractedly tedious. Pensive and monotonous.

During this all the girls had gathered, as usual, in Jennka's room. But
something strange was going on within her. She did not utter
witticisms, did not laugh, did not read, as always, her usual
yellow-back novel which was now lying aimlessly either on her breast or
stomach; but was vicious, wrapped up in sadness, and in her eyes blazed
a yellow fire that spoke of hatred. In vain did Little White Manka,
Manka the Scandaliste, who adored her, try to turn her attention to
herself--Jennka seemed not to notice her, and the conversation did not
at all get on. It was depressing. But it may have been that the August
drizzle, which had steadily set in for several weeks running, reacted
upon all of them. Tamara sat down on Jennka's bed, gently embraced her,
and, having put her mouth near her very ear, said in a whisper:

"What's the matter, Jennechka? I've seen for a long time that something
strange is going on in you. And Manka feels that too. Just see, how
she's wasted without your caressing. Tell me. Perhaps I'll be able to
help you in some way?"

Jennka closed her eyes and shook her head in negation. Tamara moved
away from her a little, but continued to stroke her shoulder gently.

"It's your affair, Jennechka. I daren't butt into your soul. I only
asked because you're the only being who..."

Jennka with decision suddenly jumped out of bed, seized Tamara by the
hand and said abruptly and commandingly:

"All right! Let's get out of here for a minute. I'll tell you
everything. Girls, wait for us a little while."

In the light corridor Jennka laid her hands on the shoulders of her
mate and with a distorted, suddenly blanched face, said:

"Well, then, listen here: some one has infected me with syphilis."

"Oh, my poor darling. Long?"

"Long. Do you remember, when the students were here? The same ones who
started a row with Platonov? I found out about it for the first time
then. I found out in the daytime."

"Do you know," quietly remarked Tamara, "I almost guessed about this,
and particularly then, when you went down on your knees before the
singer and talked quietly about something with her. But still, my dear
Jennechka, you must attend to yourself."

Jennka wrathfully stamped her foot and tore in half the batiste
handkerchief which she had been nervously crumpling in her hands.

"No! Not for anything! I won't infect any one of you. You may have
noticed yourself, that during the last weeks I don't dine at the common
table, and that I wash and wipe the dishes myself. That's why I'm
trying to break Manka away from me, whom, you know, I love sincerely,
in the real way. But these two-legged skunks I infect purposely, infect
every evening, ten, fifteen of them. Let them rot, let them carry the
syphilis on to their wives, mistresses, mothers--yes, yes, their
mothers also, and their fathers, and their governesses, and even their
grand-grandmothers. Let them all perish, the honest skunks!"

Tamara carefully and tenderly stroked Jennka's head. "Can it be that
you'll go the limit, Jennechka?"

"Yes. And without any mercy. All of you, however, don't have to be
afraid of me. I choose the man myself. The stupidest, the handsomest,
the richest and the most important, but not to one of you will I let
them go afterward. Oh! I make believe I'm so passionate before them,
that you'd burst out laughing if you saw. I bite them, I scratch, I cry
and shiver like an insane woman. They believe it, the pack of fools."

"It's your affair, it's your affair, Jennechka," meditatively uttered
Tamara, looking down. "Perhaps you're right, at that. Who knows? But
tell me, how did you get away from the doctor?"

Jennka suddenly turned away from her, pressed her face against the
angle of the window frame and suddenly burst into bitter, searing
tears--the tears of wrath and vengefulness--and at the same time she
spoke, gasping and quivering:

"Because ... because ... Because God has sent me especial luck: I am
sick there where, in all probability, no doctor can see. And ours,
besides that, is old and stupid..."

And suddenly, with some unusual effort of the will Jennka stopped her
tears just as unexpectedly as she had started crying.

"Come to me, Tamarochka," she said. "Of course, you won't chatter too
much?"

"Of course not."

And they returned into Jennka's room, both of them calm and restrained.

Simeon walked into the room. He, contrary to his usual brazenness,
always bore himself with a shade of respect toward Jennka. Simeon said:

"Well, now, Jennechka, their Excellency has come to Vanda. Allow her to
go away for ten minutes."

Vanda, a blue-eyed, light blonde, with a large red mouth, with the
typical face of a Lithuanian, looked imploringly at Jennka. If Jennka
had said "No" she would have remained in the room, but Jennka did not
say anything and even shut her eyes deliberately. Vanda obediently went
out of the room.

This general came accurately twice a month, every two weeks (just as to
Zoe, another girl, came daily another honoured guest, nicknamed the
Director in the house).

Jennka suddenly threw the old, tattered book behind her. Her brown eyes
flared up with a real golden fire.

"You're wrong in despising this general," said she. "I've known worse
Ethiopians. I had a certain guest once--a real blockhead. He couldn't
make love to me otherwise than ... otherwise than ... well, let's say
it plainly: he pricked me with pins in the breast ... While in Vilno a
Polish Catholic priest used to come to me. He would dress me all in
white, compel me to powder myself, lay me down on the bed. He'd light
three candles near me. And then, when I seemed to him altogether like a
dead woman, he'd throw himself upon me."

Little White Manka suddenly exclaimed:

"It's the truth you're telling, Jennka! I had a certain old bugger,
too. He made me pretend all the time that I was an innocent girl, so's
I'd cry and scream. But, Jennechka, though you're the smartest one of
us, yet I'll bet you won't guess who he was ..."

"The warden of a prison?"

"A fire chief."

Suddenly Katie burst into laughter in her bass:

"Well, now, I had a certain teacher. He taught some kind of arithmetic,
I disremember which. He always made me believe, that I was the man, and
he the woman, and that I should do it to him ... by force ... And what
a fool! Just imagine, girls, he'd yell all the time: 'I'm your woman!
I'm all yours! Take me! Take me!'"

"Loony!" said the blue-eyed, spry Verka in a positive and unexpectedly
contralto voice: "Loony."

"No, why?" suddenly retorted the kindly and modest Tamara. "Not crazy
at all, but simply, like all men, a libertine. At home it's tiresome
for him, while here for his money he can receive whatever pleasure he
desires. That's plain, it seems?"

Jennka, who had been silent up to now, suddenly, with one quick
movement sat up in bed.

"You're all fools!" she cried. "Why do you forgive them all this?
Before I used to be foolish myself, too, but now I compel them to walk
before me on all fours, compel them to kiss my soles, and they do this
with delight ... You all know, girlies, that I don't love money, but I
pluck the men in whatever way I can. They, the nasty beasts, present me
with the portraits of their wives, brides, mothers, daughters ...
However, you've seen, I think, the photographs in our water-closet? But
now, just think of it, my children ... A woman loves only once, but for
always, while a man loves like a he-greyhound... That he's unfaithful
is nothing; but he never has even the commonest feeling of gratitude
left either for the old, or the new, mistress. I've heard it said, that
now there are many clean boys among the young people. I believe this,
though I haven't seen, haven't met them, myself. But all those I have
seen are all vagabonds, nasty brutes and skunks. Not so long ago I read
some novel of our miserable life. It's almost the same thing as I'm
telling you now."

Vanda came back. She slowly, carefully, sat down on the edge of
Jennka's bed; there, where the shadow of the lamp fell. Out of that
deep, though deformed psychical delicacy, which is peculiar to people
sentenced to death, prisoners at hard labour, and prostitutes, none had
the courage to ask her how she had passed this hour and a half.
Suddenly she threw upon the table twenty-five roubles and said:

"Bring me white wine and a watermelon."

And, burying her face in her arms, which had sunk on the table, she
began to sob inaudibly. And again no one took the liberty of putting
any question to her. Only Jennka grew pale from wrath and bit her lower
lip so that a row of white spots was left upon it.

"Yes," she said; "here, now, I understand Tamara. You hear, Tamara, I
apologize before you. I've often laughed over your being in love with
your thief Senka. But here, now, I'll say that of all the men the most
decent is a thief or a murderer. He doesn't hide the fact that he loves
a girlie, and, if need be, will commit a crime for her--a theft or a
murder. But these--the rest of them! All lying, falsehood, petty
cunning, depravity on the sly. The nasty beast has three families, a
wife and five children. A governess and two children abroad. The eldest
daughter from the first marriage, and a child by her. And this
everybody, everybody in town knows, save his little children. And even
they, perhaps, guess it and whisper among themselves. And, just
imagine, he's a respected person, honoured by the whole world ... My
children, it seems we've never had occasion to enter into confidences
with each other, and yet I'll tell you, that I when I was ten and a
half, was sold by my own mother in the city of Zhitomir to Doctor
Tarabukin. I kissed his hands, implored him to spare me, I cried out to
him: 'I'm little!' But he'd answer me: 'That's nothing, that's nothing:
you'll grow up.' Well, of course, there was pain, aversion, nastiness
... And he afterwards spread it around as a current anecdote. The
desperate cry of my soul."

"Well, as long as we do speak, let's speak to the end," suddenly and
calmly said Zoe, and smiled negligently and sadly. "I was deprived of
innocence by a teacher in the ministerial school, Ivan Petrovich Sus.
He simply called me over to his rooms, and his wife at that time had
gone to market for a suckling pig--it was Christmas. Treated me with
candies, and then said it was going to be one of two things: either I
must obey him in everything, or he'd at once expel me out of school for
bad conduct. But then you know yourselves, girls, how we feared the
teachers. Here they aren't terrible to us, because we do with them
whatever we want--but at that time! For then he seemed to us greater
than Czar and God."

"And me a stewdent. He was teaching the master's boys in our place.
There, where I was a servant ..."

"No, but I ..." exclaimed Niura, but, turning around unexpectedly,
remained as she was with her mouth open. Looking in the direction of
her gaze, Jennka had to wring her hands. In the doorway stood Liubka,
grown thin, with dark rings under her eyes, and, just like a
somnambulist, was searching with her hand for the door-knob, as a point
of support.

"Liubka, you fool, what's the matter with you?" yelled Jennka loudly.
"What is it?"

"Well, of course, what: he took and chased me out."

No one said a word. Jennka hid her eyes with her hands and started
breathing hard, and it could be seen how under the skin of her cheeks
the taut muscles of the jaws were working.

"Jennechka, all my hope is only in you," said Liubka with a deep
expression of weary helplessness. "Everybody respects you so. Talk it
over, dearie, with Anna Markovna or with Simeon ... Let them take me
back."

Jennka straightened up on the bed, fixed Liubka with her dry, burning,
yet seemingly weeping eyes, and asked brokenly:

"Have you eaten anything to-day?"

"No. Neither yesterday, nor to-day. Nothing."

"Listen, Jennechka," asked Vanda quietly, "suppose I give her some
white wine? And Verka meanwhile will run to the kitchen for meat? What?"

"Do as you know best. Of course, that's all right. And give a look,
girlies, why, she's all wet. Oh, what a booby! Well! Lively! Undress
yourself! Little White Manka, or you, Tamarochka, give her dry drawers,
warm stockings and slippers. Well, now," she turned to Liubka, "tell
us, you idiot, all that happened to you!"



CHAPTER IX.


On that early morning when Lichonin so suddenly, and, perhaps,
unexpectedly even to himself, had carried off Liubka from the gay
establishment of Anna Markovna it was the height of summer. The trees
still remained green, but in the scent of the air, the leaves, and the
grass there was already to be felt, as though from afar, the tender,
melancholy, and at the same time bewitching scent of the nearing
autumn. With wonder the student gazed at the trees, so clean, innocent
and quiet, as though God, imperceptibly to men, had planted them about
here at night; and the trees themselves were looking around with wonder
upon the calm blue water, that still seemed slumbering in the pools and
ditches and under the wooden bridge thrown across the shallow river;
upon the lofty, as though newly washed sky, which had just awakened,
and, in the glow of dawn, half asleep, was smiling with a rosy, lazy,
happy smile in greeting to the kindling sun.

The heart of the student expanded and quivered; both from the beauty of
the beatific morning, and from the joy of existence, and from the sweet
air, refreshing his lungs after the night, passed without sleep, in a
crowded and smoke-filled compartment. But the beauty and loftiness of
his own action moved him still more.

Yes, he had acted like a man, like a real man, in the highest sense of
that word! Even now he is not repenting of what he had done. It's all
right for them (to whom this "them" applied, Lichonin did not properly
understand even himself), it's all right for them to talk about the
horrors of prostitution; to talk, sitting at tea, with rolls and
sausage, in the presence of pure and cultured girls. But had any one of
his colleagues taken some actual step toward liberating a woman from
perdition? Eh, now? And then there is also--the sort that will come to
this same Sonechka Marmeladova, will tell her all sorts of taradiddles,
describe all kinds of horrors to her, butt into her soul, until he
brings her to tears; and right off will start in crying himself and
begin to console her, embrace her, pat her on the head, kiss her at
first on the cheek, then on the lips; well, and everybody knows what
happens next! Faugh! But with him, with Lichonin, the word and the deed
were never at odds.

He clasped Liubka around the waist, and looked at her with kindly,
almost loving, eyes; although, the very same minute, he himself thought
that he was regarding her as a father or a brother.

Sleep was fearfully besetting Liubka; her eyes would close, and she
with an effort would open them wide, so as not to fall asleep again;
while on her lips lay the same naive, childish, tired smile, which
Lichonin had noticed still there, in the cabinet. And out of one corner
of her mouth ran a thin trickle of saliva.

"Liubka, my dear! My darling, much-suffering woman! Behold how fine it
is all around! Lord! Here it's five years that I haven't seen the
sunrise. Now play at cards, now drinking, now I had to hurry to the
university. Behold, my dearest, over there the dawn has burst into
bloom. The sun is near! This is your dawn, Liubochka! This is your new
life beginning. You will fearlessly lean upon my strong arm. I shall
lead you out upon the road of honest toil, on the way to a brave combat
with life, face to face with it!"

Liubka eyed him askance. "There, the fumes are still playing in his
head," she thought kindly. "But that's nothing--he's kind and a good
sort. Only a trifle homely." And, having smiled with a half-sleepy
smile, she said in a tone of capricious reproach:

"Ye--es! You'll fool me, never fear. All of you men are like that. You
just gain yours at first, to get your pleasure, and then--no attention
whatsoever!"

"I? Oh? That I should do this!" Lichonin exclaimed warmly and even
smote himself on the chest with his free hand. "Then you know me very
badly! I'm too honest a man to be deceiving a defenseless girl. No!
I'll exert all my powers and all my soul to educate your mind, to widen
your outlook, to compel your poor heart, which has suffered so, to
forget all the wounds and wrongs which life has inflicted upon it. I
will be a father and a brother to you! I shall safeguard your every
step! And if you will come to love somebody with a truly pure, holy
love, then I shall bless that day and hour when I had snatched you out
of this Dantean hell!"

During the continuation of this flaming tirade the old cabby with great
significance, although silently, began laughing, and from this
inaudible laughter his back shook. Old cabbies hear very many things,
because to the cabby, sitting in front, everything is readily audible,
which is not at all suspected by the conversing fares; and many things
do the old cabbies know of that which takes place among people. Who
knows, perhaps he had heard more than once even more disordered, more
lofty speeches?

It seemed to Liubka for some reason that Lichonin had grown angry at
her, or that he was growing jealous beforehand of some imaginary rival.
He was declaiming with entirely too much noise and agitation. She
became perfectly awake, turned her face to Lichonin with wide open,
uncomprehending, and at the same time submissive eyes, and slightly
touched his right hand, lying on her waist, with her fingers.

"Don't get angry, my sweetie. I'll never exchange you for another.
Here's my word of honour, honest to God! My word of honour, that I
never will! Don't you think I feel you're wanting to take care of me?
Do you think I don't understand? Why, you're such an attractive, nice
little young fellow. There, now, if you were an old man and homely..."

"Ah! You haven't got the right idea!" shouted Lichonin, and again in
high-flown style began to tell her about the equal rights of women,
about the sacredness of toil, about human justice, about freedom, about
the struggle against reigning evil.

Of all his words Liubka understood exactly not a one. She still felt
herself guilty of something and somehow shrank all up, grew sad, bowed
her head and became quiet. A little more and she, in all probability,
would have burst out crying in the middle of the street; but
fortunately, they by this time had driven up to the house where
Lichonin was staying.

"Well, here we are at home," said the student. "Stop, driver!"

And when he had paid him, he could not refrain from declaiming with
pathos, his hand extended theatrically straight before him:

    "And into my house, calm and fearless,
     As its full mistress walk thou in!"

And again the unfathomable, prophetic smile wrinkled the aged brown
face of the cabby.



CHAPTER X.


The room in which Lichonin lived was situated on the fifth story and a
half. And a half, because there are such five, six, and seven-story
profitable houses, packed to overflowing and cheap, on top of which are
erected still other sorry bug-breeders of roof iron, something in the
nature of mansards; or more exactly, bird-houses, in which it is
fearfully cold in winter, while in the summer time it is just as torrid
as in the tropics. Liubka with difficulty clambered upward. It seemed
to her that now, now, two steps more, and she would drop straight down
on the steps and fall into a sleep from which nothing would be able to
wake her. But Lichonin was saying all the time:

"My dear! I can see you are tired. But that's nothing. Lean upon me. We
are going upwards all the time! Always higher and higher! Is this not a
symbol of all human aspirations? My comrade, my sister, lean upon my
arm!"

Here it became still worse for poor Liubka. As it was, she could barely
go up alone, but here she also had to drag in tow Lichonin, who had
grown extremely heavy. And his weight would not really have mattered;
his wordiness, however, was beginning to irritate her little by little.
So irritates at times the ceaseless, wearisome crying, like a
toothache, of an infant at breast; the piercing whimpering of a canary;
or someone whistling without pause and out of tune in an adjoining room.

Finally, they reached Lichonin's room. There was no key in the door.
And, as a rule, it was never even locked with a key. Lichonin pushed
the door and they entered. It was dark in the room, because the window
curtains were lowered. It smelt of mice, kerosene, yesterday's
vegetable soup, long-.used bed linen, stale tobacco smoke. In the
half-dusk some one who could not be seen was snoring deafeningly and
with variations.

Lichonin raised the shade. There were the usual furnishings of a poor
student: a sagging, unmade bed with a crumpled blanket; a lame table,
and on it a candlestick without a candle; several books on the floor
and on the table; cigarette stubs everywhere; and opposite the bed,
along the other wall, an old, old divan, upon which at the present
moment was sleeping and snoring, with mouth wide open, some young man
with black hair and moustache. The collar of his shirt was unbuttoned
and through its opening could be seen the chest and black hair, the
like of which for thickness and curliness could be found only on
Persian lambs.

"Nijeradze! Hey, Nijeradze, get up!" cried Lichonin and prodded the
sleeper in the ribs. "Prince!"

"M-m-m..."

"May your race be even accursed in the person of your ancestors and
descendants! May they even be exiled from the heights of the beauteous
Caucasus! May they even never behold the blessed Georgia! Get up, you
skunk! Get up you Aravian dromedary! Kintoshka! ..."

But suddenly, unexpectedly for Lichonin, Liubka intervened. She took
him by the arm and said timidly:

"Darling, why torture him? Maybe he wants to sleep, maybe he's tired?
Let him sleep a bit. I'd better go home. Will you give me a half for a
cabby? To-morrow you'll come to me again. Isn't that so, sweetie?"

Lichonin was abashed. So strange did the intervention of this silent,
apparently sleepy girl, appear to him. Of course, he did not grasp that
she was actuated by an instinctive, unconscious pity for a man who had
not had enough sleep; or, perhaps, a professional regard for the sleep
of other people. But the astonishment was only momentary. For some
reason he became offended. He raised the hand of the recumbent man,
which hung down to the floor, with the extinguished cigarette still
remaining between its fingers, and, shaking it hard, he said in a
serious, almost severe voice:

"Listen, now, Nijeradze, I'm asking you seriously. Understand, now, may
the devil take you that I'm not alone, but with a woman. Swine!"

It was as though a miracle had happened: the lying man suddenly jumped
up, as though some spring of unusual force had instantaneously unwound
under him. He sat down on the divan, rapidly rubbed with his palms his
eyes, forehead, temples; saw the woman, became confused at once, and
muttered, hastily buttoning his blouse:

"Is that you, Lichonin? And here I was waiting and waiting for you and
fell asleep. Request the unknown comrade to turn away for just a
minute."

He hastily pulled on his gray, everyday student's coat, and rumpled up
with all the fingers of both his hands his luxuriant black curls.
Liubka, with the coquetry natural to all women, no matter in what years
or situation they find themselves, walked up to the sliver of a mirror
hanging on the wall, to fix her hair-dress. Nijeradze askance,
questioningly, only with the movement of his eyes, indicated her to
Lichonin.

"Never mind. Don't pay any attention," answered the other aloud. "But
let's get out of here, however. I'll tell you everything right away.
Excuse me, Liubochka, it's only for a minute. I'll come back at once,
fix you up, and then evaporate, like smoke."

"But don't trouble yourself," replied Liubka: "it'll be all right for
me here, right on this divan. And you fix yourself up on the bed."

"No, that's no longer like a model, my angel! I have a colleague here.
And so I'll go to him to sleep. I'll return in just a minute."

Both students went out into the corridor.

"What meaneth this dream?" asked Nijeradze, opening wide his oriental,
somewhat sheepish eyes. "Whence this beauteous child, this comrade in a
petticoat?"

Lichonin shook his head with great significance and made a wry face.
Now, when the ride, the fresh air, the morning, and the business-like,
everyday, accustomed setting had entirely sobered him, he was beginning
to experience within his soul an indistinct feeling of a certain
awkwardness, needlessness of this sudden action; and at the same time
something in the nature of an unconscious irritation both against
himself and the woman he had carried off. He already had a presentiment
of the onerousness of living together, of a multiplicity of cares,
unpleasantnesses and expenses; of the equivocal smiles or even simply
the unceremonious questionings of comrades; finally, of the serious
hindrance during the time of government examinations. But, having
scarcely begun speaking with Nijeradze, he at once became ashamed of
his pusillanimity, and having started off listlessly, towards the end
he again began to prance on his heroic steed.

"Do you see, prince," he said, in his confusion twisting a button of
his comrade's coat and without looking in his eyes, "you've made a
mistake. This isn't a comrade in a petticoat, but ... simply, I was
just now with my colleagues ... that is, I wasn't, but just dropped in
for a minute with my friends into the Yamkas, to Anna Markovna ..."

"With whom?" asked Nijeradze, becoming animated.

"Well, isn't it all the same to you, prince? There was Tolpygin,
Ramses, a certain sub-professor--Yarchenko--Borya Sobashnikov, and
others ... I don't recall. We had been boat-riding the whole evening,
then dived into a publican's, and only after that, like swine, started
for the Yamkas. I, you know, am a very abstemious man. I only sat and
soaked up cognac, like a sponge, with a certain reporter I know. Well,
all the others fell from grace however. And so, toward morning, for
some reason or other, I went all to pieces. I got so sad and full of
pity from looking at these unhappy women. I also thought, now, of how
our sisters enjoy our regard, love, protection; how our mothers are
surrounded with reverent adoration. Just let some one say one rude word
to them, shove them, offend them; we are ready to chew his throat off!
Isn't that the truth?"

"M-m? ..." drawled out the Georgian, half questioningly, half
expectantly, and squinted his eyes to one side.

"Well, then I thought: why, now, any blackguard, any whippersnapper,
any shattered ancient can take any one of these women to himself for a
minute or for a night, as a momentary whim; and indifferently, one
superfluous time more--the thousand and first--profane and defile in
her that which is the most precious in a human being--love... Do you
understand--revile, trample it underfoot, pay for the visit and walk
away in peace, his hands in his pockets, whistling. But the most
horrible of all is that all this has come to be a habit with them; it's
all one to her, and it's all one to him. The feelings have dulled, the
soul has dimmed. That's so, isn't it? And yet, in every one of them
perishes both a splendid sister and a sainted mother. Eh? Isn't that
the truth?"

"N-na? ...." mumbled Nijeradze and again shifted his eyes to one side.

"And so I thought: wherefore words and superfluous exclamations! To the
devil with hypocritical speeches during conventions. To the devil with
abolition, regulation (suddenly, involuntarily, the recent words of the
reporter came to his mind), Magdalene asylums and all these
distributions of holy books in the establishments! Here, I'll up and
act as a really honest man, snatch a girl out of this slough, implant
her in real firm soil, calm her, encourage her, treat her kindly."

"H-hm!" grunted Nijeradze with a grin.

"Eh, prince! You always have salacious things on your mind. For you
understand that I'm not talking about a woman, but about a human being;
not about flesh, but about a soul."

"All right, all right, me soul, go on!"

"Futhermore, as I thought, so did I act. I took her to-day from Anna
Markovna's and brought her for the present to me. And later--whatever
God may grant. I'll teach her in the beginning to read, and write; then
open up for her a little cook-shop, or a grocery store, let's say. I
think that the comrades won't refuse to help me. The human heart,
prince, my brother--every heart--is in need of cordiality, of warmth.
And lo and behold! in a year, in two, I will return to society a good,
industrious, worthy member, with a virgin soul, open to all sorts of
great possibilities... For she has given only her body, while her soul
is pure and innocent."

"Tse, tse, tse," the prince smacked his tongue.

"What does this mean, you Tifflissian he-mule?"

"And will you buy her a sewing machine?"

"Why a sewing machine, in particular? I don't understand."

"It's always that way in the novels, me soul. Just as soon as the hero
has saved the poor, but lost, creature, he at once sets up a sewing
machine for her."

"Stop talking nonsense," Lichonin waved him away angrily with his hand.
"Clown!"

The Georgian suddenly grew heated, his black eyes began to sparkle, and
immediately Caucasian intonations could be heard in his voice.

"No, not nonsense, me soul. It's one of two things here, and it'll all
end in one and the same result. Either you'll get together with her and
after five months chuck her out on the street; and she'll return to the
brothel or take to walking the street. That's a fact! Or else you won't
get together with her, but will begin to load her up with manual or
mental labours and will try to develop her ignorant, dark mind; and she
from tedium will run away from you, and will again find herself either
walking the street, or in a brothel. That's a fact, too! However, there
is still a third combination. You'll be vexing yourself about her like
a brother, like the knight Lancelot, but she, secretly from you, will
fall in love with another. Me soul, believe me, that wooman, when she
is a wooman, is always--a wooman. And the other will play a bit with
her body, and after three months chuck her out into the street or into
a brothel."

Lichonin sighed deeply. Somewhere deep--not in his mind, but in the
hidden, almost unseizable secret recesses of his
consciousness--something resembling the thought that Nijeradze was
right flashed through him. But he quickly gained control of himself,
shook his head, and, stretching out his hand to the prince, uttered
triumphantly:

"I promise you, that after half a year you'll take your words back, and
as a mark of apology, you Erivanian billy goat, you Armavirian
egg-plant, you'll stand me to a dozen of Cakhetine wine."

"Va! That's a go!" the prince struck Lichonin's hand with his palm with
all his might. "With pleasure. But if it comes out as I say--then you
do it."

"Then I do it. However, AU REVOIR, prince. Whom are you lodging with?"

"Right here, in this corridor, at Soloviev's. But you, of course, like
a mediaeval knight, will lay a two-edged sword between yourself and the
beauteous Rosamond? Yes?"

"Nonsense! I did want to pass the night at Soloviev's myself. But now
I'll go and wander about the streets a bit and turn in into somebody's;
to Zaitzevich or Strump. Farewell, prince!"

"Wait, wait!" Nijeradze called him, when he had gone a few steps. "I
have forgotten to tell you the main thing: Partzan has tripped up!"

"So that's how?" wondered Lichonin, and at once yawned long, deeply and
with enjoyment.

"Yes. But there's nothing dreadful; only the possession of some illegal
brochures and stuff. He won't have to sit for more than a year."

"That's nothing; he's a husky lad, he can stand it."

"He's husky, all right" confirmed the prince.

"Farewell!"

"AU REVOIR, knight Grunwaldus!"

"AU REVOIR, you Carbidinian stallion."



CHAPTER XI.


Lichonin was left alone. In the half-dark corridor it smelt of kerosene
fumes from the guttering little tin lamp, and of the odour of stagnant
bad tobacco. The daylight dully penetrated only near the top, from two
small glass frames, let in the roof at both ends of the corridor.

Lichonin found himself in that simultaneously weakened and elevated
mood which is so familiar to every man who has happened to be
thoroughly sleepless for a long time. It was as though he had gone out
of the limitations of everyday human life, and this life had become to
him distant and of indifference; but at the same time his thoughts and
emotions obtained a certain peaceful clarity and apathetic
distinctness, and there was a tedious and languishing allurement in
this crystal Nirvanah.

He stood near his room, leaning against the wall, and seemed to see,
feel, and hear how near him and below him were sleeping several score
of people; sleeping with the last, fast morning sleep, with open
mouths, with measured deep breathing, with a wilted pallor on their
faces, glistening from sleep; and through his head flashed the thought,
remote yet familiar since childhood, of how horrible sleeping people
are--far more horrible than dead people. Then he remembered about
Liubka. His subterranean, submerged, mysterious "I" rapidly, rapidly
whispered that he ought to drop into the room, and see if the girl were
all right, as well as make certain dispositions about tea in the
morning; but he made believe to himself that he was not at all even
thinking of this, and walked out into the street.

He walked, looking closely at everything that met his eyes, with an
idle and exact curiosity new to him; and every feature was drawn for
him in relief to such a degree that it seemed to him as though he were
feeling it with his fingers... There a peasant woman passed by. Over
her shoulder is a yoke staff, while at each end of the yoke is a large
pail of milk; her face is not young, with a net of fine wrinkles on the
temples and with two deep furrows from the nostrils to the corners of
the mouth; but her cheeks are rosy, and, probably, hard to the touch,
while her hazel eyes radiate a sprightly peasant smile. From the
movement of the heavy yoke and from the smooth walk her hips sway
rhythmically now to the left, now to the right, and in their wave-like
movements there is a coarse, sensual beauty.

"A mischievous dame, and she's lived through a checkered life,"
reflected Lichonin. And suddenly, unexpectedly to himself, he had a
feeling for, and irresistibly desired, this woman, altogether unknown
to him, homely and not young; in all probability dirty and vulgar, but
still resembling, as it seemed to him, a large Antonovka[17] apple
which had fallen to the ground-somewhat bored by a worm, and which had
lain just a wee bit too long, but which has still preserved its bright
colour and its fragrant, winey aroma.


[17] Somewhat like a Spitzbergen, but a trifle rounder.--Trans.


Getting ahead of her, an empty, black, funereal catafalque whirled by;
with two horses in harness, and two tied behind to the little rear
columns. The torch-bearers and grave-diggers, already drunk since
morning, with red, brutish faces, with rusty opera hats on their heads,
were sitting in a disorderly heap on their uniform liveries, on the
reticular horse-blankets, on the mourning lanterns; and with rusty,
hoarse voices were roaring out some incoherent song. "They must be
hurrying to a funeral procession; or, perhaps, have even finished it
already," reflected Lichonin; "merry fellows!" On the boulevard he came
to a stop and sat down on a small wooden bench, painted green. Two rows
of mighty centenarian chestnuts went away into the distance, merging
together somewhere afar into one straight green arrow. The prickly
large nuts were already hanging on the trees. Lichonin suddenly
recalled that at the very beginning of the spring he had been sitting
on this very boulevard, and at this very same spot. Then it had been a
calm, gentle evening of smoky purple, soundlessly falling into slumber,
just like a smiling, tired maiden. Then the stalwart chestnuts, with
their foliage--broad at the bottom and narrow toward the top--had been
strewn all over with clusters of blossoms, growing with bright, rosy,
thin cones straight to the sky; just as though some one by mistake had
taken and fastened upon all the chestnuts, as upon lustres, pink
Christmas-tree candles. And suddenly, with extraordinary
poignancy--every man sooner or later passes through this zone of inner
emotion--Lichonin felt, that here are the nuts ripening already, while
then there had been little pink blossoming candles, and that there
would be many more springs and many blossoms, but the one which had
passed no one and nothing had the power to bring back. Sadly gazing
into the depths of the retreating dense alley, he suddenly noticed that
sentimental tears were making his eyes smart.

He got up and went on farther, looking closely at everything that he
met with an incessant, sharpened, and at the same time calm attention,
just as though he were looking at the God-created world for the first
time. A gang of stone masons went past him on the pavement, and all of
them were reflected in his inner vision with an exaggerated vividness
and brilliance of colour, just as though on the frosted glass of a
camera obscura. The foreman, with a red beard, matted to one side, and
with blue austere eyes; and a tremendous young fellow, whose left eye
was swollen, and who had a spot of a dark-blue colour spreading from
the forehead to the cheekbone and from the nose to the temple; and a
young boy with a naive, country face, with a gaping mouth like a
fledgling's, weak, moist; and an old man who, having come late, was
running after the gang at a funny, goat-like trot; and their clothes,
soiled with lime, their aprons and their chisels--all this flickered
before him in an inanimate file--a colourful, motley, but dead
cinematographic film.

He had to cut across the New Kishenevsky Market. Suddenly the savoury,
greasy odour of something roasted compelled him to distend his
nostrils. Lichonin recalled that he had not eaten anything since noon
yesterday, and at once felt hunger. He turned to the right, into the
centre of the market.

In the days of his starvings--and he had had to experience them more
than once--he would come here to the market, and for the pitiful
coppers, gotten with difficulty, would buy himself bread and fried
sausage. This was in winter, oftenest of all. The huckstress, wrapped
up in a multiplicity of clothes, usually sat upon a pot of coals for
warmth; while before her, on the iron dripping-pan, hissed and crackled
the thick, home-made sausage, cut into pieces a quarter of a yard in
length, plentifully seasoned with garlic. A piece of sausage usually
cost ten kopecks, the bread two kopecks.

There were very many folk at market to-day. Even at a distance, edging
his way to the familiar, loved stall, Lichonin heard the sounds of
music. Having made his way through the crowd, which in a solid ring
surrounded one of the stalls, he saw a naive and endearing sight, which
may be seen only in the blessed south of Russia. Ten or fifteen
huckstresses, during ordinary times gossips of evil tongue and addicted
to unrestrainable swearing, inexhaustible in its verbal diversity, but
now, evidently, flattering and tender cronies, had started celebrating
even since last evening; had caroused the whole night through and now
had carried their noisy merrymaking out to the market. The hired
musicians--two fiddles, a first and a second, and a tambourine--were
strumming a monotonous but a lively, bold, daring and cunning tune.
Some of the wives were clinking glasses and kissing each other, pouring
vodka over one another; others poured it out into glasses and over the
tables; others still, clapping their palms in time with the music,
oh'd, squealed, and danced, squatting in one place. And in the middle
of the ring, upon the cobbles of the pavement, a stout woman of about
forty-five, but still handsome, with red, fleshy lips, with humid,
intoxicated, seemingly unctuous eyes, merrily sparkling from under the
high bows of black, regular, Little Russian eyebrows, was whirling
around and stamping out a tattoo on one spot. All the beauty and all
the art of her dance consisted in that she would now bow her little
head and look out provokingly from under her eyebrows, then suddenly
toss it back and let her eyelashes down and spread her hands out at her
sides; and also in that in measure with the dance her enormous breasts
swayed and quivered under her red calico waist. During the dance she
was singing, now shuffling her heels, now the toes, of her goat-skin
shoes:

    "The fiddle's playing on the street,
    You can hear its bass so sweet;
    My mother has me locked up neat,
    My waitin' dearie I can't meet."

That was the very country-wife whom Lichonin knew; the self-same who
not only had had him for a client during hard times, but had even
extended him credit. She suddenly recognized Lichonin, darted to him,
embraced him, squeezed him to her bosom and kissed him straight on his
lips with her moist, warm, thick lips. Then she spread her arms out
wide, smote one palm against the other, intertwined her fingers, and
sweetly, as only Podolian wives can do it, began to coo:

"My little master, my little silver gold trove, my lovie! You forgive a
drunken wife like me, now. Well, what of it? I've gone op a spree!" She
then darted at him in an attempt to kiss his hand. "But then, I know
you ain't proud, like other gentry. Well, give me your hand,
dearie-dear; why, I want to kiss your little hand! No, no, no! I athk,
I athk you! ..." "Well, now, that's nonsense, Aunt Glycera!" Linchonin
interrupted her, unexpectedly becoming animated. "Let's best kiss just
so, now. Your lips are just too sweet!"

"Ah, my little sweetheart! My little bright sun, my little apple of
paradise, you," Glycera waxed tender, "give me your lips, then! Give me
your little lips to buss, then! ..."

She pressed him warmly to her gigantean bosom and again slavered over
him with her moist, warm, Hottentot lips. After that, she seized him by
his sleeve, brought him out into the middle of the ring, and began to
walk around him with a stately, mincing step, having bent her waist
coquettishly and vociferating:

    "Oh, each to his taste, I want Paraska more,
    For I've a divel in my pants
    Her skirt holds somethin' for!"

And then suddenly she passed on, sustained by the musicians, to a most
rollicking, Little Russian, thumping GOPAK dance:

    "Oh, Chook, that is too much,
    You have soiled your apron too much.
    Well, Prisko, don't you fret,
    Wipe it off, then, if you're wet!
    TRALALA, TRALALA ...

    Sleeps, Khima, and won't stir
    That a Kossack sleeps with her,
    You feel all, Khima--why deceive?
    Just to yourself you make believe.
    TAI, TAI, TRALALAI..."'

Lichonin, completely grown merry, suddenly began jumping like a goat
about her, just like a satellite around a whirling planet--long-legged,
long-armed, stooping and altogether incongruous. His entrance was
greeted by a general but pretty friendly neighing. He was made to sit
down at the table, was helped to vodka and sausage. He, for his part,
sent a tramp he knew after beer, and, glass in hand, delivered three
absurd speeches: one about the self-determination of Ukraine; another
about the goodness of Little Russian sausage, in connection with the
beauty and domesticity of the women of Little Russia; and the third,
for some reason, about trade and industry in the south of Russia.
Sitting alongside of Lukeriya, he was all the time trying to embrace
her around the waist, and she did not oppose this. But even his long
arms could not encompass her amazing waist. However, she clasped his
hand powerfully under the table, until it hurt, with her enormous, soft
hand, as hot as fire.

At this moment among the huckstresses, who up to now had been tenderly
kissing, certain old, unsettled quarrels and grievances flickered up.
Two of the wives, bending toward each other just like roosters ready to
enter battle, their arms akimbo, were pouring upon each other the most
choice, out-of-the-way oaths:

"Fool, stiff, daughter of a dog!" one was yelling. "Youse ain't fit to
kiss me right here." And, turning her back around to her foe, she
loudly slapped herself below the spine. "Right here! Here!"

While the other, infuriated, squealed in answer:

"You lie, you slut, for I am fit, I am fit!"

Lichonin utilized the minute. As though he had just recalled something,
he hurriedly jumped up from the bench and called out:

"Wait for me, Aunty Luckeriya, I'll come in three minutes!" and dived
through the living ring of spectators.

"Master! Master!" his neighbour cried after him: "Come back the
quickest you can, now! I've one little word to say to you."

Having turned the corner, he for some time racked his head trying to
recall what it was that he absolutely had to do, now, this very minute.
And again, in the very depths of his soul, he knew just what he had to
do, but he procrastinated confessing this to his own self. It was
already a clear, bright day, about nine or ten o'clock. Janitors were
watering the streets with rubber hose. Flower girls were sitting on the
squares and near the gates of the boulevards, with roses,
stock-gillyflowers and narcissi. The radiant, gay, rich southern town
was beginning to get animated. Over the pavement jolted an iron cage
filled with dogs of every possible colour, breed, and age. On the coach
box were sitting two dog-catchers, or, as they deferentially style
themselves, "the king's dog-catchers"--i. e., hunters of stray
dogs--returning home with this morning's catch.

"She must be awake by now," Lichonin's secret thought finally took
form; "but if she isn't yet awake, then I'll quietly lie down on the
divan and sleep a little."

In the corridor the dying kerosene lamp emitted a dim light and smoked
as before, and the watery, murky half-light penetrated into the narrow,
long box. The door of the room had remained unlocked, after all.
Lichonin opened it without a sound and entered.

The faint, blue half-light poured in through the interstices between
the blinds and the windows. Lichonin stopped in the middle of the room
and with an intensified avidity heard the quiet, sleeping breathing of
Liubka. His lips became so hot and dry that he had to lick them
incessantly. His knees began to tremble.

"Ask if she needs anything," suddenly darted through his head.

Like a drunkard, breathing hard, with mouth open, staggering on his
shaking legs, he walked up to the bed.

Liubka was sleeping on her back, with one bare arm stretched out along
the body, and the other on her breast. Lichonin bent nearer, to her
very face. She was breathing evenly and deeply. This breathing of her
young, healthy body was, despite sleep, pure and almost aromatic. He
cautiously ran his fingers over her bare arm and stroked her breast a
little below the clavicle. "What am I doing?" his reason suddenly cried
out within him in terror; but some one else answered for Lichonin: "But
I'm not doing anything. I only want to ask if she's sleeping
comfortably, and whether she doesn't want some tea."

But Liubka suddenly awoke, opened her eyes, blinked them for a moment
and opened them again. She gave a long, long stretch, and with a
kindly, not yet fully reasoning smile, encircled Lichonin's neck with
her warm, strong arm.

"Sweetie! Darling!" caressingly uttered the woman in a crooning voice,
somewhat hoarse from sleep. "Why, I was waiting for you and waiting,
and even became angry. And after that I fell asleep and all night long
saw you in my sleep. Come to me, my baby, my lil' precious!" She drew
him to her, breast against breast.

Lichonin almost did not resist; he was all atremble, as from a chill,
and meaninglessly repeating in a galloping whisper with chattering
teeth:

"No, now, Liuba, don't ... Really, don't do that, Liuba ... Ah, let's
drop this, Liuba ... Don't torture me. I won't vouch for myself ... Let
me alone, now, Liuba, for God's sake! ..."

"My-y little silly!" she exclaimed in a laughing, joyous voice. "Come
to me, my joy!"--and, overcoming the last, altogether insignificant
opposition, she pressed his mouth to hers and kissed him hard and
warmly--kissed him sincerely, perhaps for the first and last time in
her life.

"Oh, you scoundrel! What am I doing?" declaimed some honest, prudent,
and false body in Lichonin.

"Well, now? Are you eased up a bit?" asked Liubka kindly, kissing
Lichonin's lips for the last time. "Oh, you, my little student! ..."



CHAPTER XII.


With pain at soul, with malice and repulsion toward himself and Liubka,
and, it would seem, toward all the world, Lichonin without undressing
flung himself upon the wooden, lopsided, sagging divan and even gnashed
his teeth from the smarting shame. Sleep would not come to him, while
his thoughts revolved around this fool action--as he himself called the
carrying off of Liubka,--in which an atrocious vaudeville had been so
disgustingly intertwined with a deep drama. "It's all one," he
stubbornly repeated to himself. "Once I have given my promise, I'll see
the business through to the end. And, of course, that which has
occurred just now will never, never be repeated! My God, who hasn't
fallen, giving in to a momentary laxity of the nerves? Some philosopher
or other has expressed a deep, remarkable truth, when he affirmed that
the value of the human soul may be known by the depth of its fall and
the height of its flight. But still, the devil take the whole of this
idiotical day and that equivocal reasoner--the reporter Platonov, and
his own--Lichonin's--absurd outburst of chivalry! Just as though, in
reality, this had not taken place in real life, but in Chernishevski's
novel, What's to be done? And how, devil take it, with what eyes will I
look upon her tomorrow?"

His head was on fire; his eyelids were smarting, his lips dry. He was
nervously smoking a cigarette and frequently got up from the divan to
take the decanter of water off the table, and avidly, straight from its
mouth, drink several big draughts. Then, by some accidental effort of
the will, he succeeded in tearing his thoughts away from the past
night, and at once a heavy sleep, without any visions and images,
enveloped him as though in black cotton.

He awoke long past noon, at two or three o'clock; at first could not
come to himself for a long while; smacked his lips and looked around
the room with glazed, heavy eyes. All that had happened during the
night seemed to have flown out of his memory. But when he saw Liubka,
who was quietly and motionlessly sitting on the bed, with head lowered
and hands crossed on her knees, he began to groan and grunt from
vexation and confusion. Now he recalled everything. And at that minute
he experienced in his own person how heavy it is to see in the morning,
with one's own eyes, the results of folly committed the night before.

"Are you awake, sweetie?" asked Liubka kindly.

She got up from the bed, walked up to the divan, sat down at Lichonin's
feet, and cautiously patted his blanket-covered leg.

"Why, I woke up long ago and was sitting all the while; I was afraid to
wake you up. You were sleeping so very soundly!"

She stretched toward him and kissed him on the cheek. Lichonin made a
wry face and gently pushed her away from him.

"Wait, Liubochka! Wait; that's not necessary. Do you
understand--absolutely, never necessary. That which took place
yesterday--well, that's an accident. My weakness, let's say. Even more,
a momentary baseness, perhaps. But, by God, believe me, I didn't at all
want to make a mistress out of you. I want to see you my friend, my
sister, my comrade ... Well, that's nothing, then; everything will
adjust itself, grow customary. Only one mustn't fall in spirit. And in
the meanwhile, my dear, go to the window and look out of it a bit; I
just want to put myself in order."

Liubka slightly pouted her lips and walked off to the window, turning
her back on Lichonin. All these words about friendship, brotherhood and
comradeship she could not understand with her brain of a hen and her
simple peasant soul. That a student--after all, not just anybody, but
an educated man, who could learn to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a
judge--had taken her for maintenance flattered her imagination far more
... And here, now, it turned out that he had just fulfilled his
caprice, had gotten what he wanted, and was now trying to back out.
They are all like that, the men!

Lichonin hastily got up, splashed a few handfuls of water in his face,
and dried himself with an old napkin. Then he raised the blinds and
threw open both window shutters. The golden sunlight, the azure sky,
the rumble of the city, the foliage of the thick linden trees and the
chestnuts, the bells of the horse trams, the dry smell of the hot,
dusty street--all this at once burst into the tiny garret room.
Lichonin walked up to Liubka and amicably patted her on the shoulder.

"Never mind, my joy ... What's done can't be undone, but it's a lesson
for the future. You haven't yet asked tea for yourself, Liubochka?"

"No, I was waiting for you all the while. Besides, I didn't know who to
ask. And you're all right, too. Why, I heard you, after you went off
with your friend, come back and stand a while near the door. But you
never even said good-bye to me. Is that right?"

"The first family quarrel," thought Lichonin, but thought it without
malice, in jest.

The wash-up, the beauty of the gold and blue southern sky, and the
naive, partly submissive, partly displeased face of Liubka, as well as
the consciousness that after all he was a man, and that he and not she
had to answer for the porridge he had cooked--all this together braced
up his nerves and compelled him to take himself in hand. He opened the
door and roared into the darkness of the stinking corridor:

"Al-lexa-andra! A samova-ar! Two lo-oaves, bu-utter, and sausage! And a
small bottle of vo-odka!"

The patter of slippers was heard in the corridor, and an aged voice,
even from afar, began to speak thickly:

"What are you bawling for? What are you bawling for, eh? Ho, ho, ho!
Like a stallion in a stall. You ain't little, to look at you; you're
grown up already, yet you carry on like a street boy! Well, what do you
want?"

Into the room walked a little old woman, with red-lidded eyes, like
little narrow cracks, and with a face amazingly like parchment, upon
which a long, sharp nose stuck downward, morosely and ominously. This
was Alexandra, the servant of old of the student bird-houses; the
friend and creditor of all the students; a woman of sixty-five,
argumentative, and a grumbler.

Lichonin repeated his order to her and gave her a rouble note. But the
old woman would not go away; shuffled in one place, snorted, chewed
with her lips and looked inimically at the girl sitting--with her back
to the light.

"What's the matter with you now, Alexandra, that you seem ossified?"
asked Lichonin, laughing. "Or are you lost in admiration? Well, then,
know: this is my cousin, my first cousin, that is--Liubov..."[18] he
was confused for only a second, but immediately fired away: "Liubov
Vasilievna, but for me--simply Liubochka. I've known her when she was
only that high," he showed a quarter of a yard off the table. "And I
pulled her ears and slapped her for her caprices over the place where
the legs grow from. And then ... I caught all sorts of bugs for her ...
But, however ... However, you go on, go on, you Egyptian mummy, you
fragment of former ages! Let one leg be here and the other there!"


[18] Love.--Trans.


But the old woman lingered. Stamping all around herself, she barely,
barely turned to the door and kept a keen, spiteful, sidelong glance on
Liubka. And at the same time she muttered with her sunken mouth:

"First cousin! We know these first cousins! There's lots of them
walking around Kashtanovaya Street. There, these he-dogs can never get
enough!"

"Well, you old barque! Lively and don't growl!" Lichonin shouted after
her. "Or else, like your friend, the student Triassov, I'll take and
lock you up in the dressing room for twenty-four hours!"

Alexandra went away, and for a long time her aged, flapping steps and
indistinct muttering could be heard in the corridor. She was inclined,
in her austere, grumbling kindliness, to forgive a great deal to the
studying youths, whom she had served for nigh unto forty years. She
forgave drunkenness, card playing, scandals, loud singing, debts; but,
alas! she was a virgin, and there was only one thing her continent soul
could not abide--libertinage.



CHAPTER XIII.


"And that's splendid ... And fine and charming," Lichonin was saying,
bustling about the lame table and without need shifting the tea things
from one place to another. "For a long time, like an old crocodile, I
haven't drunk tea as it should be drunk, in a Christian manner, in a
domestic setting. Sit down, Liuba, sit down, my dear, right here on the
divan, and keep house. Vodka, in all probability, you don't drink of a
morning, but I, with your permission, will drink some ... This braces
up the nerves right off. Make mine a little stronger, please, with a
piece of lemon. Ah, what can taste better than a glass of hot tea,
poured out by charming feminine hands?"

Liubka listened to his chatter, a trifle too noisy to seem fully
natural; and her smile, in the beginning mistrusting, wary, was
softening and brightening. But she did not get on with the tea
especially well. At home, in the backwoods village, where this beverage
was still held a rarity, the dainty luxury of well-to-do families, to
be brewed only for honored guests and on great holidays--there over the
pouring of the tea officiated the eldest man of the family. Later, when
Liubka served with "all found" in the little provincial capital city,
in the beginning at a priest's, and later with an insurance agent (who
had been the first to put her on the road of prostitution)--she was
usually left some strained, tepid tea, which had already been drunk
off, with a bit of gnawn sugar, by the mistress herself--the thin,
jaundiced, malicious wife of the priest; or the wife of the agent, a
fat, old, wrinkled, malignant, greasy, jealous and stingy common woman.
Therefore, the simple business of preparing the tea was now as
difficult for her as it is difficult for all of us in childhood to
distinguish the left hand from the right, or to tie a rope in a small
noose. The bustling Lichonin only hindered her and threw her into
confusion.

"My dear, the art of brewing tea is a great art. It ought to be studied
at Moscow. At first a dry teapot is slightly warmed up. Then the tea is
put into it and is quickly scalded with boiling water. The first liquid
must at once be poured off into the slop-bowl--the tea thus becomes
purer and more aromatic; and by the way, it's also known that Chinamen
are pagans and prepare their herb very filthily. After that the tea-pot
must be filled anew, up to a quarter of its volume; left on the tray,
covered over with a towel and kept so for three and a half minutes.
Afterwards pour in more boiling water almost up to the top, cover it
again, let it stay just a bit, and you have ready, my dear, a divine
beverage; fragrant, refreshing, and strengthening."

The homely, but pleasant-looking face of Liubka, all spotted from
freckles, like a cuckoo's egg, lengthened and paled a little.

"Well, for God's sake, don't you be angry at me ... You're called
Vassil Vassilich, isn't that so? Don't get angry, darling Vassil
Vassilich. Really, now, I'll learn fast, I'm quick. And why do you say
you and you[19] to me all the time? It seems that we aren't strangers
now?"


[19] In contradistinction to "thou," as used to familiars and inferiors
in Russia.--Trans.


She looked at him kindly. And truly, she had this morning, for the
first time in all her brief but distorted life, given her body to a
man--even though without enjoyment but more out of gratitude and pity,
yet voluntarily--not for money, not under compulsion, not under threat
of dismissal and scandal. And her feminine heart, always unwithering,
always drawn to love, like a sunflower to the sun, was at this moment
pure and inclined to tenderness.

But Lichonin suddenly felt a prickling, shameful awkwardness and
something inimical toward this woman, yesterday unknown to him,
now--his chance mistress. "The charms of the family hearth have begun,"
he thought involuntarily; still, he got up from his chair, walked up to
Liubka, and having taken her by the hand, drew her to him and patted
her on the head.

"My dear, my darling sister," he said touchingly and falsely; "that
which has happened to-day must never more be repeated. In everything
only I alone am guilty, and, if you desire, I am ready to beg
forgiveness of you on my knees. Understand--oh, understand, that all
this came about against my will, somehow elementally, suddenly,
unexpectedly. And I myself didn't think that it would be like that! You
understand, for a very long time ... I have not known woman intimately
... A repulsive, unbridled beast awoke within me ... and ... But, Lord,
is my fault so great, then? Holy people, anchorites, recluses,
ascetics, stylites, hermits in deserts, are no match for me in
fortitude of spirit--yet even they fell in the struggle with the
temptation of the diabolical flesh. But then, I swear by whatever you
wish, that this won't be repeated any more ... Isn't that so?"

Liubka was stubbornly trying to pull his hand away from hers. Her lips
had become a little stuck out and the lowered lids began to wink
frequently.

"Ye-es," she drawled, like a child that stubbornly refuses to "make
up." "Well, I can see that I don't please you. Well, then, you'd best
tell me so straight and give me a little for a cab, and some more, now;
as much as you want ... The money for the night is paid anyway, and I
only have to ride up to ... there."

Lichonin seized his hair, flung himself about the room and began to
declaim:

"Ah, not that, not that, not that! Just understand me, Liuba! To go on
with that which happened in the morning--that's ... that's swinishness,
bestiality, and unworthy of a man who respects himself. Love!
Love--this is a full blending of minds, thoughts, souls, interests, and
not of the bodies alone. Love is a tremendous, great emotion, mighty as
the universe, and not the sprawling in bed. There's no such love
between us, Liubochka. If it'll come, it will be wonderful happiness
both for you and for me. But in the meantime--I'm your friend, your
faithful comrade, on the path of life. And that's enough, and that will
do ... And though I'm no stranger to human frailties, still, I count
myself an honest man."

Liubka seemed to wilt. "He thinks I want him to marry me. And I
absolutely don't need that," she thought sadly. "It's possible to live
just so. There are others, now, living on maintenance. And, they say,
far better than if they had twirled around an altar. What's so bad
about that? Peaceful, quiet, genteel ... I'd darn socks for him, wash
floors, cook ... the plainer dishes. Of course, he'll be in line to get
married to a rich girl some time. Well, now, to be sure, he wouldn't
throw me out in the street just so, mother-naked. Although he's a
little simpleton, and chatters a lot, still it's easy to tell he's a
decent man. He'll provide for me with something, somehow. And, perhaps,
he'll get to like me, will get used to me? I'm a simple girl, modest,
and would never consent to be false to him. For, they say, things do
fall out that way ... Only I mustn't let him see anything. But that
he'll come again into my bed, and will come this very night--that's as
sure as God is holy."

And Lichonin also fell into thought, grew quiet and sad; he was already
feeling the weight of a great deed which he had undertaken beyond his
powers. That was why he was even glad when some one knocked on the
door, and to his answer, "Come in!", two students entered: Soloviev,
and Nijeradze, who had slept that night at his place.

Soloviev, well-grown and already obese, with a broad, ruddy Volga face
and a light, scandent little beard, belonged to those kindly, merry and
simple fellows, of which there are sufficiently many in any university.
He divided his leisure--and of leisure he had twenty-four hours in the
day--between the beer-shop and rambling over the boulevards; among
billiards, whist, the theatre, reading of newspapers and novels, and
the spectacles of circus wrestling; while the short intervals in
between he used for eating, sleeping, the home repair of his wardrobe,
with the aid of thread, cardboard, pins and ink; and for succinct, most
realistic love with the chance woman from the kitchen, the anteroom or
the street. Like all the youths of his circle, he deemed himself a
revolutionary, although he was oppressed by political disputes,
dissensions, and mutual reproaches; and not being able to stand the
reading of revolutionary brochures and journals, was almost a complete
ignoramus in the work For that reason he had not attained even the very
least party initiation; although at times there were given him
instructions of a sort, not at all of a safe nature, the meaning of
which was not made clear to him. And not in vain was his steadfast
faithfulness relied upon; he carried out everything rapidly,
exactly,--with a courageous faith in the universal importance of the
work; with a care-free smile and with a broad contempt of possible
destruction. He concealed outlawed comrades, guarded forbidden
literature and printing types, transmitted passports and money. He had
a great deal of physical strength, black-loam amiability and elemental
simple-heartedness. Not infrequently he would receive from home,
somewheres in the depth of the Simbirskaya or Ufimskaya province, sums
of money sufficiently large for a student; but in two days he scattered
and dispersed it everywhere, with the carelessness of a French grandee
of the seventeenth century, while he himself remained during winter in
only his everyday coat, with boots restored by his own devices.

Beside all these naive, touching, laughable, lofty and shiftless
qualities of the old Russian student, passing--and God knows if for the
better?--into the realm of historical memories, he possessed still
another amazing ability--to invent money and arrange for credit in
little restaurants and cook-shops. All the employees of pawnshops and
loan offices, secret and manifest usurers, and old-clo'-men were on
terms of the closest friendship with him.

But if for certain reasons he could not resort to them, then even here
Soloviev remained at the height of his resourcefulness. At the head of
a knot of impoverished friends, and weighed down with his usual
business responsibility, he would at times be illumined by an inner
inspiration; make at a distance, across the street, a mysterious sign
to a Tartar passing with his bundle behind his shoulders, and for a few
seconds would disappear with him into the nearest gates. He would
quickly return without his everyday coat, only in his blouse with the
skirts outside, belted with a thin cord; or, in winter, without his
overcoat, in the thinnest of small suits; or instead of the new, just
purchased uniform cap--in a tiny jockey cap, holding by a miracle on
the crown of his head.

Everybody loved him: comrades, servants, women, children. And all were
familiar with him. He enjoyed especial good-will from his bosom
cronies, the Tartars, who, apparently, deemed him a little innocent.
They would sometimes, in the summer, bring as a present the strong,
intoxicating KOUMYSS in big quartern bottles, while at Bairam they
would invite him to eat a suckling colt with them. No matter how
improbable it may seem, still, Soloviev at critical moments gave away
for safe-keeping certain books and brochures to the Tartars. He would
say at this with the most simple and significant air: "That which I am
giving you is a Great Book. It telleth, that Allah Akbar, and that
Mahomet is his prophet, that there is much evil and poverty on earth,
and that men must be merciful and just to each other."

He also had two other abilities: he read aloud very well; and played at
chess amazingly, like a master, like a downright genius, defeating
first-class players in jest. His attack was always impetuous and
rigorous; his defense wise and cautious, preferably in an oblique
direction; his concessions to his opponent full of refined, far-sighted
calculation and murderous craftiness. With this, he made moves as
though under the influence of some inner instinct, or inspiration; not
pondering for more than four or five seconds and resolutely despising
the respected traditions.

He was not willingly played with; his manner of play was held
barbarous, but still they played, sometimes for large sums of money;
which, invariably winning, Soloviev readily laid down upon the altar of
his comrades' needs. But he steadfastly declined from participation in
competitions, which could have created for him the position of a star
in the world of chess: "There is in my nature neither love for this
nonsense, nor respect," he would say. "I simply possess some sort of a
mechanical ability of the mind, some sort of a psychic deformity. Well,
now, just as there are lefties. And for that reason I've no
professional self-respect, nor pride at victory, nor spleen at losing."

Such was the generously built student Soloviev. And Nijeradze filled
the post of his closest comrade; which did not hinder them both,
however, from jeering at each other, disputing, and swearing, from
morning till night. God knows, wherewithal and how the Georgian prince
existed. He said of himself, that he possessed the ability of a camel,
of nourishing himself for the future, for several weeks ahead; and then
eating nothing for a month. From home, from his blessed Georgia, he
received very little; and then, for the most part, in victuals. At
Christmas, at Easter, or on his birthday (in August) he was sent--and
inevitably through arriving fellow-countrymen--whole cargoes of hampers
with mutton, grapes, goat-flesh, sausages, dried hawthorn berries,
RAKHAT LOUKOUM, egg-plants, and very tasty cookies; as well as leathern
bottles of excellent home-made wine, strong and aromatic, but giving
off just the least bit of sheep-skin. Then the prince would summon
together to one of his comrades (he never had quarters of his own) all
his near friends and fellow-countrymen; and arranged such a magnificent
festival--TOI in Caucasian--that at it were extirpated to the last
shreds the gifts of fertile Georgia. Georgian songs were sung, the
first place, of course, being given to MRAVOL-DJAMIEM and EVERY GUEST
IS SENT DOWN TO US FROM HEAVEN BY GOD, NO MATTER OF WHAT COUNTRY HE BE;
the LEZGINKA was danced without tiring, with table knives brandished
wildly in the air; and the TULUMBASH (or, perhaps, he is called
TOMADA?) spoke his improvisations; for the greater part Nijeradze
himself spoke.

He was a great hand at talking and could, when he warmed up, pronounce
about three hundred words a minute. His style was distinguished for
mettle, pomp, and imagery; and his Caucasian accent with characteristic
lisping and throaty sounds, resembling now the hawking of a woodcock,
now the clucking of an eagle, not only did not hinder his discourse,
but somehow even strangely adorned it. And no matter of what he spoke,
he always led up the monologue to the most beautiful, most fertile, the
very foremost, most chivalrous, and at the same time the most injured
country--Georgia. And invariably he cited lines from THE PANTHER'S SKIN
of the Georgian poet Rustavelli; with assurances, that this poem was a
thousand times above all of Shakespeare, multiplied by Homer.

Even though he was hot-headed, he was not spiteful; and in his
demeanour femininely soft, gentle, engaging, without losing his native
pride ... One thing only did his comrades dislike in him--some
exaggerated, exotic love of women. He was unshakably, unto sacredness
or folly, convinced that he was irresistibly splendid of person; that
all men envied him, all women were in love with him, while husbands
were jealous ... This self-conceited, obtrusive dangling after women
did not forsake him for a minute, probably not even in his sleep.
Walking along the street he would every minute nudge Lichonin, Soloviev
or some other companion with his elbow, and would say, smacking his
lips and jerking his head backward at a woman who had passed by: "TSE,
TSE, TSE... VAI-VAI! A ree-markable wooman! What a look she gave me. If
I wish it, she'll be mine! ..."

This funny shortcoming about him was known; this trait of his was
ridiculed good-naturedly and unceremoniously, but willingly forgiven
for the sake of that independent comradely obligingness and
faithfulness to his word, given to a man (oaths to women did not
count), of which he was so naturally possessed. However, it must be
said that he did in reality enjoy great success with women.
Sempstresses, modistes, chorus girls, girls in candy stores, and
telephone girls melted from the intense gaze of his heavy, soft, and
languishing dark-blue eyes.

"Un-to this house and all those righteously, peacefully and without sin
inhabiting it ..." Soloviev started in to vociferate like an
arch-deacon and suddenly missed fire. "Father-prelates," he began to
murmur in astonishment, trying to continue the unsuccessful jest. "Why,
but this is ... This is ... ah, the devil ... this is Sonya, no, my
mistake, Nadya ... Well, yes! Liubka from Anna Markovna's ..."

Liubka blushed hotly, to the verge of tears, and covered her face with
her palms. Lichonin noticed this, understood, sensed the thoroughly
agitated soul of the girl, and came to her aid. He sternly, almost
rudely, stopped Soloviev.

"Perfectly correct, Soloviev. As in a directory. Liubka from the
Yamkas. Formerly a prostitute. Even more, still yesterday a prostitute.
But from to-day--my friend, my sister. And so let everyone, who
respects me to any extent, regard her. Otherwise..."

The ponderous Soloviev hurriedly, sincerely, and powerfully embraced
and rumpled Lichonin.

"Well, dear fellow, well, that's enough ... I committed a stupidity in
the flurry. It won't be repeated any more. Hail, my pale-faced sister."
He extended his hand with a broad sweep across the table to Liubka, and
squeezed her listless, small and short fingers with gnawed, tiny nails.
"It's fine--your coming into our modest wigwam. This will refresh us
and implant in our midst quiet and decent customs. Alexandra! Be-er!"
he began to call loudly. "We've grown wild, coarse; have become mired
in foul speech, drunkenness, laziness and other vices. And all because
we were deprived of the salutary, pacifying influence of feminine
society. Once again I press your hand. Your charming, little hand.
Beer!"

"Coming," the displeased voice of Alexandra could be heard on the other
side of the door. "I'm coming. What you yelling for? How much do you
want?"

Soloviev went out into the corridor to explain. Lichonin smiled after
him gratefully; while the Georgian on his way slapped him benignly on
the back, between his shoulder blades. Both understood and appreciated
the belated, somewhat coarse delicacy of Soloviev.

"Now," said Soloviev, coming back into the room and sitting down
cautiously upon an ancient chair, "now let's come to the order of the
day. Can I be of service to you in any way? If you'll give me half an
hour's time, I'll run down to the coffee house for a minute and lick
the guts out of the very best chess player there. In a word--I'm at
your disposal!"

"What a funny fellow you are!" said Liubka, ill at ease and laughing.
She did not understand the jocose and unusual style of speech of the
student, but something drew her simple heart to him.

"Well, that's not at all necessary," Lichonin put in. "I am as yet
beastly rich. I think we'll all go together to some little tavern
somewhere. I must have your advice about some things. After all, you're
the people closest to me; and of course not as stupid and inexperienced
as you seem at first glance. After that, I'll go and try to arrange
about her ... about Liuba's passport. You wait for me. That won't take
long ... In a word, you understand what this whole business consists
of, and won't be lavish of any superfluous jokes. I,"--his voice
quivered sentimentally and falsely--"I desire that you take upon
yourselves a part of my care. Is that a go?"

"VA! It's a go!" exclaimed the prince (it sounded like "idiot," when he
said it[20]), and for some reason looked significantly at Liubka and
twirled his moustache. Lichonin gave him a sidelong look. As for
Soloviev, he said simple-heartedly:


[20] The Russian phrase is "Eedet!"--Trans.


"That's the way. You've begun something big and splendid, Lichonin. The
prince told me about it during the night. Well, what of it, that's what
youth is for--to commit sacred follies. Give me the bottle, Alexandra,
I'll open it myself, or else you'll rupture yourself and burst a vein.
To a new life, Liubochka, pardon me ... Liubov ... Liubov ..."

"Nikonovna. But call me just as it comes ... Liuba."

"Well, yes, Liuba. Prince, ALLAHVERDI!"

"YAKSHI-OL," answered Nijeradze and clinked his glass of beer with him.

"And I'll also say, that I rejoice over you, friend Lichonin,"
continued Soloviev, setting down his glass and licking his moustache.
"Rejoice, and bow before you. It's precisely you, only, who are capable
of such a genuinely Russian heroism, expressed simply, modestly,
without superfluous words."

"Drop it ... Well, where's the heroism?" Lichonin made a wry face.

"That's true, too," confirmed Nijeradze. "You're reproaching me all the
time that I chatter a lot, but see what nonsense you're spouting
yourself."

"That makes no difference!" retorted Soloviev. "It may be even
grandiloquent, but still that makes no difference! As an elder of our
garret commune, I declare Liuba an honourable member with full rights!"
He got up, made a sweeping gesture with his hand, and uttered with
pathos:

    "And into our house, free and fearless,
     Its charming mistress walk thou in!"

Lichonin recalled vividly, that to-day at dawn he had spoken the very
same phrase, like an actor; and even blinked his eyes from shame.

"That's enough of tom-foolery. Let's go, gentlemen. Dress yourself,
Liuba."



CHAPTER XIV.


It was not far to The Sparrows restaurant; some two hundred steps. On
the way Liuba, unnoticed, took Lichonin by the sleeve and pulled him
toward her. In this wise they lagged a few steps behind Soloviev and
Nijeradze, who were walking ahead.

"Then you mean it seriously, my darling Vassil Vassilich?" she asked,
looking up at him with her kindly, dark eyes. "You're not playing a
joke on me?"

"What jokes can there be here, Liubochka! I'd be the lowest of men if I
permitted myself such jokes. I repeat, that to you I am more than a
friend, brother, comrade. And let's not talk about it any more. And
that which happened to-day toward morning, that, you may be sure, won't
be repeated. And I'll rent a separate room for you this very day."

Liubka sighed. Not that she was offended by the chaste resolution of
Lichonin, in which, to tell the truth, she believed but badly; but
somehow her dark, narrow mind could not even theoretically picture any
other attitude of a man toward a woman than the sensual. Besides that,
she experienced the ancient discontent of a preferred or rejected
female; a feeling strongly intrenched in the house of Anna Markovna, in
the form of boastful rivalry, but now dulled; yet still angry and
sincere. And for some reason she believed Lichonin but illy,
unconsciously seizing much of the assumed, not altogether sincere, in
his words. Soloviev, now--although he did speak incomprehensively, like
the rest of the majority of the students known to her, when they joked
among themselves or with the young ladies in the general room (by
themselves, in the room, all the men without an exception--all as
one--said and did one and the same thing)--she would rather believe
Soloviev, far more readily and willingly. A certain simplicity shone in
his merry, sparkling gray eyes, placed widely apart.

At THE SPARROWS Lichonin was esteemed for his sedateness, kind
disposition, and accuracy in money matters. Because of that he was at
once assigned a little private room--an honour of which but very few
students could boast. The gas burned all day in this room, because
light penetrated only through the narrow bottom of a window, cut short
by the ceiling. Only the boots, shoes, umbrellas and canes of the
people walking by on the sidewalk could be seen through this window.

They had to let still another student, Simanovsky (whom they ran
against near the coat room), join the party. "What does he mean, by
leading me around as though for a show?" thought Liubka: "it looks like
he's showing off before them." And, snatching a free moment, she
whispered to Lichonin, who had bent over her:

"But why are there so many people, dearie? For I'm so bashful. I can't
hold my own in company."

"That's nothing, that's nothing, my dear Liubochka," Lichonin whispered
rapidly, tarrying at the door of the cabinet. "That's nothing, my
sister; these are all fine people, good comrades. They'll help you,
help us both. Don't mind their having fun at times and their silly
lying. But their hearts are of gold."

"But it's so very awkward for me; I'm ashamed. All of them already know
where you took me from."

"Well, that's nothing, that's nothing! Why, let 'em know!" warmly
contradicted Lichonin. "Why be embarrassed with your past, why try to
pass it by in silence? In a year you'll look bravely and directly in
the eyes of every man and you'll say: 'He who has never fallen, has
never gotten up.' Come on, come on, Liubochka!"

While the inelaborate appetizers were being served, and each one was
ordering the meal, everybody, save Simanovsky, felt ill at ease and
somehow constrained. And Simanovsky himself was partly the reason for
this; he was a clean-shaven man, with pince-nez and long hair, with
head proudly thrown back and with a contemptuous expression on the
tight lips, drooping at the corners. He had no intimate, hearty friends
among his comrades; but his opinions and judgments had a considerable
authoritativeness among them. It is doubtful whether any one of them
could explain to himself whence this influence came; whether from his
self-assured appearance, his ability to seize and express in general
words the dismembered and indistinct things which are dimly sought and
desired by the majority, or because he always saved his conclusions for
the most appropriate moment. Among any society there are many of this
sort of people: some of them act upon their circle through sophistries;
others through adamant, unalterable stead-fastness of convictions; a
third group with a loud mouth; a fourth, through a malicious sneer; a
fifth, simply by silence, which compels the supposition of profound
thought behind it; a sixth, through a chattering, outward erudition;
others still through a slashing sneer at everything that is said ...
many with the terrible Russian word YERUNDA:
"Fiddlesticks!"--"Fiddlesticks!" they say contemptuously in reply to
the warm, sincere, probably truthful but clumsily put word. "But why
fiddlesticks?" "Because it's twaddle, nonsense," answer they, shrugging
their shoulders; and it is as though they did for a man by hitting him
with a stone over the head. There are many more sorts of such people,
bearing the bell at the head of the meek, the shy, the nobly modest,
and often even the big minds; and to their number did Simanovsky belong.

However, toward the middle of the dinner everybody's tongue became
loosened--except Liubka's, who kept silent, answered "yes" and "no",
and left her food practically untouched. Lichonin, Soloviev, and
Nijeradze talked most of all. The first, in a decisive and
business-like manner, trying to hide under the solicitous words
something real, inward, prickling and inconvenient. Soloviev, with a
puerile delight, with the most sweeping of gestures, hitting the table
with his fist. Nijeradze, with a slight doubtfulness and with
unfinished phrases, as though he knew that which must be said, but
concealed it. The queer fate of the girl, however, had seemingly
engrossed, interested them all; and each one, in expressing his
opinion, for some reason inevitably turned to Simanovsky. But he kept
his counsel for the most part, and looked at each one from under the
glasses of his pince-nez, raising his head high to do so.

"So, so, so," he said at last, drumming with his fingers upon the
table. "What Lichonin has done is splendid and brave. And that the
prince and Soloviev are going to meet him half-way is also very good.
I, for my part, am ready to co-operate with your beginnings with
whatever lies in my power. But will it not be better, if we lead our
friend along the path of her natural inclinations and abilities, so to
speak? Tell me, my dear," he turned to Liubka, "what do you know, what
can you do? Well, now, some kind of work, or something. Sewing,
knitting, embroidering or something."

"I don't know anything," said Liubka in a whisper, letting her eyes
drop low, all red, squeezing her fingers under the table. "I don't
understand anything of this.''

"And really, now," interposed Lichonin; "why, we haven't begun the
business from the right end. By talking about her in her presence we
merely place her in an awkward position. Just see--even her tongue
doesn't move from confusion. Let's go, Liubka, I'll escort you home for
just a little while, and return in ten minutes. And in the meanwhile
we'll think over ways and means here, without you. All right?"

"As for me, I don't mind," almost inaudibly answered Liubka. "I'll do
just as you like, Vassil Vassilich. Only I wouldn't like to go home."

"Why so?"

"It's awkward for me there alone. I'd best wait for you on the
boulevard, at the very entrance, on a bench."

"Ah, yes!" Lichonin recollected: "It's Alexandra who has inspired her
with such a terror. My, but I'll make it hot for this old lizard! Well,
let's go, Liubochka."

She timidly, in some sidelong way, put out her hand to each one,
folding it like a little spade; and walked out under the escort of
Lichonin.

After several minutes he returned and sat down at his place. He felt
that something had been said about him during his absence, and he ran
his eyes uneasily over his comrades. Then, putting his hands on the
table, he began:

"Gentlemen, I know that you're all good, close friends," he gave a
quick and sidelong look at Simanovsky, "and responsive people. I
heartily beg of you to come to my aid. The deed was done by me in a
hurry--this I must confess--but done through a sincere, pure
inclination of the heart."

"And that's the main thing," put in Soloviev.

"It's absolutely all one to me what acquaintances and strangers will
begin saying about me; but from my intention to save--pardon the fool
word, which slipped out--to encourage, to sustain this girl, I will not
decline. Of course, I'm able to rent an inexpensive, small room for
her; to give her something for board at first; but what's to be done
further--that's what presents difficulties to me. The matter, of
course, isn't one of money, which I'd always find for her; but, then,
to compel her to eat, drink, and with all that to do nothing--that
would mean to condemn her to idleness, indifference, apathy; and you
know what the end will be then. Therefore, we must think of some
occupation for her. And that's the very matter which we must exert our
brains about. Make an effort, gentlemen; advise something."

"We must know what she's fitted for," said Simanovsky. "For she must
have been doing something before getting into the house."

Lichonin, with an air of hopelessness, spread out his hands.

"Almost nothing. She can sew just the least bit, just like any country
lass. Why, she wasn't fifteen when some government clerk led her
astray. She can sweep up a room, wash a little, and, if you will, cook
cabbage soup and porridge. Nothing more, it seems."

"Rather little," said Simanovsky, and clacked his tongue.

"And in addition to that, she's illiterate as well."

"But that's not at all important!" warmly defended Soloviev. "If we had
to do with a well-educated girl, or, worse still, with a half-educated
one, then only nonsense would result out of all that we're preparing to
do, a mere soap-bubble; while here before us is maiden ground,
untouched virgin soil."

"He-ee!" Nijeradze started neighing equivocally.

Soloviev, now no longer joking, but with real wrath, pounced upon him:

"Listen, prince! Every holy thought, every good deed, can be made
disgusting, obscene. There's nothing clever or worthy in that. If you
regard that which we're preparing to do so like a stallion, then
there's the door and God be with you. Go away from us!"

"Yes, but you yourself just now in the room ..." retorted the prince in
confusion.

"Yes, I too," Soloviev at once softened and cooled down. "I popped out
with a stupidity and I regret it. But now I willingly admit that
Lichonin is a fine fellow and a splendid man; and I'm ready to do
everything, for my part. And I repeat, that knowledge of reading and
writing is a secondary matter. It is easy to attain it in play. For
such an untouched mind to learn reading, writing, counting, and
especially without school, of one's free will, is like biting a nut in
two. And as far as a manual trade is concerned, through which it would
be possible to live and earn one's keep, then there are hundreds of
trades, which can be easily mastered in two weeks."

"For instance?" asked the prince.

"Well, for instance ... for instance ... well, now, for instance,
making artificial flowers. Yes, and still better, to get a place as a
flower clerk. A charming business, clean and nice."

"Taste is necessary," Simanovsky dropped carelessly.

"There are no inborn tastes, as well as abilities. Otherwise talents
would be born only in refined, highly educated society; while artists
would be born only to artists, and singers to singers; but we don't see
this. However, I won't argue. Well, if not a flower girl, then
something else. I, for instance, saw not long ago in a store show
window a miss sitting, and some sort of a little machine with
foot-power before her."

"V-VA! Again a little machine!" said the prince, smiling and looking at
Lichonin.

"Stop it, Nijeradze," answered Lichonin, quietly but sternly. "You
ought to be ashamed."

"Blockhead!" Soloviev threw at him, and continued.

"So, then, the machine moves back and forth, while upon it, on a square
frame, is stretched a thin canvas, and really, I don't know how it's
contrived, I didn't grasp it; only the miss guides some metallic
thingamajig over the screen, and there comes out a fine drawing in
vari-coloured silks. Just imagine, a lake, all grown over with
pond-lilies with their white corollas and yellow stamens, and great
green leaves all around. And on the water two white swans are floating
toward each other, and in the background is a dark park with an alley;
and all this shows finely, distinctly, as on a picture from life. And I
became so interested that I went in on purpose to find out how much it
costs. It proved to be just the least bit dearer than an ordinary
sewing machine, and it's sold on terms. And any one who can sew a
little on a common machine can learn this art in an hour. And there's a
great number of charming original designs. And the main thing is that
such work is very readily taken for fire-screens, albums, lamp-shades,
curtains and other rubbish, and the pay is decent."

"After all, that's a sort of a trade, too," agreed Lichonin, and
stroked his beard in meditation. "But, to confess, here's what I wanted
to do. I wanted to open up for her ... to open up a little cook-shop or
dining room, the very tiniest to start with, of course, but one in
which all the food is cheap, clean and tasty. For it's absolutely all
the same to many students where they dine and what they eat. There are
almost never enough places to go round in the students' dining room.
And so we may succeed, perhaps, in pulling in all our acquaintances and
friends, somehow."

"That's true," said the prince, "but impractical as well; we'll begin
to board on credit. And you know what accurate payers we are. A
practical man, a knave, is needed for such an undertaking; and if a
woman, then one with a pike's teeth; and even then a man must
absolutely stick right at her back. Really, it's not for Lichonin to
stand at the counter and to watch that somebody shouldn't suddenly wine
and dine and slip away."

Lichonin looked straight at him, insolently, but only set his jaws and
let it pass in silence.

Simanovsky began in his measured, incontrovertible tone, toying with
the glasses of his PINCE-NEZ:

"Your intention is splendid, gentlemen, beyond dispute. But have you
turned your attention to a certain shady aspect, so to speak? For to
open a dining room, to start some business--all this in the beginning
demands money, assistance--somebody else's back, so to speak. The money
is not grudged--that is true, I agree with Lichonin; but then, does not
such a beginning of an industrious life, when every step is provided
for--does it not lead to inevitable laxity and negligence, and, in the
very end, to an indifferent disdain for business? Even a child does not
learn to walk until it has flopped down some fifty times. No; if you
really want to help this poor girl, you must give her a chance of
getting on her feet at once, like a toiling being, and not like a
drone. True, there is a great temptation here--the burden of labour,
temporary need; but then, if she will surmount this, she will surmount
the rest as well."

"What, then, according to you, is she to become--a dish-washer?" asked
Soloviev with unbelief.

"Well, yes," calmly retorted Simanovsky. "A dish-washer, a laundress, a
cook. All toil elevates a human being."

Lichonin shook his head.

"Words of gold. Wisdom itself speaks with your lips, Simanovsky.
Dish-washer, cook, maid, housekeeper ... but, in the first place, it's
doubtful if she's capable for that; in the second place, she has
already been a maid and has tasted all the sweets of masters' bawlings
out, and masters' pinches behind doors, in the corridor. Tell me, is it
possible you don't know that ninety per cent, of prostitution is
recruited from the number of female servants? And, therefore, poor
Liuba, at the very first injustice, at the first rebuff, will the more
easily and readily go just there where I have gotten her out of; if not
even worse, because for her that's customary and not so frightful; and,
perhaps, it will even seem desirable after the masters' treatment. And
besides that, is it worth while for me--that is, I want to say--is it
worth while for all of us, to go to so much trouble, to try so hard and
put ourselves out so, if, after having saved a being from one slavery,
we only plunge her into another?"

"Right," confirmed Soloviev.

"Just as you wish," drawled Simanovsky with a disdainful air.

"But as far as I'm concerned," said the prince, "I'm ready, as a friend
and a curious man, to be present at this experiment and to participate
in it. But even this morning I warned you, that there have been such
experiments before and that they have always ended in ignominious
failure, at least those of which we know personally; while those of
which we know only by hearsay are dubious as regards authenticity. But
you have begun the business--and go on with it. We are your helpers."

Lichonin struck the table with his palm.

"No!" he exclaimed stubbornly. "Simanovsky is partly right concerning
the great danger of a person's being led in leading strings. But I
don't see any other way out. In the beginning I'll help her with room
and board... find some easy work, buy the necessary accessories for
her. Let be what may! And let us do everything in order to educate her
mind a little; and that her heart and soul are beautiful, of that I am
sure. I've no grounds for the faith, but I am sure, I almost know.
Nijeradze! Don't clown!" he cried abruptly, growing pale, "I've
restrained myself several times already at your fool pranks. I have
until now held you as a man of conscience and feeling. One more
inappropriate witticism, and I'll change my opinion of you; and know,
that it's forever."

"Well, now, I didn't mean anything... Really, I... Why go all up in the
air, me soul? You don't like that I'm a gay fellow, well, I'll be
quiet. Give me your hand, Lichonin, let's drink!"

"Well, all right, get away from me. Here's to your health! Only don't
behave like a little boy, you Ossetean ram. Well, then, I continue,
gentlemen. If we find anything which might satisfy the just opinion of
Simanovsky about the dignity of independent toil, unsustained by
anything, then I shall stick to my system: to teach Liuba whatever is
possible, to take her to the theatre, to expositions, to popular
lectures, to museums; to read aloud to her, give her the possibility of
hearing music--comprehensible music, of course. It's understood, I
alone won't be able to manage all this. I expect help from you; and
after that, whatever God may will."

"Oh, well," said Simanovsky, "the work is new, not threadbare; and how
can we know the unknowable--perhaps you, Lichonin, will become the
spiritual father of a good being. I, too, offer my services."

"And I! And I!" the other two seconded; and right there, without
getting up from the table, the four students worked out a very broad
and very wondrous program of education and enlightenment for Liubka.

Soloviev took upon himself to teach the girl grammar and writing. In
order not to tire her with tedious lessons, and as a reward for
successes, he would read aloud for her artistic fiction, Russian and
foreign, easy of comprehension. Lichonin left for himself the teaching
of arithmetic, geography and history.

While the prince said simple-heartedly, without his usual facetiousness
this time:

"I, my children, don't know anything; while that which I do know, I
know very badly. But I'll read to her the remarkable production of the
great Georgian poet Rustavelli, and translate it line by line. I
confess to you, that I'm not much of a pedagogue: I tried to be a
tutor, but they politely chased me out after only the second lesson.
Still, no one can teach better playing on a guitar, mandolin, and the
bagpipes!"

Nijeradze was speaking with perfect seriousness, and for that reason
Lichonin with Soloviev good-naturedly started laughing; but with entire
unexpectedness, to the general amazement of all, Simanovsky sustained
him.

"The prince speaks common sense. To have the mastery of an instrument
elevates the aesthetic sense, in any case; and is even a help in life.
And I, for my part, gentlemen ... I propose to read with the young
person the CAPITAL of Marx, and the history of human culture. And to
take up chemistry and physics with her, besides."

If it were not for the customary authority of Simanovsky and the
importance with which he spoke, the remaining three would have burst
into laughter in his face. They only stared at him, with eyes popping
out.

"Well, yes," continued Simanovsky imperturbably, "I'll show her a whole
series of chemical and physical experiments, which it is possible to
carry on at home; which are always amusing and beneficial to the mind;
and which eradicate prejudices. Incidentally, I'll explain something of
the structure of the world, of the properties of matter. And as far as
Karl Marx is concerned, just remember, that great books are equally
accessible to the understanding both of a scholar and an unlettered
peasant, if only comprehensibly presented. And every great thought is
simple."

Lichonin found Liubka at the place agreed upon, on a bench of the
boulevard. She went home with him very unwillingly. Just as Lichonin
had supposed, meeting the grumbling Alexandra was a fearful thing to
her, who had long since grown unused to every-day actuality; harsh, and
plentiful with all sorts of unpleasantnesses. And besides that, the
fact that Lichonin did not want to conceal her past acted oppressively
upon her. But she, who had long ago lost her will in the establishment
of Anna Markovna, deprived of her personality, ready to follow after
the call of every stranger, did not tell him a word and walked after
him.

The crafty Alexandra had already managed during this time to run to the
superintendent of the houses and to complain to him, that, now,
Lichonin had come with some miss, had passed the night with her in the
room; but who she is, that Alexandra don't know; that Lichonin says she
is his first cousin, like; but did not present a passport. It was
necessary to explain things at great length, diffusedly and tiresomely,
to the superintendent, a coarse and insolent man, who bore himself to
all the tenants in the house as toward a conquered city; and feared
only the students slightly, because they gave him a severe rebuff at
times. Lichonin propitiated him only when he rented on the spot another
room, several rooms away from his, for Liubka; under the very slope of
the roof, so that it represented on the inside a sharply cut-off, low,
four-sided pyramid, with one little window.

"But still, Mr. Lichonin, just you present the passport to-morrow
without fail," said the superintendent insistently at parting. "Since
you're a respectable man, hard-working, and you and I are long
acquainted, also you pay punctually, I am willing to do it only for
you. You know yourself what hard times these are. If some one tells on
me, they'll not only fire me, but they can put me out of town as well.
They're strict now."

In the evening Lichonin strolled with Liubka through Prince Park,
listened to the music playing in the aristocratic club, and returned
home early. He escorted Liubka to the door of her room and at once took
leave of her; kissing her, however, tenderly on the brow, like a
father. But after ten minutes, when he was already lying in bed
undressed and reading the statutes of state, Liubka, having scratched
on his door like a cat, suddenly entered his room.

"Darling, sweetie! Excuse me for troubling you. Haven't you a needle
and thread? But don't get angry at me; I'll go away at once."

"Liuba! I beg of you to go away not at once, but this second. Finally,
I demand it!"

"My dearie, my pretty," Liubka began to intone laughably and piteously,
"well, what are you yelling at me for all the time?" and, in a moment,
having blown upon the candle, she nestled up to him in the darkness,
laughing and crying.

"No, Liuba, this must not be. It's impossible to go on like this,"
Lichonin was saying ten minutes later, standing at the door, wrapped up
in his blanket, like a Spanish hidalgo in a cape. "To-morrow at the
latest I'll rent a room for you in another house. And, in general,
don't let this occur! God be with you, and good night! Still, you must
give me your word of honour that our relations will be merely friendly."

"I give it, dearie, I give it, I give it, I give it!" she began to
prattle, smiling; and quickly smacked him first on the lips and then on
his hand.

The last action was altogether instinctive; and, perhaps, unexpected
even to Liubka herself. Never yet in her life had she kissed any man's
hand, save a priest's. Perhaps she wanted to express through this her
gratitude to Lichonin, and a prostration before him as before a higher
being.



CHAPTER XV.


Among Russian intelligents, as has already been noted by many, there is
a decent quantity of wonderful people; true children of the Russian
land and culture, who would be able heroically, without the quivering
of a single muscle, to look straight in the face of death; who are
capable for the sake of an idea of bearing unconceivable privations and
sufferings, equal to torture; but then, these people are lost before
the haughtiness of a doorman; shrink from the yelling of a laundress;
while into a police station they enter in an insufferable and timid
distress. And precisely such a one was Lichonin. On the following day
(yesterday it had been impossible on account of a holiday and the
lateness), having gotten up very early and recollecting that to-day he
had to take care of Liubka's passport, he felt just as bad as when in
former times, as a high-school boy, he went to an examination, knowing
that he would surely fall through. His head ached, while his arms and
legs somehow seemed another's; in addition, a drizzling and seemingly
dirty rain had been falling on the street since morning. "Always, now,
when there's some unpleasantness in store, there is inevitably a rain
falling," reflected Lichonin, dressing slowly.

It was not especially far from his street to the Yamskaya, not more
than two-thirds of a mile. In general, he was not infrequently in those
parts, but he had never had occasion to go there in the daytime; and on
the way it seemed to him all the time that every one he met, every
cabby and policeman, was looking at him with curiosity, with reproach,
or with disdain, as though surmising the destination of his journey. As
always on a nasty and muggy morning, all the faces that met his eyes
seemed pale, ugly, with monstrously underlined defects. Scores of times
he imagined all that he would say in the beginning at the house; and
later at the station house; and every time the outcome was different.
Angry at himself for this premature rehearsal, he would at times stop
himself:

"Ah! You mustn't think, you mustn't presuppose what you're going to
say. It always turns out far better when it's done right off..."

And then again imaginary dialogues would run through his head:

"You have no right to hold this girl against her wish."

"Yes, but let her herself give notice about going away."

"I act at her instruction."

"All right; but how can you prove this?" and again he would mentally
cut himself short.

The city common began, on which cows were browsing; a board sidewalk
along a fence; shaky little bridges over little brooklets and ditches.
Then he turned into the Yamskaya. In the house of Anna Markovna all the
windows were closed with shutters, with openings, in the form of
hearts, cut out in the middle. And all of the remaining houses on the
deserted street, desolated as though after a pestilence, were closed as
well. With a contracting heart Lichonin pulled the bell-handle.

A maid, barefooted, with skirt caught up, with a wet rag in her hand,
with face striped from dirt, answered the bell--she had just been
washing the floor.

"I'd like to see Jennka," timidly requested Lichonin.

"Well, now, the young lady is busy with a guest. They haven't waked up
yet."

"Well, Tamara then."

The maid looked at him mistrustfully.

"Miss Tamara--I don't know... I think she's busy too. But what you
want--to pay a visit, or what?"

"Ah, isn't it all the same! A visit, let's say."

"I don't know. I'll go and look. Wait a while."

She went away, leaving Lichonin in the half-dark drawing room. The blue
pillars of dust, coming from the openings in the shutters, pierced the
heavy obscurity in all directions. Like hideous spots stood out of the
gray murkiness the bepainted furniture and the sweetish oleographs on
the walls. It smelt of yesterday's tobacco, of dampness, sourness; and
of something else peculiar, indeterminate, uninhabited, of which places
that are lived in only temporarily always smell in the morning--such as
empty theatres, dance-halls, auditoriums. Far off in the city a droshky
rumbled intermittently. The wall-clock monotonously ticked behind the
wall. In a strange agitation Lichonin walked back and forth through the
drawing room and rubbed and kneaded his trembling hands, and for some
reason was stooping and felt cold.

"I shouldn't have started all this false comedy," he thought with
irritation. "It goes without saying that I've now become the by-word of
the entire university. The devil nudged me! And even during the day
yesterday it wasn't too late, when she was saying that she was ready to
go back. All I had to do was to give her for a cabby and a little pin
money, and she'd have gone, and all would have been fine; and I would
be independent now, free, and wouldn't be undergoing this tormenting
and ignominious state of spirits. But it's too late to retreat now.
To-morrow it'll be still later, and the day after to-morrow--still
more. Having pulled off one fool stunt, it must be immediately put a
stop to; but on the other hand, if you don't do that in time, it draws
two others after it, and they--twenty new ones. Or, perhaps, it's not
too late now? Why, she's silly, undeveloped, and, probably, a hysteric,
like the rest of them. She's an animal, fit only for stuffing herself
and for the bed. Oh! The devil!" Lichonin forcefully squeezed his
cheeks and his forehead between his hands and shut his eyes. "And if I
had but held out against the common, coarse, physical temptation!
There, you see for yourself, this has happened twice already; and then
it'll go on and on ..."

But side by side with these ran other thoughts, opposed to them:

"But then, I'm a man. I am master of my word. For that which urged me
on to this deed was splendid, noble, lofty. I remember very well that
rapture which seized me when my thought transpired into action! That
was a pure, tremendous feeling. Or was it simply an extravagance of the
mind, whipped up by alcohol; the consequence of a sleepless night,
smoking, and long, abstract conversations?"

And immediately Liubka would appear before him, appear at a distance,
as though out of the misty depths of time; awkward, timid, with her
homely and endearing face, which had at once come to seem of infinitely
close kinship; long, long familiar, and at the same time
unpleasant--unjustly, without cause.

"Can it be that I'm a coward and a rag?" cried Lichonin inwardly and
wrung his hands. "What am I afraid of, before whom am I embarrassed?
Have I not always prided myself upon being sole master of my life?
Let's suppose, even, that the phantasy, the extravagance, of making a
psychological experiment upon a human soul--a rare experiment,
unsuccessful in ninety-nine percent--has entered my head. Is it
possible that I must render anybody an account in this, or fear
anybody's opinion? Lichonin! Look down upon mankind from above!"

Jennie walked into the room, dishevelled, sleepy, in a night jacket on
top of a white underskirt.

"A-a!" she yawned, extending her hand to Lichonin. "How d'you do, my
dear student! How does your Liubochka feel herself in the new place?
Call me in as a guest some time. Or are you spending your honeymoon on
the quiet? Without any outside witnesses?"

"Drop the silly stuff, Jennechka. I came about the passport."

"So-o. About the passport," Jennka went into thought. "That is, there's
no passport here, but you must take a blank from the housekeeper. You
understand, our usual prostitute's blank; and then they'll exchange it
for you for a real book at the station house. Only you see, my dear, I
will be but ill help to you in this business. They are as like as not
to beat me up if I come near a housekeeper or a porter. But here's what
you do. You'd best send the maid for the housekeeper; tell her to say
that a certain guest, now, a steady one, has come on business; that
it's very urgent to see her personally. But you must excuse me--I'm
going to back out, and don't you be angry, please. You know
yourself--charity begins at home. But why should you hang around by
yourself in this here darkness? You'd better go into the cabinet. If
you want to, I'll send you beer there. Or, perhaps you want coffee? Or
else," and her eyes sparkled slyly, "or else a girlie, perhaps? Tamara
is busy, but may be Niura or Verka will do?"

"Stop it, Jennie! I came about a serious and important matter, but you
..."

"Well, well, I won't, I won't! I said it just so. I see that you
observe faithfulness. That's very noble on your part. Let's go, then."

She led him into the cabinet, and, opening the inner bolt of the
shutter, threw it wide open. The daylight softly and sadly splashed
against the red and gold walls, over the candelabra, over the soft red
velveteen furniture.

"Right here it began," reflected Lichonin with sad regret.

"I am going," said Jennka. "Don't you knuckle down too much before her,
and Simeon too. Abuse them for all you're worth. It's daytime now, and
they won't dare do anything to you. If anything happens, tell them
straight that, now, you're going to the governor immediately and are
going to tell on them. Tell 'em, that they'll be closed up and put out
of town in twenty-four hours. Bawl 'em out and they get like silk.
Well, now, I wish you success."

She went away. After ten minutes had passed, into the cabinet floated
Emma Edwardovna, the housekeeper, in a blue satin PEGNOIR; corpulent,
with an important face, broadening from the forehead down to the
cheeks, just like a monstrous squash; with all her massive chins and
breasts; with small, keen eyes, without eyelashes; with thin,
malicious, compressed lips. Lichonin, arising, pressed the puffy hand
extended to him, studded with rings, and suddenly thought with aversion:

"The devil take it! If this vermin had a soul, if it were possible to
read this soul--then how many direct and indirect murders are lurking
hidden within it!"

It must be said, that in starting out for the Yamkas, Lichonin, besides
money, had fetched a revolver along with him; and on the road, while
walking, he had frequently shoved his hand into his pocket and had
there felt the chill contact of the metal. He expected affront,
violence, and was prepared to meet them in a suitable manner. But, to
his amazement, all that he had presupposed and had feared proved a
timorous, fantastic fiction. The business was far more simple, more
wearisome and more prosaic, and at the same time more unpleasant.

"JA, MEIN HERR," said the housekeeper indifferently and somewhat
loftily, settling into a low chair and lighting a cigarette. "You pay
for one night and instead of that took already the girl for one more
night and one more day. ALSO, you owe twenty-five more roubles yet.
When we let off a girlie for a night we take ten roubles, and for the
twenty-four hours twenty-five roubles. That's a tax, like. Don't you
want a smoke, young man?" she stretched out her case, and Lichonin,
without himself knowing why, took a cigarette.

"I wanted to talk with you about something else entirely."

"O! Don't trouble yourself to speak: I understand everything very well.
Probably the young man wants to take these girl, those Liubka,
altogether to himself to set her up, or in order to--how do you
Russians call it?--in order to safe her? Yes, yes, yes, that happens.
Twenty-two years I live in a brothel, and I know, that this happens
with very foolish young peoples. But only I assure you, that from this
will come nothing out."

"Whether it will come out or whether it won't come out--that is already
my affair," answered Lichonin dully, looking down at his fingers,
trembling on his knees.

"O, of course, it's your affair, my young student," and the flabby
cheeks and majestic chins of Emma Edwardovna began to jump from
inaudible laughter. "From my soul I wish for you love and friendship;
but only trouble yourself to tell this nasty creature, this Liubka,
that she shouldn't dare to show even her nose here, when you throw her
out into the street like a little doggie. Let her croak from hunger
under a fence, or go into a half-rouble establishment for the soldiers!"

"Believe me, she won't return. I ask you merely to give me her
certificate, without delay."

"The certificate? ACH, if you please! Even this very minute. Only I
will first trouble you to pay for everything that she took here on
credit. Have a look, here is her account book. I took it along with me
on purpose. I knew already with what our conversation would end." She
took out of the slit of her PEGNOIR--showing Lichonin for just a minute
her fat, full-fleshed, yellow, enormous breast--a little book in a
black cover, with the heading: ACCOUNT OF MISS IRENE VOSCHHENKOVA IN
THE HOUSE OF ILL-FAME, MAINTAINED BY ANNA MARKOVNA SHAIBES, ON
YAM-SKAYA STREET, NO. SO-AND-SO, and extended it to him across the
table. Lichonin turned over the first page and read through four or
five paragraphs of the printed rules. There dryly and briefly it was
stated that the account book consists of two copies, of which one is
kept by the proprietress while the other remains with the prostitute;
that all income and expense were entered into both books; that by
agreement the prostitute receives board, quarters, heat, light, bed
linen, baths and so forth, and for this pays out to the proprietress in
no case more than two-thirds of her earnings; while out of the
remaining money she is bound to dress neatly and decently, having no
less than two dresses for going out. Further, mention was made of the
fact that payment was made with the help of stamps, which the
proprietress gives out to the prostitute upon receipt of money from
her; while the account is drawn up at the end of every month. And,
finally, that the prostitute can at any time leave the house of
prostitution, even if there does remain a debt of hers, which, however,
she binds herself to cancel on the basis of general civil laws.

Lichonin prodded the last point with his finger, and, having turned the
face of the book to the housekeeper, said triumphantly:

"Aha! There, you see: she has the right to leave the house at any time.
Consequently, she can at any time quit your abominable dive of
violence, baseness, and depravity, in which you ..." Lichonin began
rattling off, but the housekeeper calmly cut him short:

"O! I have no doubt of this. Let her go away. Let her only pay the
money."

"What about promissory notes? She can give promissory notes."

"Pst! Promissory notes! In the first place, she's illiterate; while in
the second, what are her promissory notes worth? A spit and no more.
Let her find a surety who would be worthy of trust, and then I have
nothing against it."

"But, then, there's nothing said in the rules about sureties."

"There's many a thing not said! In the rules it also does not say that
it's permitted to carry a girlie out of the house, without giving
warning to the owners."

"But in any case you'll have to give me her blank."

"I will never do such a foolishness! Come here with some respectable
person and with the police; and let the police certify that this friend
of yours is a man of means; and let this man stand surety for you; and
let, besides that, the police certify that you are not taking the girl
in order to trade in her, or to sell her over to another
stablishment--then as you please! Hand and foot!"

"The devil!" exclaimed Lichonin. "But if that surety will be I, I
myself! If I'll sign your promissory notes right away ..."

"Young man! I don't know what you are taught in your different
universities, but is it possible that you reckon me such a positive
fool? God grant, that you have, besides those which are on you, still
some other pants! God grant, that you should even the day after have
for dinner the remnants of sausages from the sausage shop, and yet you
say--a promissory note! What are you bothering my head for?"

Lichonin grew completely angry. He drew his wallet out of his pocket
and slapped it down on the table.

"In that case I pay in cash and immediately!"

"ACH, that's a business of another kind," sweetly, but still with
mistrust, the housekeeper intoned. "I will trouble you to turn the
page, and see what the bill of your beloved is."

"Keep still, you carrion!"

"I'm still, you fool," calmly responded the housekeeper.

On the small ruled pages on the left side was designated the income, on
the right were the expenses.

"Received in stamps, 15th of April," read Lichonin, "10 roubles;
16th--4 roubles; 17th--12 roubles; 18th--sick; 19th--sick; 20th--6
roubles; 21st--24 roubles."

"My God!" with loathing, with horror, reflected Lichonin. "Twelve men
in one night!"

At the end of the month stood:

"Total 330 roubles."

"Lord! Why, this is some sort of delirium! One hundred and sixty-five
visits," thought Lichonin, having mechanically calculated it, and still
continued turning the pages. Then he went over to the columns on the
right.

"Made, a red dress of silk with lace 84 roubles Dressmaker Eldokimova.
Dressing sack of lace 35 roubles Dressmaker Eldokimova. Silk stockings
6 pair 36 roubles," &c., &c. "Given for cab-fare, given for candy,
perfumes bought," &c., &c. "Total 205 roubles." After that from the 330
roubles were deducted 220 roubles--the share of the proprietress for
board and lodging. The figure of 110 roubles resulted. The end of the
monthly account declared:

"Total after the payment to the dressmaker and for other articles, of
110 roubles, a debt of ninety-five (95) roubles remains for Irene
Voschhenkova and with the four hundred and eighteen roubles remaining
from last year--five hundred and thirteen (513) roubles."

Lichonin's spirits fell. He did try, at first, to be indignant at the
expensiveness of the materials supplied; but the housekeeper retorted
with SANG FROID that that did not concern her at all; that the
establishment demanded only that the girl dress decently, as becomes a
girl from a decent, genteel house; while it did not concern itself with
the rest. The establishment merely extended her credit in paying her
expenses.

"But this is a vixen, a spider in human shape--this dressmaker of
yours!" yelled Lichonin beside himself. "Why, she's in a conspiracy
with you, cupping glass that you are, you abominable tortoise!
Scuttlefish! Where's your conscience?"

The more agitated he grew, the more calm and jeering Emma Edwardovna
became.

"Again I repeat: that is not my business. And you, young man, don't
express yourself like that, because I will call the porter, and he will
throw you out of the door."

Lichonin was compelled to bargain with the cruel woman long, brutally,
till he grew hoarse, before she agreed, in the end, to take two hundred
and fifty roubles in cash, and two hundred roubles in promissory notes.
And even that only when Lichonin with his half-yearly certificate
proved to her that he was finishing this year and would become a lawyer.

The housekeeper went after the ticket, while Lichonin took to pacing
the cabinet back and forth. He had already looked over all the pictures
on the walls: Leda with the swan, and the bathing on the shore of the
sea, and the odalisque in a harem, and the satyr, bearing a naked nymph
in his arms; but suddenly a small printed placard, framed and behind
glass, half covered by a portiere, attracted his attention. It was the
first time that it had come across Lichonin's eyes, and the student
with amazement and aversion read these lines, expressed in the dead,
official language of police stations. There with shameful, businesslike
coldness, were mentioned all possible measures and precautions against
infections; the intimacies of feminine toilet; the weekly medical
inspections and all the adaptations for them. Lichonin also read that
no establishment was to be situated nearer than a hundred steps from
churches, places of learning, and court buildings; that only persons of
the female sex may maintain houses of prostitution; that only her
relatives, and even then of the female sex exclusively, and none older
than seven years, may live with the proprietress; and that the
proprietors and the owners of the house, as well as the girls, must in
their relations among themselves and the guests as well, observe
politeness, quiet, civility and decency, by no means allowing
themselves drunkenness, swearing and brawls. And also that the
prostitute must not allow herself the caresses of love when in an
intoxicated condition or with an intoxicated man; and in addition to
that, during the time of certain functions. Here also the prostitutes
were most strictly forbidden to commit abortions. "What a serious and
moral view of things!" reflected Lichonin with a malicious sneer.

Finally the business with Emma Edwarodvna was concluded. Having taken
the money and written out a receipt, she stretched it out to Lichonin
together with the blank, while he stretched out the money to her; at
which, during the time of the operation, they both looked at each
other's eyes and hands intently and warily. It was apparent that they
both felt no especially great mutual trust. Lichonin put the documents
away in his wallet and was preparing to depart. The housekeeper
escorted him to the very stoop, and when the student was already
standing in the street, she, remaining on the steps, leaned out and
called after him:

"Student! Hey! Student!"

He stopped and turned around.

"What now?"

"And here's another thing. Now I must tell you, that your Liubka is
trash, a thief, and sick with syphilis! None of our good guests wanted
to take her; and anyway, if you had not taken her, then we would have
thrown her out to-morrow! I will also tell you, that she had to do with
the porter, with policemen, with janitors, and with petty thieves.
Congratulations on your lawful marriage!"

"Oo-ooh! Vermin!" Lichonin roared back at her.

"You green blockhead!" called out the housekeeper and banged the door.

Lichonin went to the station house in a cab. On the way he recalled
that he had not had time to look at the blank properly, at this
renowned "yellow ticket," of which he had heard so much. This was an
ordinary small white sheet, no larger than a postal envelope. On one
side, in the proper column, were written out the name, father's name,
and family name of Liubka, and her profession--"Prostitute"; and on the
other side, concise extracts from the paragraphs of that placard which
he had just read through--infamous, hypocritical rules about behaviour
and external and internal cleanliness. "Every visitor." he read, "has
the right to demand from the prostitute the written certificate of the
doctor who has inspected her the last time." And again sentimental pity
overcame the heart of Lichonin.

"Poor women!" he reflected with grief. "What only don't they do with
you, how don't they abuse you, until you grow accustomed to everything,
just like blind horses on a treadmill!" In the station house he was
received by the district inspector, Kerbesh. He had spent the night on
duty, had not slept his fill, and was angry. His luxurious, fan-shaped
red beard was crumpled. The right half of the ruddy face was still
crimsonly glowing from lying long on the uncomfortable oilcloth pillow.
But the amazing, vividly blue eyes, cold and luminous, looked clear and
hard, like blue porcelain. Having ended interrogating, recording, and
cursing out with obscenities the throng of ragamuffins, taken in during
the night for sobering up and now being sent out over their own
districts, he threw himself against the back of the divan, put his
hands behind his neck, and stretched with all his enormous, heroic body
so hard that all his ligaments and joints cracked. He looked at
Lichonin just as at a thing, and asked:

"And what will you have, Mr. Student?"

Lichonin stated his business briefly.

"And so I want," he concluded, "to take her to me ... how is this
supposed to be done with you? ... in the capacity of a servant, or, if
you want, a relative, in a word ... how is it done? ..."

"Well, in the capacity of a kept mistress or a wife, let's say,"
indifferently retorted Kerbesh and twirled in his hands a silver cigar
case with monograms and little figures. "I can do absolutely nothing
for you ... at least right now. If you desire to marry her, present a
suitable permit from your university authorities. But if you're taking
her on maintenance--then just think, where's the logic in that? You're
taking a girl out of a house of depravity, in order to live with her in
depraved cohabitation."

"A servant, finally," Lichonin put in.

"And even a servant. I'd trouble you to present an affidavit from your
landlord--for, I hope, you're not a houseowner? Very well, then, an
affidavit from your landlord, as to your being in a position to keep a
servant; and besides that, all the documents, testifying that you're
that very person you give yourself out to be; an affidavit, for
instance, from your district and from the university, and all that sort
of thing. For you, I hope, are registered? Or, perhaps, you are now,
eh? ... Of the illegal ones?

"No, I am registered!" retorted Lichonin, beginning to lose patience.

"And that's splendid. But the young lady, about whom you're troubling
yourself?"

"No, she's not registered as yet. But I have her blank in my
possession, which, I hope, you'll exchange for a real passport for me,
and then I'll register her at once."

Kerbesh spread his arms out wide, then again began toying with the
cigar case.

"Can't do anything for you, Mr. Student, just nothing at all, until you
present all the papers required. As far as the girl's concerned, why,
she, as one not having the right of residence, will be sent to the
police without delay, and there detained; unless she personally desires
to go there, where you've taken her from. I've the honour of wishing
you good day."

Lichonin abruptly pulled his hat over his eyes and went toward the
door. But suddenly an ingenious thought flashed through his head, from
which, however, he himself became disgusted. And feeling nausea in the
pit of his stomach, with clammy, cold hands, experiencing a sickening
pinching in his toes, he again walked up to the table and said as
though carelessly, but with a catch in his voice:

"Pardon me, inspector. I've forgotten the most important thing; a
certain mutual acquaintance of ours has instructed me to transmit to
you a small debt of his."

"Hm! An acquaintance?" asked Kerbesh, opening wide his magnificent
azure eyes. "And who may he be?"

"Bar ... Barbarisov."

"Ah, Barbarisov? So, so, so, I recollect, I recollect!"

"So then, won't you please accept these ten roubles?"

Kerbesh shook his head, but did not take the bit of paper.

"Well, but this Barbarisov of yours--that is, ours--is a swine. It
isn't ten roubles he owes me at all, but a quarter of a century. What a
scoundrel! Twenty-five roubles and some small change besides. Well, the
small change, of course, I won't count up to him. God be with him!
This, you see, is a billiard debt. I must say that he's a blackguard,
plays crookedly ... And so, young man, dig up fifteen more."

"Well, but you are a knave, Mr. Inspector!" said Lichonin, getting out
the money.

"Oh, mercy!" by now altogether good-naturedly retorted Kerbesh. "A
wife, children ... You know yourself what our salary is ... Receive the
little passport, young man. Sign your receipt. Best wishes."

A queer thing! The consciousness that the passport was, finally, in his
pocket, for some reason suddenly calmed and again braced up and
elevated Lichonin's nerves.

"Oh, well!" he thought, walking quickly along the street, "the very
beginning has been laid down, the most difficult part has been done.
Hold fast, now, Lichonin, and don't fall in spirit! What you've done is
splendid and lofty. Let me be even a victim of this deed--it's all one!
It's a shame, having done a good deed, to expect rewards for it right
away. I'm not a little circus dog, and not a trained camel, and not the
first pupil of a young ladies' genteel institute. Only it was useless
for me to let loose yesterday before these bearers of enlightenment. It
all turned out to be silly, tactless, and, in any case, premature. But
everything in life is reparable. A person will sustain the heaviest,
most disgraceful things; but, time passes, and they are recalled as
trifles ..."

To his amazement, Liubka was not especially struck, and did not at all
become overjoyed when he triumphantly showed her the passport. She was
only glad to see Lichonin again. Perhaps, this primitive, naive soul
had already contrived to cleave to its protector? She did throw herself
upon his neck, but he stopped her, and quietly, almost in her ear,
asked her:

"Liubka, tell me ... don't be afraid to tell the truth, no matter what
it may be ... They told me just now, there in the house, that you're
sick with a certain disease ... you know, that which is called the evil
sickness. If you believe in me even to some extent, tell me, my
darling, tell me, is that so or not?"

She turned red, covered her face with her hands, fell down on the divan
and burst into tears.

"My dearie! Vassil Vassilich! Vasinka! Honest to God! Honest to God,
now, there never was anything of the kind! I always was so careful! I
was awfully afraid of this. I love you so! I would have told you
without fail." She caught his hands, pressed them to her wet face and
continued to assure him with the absurd and touching sincerity of an
unjustly accused child.

And he at once believed her in his soul.

"I believe you, my child," he said quietly, stroking her hair. "Don't
excite yourself, don't cry. Only let us not again give in to our
weakness. Well, it has happened--let it have happened; but let us not
repeat it any more.'

"As you wish," prattled the girl, kissing now his hands, now the cloth
of his coat. "If I displease you so, then, of course, let it be as you
wish."

However, this evening also the temptation was again repeated, and kept
on repeating until the falls from grace ceased to arouse a burning
shame in Lichonin, and turned into a habit, swallowing and
extinguishing remorse.



CHAPTER XVI.


Justice must be rendered to Lichonin; he did everything to create for
Liubka a quiet and secure existence. Since he knew that they would have
to leave their mansard anyway--this bird house, rearing above the whole
city--leave it not so much on account of its inconvenience and lack of
space as on account of the old woman Alexandra, who with every day
became more ferocious, captious and scolding--he resolved to rent a
little bit of a flat, consisting of two rooms and a kitchen, on the
Borschhagovka, at the edge of the town. He came upon an inexpensive
one, for nine roubles a month, without fuel. True, Lichonin had to run
very far from there to his pupils, but he relied firmly upon his
endurance and health, and would often say:

"My legs are my own. I don't have to be sparing of them."

And, truly, he was a great master at walking. Once, for the sake of a
joke, having put a pedometer in his vest pocket, he towards evening
counted up twenty versts; which, taking into consideration the unusual
length of his legs, equalled some twenty-five versts.[21] And he did
have to run about quite a bit, because the fuss about Liubka's passport
and the acquisition of household furnishings of a sort had eaten up all
his accidental winnings at cards. He did try to take up playing again,
on a small scale at first, but was soon convinced that his star at
cards had now entered upon a run of fatal ill luck.


[21] A verst is equal to two-thirds of a mile.--Trans.


By now, of course, the real character of his relations with Liubka was
a mystery to none of his comrades; but he still continued in their
presence to act out the comedy of friendly and brotherly relations with
the girl. For some reason he could not, or did not want to, realize
that it would have been far wiser and more advantageous for him not to
lie, not to be false, and not to pretend. Or, perhaps, although he did
know this, he still could not change the established tone. As for the
intimate relations, he inevitably played a secondary, passive role. The
initiative, in the form of tenderness, caressing, always had to come
from Liubka (she had remained Liubka, after all, and Lichonin had
somehow entirely forgotten that he himself had read her real
name--Irene--in the passport).

She, who had so recently given her body up impassively--or, on the
contrary, with an imitation of burning passion--to tens of people in a
day, to hundreds in a month, had become attached to Lichonin with all
her feminine being, loving and jealous; had grown attached to him with
body, feeling, thoughts. The prince was funny and entertaining to her,
and the expansive Soloviev interestingly amusing; toward the crushing
authoritativeness of Simanovsky she felt a supernatural terror; but
Lichonin was for her at the same time a sovereign, and a divinity; and,
which is the most horrible of all, her property and bodily joy.

It has long ago been observed, that a man who has lived his fill, has
been worn out, gnawed and chewed by the jaws of amatory passions, will
never again love with a strong and only love, simultaneously
self-denying, pure, and passionate. But for a woman there are neither
laws nor limitations in this respect. This observation was especially
confirmed in Liubka. She was ready to crawl before Lichonin with
delight, to serve him as a slave; but, at the same time, desired that
he belong to her more than a table, than a little dog, than a night
blouse. And he always proved wanting, always failing before the
onslaught of this sudden love, which from a modest little stream had so
rapidly turned into a river and had over-flowed its banks. And not
infrequently he thought to himself, with bitterness and a sneer:

"Every evening I play the role of the beauteous Joseph; still, he at
least managed to tear himself away, leaving his underwear in the hands
of the ardent lady; but when will I at last get free of my yoke?"

And a secret enmity for Liubka was already gnawing him. All the more
and more frequently various crafty plans of liberation came into his
head. And some of them were to such an extent dishonest, that, after a
few hours, or the next day, Lichonin squirmed inwardly from shame,
recalling them.

"I am falling, morally and mentally!" he would at times think with
horror. "It's not in vain that I read somewhere, or heard from some
one, that the connection of a cultured man with a woman of little
intellect will never elevate her to the level of the man, but, on the
contrary, will bow him down and sink him to the mental and moral
outlook of the woman."

And after two weeks she ceased to excite his imagination entirely. He
gave in, as to violence, to the long-continued caresses, entreaties,
and often even to pity.

Yet at the same time Liubka, who had rested and felt living, real soil
under her, began to improve in looks with unusual rapidity, just as a
flower bud, that but yesterday was almost dying, suddenly unfolds after
a plentiful and warm rain. The freckles ran off her soft face, and the
uncomprehending, troubled expression, like that of a young jackdaw, had
disappeared from the dark eyes, and they had grown brighter and had
begun to sparkle. The body grew stronger and filled out; the lips grew
red. But Lichonin, seeing Liubka every day, did not notice this and did
not believe those compliments which were showered upon her by his
friends. "Fool jokes," he reflected, frowning. "The boys are spoofing."

As the lady of the house, Liubka proved to be less than mediocre. True,
she could cook fat stews, so thick that the spoon stood upright in
them; prepare enormous, unwieldy, formless cutlets; and under the
guidance of Lichonin familiarized herself pretty rapidly with the great
art of brewing tea (at seventy-five kopecks a pound); but further than
that she did not go, probably because for each art and for each being
there are extreme limitations of their own, which cannot in any way be
surmounted. But then, she loved to wash floors very much; and carried
out this occupation so often and with such zeal, that dampness soon set
in in the flat and multipedes appeared.

Tempted once by a newspaper advertisement, Lichonin procured a stocking
knitting machine for her, on terms. The art, the mastery of this
instrument--promising, to judge by the advertisement, three roubles of
clear profit a day--proved to be so uncomplicated that Lichonin,
Soloviev, and Nijeradze easily mastered it in a few hours; while
Lichonin even contrived to knit a whole stocking of uncommon
durability, and of such dimensions that it would have proven big even
for the feet of Minin and Pozharsky, whose statues are in Moscow, on
Krasnaya Square. Only Liubka alone could not master this trade. At
every mistake or tangle she was forced to turn to the co-operation of
the men. But then, she learned pretty rapidly to make artificial
flowers and, despite the opinion of Simanovsky, made them very
exquisitely, and with great taste; so that after a month the hat
specialty stores began to buy her work. And, what is most amazing, she
had taken only two lessons in all from a specialist, while the rest she
learned through a self-instructor, guiding herself only by the drawings
supplemental to it. She did not contrive to make more than a rouble's
worth of flowers in a week; but this money was her pride, and for the
very first half-rouble that she made she bought Lichonin a mouthpiece
for smoking.

Several years later Lichonin confessed to himself at soul, with regret
and with a quiet melancholy, that this period of time was the most
quiet, peaceful and comfortable one of all his life in the university
and as a lawyer. This unwieldy, clumsy, perhaps even stupid Liubka,
possessed some instinctive domesticity, some imperceptible ability of
creating a bright and easy quietude around her. It was precisely she
who attained the fact that Lichonin's quarters very soon became a
charming, quiet centre; where all the comrades of Lichonin, who, as
well as the majority of the students of that time, were forced to
sustain a bitter struggle with the harsh conditions of life, felt
somehow at ease, as though in a family; and rested at soul after heavy
tribulations, need, and starvation. Lichonin recalled with grateful
sadness her friendly complaisance, her modest and attentive silence, on
those evenings around the samovar, when so much had been spoken, argued
and dreamt.

In learning, things went with great difficulty. All these self-styled
cultivators, collectively and separately, spoke of the fact that the
education of the human mind, and the upbringing of the human soul must
flow out of individual motives; but in reality they stuffed Liubka with
just that which seemed to them the most necessary and indispensable,
and tried to overcome together with her those scientific obstacles,
which, without any loss, might have been left aside.

Thus, for example, Lichonin did not want, under any conditions, to
become reconciled, in teaching her arithmetic, to her queer, barbarous,
savage, or, more correctly, childish, primitive method of counting. She
counted exclusively in ones, twos, threes and fives. Thus, for example,
twelve to her was two times two threes; nineteen--three fives and two
twos; and, it must be said, that through her system she with the
rapidity of a counting board operated almost up to a hundred. To go
further she dared not; and besides she had no practical need of this.
In vain did Lichonin try to transfer her to a digital system. Nothing
came of this, save that he flew into a rage, yelled at Liubka; while
she would look at him in silence, with astonished, widely open and
guilty eyes, the lashes of which stuck into long black arrows from
tears. Also, through a capricious turn of her mind, she began to master
addition and multiplication with comparative ease, but subtraction and
division were for her an impenetrable wall. But then, she could, with
amazing speed and wit, solve all possible jocose oral head-breaking
riddles, and even remembered very many of them herself from the
thousand year old usage of the village. Toward geography she was
perfectly dull. True, she could orientate herself as to the four
cardinal points on the street, in the garden, and in the room; hundreds
of times better than Lichonin--the ancient peasant instinct in her
asserted itself--but she stubbornly denied the sphericity of the earth
and did not recognize the horizon; and when she was told that the
terrestrial globe moves in space, she only snorted from laughter.
Geographical maps to her were always an incomprehensible daubing in
several colours; but separate figures she memorized exactly and
quickly. "Where's Italy?" Lichonin would ask her. "Here it is, a boot,"
Liubka would say and triumphantly jabbed the Apennine Peninsula.
"Sweden and Norway?" "This dog, which is jumping off a roof." "The
Baltic Sea?" "A widow standing on her knees." "The Black Sea?" "A
shoe." "Spain?" "A fatty in a cap" ... &c. With history matters went no
better; Lichonin did not take into consideration the fact that she,
with her childlike soul thirsting for fiction, would have easily become
familiarized with historic events through various funny and heroically
touching anecdotes; but he, accustomed to pulling through examinations
and tutoring high-school boys of the fourth or fifth grade, starved her
on names and dates. Besides that, he was very impatient, unrestrained,
irascible; grew fatigued soon, and a secret--usually concealed but
constantly growing--hatred for the girl who had so suddenly and
incongruously warped all his life, more and more frequently and
unjustly broke forth during the time of these lessons.

A far greater success as a pedagogue enjoyed Nijeradze. His guitar and
mandolin always hung in the dining room, secured to the nails with
ribbons. The guitar, with its soft, warm sounds, drew Liubka more than
the irritating, metallic bleating of the mandolin. When Nijeradze would
come to them as a guest (three or four times a week, in the evening),
she herself would take the guitar down from the wall, painstakingly
wipe it off with a handkerchief, and hand it over to him. He, having
fussed for some time with the tuning, would clear his throat, put one
leg over the other, negligently throw himself against the back of the
chair, and begin in a throaty little tenor, a trifle hoarse, but
pleasant and true:

    "The trea-cha-rous sa-ound av akissing
    Resahounds through the quiet night air;
    Tuh all fla-ming hearts it is pleasing,
    And given tuh each lovin' pair.

    For a single mohoment of mee-ting ..."

And at this he would pretend to swoon away from his own singing, shut
his eyes, toss his head in the passionate passages or during the
pauses, tearing his right hand away from the strings; would suddenly
turn to stone, and for a second would pierce Liubka's eyes with his
languorous, humid, sheepish eyes. He knew an endless multitude of
ballads, catches, and old-fashioned, jocose little pieces. Most of all
pleased Liubka the universally familiar Armenian couplets about Karapet:

    "Karapet has a buffet,
     On the buffet's a confet,
     On the confet's a portret--
     That's the self-same Karapet."

[22] Anglice, "confet" is a bon-bon; "portret," a portrait.--Trans.

Of these couplets (in the Caucasus they are called kinto-uri--the song
of the peddlers) the prince knew an infinite many, but the absurd
refrain was always one and the same:

    "Bravo, bravo, Katenka,
     Katerin Petrovna,
     Don't you kiss me on the cheek--a,
     Kiss the backs of my head."

These couplets Nijeradze always sang in a diminished voice, preserving
on his face an expression of serious astonishment about Karapet; while
Liubka laughed until it hurt, until tears came, until she had nervous
spasms. Once, carried away, she could not restrain herself and began to
chime in with him, and their singing proved to be very harmonious.
Little by little, when she had by degrees completely ceased to be
embarrassed before the prince, they sang together more and more
frequently. Liubka proved to have a very soft and low contralto, even
though thin, on which her past life with its colds, drinking, and
professional excesses had left absolutely no traces. And mainly--which
was already a curious gift of God--she possessed an instinctive,
inherent ability very exactly, beautifully, and always originally, to
carry on the second voice. There came a time toward the end of their
acquaintance, when Liubka did not beg the prince, but the prince
Liubka, to sing some one of the beloved songs of the people, of which
she knew a multitude. And so, putting her elbow on the table, and
propping up her head with her palm, like a peasant woman, she would
start off to the cautious, painstaking, quiet accompaniment:

    "Oh, the nights have grown tiresome to me, and wearisome;
    To be parted from my dearie, from my mate!
    Oh, haven't I myself, woman-like, done a foolish thing--
    Have stirred up the wrath of my own darling:
    When I did call him a bitter drunkard! ..."

"Bitter drunkard!" the prince would repeat the last words together with
her, and would forlornly toss his curly head, inclined to one side; and
they both tried to end the song so that the scarcely seizable quivering
of the guitar strings and the voice might by degrees grow quiet, and
that it might not be possible to note when the sound ended and the
silence came.

But then, in the matter of THE PANTHER'S SKIN, the work of the famous
Georgian poet Rustavelli, prince Nijeradze fell down completely. The
beauty of the poem, of course, consisted in the way it sounded in the
native tongue; but scarcely would he begin to read in sing-song his
throaty, sibilant, hawking phrases, when Liubka would at first shake
for a long time from irresistible laughter; then, finally, burst into
laughter, filling the whole room with explosive, prolonged peals. Then
Nijeradze in wrath would slam shut the little tome of the adored
writer, and swear at Liubka, calling her a mule and a camel. However,
they soon made up.

There were times when fits of goatish, mischievous merriment would come
upon Nijeradze. He would pretend that he wanted to embrace Liubka,
would roll exaggeratedly passionate eyes at her, and would utter with a
theatrically languishing whisper:

"Me soul! The best rosa in the garden of Allah! Honey and milk are upon
thy lips, and thy breath is better than the aroma of kabob. Give me to
drink the bliss of Nirvanah from the goblet of thy lips, O thou, my
best Tifflissian she-goat!"

But she would laugh, get angry, strike his hands, and threaten to
complain to Lichonin.

"V-va!" the prince would spread out his hands. "What is Lichonin?
Lichonin is my friend, my brother, and bosom crony. But then, does he
know what loffe is? Is it possible that you northern people understand
loffe? It's we, Georgians, who are created for loffe. Look, Liubka!
I'll show you right away what loffe is!" He would clench his fists,
bend his body forward, and would start rolling his eyes so ferociously,
gnash his teeth and roar with a lion's voice so, that a childish terror
would encompass Liubka, despite the fact that she knew this to be a
joke, and she would dash off running into another room.

It must be said, however, that for this lad, in general unrestrained in
the matter of light, chance romances, existed special firm moral
prohibitions, sucked in with the milk of his mother Georgian; the
sacred adates concerning the wife of a friend. And then, probably he
understood--and it must be said that these oriental men, despite their
seeming naiveness--and, perhaps, even owing to it--possess, when they
wish to, a fine psychic intuition--he understood, that having made
Liubka his mistress for even one minute, he would be forever deprived
of this charming, quiet, domestic evening comfort, to which he had
grown so used. For he, who was on terms of thou-ing with almost the
whole university, nevertheless felt himself so lonely in a strange city
and in a country still strange to him!

These studies afforded the most pleasure of all to Soloviev. This big,
strong, and negligent man somehow involuntarily, imperceptibly even to
himself, began to submit to that hidden, unseizable, exquisite witchery
of femininity; which not infrequently lurks under the coarsest
covering, in the harshest, most gnarled environment. The pupil
dominated, the teacher obeyed. Through the qualities of a primitive,
but on the other hand a fresh, deep, and original soul, Liubka was
inclined not to obey the method of another, but to seek out her own
peculiar, strange processes. Thus, for example, she--like many
children, however,--learned writing before reading. Not she herself,
meek and yielding by nature, but some peculiar quality of her mind,
obstinately refused in reading to harness a vowel alongside of a
consonant, or vice versa; in writing, however, she would manage this.
For penmanship along slanted rulings she, despite the general wont of
beginners, felt a great inclination; she wrote bending low over the
paper; blew on the paper from exertion, as though blowing off imaginary
dust; licked her lips and stuck out with the tongue, from the inside,
now one cheek, now the other. Soloviev did not thwart her, and followed
after, along those ways which her instinct laid down. And it must be
said, that during this month and a half he had managed to become
attached with all his huge, broad, mighty soul to this chance, weak,
transitory being. This was the circumspect, droll, magnanimous,
somewhat wondering love, and the careful concern, of a kind elephant
for a frail, helpless, yellow-downed chick.

The reading was a delectation for both of them, and here again the
choice of works was directed by the taste of Liubka, while Soloviev
only followed its current and its sinuosities. Thus, for example,
Liubka did not overcome Don Quixote, tired, and, finally, turning away
from him, with pleasure heard Robinson Crusoe through, and wept with
especial copiousness over the scene of his meeting with his relatives.
She liked Dickens, and very easily grasped his radiant humour; but the
features of English manners were foreign to her and incomprehensible.
They also read Chekhov more than once, and Liubka very freely, without
difficulty, penetrated the beauty of his design, his smile and his
sadness. Stories for children moved her, touched her to such a degree
that it was laughable and joyous to look at her. Once Soloviev read to
her Chekhov's story, The Fit, in which, as it is known, a student for
the first time finds himself in a brothel; and afterwards, on the next
day, writhes about, as in a fit, in the spasms of a keen psychic
suffering and the consciousness of common guilt. Soloviev himself did
not expect that tremendous impression which this narrative would make
upon her. She cried, swore, wrung her hands, and exclaimed all the
while:

"Lord! Where does he take all that stuff from, and so skillfully! Why,
it's every bit just the way it is with us!"

Once he brought with him a book entitled THE HISTORY OF MANON LESCAUT
AND THE CHEVALIER DE GRIEUX, the work of Abbe Prevost. It must be said
that Soloviev himself was reading this remarkable book for the first
time. But still, Liubka appraised it far more deeply and finely. The
absence of a plot, the naiveness of the telling, the surplus of
sentimentality, the olden fashion of the style--all this taken together
cooled Soloviev; whereas Liubka received the joyous, sad, touching and
flippant details of this quaint immortal novel not only through her
ears, but as though with her eyes and with all her naively open heart.

"'Our intention of espousal was forgotten at St. Denis,'" Soloviev was
reading, bending his tousled, golden-haired head, illuminated by the
shade of the lamp, low over the book; "'we transgressed against the
laws of the church and, without thinking of it, became espoused.'"

"What are they at? Of their own will, that is? Without a priest? Just
so?" asked Liubka in uneasiness, tearing herself away from her
artificial flowers.

"Of course. And what of it? Free love, and that's all there is to it.
Like you and Lichonin, now."

"Oh, me! That's an entirely different matter. You know yourself where
he took me from. But she's an innocent and genteel young lady. That's a
low-down thing for him to do. And, believe me, Soloviev, he's sure to
leave her later. Ah, the poor girl. Well, well, well, read on."

But already after several pages all the sympathies and commiserations
of Liubka went over to the side of the deceived chevalier.

"'However, the visits and departures by thefts of M. de B. threw me
into confusion. I also recollected the little purchases of Manon, which
exceeded our means. All this smacked of the generosity of a new lover.
"But no, no," I repeated, "it is impossible that Manon should deceive
me! She is aware, that I live only for her, she is exceedingly well
aware that I adore her."'"

"Ah, the little fool, the little fool!" exclaimed Liubka. "Why, can't
you see right off that she's being kept by this rich man. Ah, trash
that she is!"

And the further the novel unfolded, the more passionate and lively an
interest did Liubka take in it. She had nothing against Manon's
fleecing her subsequent patrons with the help of her lover and her
brother, while de Grieux occupied himself with sharping at the club;
but her every new betrayal brought Liubka into a rage, while the
sufferings of the gallant chevalier evoked her tears. Once she asked:

"Soloviev, dearie, who was he--this author?"

"He was a certain French priest."

"He wasn't a Russian?"

"No, a Frenchman, I'm telling you. See, he's got everything so--the
towns are French and the people have French names."

"Then he was a priest, you say? Where did he know all this from, then?"

"Well, he knew it, that's all. Because he was an ordinary man of the
world, a nobleman, and only became a monk afterwards. He had seen a lot
in his life. Then he again left the monks. But, however, here's
everything about him written in detail in front of this book."

He read the biography of Abbe Prevost to her. Liubka heard it through
attentively, shaking her head with great significance; asked over again
about that which she did not understand in certain places, and when he
had finished she thoughtfully drawled out:

"Then that's what he is! He's written it up awfully good. Only why is
she so low down? For he loves her so, with all his life; but she's
playing him false all the time."

"Well, Liubochka, what can you do? For she loved him too. Only she's a
vain hussy, and frivolous. All she wants is only rags, and her own
horses, and diamonds."

Liubka flared up and hit one fist against the other.

"I'd rub her into powder, the low-down creature? So that's called her
having loved, too! If you love a man, then all that comes from him must
be dear to you. He goes to prison, and you go with him to prison. He's
become a thief, well, you help him. He's a beggar, but still you go
with him. What is there out of the way, that there's only a crust of
black bread, so long as there's love? She's low down, and she's low
down, that's what! But I, in his place, would leave her; or, instead of
crying, give her such a drubbing that she'd walk around in bruises for
a whole month, the varmint!"

The end of the novel she could not manage to hear to the finish for a
long time, and always broke out into sincere warm tears, so that it was
necessary to interrupt the reading; and the last chapter they overcame
only in four doses.

The calamities and misadventures of the lovers in prison, the
compulsory despatch of Manon to America and the self-denial of de
Grieux in voluntarily following her, so possessed the imagination of
Liubka and shook her soul, that she even forgot to make her remarks.
Listening to the story of the quiet, beautiful death of Manon in the
midst of the desert plain, she, without stirring, with hands clasped on
her breast, looked at the light; and the tears ran and ran out of her
staring eyes and fell, like a shower, on the table. But when the
Chevalier de Grieux, who had lain two days near the corpse of his dear
Manon, finally began to dig a grave with the stump of his sword--Liubka
burst into sobbing so that Soloviev became scared and dashed after
water. But even having calmed down a little, she still sobbed for a
long time with her trembling, swollen lips and babbled:

"Ah! Their life was so miserable! What a bitter lot that was! And is it
possible that it's always like that, darling Soloviev; that just as
soon as a man and a woman fall in love with each other, in just the way
they did, then God is sure to punish them? Dearie, but why is that?
Why?"



CHAPTER XVII.


But if the Georgian and the kind-souled Soloviev served as a palliating
beginning against the sharp thorns of great worldly wisdom, in the
curious education of the mind and soul of Liubka; and if Liubka forgave
the pedantism of Lichonin for the sake of a first sincere and limitless
love for him, and forgave just as willingly as she would have forgiven
curses, beatings, or a heavy crime--the lessons of Simanovsky, on the
other hand, were a downright torture and a constant, prolonged burden
for her. For it must be said that he, as though in spite, was far more
accurate and exact in his lessons than any pedagogue working out his
weekly stipulated tutorings.

With the incontrovertibility of his opinions, the assurance of his tone
and the didacticism of his presentation he took away the will of poor
Liubka and paralyzed her soul; in the same way that he sometimes,
during university gatherings or at mass meetings, influenced the timid
and bashful minds of newcomers. He was an orator at meetings; he was a
prominent member in the organization of students' mess halls; he took
part in the recording, lithographing and publication of lectures; he
was chosen the head of the course; and, finally, took a very great
interest in the students' treasury. He was of that number of people
who, after they leave the student auditoriums, become the leaders of
parties, the unrestrained arbiters of pure and self-denying conscience;
serve out their political stage somewhere in Chukhlon, directing the
keen attention of all Russia to their heroically woeful situation; and
after that, beautifully leaning on their past, make a career for
themselves, thanks to a solid advocacy, a deputation, or else a
marriage joined with a goodly piece of black loam land and provincial
activity. Unnoticeably to themselves and altogether unnoticeably, of
course, to the casual glance, they cautiously right themselves; or,
more correctly, fade until they grow a belly unto themselves, and
acquire podagra and diseases of the liver. Then they grumble at the
whole world; say that they were not understood, that their time was the
time of sacred ideals. While in the family they are despots and not
infrequently give money out at usury.

The path of the education of Liubka's mind and soul was plain to him,
as was plain and incontrovertible everything that he conceived; he
wanted at the start to interest Liubka in chemistry and physics.

"The virginally feminine mind," he pondered, "will be astounded, then I
shall gain possession of her attention, and from trifles, from
hocus-pocus, I shall pass on to that which will lead her to the centre
of universal knowledge, where there is no superstition, no prejudices;
where there is only a broad field for the testing of nature."

It must be said that he was inconsistent in his lessons. He dragged in
all that came to his hand for the astonishment of Liubka. Once he
brought along for her a large self-made serpent--a long cardboard hose,
filled with gunpowder, bent in the form of a harmonica, and tied
tightly across with a cord. He lit it, and the serpent for a long time
with crackling jumped over the dining room and the bedroom, filling the
place with smoke and stench. Liubka was scarcely amazed and said that
this was simply fireworks, that she had already seen this, and that you
couldn't astonish her with that. She asked, however, permission to open
the window. Then he brought a large phial, tinfoil, rosin and a cat's
tail, and in this manner contrived a Leyden jar. The discharge,
although weak, was produced, however.

"Oh, the unclean one take you, Satan!" Liubka began to cry out, having
felt the dry fillip in her little finger.

Then, out of heated peroxide of manganese, mixed with sand, with the
help of a druggist's vial, the gutta-percha end of a syringe, a basin
filled with water, and a jam jar--oxygen was derived. The red-hot cork,
coal and phosphorus burnt in the jar so blindingly that it pained the
eyes. Liubka clapped her palms and squealed out in delight:

"Mister Professor, more! Please, more, more! ..."

But when, having united the oxygen with the hydrogen brought in an
empty champagne bottle, and having wrapped up the bottle for precaution
in a towel, Simanovsky ordered Liubka to direct its neck toward a
burning candle, and when the explosion broke out, as though four
cannons had been fired off at once--an explosion through which the
plastering fell down from the ceiling--then Liubka grew timorous, and,
only getting to rights with difficulty, pronounced with trembling lips,
but with dignity: "You must excuse me now, but since I have a flat of
my own, and I'm not at all a wench any longer, but a decent woman, I'd
ask you therefore not to misbehave in my place. I thought you, like a
smart and educated man, would do everything nice and genteel, but you
busy yourself with silly things. They can even put one in jail for
that."

Subsequently, much, much later, she told how she had a student friend,
who made dynamite before her.

It must have been, after all, that Simanovsky, this enigmatic man, so
influential in his youthful society, where he had to deal with theory
for the most part, and so incoherent when a practical experiment with a
living soul had come into his hands--was just simply stupid, but could
skillfully conceal this sole sincere quality of his.

Having suffered failure in applied sciences, he at once passed on to
metaphysics. Once he very self-assuredly, and in a tone such that after
it no refutation was possible, announced to Liubka that there is no
God, and that he would undertake to prove this during five minutes.
Whereupon Liubka jumped up from her place, and told him firmly that
she, even though a quondam prostitute, still believed in God and would
not allow Him to be offended in her presence; and if he would continue
such nonsense, then she would complain to Vassil Vassilich.

"I will also tell him," she added in a weeping voice, "that you,
instead of teaching me, only rattle off all kinds of stuff and all that
sort of nastiness, while you yourself hold your hand on my knees. And
that's even not at all genteel." And for the first time during all
their acquaintanceship she, who had formerly been so timorous and
constrained, sharply moved away from her teacher.

However, having suffered a few failures, Simanovsky still obstinately
continued to act upon the mind and imagination of Liubka. He tried to
explain to her the theory of the origin of species, beginning with an
amoeba and ending with Napoleon. Liubka listened to him attentively,
and during this there was an imploring expression in her eyes: "When
will you stop at last?" She yawned into a handkerchief and then
guiltily explained: "Excuse me, that's from my nerves." Marx also had
no success goods, supplementary value, the manufacturer and the worker,
which had become algebraic formulas, were for Liubka merely empty
sounds, vibrating the air; and she, very sincere at soul, always jumped
up with joy from her place, when hearing that, apparently, the
vegetable soup had boiled up, or the samovar was getting ready to boil
over.

It cannot be said that Simanovsky did not have success with women. His
aplomb and his weighty, decisive tone always acted upon simple souls,
especially upon fresh, naive, trusting souls. Out of protracted ties he
always got out very easily; either he was dedicated to a tremendously
responsible call, before which domestic love relations were nothing; or
he pretended to be a superman, to whom all is permitted (O, thou,
Nietszche, so long ago and so disgracefully misconstrued for
high-school boys!). The passive, almost imperceptible, but firmly
evasive resistance of Liubka irritated and excited him. What
particularly incensed him was the fact that she, who had formerly been
so accessible to all, ready to yield her love in one day to several
people in succession, to each one for two roubles, was now all of a
sudden playing at some pure and disinterested inamoration!

"Nonsense," he thought. "This can't be. She's making believe, and,
probably, I don't strike the right tone with her."

And with every day he became more exacting, captious, and stern. Hardly
consciously, more probably through habit, he relied on his usual
influence, intimidating the thought and subduing the will, which rarely
betrayed him.

Once Liubka complained about him to Lichonin:

"He's too strict with me, now, Vassil Vassilievich; and I don't
understand anything he says, and I don't want to take lessons with him
any more."

Somehow or other, Lichonin lamely quieted her down; but still he had an
explanation with Simanovsky. The other answered him with sang froid:

"Just as you wish, my dear fellow; if my method displeases you or
Liubka, then I'm even ready to resign. My problem consists only of
bringing in a genuine element of discipline into her education. If she
does not understand anything, then I compel her to learn it by heart,
aloud. With time this will cease. That is unavoidable. Recall,
Lichonin, how difficult the transition from arithmetic to algebra was
for us, when we were compelled to replace common numerals with letters,
and did not know why this was done. Or why did they teach us grammar,
instead of simply advising us to write tales and verses?"

And on the very next day, bending down low under the hanging shade of
the lamp over Liubka's body, and sniffing all over her breast and under
her arm pits, he was saying to her:

"Draw a triangle... Well, yes, this way and this way. On top I write
'Love.' Write simply the letter L, and below M and W. That will be: the
Love of Man and Woman."

With the air of an oracle, unshakable and austere, he spoke all sorts
of erotic balderdash and almost unexpectedly concluded:

"And so look, Liuba. The desire to love--it's the same as the desire to
eat, to drink, and to breathe the air." He would squeeze her thigh
hard, considerably above the knee; and she again, becoming confused and
not wishing to offend him, would try almost imperceptibly to move her
leg away gradually.

"Tell me, would it be offensive, now, for your sister, mother, or for
your husband, that you by chance had not dined at home, but had gone
into a restaurant or a cook-shop, and had there satisfied your hunger?
And so with love. No more, no less. A physiological enjoyment. Perhaps
more powerful, more keen, than all others, but that's all. Thus, for
example, now: I want you as a woman. While you ..."

"Oh, drop it, Mister," Liubka cut him short with vexation. "Well, what
are you harping on one and the same thing for all the time? Change your
act. You've been told: no and no. Don't you think I see what you're
trying to get at? But only I'll never agree to unfaithfulness, seeing
as how Vasilli Vasillievich is my benefactor, and I adore him with all
my soul... And you're even pretty disgusting to me with your nonsense."

Once he caused Liubka a great and scandalous hurt, and all because of
his theoretical first principles. As at the university they were
already for a long time talking about Lichonin's having saved a girl
from such and such a house; and that now he is taken up with her moral
regeneration; that rumour, naturally, also reached the studying girls,
who frequented the student circles. And so, none other than Simanovsky
once brought to Liubka two female medicos, one historian, and one
beginning poetess, who, by the way, was already writing critical essays
as well. He introduced them in the most serious and fool-like manner.

"Here," he said, stretching out his hand, now in the direction of the
guests, now of Liubka, "here, comrades, get acquainted. You, Liuba,
will find in them real friends, who will help you on your radiant path;
while you--comrades, Liza, Nadya, Sasha and Rachel--you will regard as
elder sisters a being who has just struggled out of that horrible
darkness into which the social structure places the modern woman."

He spoke not exactly so, perhaps; but in any case, approximately in
that manner. Liubka turned red, extended her hand, with all the fingers
clumsily folded together, to the young ladies in coloured blouses and
in leather belts; regaled them with tea and jam; promptly helped them
with lights for cigarettes; but, despite all invitations, did not want
to sit down for anything. She would say: "Yes-ss, n-no, as you wish."
And when one of the young ladies dropped a handkerchief on the floor,
she hurriedly made a dash to pick it up.

One of the maidens, red, stout, and with a bass voice, whose face, all
in all, consisted of only a pair of red cheeks, out of which
mirth-provokingly peeped out a hint at an upturned nose, and with a
pair of little black eyes, like tiny raisins, sparkling out of their
depths, was inspecting Liubka from head to feet, as though through an
imaginary lorgnette; directing over her a glance which said nothing,
but was contemptuous. "Why, I haven't been getting anybody away from
her," thought Liubka guiltily. But another was so tactless, that
she--perhaps for the first time for her, but the hundredth for
Liubka--began a conversation about: how had she happened upon the path
of prostitution? This was a bustling young lady, pale, very pretty,
ethereal; all in little light curls, with the air of a spoiled kitten
and even a little pink cat's bow on her neck.

"But tell me, who was this scoundrel, now ... who was the first to ...
well, you understand? ..."

In the mind of Liubka quickly flashed the images of her former mates,
Jennka and Tamara, so proud, so brave and resourceful--oh, far brainier
than these maidens--and she, almost unexpectedly for herself, suddenly
said sharply:

"There was a lot of them. I've already forgotten. Kolka, Mitka,
Volodka, Serejka, Jorjik, Troshka, Petka, and also Kuzka and Guska with
a party. But why are you interested?"

"Why... no... that is, I ask as a person who fully sympathizes with
you."

"But have you a lover?"

"Pardon me, I don't understand what you're saying. People, it's time we
were going."

"That is, what don't you understand? Have you ever slept with a man?"

"Comrade Simanovsky, I had not presupposed that you would bring us to
such a person. Thank you. It was exceedingly charming of you!"

It was difficult for Liubka to surmount the first step. She was of
those natures which endure long, but tear loose rapidly; and she,
usually so timorous, was unrecognizable at this moment.

"But I know!" she was screaming in wrath. "I know, that you're the very
same as I! But you have a papa, a mamma; you're provided for, and if
you have to, then you'll even commit abortion--many do so. But if you
were in my place, when there's nothing to stuff your mouth with, and a
girlie doesn't understand anything yet, because she can't read or
write; while all around the men are shoving like he-dogs--then you'd be
in a sporting house too. It's a shame to put on airs before a poor
girl--that's what!"

Simanovsky, who had gotten into trouble, said a few general consolatory
words in a judicious bass, such as the noble fathers used in olden
comedies, and led his ladies off.

But he was fated to play one more very shameful, distressing, and final
role in the free life of Liubka. She had already complained to Lichonin
for a long time that the presence of Simanovsky was oppressive to her;
but Lichonin paid no attention to womanish trifles: the vacuous,
fictitious, wordy hypnosis of this man of commands was strong within
him. There are influences, to get rid of which is difficult, almost
impossible. On the other hand, he was already for a long time feeling
the burden of co-habitation with Liubka. Frequently he thought to
himself: "She is spoiling my life; I am growing common, foolish; I have
become dissolved in fool benevolence; it will end up in my marrying
her, entering the excise or the assay office, or getting in among
pedagogues; I'll be taking bribes, will gossip, and become an
abominable provincial morel. And where are my dreams of the power of
thought, the beauty of life, of love and deeds for all humanity?" he
would say, at times even aloud, and pull his hair. And for that reason,
instead of attentively going into Liubka's complaints, he would lose
his temper, yell, stamp his feet, and the patient, meek Liubka would
grow quiet and retire into the kitchen, to have a good cry there.

Now more and more frequently, after family quarrels, in the minutes of
reconciliation he would say to Liubka:

"My dear Liuba, you and I do not suit each other, comprehend that.
Look: here are a hundred roubles for you, ride home. Your relatives
will receive you as their own. Live there a while, look around you. I
will come for you after half a year; you'll have become rested, and, of
course, all that's filthy, nasty, that has been grafted upon you by the
city, will go away, will die off. And you'll begin a new life
independently, without any assistance, alone and proud!"

But then, can anything be done with a woman who has come to love for
the first, and, of course, as it seems to her, for the last time? Can
she be convinced of the necessity for parting? Does logic exist for her?

Always reverent before the firmness of the words and decisions of
Simanovsky, Lichonin, however, surmised and by instinct understood his
real relation to Liubka; and in his desire to free himself, to shake
off a chance load beyond his strength, he would catch himself in a
nasty little thought: "She pleases Simanovsky; and as for her, isn't it
all the same if it's he or I or a third? Guess I'll make a clean breast
of it, explain things to him and yield Liubka up to him like a comrade.
But then, the fool won't go. Will raise a rumpus."

"Or just to come upon the two of them together, somehow," he would
ponder further, "in some decisive pose... to raise a noise, make a
row... A noble gesture... a little money and... a getaway."

He now frequently, for several days, would not return home; and
afterwards, having come, would undergo torturesome hours of feminine
interrogations, scenes, tears, even hysterical fits. Liubka would at
times watch him in secret, when he went out of the house; would stop
opposite the entrance that he went into, and for hours would await his
return in order to reproach him and to cry in the street. Not being
able to read, she intercepted his letters and, not daring to turn to
the aid of the prince or Soloviev, would save them up in her little
cupboard together with sugar, tea, lemon and all sorts of other trash.
She had even reached the stage when, in minutes of anger, she
threatened him with sulphuric acid.

"May the devil take her," Lichonin would ponder during the minutes of
his crafty plans. "It's all one, let there even be nothing between
them. But I'll take and make a fearful scene for him, and her."

And he would declaim to himself:

"Ah, so! ... I have warmed you in my bosom, and what do I see now? You
are paying me with black ingratitude. ... And you, my best comrade, you
have attempted my sole happiness! ... O, no, no, remain together; I go
hence with tears in my eyes. I see, that I am one too many! I do not
wish to oppose your love, etc., etc."

And precisely these dreams, these hidden plans, such momentary, chance,
and, at bottom, vile ones--of those to which people later do not
confess to themselves--were suddenly fulfilled. It was the turn of
Soloviev's lesson. To his great happiness, Liubka had at last read
through almost without faltering: "A good plough has Mikhey, and a good
one has Sisoi as well... a swallow... a swing ... the children love
God..." And as a reward for this Soloviev read aloud to her Of the
Merchant Kalashnikov and of Kiribeievich, Life-guardsman of Czar Ivan
the Fourth. Liubka from delight bounced in her armchair, clapped her
hands. The beauty of this monumental, heroic work had her in its grasp.
But she did not have a chance to express her impressions in full.
Soloviev was hurrying to a business appointment. And immediately,
coming to meet Soloviev, having barely exchanged greetings with him in
the doorway, came Simanovsky. Liubka's face sadly lengthened and her
lips pouted. For this pedantic teacher and coarse male had become very
repugnant to her of late.

This time he began a lecture on the theme that for man there exist no
laws, no rights, no duties, no honour, no vileness; and that man is a
quantity self-sufficient, independent of anyone and anything.

"It's possible to be a God, possible to be an intestinal worm, a tape
worm--it's all the same."

He already wanted to pass on to the theory of amatory emotions; but, it
is to be regretted, he hurried a trifle from impatience: he embraced
Liubka, drew her to him and began to squeeze her roughly. "She'll
become intoxicated from caressing. She'll give in!" thought the
calculating Simanovsky. He sought to touch her mouth with his lips for
a kiss, but she screamed and snorted spit at him. All the assumed
delicacy had left her.

"Get out, you mangy devil, fool, swine, dirt! I'll smash your snout for
you! ..."

All the lexicon of the establishment had come back to her; but
Simanovsky, having lost his pince-nez, his face distorted, was looking
at her with blurred eyes and jabbering whatever came into his head:

"My dear ... It's all the same ... a second of enjoyment! ... You and I
will blend in enjoyment! ... No one will find out! ... Be mine! ..."

It was just at this very minute that Lichonin walked into the room.

Of course, at soul he did not admit to himself that this minute he
would commit a vileness; but only somehow from the side, at a distance,
reflected that his face was pale, and that his immediate words would be
tragic and of great significance.

"Yes!" he said dully, like an actor in the fourth act of a drama; and,
letting his hands drop impotently, began to shake his chin, which had
fallen upon his breast. "I expected everything, only not this. You I
excuse, Liuba--you are a cave being; but you, Simanovsky ... I esteemed
you ... however, I still esteem you a decent man. But I know, that
passion is at times stronger than the arguments of reason. Right here
are fifty roubles--I am leaving them for Liuba; you, of course, will
return them to me later, I have no doubt of that. Arrange her destiny
... You are a wise, kind, honest man, while I am ... ("A skunk!"
somebody's distinct voice flashed through his head.) I am going away,
because I will not be able to bear this torture any more. Be happy."

He snatched out of his pocket and with effect threw his wallet on the
table; then seized his hair and ran out of the room.

Still, this was the best way out for him. And the scene had been played
out precisely as he had dreamt of it.



PART THREE



CHAPTER I.


All this Liubka told at length and disjointedly, sobbing on Jennka's
shoulder. Of course, in her personal elucidation this tragi-comical
history proved altogether unlike what it had been in reality.

Lichonin, according to her words, had taken her to him only to entice,
to tempt her; to have as much use as possible out of her foolishness,
and then to abandon her. But she, the fool, had in truth fallen in
love--with him, and since she was very jealous about him and all these
tousled girls in leather belts, he had done a low-down thing: had sent
up his comrade on purpose, had framed it up with him, and the other had
begun to hug Liubka, and Vasska came in, saw it, and kicked up a great
row, and chased Liubka out into the street.

Of course, in her version there were two almost equal parts of truth
and untruth; but so, at least, all this had appeared to her.

She also told with great details how, having found herself without
masculine support or without anybody's powerful extraneous influence,
she had hired a room In a rather bad little hotel, on a retired street;
how even from the first day the boots, a tough bird, a hard-boiled egg,
had attempted to trade in her, without even having and Vasska came in,
saw it, and kicked up a great row, the hotel to a private room, but
even there had been overtaken by an experienced old woman go-between,
with whose like the houses inhabited by poverty swarm.

Therefore, even with quiet living, there was in the face, in the
conversation, and in the entire manner of Liubka something peculiar,
specific to the casual eye; perhaps even entirely imperceptible, but
for the business scent as plain and as irrefutable as the day.

But the chance, brief, sincere love had given her the strength to
oppose the inevitability of a second fall. In her heroic courage she
even went so far as putting in a few notices in the newspapers, that
she was seeking a place with "all found." However, she had no
recommendation of any sort. In addition, she had to do exclusively with
women when it came to the hiring; and they also, with some sort of an
inner, infallible instinct, surmised in her their ancient foe--the
seductress of their husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons.

There was neither sense nor use in going home. Her native Vassilkovsky
district is distant only fifteen versts from the state capital; and the
rumour that she had entered that sort of an establishment had long
since penetrated, by means of her fellow-villagers, into the village.
This was written of in letters, and transmitted verbally, by those
village neighbours who had seen her both on the street and at Anna
Markovna's place itself--porters and bell-hops of hotels, waiters at
small restaurants, cabbies, small contractors. She knew what odour this
fame would give off if she were to return to her native haunts. It were
better to hang one's self than to endure this.

She was as uneconomical and impractical in money matters as a
five-year-old child, and in a short while was left without a kopeck;
while to go back to the brothel was fearful and shameful. But the
temptations of street prostitution turned up of themselves, and at
every step begged to be seized. In the evenings, on the main street,
old hardened street prostitutes at once unerringly guessed her former
profession. Ever and anon one of them, having come alongside of her,
would begin in a sweet, ingratiating voice:

"How is it, young lady, that you're walking alone? Let's be mates.
Let's walk together. That's always more convenient. Whenever men want
to pass the time pleasantly with girls, they always love to start a
party of four."

And right here the experienced, tried recruiting agent, at first
casually, but after that warmly, with all her heart, would begin to
praise up all the conveniences of living at your own landlady's--the
tasty food, full freedom of going out, the possibility of always
concealing from the landlady of your rooms the surplus over the agreed
pay. Here also much of the malicious and the offensive was said, by the
way, against the women of the private houses, who were called
"government hides," "government stuff," "genteel maidens" and
"institutes." Liubka knew the value of these sneers, because the
dwellers in brothels also bear themselves with the greatest contempt
toward street prostitutes, calling them "bimmies" and "venereals."

To be sure, in the very end that happened which had to happen. Seeing
in perspective a whole series of hungry days, and in the very depth of
them the dark horror of an unknown future, Liubka consented to a very
civil invitation of some respectable little old man; important,
grayish, well-dressed and correct. For this ignominy Liubka received a
rouble, but did not dare to protest: the previous life in the house had
entirely eaten away her personal initiative, mobility and energy.
Later, several times running, he even did not pay her anything at all.

One young man, easy of manner and handsome, in a cap with a flattened
brim, put on at a brave slant over one ear, in a silk blouse, girdled
by a cord with tassels, also led her with him into a hotel, asked for
wine and a snack; for a long time lied to Liubka about his being an
earl's son on the wrong side of the blanket, and that he was the first
billiardist in the whole city; that all the wenches like him and that
he would make a swell Jane out of Liubka as well. Then he went out of
the room for just one minute, as though on business of his own, and
vanished forever. The stern, cross-eyed porter beat her with
contentment, long, in silence, with a business-like air; breathing hard
and covering up Liubka's mouth with his hand. But in the end, having
become convinced, probably, that the fault was not hers, but the
guest's, he took her purse, in which was a rouble with some small
change, away from her; and took as security her rather cheap little hat
and small outer jacket.

Another man of forty-five years, not at all badly dressed, having
tortured the girl for some two hours, paid for the room and gave her 80
kopecks; but when she started to complain, he with a ferocious face put
an enormous red-haired fist up to her very nose, the first thing, and
said decisively:

"You just snivel a bit more to me... I'll snivel you... I'll yell for
the police, now, and say that you robbed me when I was sleeping. Want
me to? Is it long since you've been in a station house?"

And went away.

And of such cases there were many.

On that day, when her landlords--a boatman and his wife--had refused to
let her have a room and just simply threw her things out into the yard;
and when she had wandered the night through on the streets, without
sleep, under the rain, hiding from the policemen--only then, with
aversion and shame, did she resolve to turn to Lichonin's aid. But
Lichonin was no longer in town pusillanimously, he had gone away the
very same day when the unjustly wronged and disgraced Liubka had run
away from the flat. And it was in the morning that there came into her
head the desperate thought of returning into the brothel and begging
forgiveness there.

"Jennechka, you're so clever, so brave, so kind; beg Emma Edwardovna
for me--the little housekeeper will listen to you," she implored Jennka
and kissed her bare shoulders and wetted them with tears.

"She won't listen to anybody," gloomily answered Jennka. "And you did
have to tie up with a fool and a low-down fellow like that."

"Jennechka, but you yourself advised me to," timidly retorted Liubka.

"I advised you? ... I didn't advise you anything. What are you lying on
me for, just as though I was dead... Well, all right then--let's go."

Emma Edwardovna had already known for a long while about the return of
Liubka; and had even seen her at that moment when she had passed
through the yard of the house, looking all around her. At soul she was
not at all against taking Liubka back. It must be said, that she had
even let her go only because she had been tempted by the money,
one-half of which she had appropriated for herself. And in addition to
that, she had reckoned that with the present seasonal influx of new
prostitutes she would have a large choice; in which, however, she had
made a mistake, because the season had terminated abruptly. But in any
case, she had firmly resolved to take Liubka. Only it was necessary,
for the preservation and rounding out of prestige, to give her a scare
befittingly.

"Wha-at?" she began to yell at Liubka, scarcely having heard her out,
babbling in confusion. "You want to be taken on again? ... You wallowed
the devil knows with whom in the streets, under the fences; and now,
you scum, you're again shoving your way into a respectable, decent
establishment! ... Pfui, you Russian swine! Out! ..."

Liubka was catching her hands, aiming to kiss them, but the housekeeper
roughly snatched them away. Then, suddenly paling, with a distorted
face, biting her trembling, twisted lower lip, Emma calculatingly and
with good aim struck Liubka on her cheek, with all her might; from
which the other went down on her knees, but got up right away, gasping
for breath and stammering from the sobs.

"Darlingest, don't beat me... Oh my dear, don't beat me..."

And again fell down, this time flat upon the floor.

And this systematic, malignant slaughter, in cold blood, continued for
some two minutes. Jennka, who had at first been looking on with her
customary malicious, disdainful air, suddenly could not stand it; she
began to squeal savagely, threw herself upon the housekeeper, clutched
her by the hair, tore off her chignon and began to vociferate in a real
hysterical fit:

"Fool! ... Murderer! ... Low-down go-between! ... Thief! ..."

All the three women vociferated together, and at once enraged wails
resounded through all the corridors and rooms of the establishment.
This was that general fit of grand hysterics, which takes possession of
those confined in prisons, or that elemental insanity (raptus), which
envelops unexpectedly and epidemically an entire lunatic asylum, from
which even experienced psychiatrists grow pale.

Only after the lapse of an hour was order restored by Simeon and two
comrades by profession who had come to his aid. All the thirteen girls
got it hot; but Jennka, who had gone into a real frenzy, more than the
others. The beaten-up Liubka kept on crawling before the housekeeper
until she was taken back. She knew that Jennka's outbreak would sooner
or later be reflected upon her in a cruel repayment. Jennka sat on her
bed until the very night, her legs crossed Turkish fashion; refused
dinner, and chased out all her mates who went in to her. Her eye was
bruised, and she assiduously applied a five-kopeck copper to it. From
underneath the torn shirt a long, transversal scratch reddened on the
neck, just like a mark from a rope. That was where Simeon had torn off
her skin in the struggle. She sat thus, alone, with eyes that glowed in
the dark like a wild beast's, with distended nostrils, with
spasmodically moving cheek-bones, and whispered wrathfully:

"Just you wait... Watch out, you damned things--I'll show you... You'll
see yet... Ooh-ooh, you man-eaters..."

But when the lights had been lit, and the junior housekeeper, Zociya,
knocked on her door with the words: "Miss, get dressed! ... Into the
drawing room!" she rapidly washed herself, dressed, put some powder on
the bruise, smeared the scratch over with CREME DE SIMON and pink
powder, and went out into the drawing room, pitiful but proud;
beaten-up, but her eyes flaming with an unbearable wrathfulness and a
beauty not human.

Many people, who have happened to see suicides a few hours before their
horrible death, say that in their visages in those fateful hours before
death they have noticed some enigmatic, mysterious, incomprehensible
allurement. And all who saw Jennka on this night, and on the next day
for a few hours, for long, intently and in wonder, kept their gaze upon
her.

And strangest of all (this was one of the sombre wiles of fate) was the
fact that the indirect culprit of her death, the last grain of sand
which draws down the pan of the scales, appeared none other than the
dear, most kind, military cadet Kolya Gladishev.



CHAPTER II.


Kolya Gladishev was a fine, merry, bashful young lad, with a large
head; pink-cheeked, with a funny little white, bent line, as though
from milk, upon his upper lip, under the light down of the moustache,
sprouting through for the first time; with gray, naive eyes, placed far
apart; and so closely cropped, that from underneath his flaxen little
bristles the skin glistened through, just as with a thoroughbred
Yorkshire suckling pig. It was precisely he with whom Jennka during the
past winter had played either at maternal relations, or at dolls; and
thrust upon him a little apple or a couple of bon-bons on his way, when
he would be going away from the house of ill repute, squirming from
shame.

This time, when he came, there could at once be felt in him, after long
living in camps, that rapid change in age, which so often imperceptibly
and rapidly transforms a boy into a youth. He had already finished the
cadet academy and with pride counted himself a junker; although he
still walked around in a cadet's uniform, with aversion. He had grown
taller, had become better formed and more adroit; the camp life had
done him good. He spoke in a bass, and during these months to his most
great pride the nipples of his breast had hardened; the most
important--he already knew about this--and undeniable sign of virile
maturity. Now, in the meanwhile, until the eyes-front severities of a
military school, he had a period of alluring freedom. Already he was
permitted to smoke at home, in the presence of grown-ups; and even his
father had himself presented him with a leather cigar case with his
monogram, and also, in the elevation of family joy, had assigned him
fifteen roubles monthly salary.

And it was just here--at Anna Markovna's--that he had come to know
woman for the first time--the very same Jennka.

The fall of innocent souls in houses of ill-fame, or with street
solitaries, is fulfilled far more frequently than it is usually
thought. When not green youths only, but even honourable men of fifty,
almost grandfathers, are interrogated about this ticklish matter, they
will tell you, sure enough, the ancient stencilled lie of how they had
been seduced by a chambermaid or a governess. But this is one of those
lingering, queer lies, going back into the depth of past decades, which
are almost never noticed by a single one of the professional observers,
and in any case are not described by any one.

If each one of us will try, to put it pompously, to put his hand on his
heart, then every one will catch himself in the fact, that having once
in childhood said some sort of boastful or touching fiction, which had
success, and having repeated it for that reason two and five and ten
times more--he afterwards cannot get rid of it all his life, and
repeats with entire firmness by now a history which had never been; a
firmness such that in the very end he believes the story. With time
Kolya also narrated to his comrades how his aunt once removed, a young
woman of the world had seduced him. It must be said, however, that the
intimate proximity to this lady--a large, dark-eyed, white faced,
sweetly fragrant southern woman--did really exist; but existed only in
Kolya's imagination, in those sad, tragic and timid minutes of solitary
sexual enjoyments, through which pass if not a hundred percent of all
men, then ninety-nine, in any case.

Having experienced mechanical sexual excitements very early,
approximately since nine or nine years and a half, Kolya did not at all
have the least understanding of the significance of that end of being
in love or of courtship, which is so horrible on the face of it, if it
be looked at impartially, or if it be explained scientifically.
Unfortunately, there was at that time near him not a one of the present
progressive and learned ladies who, having turned away the neck of the
classic stork, and torn up by the roots the cabbage underneath which
children are found, recommend that the great mystery of love and
generation be explained to children in lectures, through comparisons
and assimilations, mercilessly and in a well-nigh graphic manner.

It must be said, that at that remote time of which we are speaking, the
private institutions--male PENSIONS and institutes, as well as
academies for cadets--represented some sort of hot-house nurseries. The
care of the mind and morality they tried to entrust as much as possible
to educators who were bureaucrats-formalists; and in addition
impatient, captious, capricious in their sympathies and hysterical,
just like old maid lady teachers. Now it is otherwise. But at that time
the boys were left to themselves. Barely snatched away, speaking
figuratively, from the maternal breast; from the care of devoted
nurses; from morning and evening caresses, quiet and sweet; even though
they were ashamed of every manifestation of tenderness as
"womanishness," they were still irresistibly and sweetly drawn to
kisses, contacts, conversations whispered in the ear.

Of course, attentive, solicitous treatment, bathing, exercises in the
open air--precisely not gymnastics, but voluntary exercises, each to
his own taste--could have always put off the coming of this climacteric
period or soften and make it understandable.

I repeat--then there was nothing of this.

The longing for family endearment, the endearment of mother, sister,
nurse, so roughly and unexpectedly cut short, turned into deformed
forms of courting (every whit like the "crushes" in a female institute)
of good-looking boys, of "fairies"; they loved to whisper in corners
and, walking arm in arm, or embracing in dark corridors, to tell in
each other's ears improbable histories of adventures with women. This
was partly both childhood's need of the fairy-tale element and partly
awakening sensuality as well. Not infrequently some fifteen-year-old
chubby, for whom it was just the proper time to be playing at popular
tennis or to be greedily putting away buckwheat porridge with milk,
would be telling, having read up, of course, on certain cheap novels,
of how every Saturday, now, when it is leave, he goes to a certain,
handsome widow millionairess; and of how she is passionately enamored
of him; and how near their couch always stand fruits and precious wine;
and how furiously and passionately she makes love to him.

Here, by the bye, came along the inevitable run of prolonged reading,
like hard drinking, which, of course, every boy and girl has undergone.
No matter how strict in this respect the class surveillance may be, the
striplings did read, are reading, and will read just that which is not
permitted them. Here is a special passion, CHIC, the allurement of the
forbidden. Already in the third class went from hand to hand the
manuscript transcripts of Barkov; of a spurious Pushkin; the youthful
sins of Lermontov and others: "THE FIRST NIGHT," "THE CHERRY," "LUCAS,"
"THE FESTIVAL AT PETERHOF," "THE SHE UHLAN, GRIEF THROUGH WISDOM," "THE
PRIEST," &c.

But no matter how strange, fictitious or paradoxical this may seem,
still, even these compositions, and drawings, and obscene photographic
cards, did not arouse a delightful curiosity. They were looked upon as
a prank, a lark, and the allurement of contraband risk. In the cadets'
library were chaste excerpts from Pushkin and Lermontov; all of
Ostrovsky, who only made you laugh; and almost all of Turgenev, who was
the very one that played a chief and cruel role in Kolya's life. As it
is known, love with the late great Turgenev is always surrounded with a
tantalizing veil; some sort of crepe, unseizable, forbidden, but
tempting: his maidens have forebodings of love and are agitated at its
approach, and are ashamed beyond all measure, and tremble, and turn
red. Married women or widows travel this tortuous path somewhat
differently: they struggle for a long time with their duty, or with
respectability, or with the opinion of the world; and, in the
end--oh!--fall with tears; or--oh!--begin to brave it; or, which is
still more frequent, the implacable fate cuts short her or his life at
the most--oh!--necessary moment, when it only lacks a light puff of
wind for the ripened fruit to fall. And yet all of his personages still
thirst after this shameful love; weep radiantly and laugh joyously from
it; and it shuts out all the world for them. But since boys think
entirely differently than we grown-ups, and since everything that is
forbidden, everything not said fully, or said in secret, has in their
eyes an enormous, not only twofold but threefold interest--it is
therefore natural that out of reading they drew the hazy thought that
the grown-ups were concealing something from them.

And it must be mentioned--had not Kolya (like the majority of those of
his age) seen the chambermaid Phrociya--so rosy-cheeked, always merry,
with legs of the hardness of steel (at times he, in the heat of
playing, had slapped her on the back), had he not seen her once, when
Kolya had by accident walked quickly into papa's cabinet, scurry out of
there with all her might, covering her face with her apron; and had he
not seen that during this time papa's face was red, with a dark blue,
seemingly lengthened nose? And Kolya had reflected: "Papa looks like a
turkey." Had not Kolya--partly through the fondness for pranks and the
mischievousness natural to all boys, partly through
tedium--accidentally discovered in an unlocked drawer of papa's writing
table an enormous collection of cards, whereon was represented just
that which shop clerks call the crowning of love, and worldly
nincompoops--the unearthly passion?

And had he not seen, that every time before the visit of the
sweet-scented and bestarched Paul Edwardovich, some ninny with some
embassy, with whom mamma, in imitation of the fashionable St.
Petersburg promenades to the Strelka, used to ride to the Dnieper to
contemplate the sun setting on the other side of the river, in the
Chernigovskaya district--had he not seen how mamma's bosom went, and
how her cheeks glowed under the powder; had he not detected at these
moments many new and strange things; had he not heard her voice, an
altogether unknown voice, like an actor's; nervously breaking off,
mercilessly malicious to those of the family and the servants, and
suddenly soft, like velvet, like a green meadow under the sun, when
Paul Edwardovich would arrive? Ah, if we people who have been made wise
by experience would know how much, and even too much, the urchins and
little girls surrounding us know, of whom we usually say:

"Well, why mind Volodya (or Petie, or Katie)? ... Why, they are little.
They don't understand anything! ..."

So also not in vain passed for Gladishev the history of his elder
brother, who had just come out of a military school into one of the
conspicuous grenadier regiments; and, being on leave until such time
when it would be possible for him to spread his wings, lived in two
separate rooms with his family. At that time Niusha, a chambermaid, was
in their service; at times they jestingly called her signorita Anita--a
seductive black-haired girl, who, if she were to change costumes, could
in appearance be taken for a dramatic actress, or a princess of the
royal blood, or a political worker. Kolya's mother manifestly
countenanced the fact that Kolya's brother, half in jest, half in
earnest, was allured by this girl. Of course, she had only the sole,
holy, maternal calculation: If it were destined, after all, for her
Borenka to fall, then let him give his purity, his innocence, his first
physical inclination, not to a prostitute, not to a street-walker, not
to a seeker of adventures, but to a pure girl. Of course, only a
disinterested, unreasoning, truly-maternal feeling guided her. Kolya at
that time was living through the epoch of llanos, pampases, Apaches,
track-finders, and a chief by the name of "Black Panther"; and, of
course, attentively kept track of the romance of his brother, and made
his own syllogisms; at times only too correct, at times fantastic.
After six months, from behind a door, he was the witness--or more
correctly the auditor--of an outrageous scene. The wife of the general,
always so respectable and restrained, was yelling in her boudoir at
signorita Anita, and cursing in the words of a cab-driver: the
signorita was in the fifth month of pregnancy. If she had not cried,
then, probably, they would simply have given her smart-money, and she
would have gone away in peace; but she was in love with the young
master, did not demand anything, and for that reason they drove her
away with the aid of the police.

In the fifth or sixth class many of Kolya's comrades had already tasted
of the tree of knowledge of evil. At that time it was considered in
their corpus an especial, boastful masculine chic to call all secret
things by their own names. Arkasha Shkar contracted a disease, not
dangerous, but still venereal; and he became for three whole months the
object of worship of all the seniors--at that time there were no squads
yet. And many of them visited brothels; and, really, about their sprees
they spoke far more handsomely and broadly than the hussars of the time
of Denis Davidov.[23] These debauches were esteemed by them the last
word in valour and maturity.


[23] A Russian ban vivant, wit and poet (1781-1839), the overwhelming
majority of whose lyrics deals with military exploits and
debauches.--Trans.


And so it happened once, that they did not exactly persuade Gladishev
to go to Anna Markovna, but rather he himself had begged to go, so
weakly had he resisted temptation. This evening he always recalled with
horror, with aversion; and dimly, just like some heavy dream. With
difficulty he recalled, how in the cab, to get up courage, he had drunk
rum, revoltingly smelling of real bedbugs; how qualmish this beastly
drink made him feel; how he had walked into the big hall, where the
lights of the lustres and the candelabra on the walls were turning
round in fiery wheels; where the women moved as fantastic pink, blue,
violet splotches, and the whiteness of their necks, bosoms and arms
flashed with a blinding, spicy, victorious splendour. Some one of the
comrades whispered something in the ear of one of these fantastic
figures. She ran up to Kolya and said:

"Listen, you good-looking little cadet, your comrades are saying, now,
that you're still innocent ... Let's go ... I'll teach you everything."

The phrase was said in a kindly manner; but this phrase the walls of
Anna Markovna's establishment had already heard several thousand times.
Further, that took place which it was so difficult and painful to
recall, that in the middle of his recollections Kolya grew tired, and
with an effort of the will turned back the imagination to something
else. He only remembered dimly the revolving and spreading circles from
the light of the lamp; persistent kisses; disconcerting contacts--then
a sudden sharp pain, from which one wanted both to die in enjoyment and
to cry out in terror; and then with wonder he saw his pale shaking
hands, which could not, somehow, button his clothes.

Of course, all men have experienced this primordial tristia post
coitus; but this great moral pain, very serious in its significance and
depth, passes very rapidly, remaining, however, with the majority for a
long time--sometimes for all life--in the form of wearisomeness and
awkwardness after certain moments. In a short while Kolya became
accustomed to it; grew bolder, became familiarized with woman, and
rejoiced very much over the fact that when he came into the
establishment, all the girls, and Verka before all, would call out:

"Jennechka, your lover has come!"

It was pleasant, in relating this to his comrades, to be plucking at an
imaginary moustache.



CHAPTER III.


It was still early--about nine--of a rainy August evening. The
illuminated drawing room in the house of Anna Markovna was almost
empty. Only near the very doors a young telegraph clerk was sitting,
his legs shyly and awkwardly squeezed under his chair, and was trying
to start with the thick-fleshed Katie that worldly, unconstrained
conversation which is laid down as the proper thing in polite society
at quadrille, during the intermissions between the figures of the
dance. And, also, the long-legged, aged Roly-Poly wandered over the
room, sitting down now next one girl, now another, and entertaining
them all with his fluent chatter.

When Kolya Gladishev walked into the front hall, the first to recognize
him was the round-eyed Verka, dressed in her usual jockey costume. She
began to twirl round and round, to clap her palms, and called out:

"Jennka, Jennka, come quicker, your little lover has come to you ...
The little cadet ... And what a handsome little fellow!"

But Jennka was not in the drawing room at this time; a stout
head-conductor had already managed to get hold of her.

This elderly, sedate, and majestic man was a very convenient guest,
because he never lingered in the house for more than twenty minutes,
fearing to let his train go by; and, even so, glanced at his watch all
the while. During this time he regularly drank down four bottles of
beer, and, going away, infallibly gave the girl half a rouble for candy
and Simeon twenty kopecks for drink-money.

Kolya Gladishev was not alone, but with a comrade of the same school,
Petrov, who was stepping over the threshold of a brothel for the first
time, having given in to the tempting persuasions of Gladishev.
Probably, during these minutes, he found himself in the same wild,
absurd, feverish state which Kolya himself had gone through a year and
a half ago, when his legs had shook, his mouth had grown dry, and the
lights of the lamps had danced before him in revolving wheels.

Simeon took their great-coats from them and hid them separately, on the
side, that the shoulder straps and the buttons might not be seen.

It must be said, that this stern man, who did not approve of students
because of their free-and-easy facetiousness and incomprehensible style
in conversation, also did not like when just such boys in uniform
appeared in the establishment.

"Well, what's the good of it?" he would at times say sombrely to his
colleagues by profession. "What if a whippersnapper like that comes,
and runs right up nose to nose against his superiors? Smash, and
they've closed up the establishment! There, like Lupendikha's three
years back. Of course, it's nothing that they closed it up--she
transferred it in another name right off; and when they sentenced her
to sit in jail for a year and a half, why, it came to a pre-etty penny
for her. She had to shell out four hundred for Kerbesh alone ... And
then it also happens: a little pig of that kind will cook up some sort
of disease for himself and start in whining: 'Oh, papa! Oh, mamma! I am
dying!' 'Tell me, you skunk, where you got it?' 'There and there ...'
Well, and so they haul you over the coals again; judge me, thou
unrighteous judge!"

"Pass on, pass on," said he to the cadets sternly.

The cadets entered, blinking from the bright light. Petrov, who had
been drinking to get up courage, swayed and was pale. They sat down
beneath the picture of the Feast of the Russian Noblemen, and
immediately two of the young ladies--Verka and Tamara--joined them on
both sides.

"Treat me to a smoke, you beautiful little brunet!" Verka turned to
Petrov; and as though by accident put against his leg her strong, warm
thigh, closely drawn over with white tights. "What an agreeable little
fellow you are!"

"But where's Jennie?" Gladishev asked of Tamara. "Is she busy with
anybody?"

Tamara looked him in the eyes intently--looked so fixedly, that the boy
even began to feel uncomfortable, and turned away.

"No. Why should she be busy? Only the whole day to-day her head ached;
she was walking through the corridor, and at that time the housekeeper
opened the door quickly and accidentally struck her in the
forehead--and so her head started in to ache. The poor thing, she's
lying the whole day with a cold pack. But why? Or can't you hold out?
Wait a while, she'll come out in five minutes. You'll remain very much
satisfied with her."

Verka pestered Petrov:

"Sweetie, dearie, what a tootsie-wootsicums you are! I adore such pale
brunets; they are jealous and very fiery in love."

And suddenly she started singing in a low voice:

    "He's kind of brown,
     My light, my own,
     Won't sell me out, and won't deceive.
     He suffers madly,
     Pants and coat gladly
     All for a woman he will give."

"How do they call you, ducky dear?"

"George," answered Petrov in a hoarse, cadet's bass.

"Jorjik Jorochka! Ah, how very nice!"

She suddenly drew near to his ear and whispered with a cunning face:

"Jorochka, come to me."

Petrov was abashed and forlornly let out in a bass:

"I don't know ... It all depends on what the comrade says, now..."

Verka burst into loud laughter:

"There's a case for you! Say, what an infant it is! Such as you,
Jorochka, in a little village would long since have been married; but
he says: 'It all depends on the comrade!' You ought to ask a nurse or a
wet nurse yet! Tamara, my angel, just imagine: I'm calling him to go
sleeping, but he says: 'It all depends on the comrade.' What about you,
mister friend, are you his bringer up?"

"Don't be pestering, you devil!" clumsily, altogether like a cadet
before a quarrel, grumbled out Petrov in a bass.

The lanky, ricketty Roly-Poly, grown still grayer, walked up to the
cadets, and, inclining his long, narrow head to one side, and having
made a touching grimace, began to patter:

"Messieurs cadets, highly educated young people; the flower, so to
speak, of the intelligentzia; future masters of ordnance, will you not
lend to a little old man, an aborigine of these herbiferous regions,
one good old cigarette? I be poor. Omnia mea mecum porto. But I do
adore the weed."

And, having received a cigarette, suddenly, without delay, he got into
a free-and-easy, unconstrained pose; put forward the bent right leg,
put his hand to his side, and began to sing in a wizened falsetto:

    "It used to be that I gave dinners,
    In rivers flowed the champagne wine;
    But now I have not even bread crusts,
    Nor for a split, oh brother mine.

    It used to be--in the Saratov
    The doorman rushed, and was so fine;
    But now all drive me in the neck,
    Give for a split, oh brother mine."

"Gentlemen!" suddenly exclaimed Roly-Poly with pathos, cutting short
his singing and smiting himself on the chest. "Here I behold you, and
know that you are the future generals Skobelev and Gurko; but I, too,
in a certain respect, am a military hound. In my time, when I was
studying for a forest ranger, all our department of woods and forests
was military; and for that reason, knocking at the diamond-studded,
golden doors of your hearts, I beg of you--donate toward the raising
for an ensign of taxation of a wee measure of spiritus vini, which same
is taken of the monks also."

"Roly!" cried the stout Kitty from the other end, "show the young
officers the lightning; or else, look you, you're taking the money only
for nothing, you good-for-nothing camel."

"Right away!" merrily responded Roly-Poly. "Most illustrious
benefactors, turn your attention this way. Living Pictures. Thunder
Storm on a Summer Day in June. The work of the unrecognized
dramaturgist who concealed himself under the pseudonym of Roly-Poly.
The first picture.

"'It was a splendid day in June. The scorching rays of the sun
illumined the blossoming meadows and environs ...'"

Roly-Poly's Don Quixotic phiz spread into a wrinkled, sweetish smile;
and the eyes narrowed into half-circles.

"'... But now in the distance the first clouds have appeared upon the
horizon. They grew, piled upon each other like crags, covering little
by little the blue vault of the sky."

By degrees the smile was coming off Roly-Poly's face, and it grew more
and more serious and austere.

"'At last the clouds have overcast the sun ... An ominous darkness has
fallen ...'"

Roly-Poly made his physiognomy altogether ferocious.

"'The first drops of the rain fell ...'"

Roly-Poly began to drum his fingers on the back of a chair.

"'... In the distance flashed the first lightning ... '"

Roly-Poly's eye winked quickly, and the left corner of his mouth gave a
twitch.

"'... Whereupon the rain began to pour down in torrents, and there came
a sudden, blinding flash of lightning...'"

And with unusual artistry and rapidity Roly-Poly, with a successive
movement of his eyebrows, eyes, nose, the upper and the lower lip,
portrayed a lightning zig-zag.

"'... A jarring thunder clap burst out--trrroo-oo. An oak that had
stood through the ages fell down to earth, as though it were a frail
reed ...'"

And Roly-Poly with an ease and daring not to be expected from one of
his years, bending neither the knees nor the back, only drawing down
his head, instantaneously fell down; straight, like a statue, with his
back to the floor, but at once deftly sprang up on his feet.

"'But now the thunder storm is gradually abating. The lightning flashes
less and less often. The thunder sounds duller, just like a satiated
beast--oooooo-oooooo ... The clouds scurry away. The first rays of the
blessed sun have peeped out ...'"

Roly-Poly made a wry smile.

"'... And now, the luminary of day has at last begun to shine anew over
the bathed earth ...'"

And the silliest of beatific smiles spread anew over the senile face of
Roly-Poly.

The cadets gave him a twenty-kopeck piece each. He laid them on his
palm, made a pass in the air with the other hand, said: ein, zwei,
drei, snapped two of his fingers, and the coins vanished.

"Tamarochka, this isn't honest," he said reproachfully. "Aren't you
ashamed to take the last money from a poor retired almost-head-officer?
Why have you hidden them here?"

And, having snapped his fingers again, he drew the coins out of
Tamara's ear.

"I shall return at once, don't be bored without me," he reassured the
young people; "but if you can't wait for me, then I won't have any
special pretensions about it. I have the honour! ..."

"Roly-Poly!" Little White Manka cried after him, "Won't you buy me
candy for fifteen kopecks... Turkish Delight, fifteen kopecks' worth.
There, grab!"

Roly-Poly neatly caught in its flight the thrown fifteen-kopeck piece;
made a comical curtsey and, pulling down the uniform cap with the green
edging at a slant over his eyes, vanished.

The tall, old Henrietta walked up to the cadets, also asked for a smoke
and, having yawned, said:

"If only you young people would dance a bit--for as it is the young
ladies sit and sit, just croaking from weariness."

"If you please, if you please!" agreed Kolya. "Play a waltz and
something else of the sort."

The musicians began to play. The girls started to whirl around with one
another, ceremoniously as usual, with stiffened backs and with eyes
modestly cast down.

Kolya Gladishev, who was very fond of dancing, could not hold out and
invited Tamara; he knew even from the previous winter that she danced
more lightly and skillfully than the rest. While he was twirling in the
waltz, the stout head-conductor, skillfully making his way between the
couples, slipped away unperceived through the drawing room. Kolya did
not have a chance to notice him.

No matter how Verka pressed Petrov, she could not, in any way, drag him
off his place. The recent light intoxication had by now gone entirely
out of his head; and more and more horrible, and unrealizable, and
monstrous did that for which he had come here seem to him. He might
have gone away, saying that not a one here pleased him; have put the
blame on a headache, or something; but he knew that Gladishev would not
let him go; and mainly--it seemed unbearably hard to get up from his
place and to walk a few steps by himself. And, besides that, he felt
that he had not the strength to start talking of this with Kolya.

They finished dancing. Tamara and Gladishev again sat down side by side.

"Well, really, how is it that Jennechka isn't coming by now?" asked
Kolya impatiently.

Tamara quickly gave Verka a look with a question, incomprehensible to
the uninitiated, in her eyes. Verka quickly lowered her eyelashes. This
signified: yes, he is gone.

"I'll go right away and call her," said Tamara.

"But what are you so stuck on your Jennka for," said Henrietta. "You
might take me."

"All right, another time," answered Kolya and nervously began to smoke.

Jennka was not even beginning to dress yet. She was sitting before the
mirror and powdering her face.

"What is it, Tamarochka?" she asked.

"Your little cadet has come to you. He's waiting."

"Ah, that's the little baby of last year... Well, the devil with him!"

"And that's right, too. But how healthy and handsome the lad has grown,
and how tall... It's a delight, that's all! So if you don't want to,
I'll go myself."

Tamara saw in the mirror how Jennka contracted her eyebrows.

"No, you wait a while, Tamara, don't. I'll see. Send him here to me.
Say that I'm not well, that my head aches."

"I have already told him, anyway, that Zociya had opened the door
unsuccessfully and hit you on the head; and that you're lying down with
a cold pack. But the only thing is, is it worth while, Jennechka?"

"Whether it's worth while or not, that's not your business, Tamara,"
answered Jennka rudely.

Tamara asked cautiously:

"Is it possible, then, that you aren't at all, at all sorry?"

"But for me you aren't sorry?" and she passed her hand over the red
stripe that slashed her throat. "And for yourself you aren't sorry? And
not sorry for this Liubka, miserable as she is? And not sorry for
Pashka? You're huckleberry jelly, and not a human being!"

Tamara smiled craftily and haughtily:

"No, when it comes to a real matter, I'm not jelly. Perhaps you'll see
this soon, Jennechka. Only let's better not quarrel--as it is it isn't
any too sweet to live. All right, I'll go at once and send him to you."

When she had gone away, Jennka lowered the light in the little hanging
blue lantern, put on her night blouse, and lay down. A minute later
Gladishev walked in; and after him Tamara, dragging Petrov by the hand,
who resisted and kept his head down. And in the rear was thrust in the
pink, sharp, foxy little phiz of the cross-eyed housekeeper Zociya.

"And that's fine, now," the housekeeper commenced to bustle. "It's just
sweet to look at; two handsome gents and two swell dames. A regular
bouquet. What shall I treat you with, young people? Will you order beer
or wine?"

Gladishev had a great deal of money in his pocket, as much as he never
had before during all his brief life--all of twenty-five roubles; and
he wanted to go on a splurge. Beer he drank only out of bravado, but
could not bear its bitter taste, and wondered himself how others could
ever drink it. And for that reason, squeamishly, like an old rake,
sticking out his lower lip, he said mistrustfully:

"But then, you surely must have some awful stuff?"

"What do you mean, what do you mean, good-looking! The very best
gentlemen approve of it. Of the sweet, there are Cagore, church wine,
Teneriffe; while of the French there's Lafitte. You can get port wine
also. The girls just simply adore Lafitte with lemonade."

"And what are the prices?"

"No dearer than money. As is the rule in all good establishments--a
bottle of Lafitte five roubles, four bottles of lemonade at a half
each, that's two roubles, and only seven in all..."

"That'll do you, Zociya," Jennka stopped her indifferently, "it's a
shame to take advantage of boys. Even five is enough. You can see these
are decent people, and not just anybody..."

But Gladishev turned red, and with a negligent air threw a ten rouble
note on the table.

"Oh, what's the use of talking about it. All right, bring it."

"Whilst I'm at it, I'll take the money for the visit as well. What
about you, young people--are you on time or for the night? You know the
rates yourself: on time, at two roubles; for the night, at five."

"All right, all right. On time," interrupted Jennka, flaring up. "Trust
us in that, at least."

The wine was brought. Tamara through importunity got pastry, besides.
Jennka asked for permission to call in Little White Manka. Jennka
herself did not drink, did not get up from the bed, and all the time
muffled herself up in a gray shawl of Orenburg[24] manufacture,
although it was hot in the room. She looked fixedly, without tearing
her eyes away, at the handsome, sunburned face of Gladishev, which had
become so manly.


[24] Orenburg has as high a reputation for woolens as Sheffield has for
steel.--Trans.


"What's the matter with you, dearie?" asked Gladishev, sitting down on
her bed and stroking her hand.

"Nothing special... Head aches a little... I hit myself."

"Well, don't you pay any attention."

"Well, here I've seen you, and already I feel better. How is it you
haven't been here for so long?"

"I couldn't snatch away the time, nohow-camping. You know yourself...
We had to put away twenty-five versts a day. The whole day drilling and
drilling: field, formation, garrison. With a full pack. Used to get so
fagged out from morning to night that towards evening you couldn't feel
your legs under you... We were at the manoeuvres also... It isn't
sweet..."

"Oh, you poor little things!" Little White Manka suddenly clasped her
hands. "And what do they torture you for, angels that you are? If I was
to have a brother like you, or a son--my heart would just simply bleed.
Here's to your health, little cadet!"

They clinked glasses. Jennka was just as attentively scrutinizing
Gladishev.

"And you, Jennechka?" he asked, extending a glass.

"I don't want to," she answered listlessly, "but, however, ladies,
you've drunk some wine, chatted a bit--don't wear the welcome off the
mat."

"Perhaps you'll stay with me the whole night?" she asked Gladishev,
when the others had gone away. "Don't you be afraid, dearie; if you
won't have enough money, I'll pay the difference for you. You see, how
good-looking you are, that a wench does not grudge even money for you?"
she began laughing.

Gladishev turned around to her; even his unobserving ear was struck by
Jennka's strange tone--neither sad, nor kindly, nor yet mocking.

"No, sweetie, I'd be very glad to; I'd like to remain myself, but I
can't possibly; I promised to be home toward ten o'clock."

"That's nothing, dear, they'll wait; you're altogether a grown-up man
now. Is it possible that you have to listen to anybody? ... But,
however, as you wish. Shall I put out the light entirely, perhaps; or
is it all right the way it is? Which do you want--the outside or near
the wall?"

"It's immaterial to me," he answered in a quavering voice; and, having
embraced with his arm the hot, dry body of Jennka, he stretched with
his lips toward her face. She slightly repulsed him.

"Wait, bear a while, sweetheart--we have time enough to kiss our fill
yet. Just lie still for one little minute... So, now... quiet,
peaceful... don't stir..."

These words, passionate and imperious, acted like hypnosis upon
Gladishev. He submitted to her and lay down on his back, putting his
hands underneath his head. She raised herself a little, leant upon her
elbow, and placing her head upon the bent hand, silently, in the faint
half-light, was looking his body over--so white, strong, muscular; with
a high and broad pectoral cavity; with well-made ribs; with a narrow
pelvis; and with mighty, bulging thighs. The dark tan of the face and
the upper half of the neck was divided by a sharp line from the
whiteness of the shoulders and breast.

Gladishev blinked for a second. It seemed to him that he was feeling
upon himself, upon his face, upon his entire body, this intensely fixed
gaze, which seemed to touch his face and tickle it, like the cobwebby
contact of a comb, which you first rub against a cloth--the sensation
of a thin, imponderous, living matter.

He opened his eyes and saw altogether near him the large, dark, uncanny
eyes of the woman, who seemed to him now an entire stranger.

"What are you looking at, Jennie?" he asked quietly. "What are you
thinking of?"

"My dear little boy! ...They call you Kolya: isn't that so?"

"Yes."

"Don't be angry at me, carry out a certain caprice of mine, please:
shut your eyes again... no, even tighter, tighter... I want to turn up
the light and have a good look at you. There now, so... If you only
knew how beautiful you are now... right now... this second. Later you
will become coarse, and you will begin giving off a goatish smell; but
now you give off an odour of fur and milk... and a little of some wild
flower. But shut them--shut your eyes!"

She added light, returned to her place, and sat down in her favourite
pose--Turkish fashion. Both kept silent. In the distance, several rooms
away, a broken-down grand piano was tinkling; somebody's vibrating
laughter floated in; while from the other side--a little song, and
rapid, merry talking. The words could not be heard. A cabby was
rumbling by somewhere through the distant street...

"And now I will infect him right away, just like all the others,"
pondered Jennka, gliding with a deep gaze over his well-made legs, his
handsome torso of a future athlete, and over his arms, thrown back,
upon which, above the bend of the elbow, the muscles tautened--bulging,
firm. "Why, then, am I so sorry for him? Or is it because he is such a
good-looking little fellow? No. I am long since a stranger to such
feelings. Or is it because he is a boy? Why, only a little over a year
ago I shoved apples in his pocket, when he was going away from me at
night. Why have I not told him then that which, I can, and dare, tell
him now? Or would he not have believed me, anyway? Would have grown
angry? Would have gone to another? For sooner or later this turn awaits
every man... And that he bought me for money--can that be forgiven? Or
did he act just as all of them do--blindly? ..."

"Kolya!" she said quietly, "Open your eyes."

He obeyed, opened his eyes, turned to her; entwined her neck with his
arm, drew her a little to him, and wanted to kiss her in the opening of
her chemise--on the breast. She again tenderly but commandingly
repulsed him.

"No, wait a while, wait a while--hear me out... one little minute more.
Tell me, boy, why do you come here to us--to the women?"

Kolya quietly and hoarsely began laughing.

"How silly you are! Well, what do they all come for? Am I not also a
man? For, it seems, I'm at that age when in every man ripens... well, a
certain need... for woman. For I'm not going to occupy myself with all
sorts of nastiness!"

"Need? Only need? That means, just as for that chamber which stands
under my bed?"

"No, why so?" retorted Kolya, with a kindly laugh. "I liked you very
much... From the very first time... If you will, I'm even... a little
in love with you... at least, I never stayed with any of the others."

"Well, all right! But then, the first time, could it possibly have been
need?"

"No, perhaps, it wasn't need even; but somehow, vaguely, I wanted
woman... My friends talked me into it... Many had already gone here
before me... So then, I too..."

"But, now, weren't you ashamed the first time?"

Kolya became confused; all this interrogation was to him unpleasant,
oppressive. He felt, that this was not the empty, idle bed talk, so
well known to him, out of his small experience; but something else, of
more import.

"Let's say... not that I was ashamed... well, but still I felt kind of
awkward. I drank that time to get up courage."

Jennie again lay down on her side; leaned upon her elbow, and again
looked at him from time to time, near at hand and intently.

"But tell me, sweetie," she asked, in a barely audible voice, so that
the cadet with difficulty made out her words, "tell me one thing more;
but the fact of your paying money, these filthy two roubles--do you
understand?--paying them for love, so that I might caress, kiss you,
give all my body to you--didn't you feel ashamed to pay for that?
Never?"

"Oh, my God! What strange questions you put to me to-day! But then they
all pay money! Not I, then some one else would have paid--isn't it all
the same to you?"

"And have you been in love with any one, Kolya? Confess! Well, now, if
not in real earnest, then just so... at soul... Have you done any
courting? Brought little flowers of some sort... Strolled arm-in-arm
with her under the moon? Wasn't that so?"

"Well, yes," said Koiya in a sedate bass. "What follies don't happen in
one's youth! It's a matter anyone can understand..."

"Some sort of a little first cousin? An educated young lady? A boarding
school miss? A high school girl? ... There has been, hasn't there?"

"Well, yes, of course--everybody has them."

"Why, you wouldn't have touched her, would you? ... You'd have spared
her? Well, if she had only said to you: take me, but only give me two
roubles--what would you have said to her?"

"I don't understand you, Jennka!" Gladishev suddenly grew angry. "What
are you putting on airs for! What sort of comedy are you trying to put
over! Honest to God, I'll dress myself at once and go away."

"Wait a while, wait a while, Kolya! One more, one more, the last, the
very, very last question."

"Oh, you!" growled Kolya displeased.

"And could you never imagine... well, imagine it right now, even for a
second... that your family has suddenly grown poor, become ruined.
You'd have to earn your bread by copying papers; or, now, let's say,
through carpenter or blacksmith work; and your sister was to go wrong,
like all of us... yes, yes, yours, your own sister... if some blockhead
seduced her and she was to go travelling... from hand to hand... what
would you say then?"

"Bosh! ... That can't be..." Kolya cut her short curtly. "But, however,
that's enough--I'm going away!"

"Go away, do me that favour! I've ten roubles lying there, near the
mirror, in a little box from chocolates--take them for yourself. I
don't need them, anyway. Buy with them a tortoise powder box with a
gold setting for your mamma; and if you have a little sister, buy her a
good doll. Say: in memory from a certain wench that died. Go on, little
boy!"

Kolya, with a frown, angry, with one shove of a well-knit body jumped
off the bed, almost without touching it. Now he was standing on the
little mat near the bed, naked, well-formed, splendid in all the
magnificence of his blooming, youthful body.

"Kolya!" Jennka called him quietly, insistently and caressingly.
"Kolechka!"

He turned around to her call, and drew in the air in a short, jerky
gust, as though he had gasped: he had never yet in his life met
anywhere, even in pictures, such a beautiful expression of tenderness,
sorrow, and womanly silent reproach, as the one he was just now
beholding in the eyes of Jennka, filled with tears. He sat down on the
edge of the bed, and impulsively embraced her around the bared, swarthy
arms.

"Let's not quarrel, then, Jennechka," he said tenderly.

And she twined herself around him, placed her arms on his neck, while
her head she pressed against his breast. They kept silent so for
several seconds.

"Kolya," Jennie suddenly asked dully, "but were you never afraid of
becoming infected?"

Kolya shivered. Some chill, loathsome horror stirred and glided through
within his soul. He did not answer at once.

"Of course, that would be horrible... horrible... God save me! But then
I go only to you alone, only to you! You'd surely have told me? ..."

"Yes, I'd have told you," she uttered meditatively. And at once
rapidly, consciously, as though having weighed the significance of her
words: "Yes, of course, of course, I would have told you! But haven't
you ever heard what sort of a thing is that disease called syphilis?"

"Of course, I've heard... The nose falls through..."

"No, Kolya, not only the nose! The person becomes all diseased: his
bones, sinews, brains grow diseased... Some doctors say such nonsense
as that it's possible to be cured of this disease. Bosh! You'll never
cure yourself! A person rots ten, twenty, thirty years. Every second
paralysis can strike him down, so that the right side of the face, the
right arm, the right leg die--it isn't a human being that's living, but
some sort of a little half. Half-man-half-corpse. The majority of them
go out of their minds. And each understands... every person... each one
so infected understands, that if he eats, drinks, kisses, simply even
breathes--he can't be sure that he won't immediately infect some one of
those around him, the very nearest--sister, wife, son... To all
syphilitics the children are born monsters, abortions, goitrous,
consumptives, idiots. There, Kolya, is what this disease means. And
now," Jennka suddenly straightened up quickly, seized Kolya fast by his
bare shoulders, turned his face to her, so that he was almost blinded
by the flashing of her sorrowful, sombre, extraordinary eyes, "and now,
Kolya, I will tell you that for more than a month I am sick with this
filth. And that's just why I haven't allowed you to kiss me..."

"You're joking! ... You're teasing me on purpose, Jennie!" muttered
Gladishev, wrathful, frightened, and out of his wits.

"Joking? ...Come here!"

She abruptly compelled him to get up on his feet, lit a match and said:

"Now look closely at what I'm going to show you..."

She opened her mouth wide and placed the light so that it would
illumine her larynx. Kolya looked and staggered back.

"Do you see these white spots? This is syphilis, Kolya! Do you
understand?--syphilis in the most fearful, the most serious stage. Now
dress yourself and thank God."

He, silently and without looking around at Jennka, began to dress
hurriedly, missing his clothes when he tried to put his legs through.
His hands were shaking, and his under jaw jumped so that the lower
teeth knocked against the upper; while Jennka was speaking with bowed
head:

"Listen, Kolya, it's your good fortune that you've run across an honest
woman; another wouldn't have spared you. Do you hear that? We, whom you
deprive of innocence and then drive out of your home, while later you
pay us two roubles a visit, we always--do you understand?"--she
suddenly raised her head--"we always hate you and never have any pity
for you!"

The half-clad Kolya suddenly dropped his dressing, sat down on the bed
near Jennka and, covering his face with his palms, burst into tears;
sincerely, altogether like a child...

"Lord, Lord," he whispered, "why this is the truth! ... What a vile
thing this really is! ... We, also, we had this happen: we had a
chambermaid, Niusha...a chambermaid... they also called her signorita
Anita...a pretty little girl...and my brother lived with her...my elder
brother...an officer...and when he went away, she proved pregnant and
mother drove her out...well, yes--drove her out...threw her out of the
house, like a floor mop...Where is she now? And father...father...he
also with a cham...chambermaid."

And the half-naked Jennka, this Jennka, the atheist, swearer, and
brawler, suddenly got up from the bed, stood before the cadet, and
slowly, almost solemnly, made the sign of the cross over him.

"And may God preserve you my boy!" she said with an expression of deep
tenderness and gratitude.

And at once she ran to the door, opened it and called out:
"Housekeeper!"

"Tell you what, housekeeper dear," Jennka directed, "go and find out,
please, which one of them is free--Tamara or Little White Manka. And
the one that's free send here."

Kolya growled out something in the back, but Jennka purposely did not
listen to him.

"And please make it as quick as possible, housekeeper dear, won't you
be so kind?"

"Right away, right away, miss."

"Why, why do you do this, Jennie?" asked Gladishev with anguish. "Well,
what's that for? ...Is it possible that you want to tell about it? ..."

"Wait awhile, that's not your business...Wait a while, I won't do
anything unpleasant for you."

After a minute Little White Manka came in her brown, smooth,
deliberately modest dress of a high school girl.

"What did you call me for, Jennie? Or have you quarreled?"

"No, we haven't quarreled, Mannechka, but my head aches very much,"
answered Jennka calmly, "and for that reason my little friend finds me
very cold. Be a friend, Mannechka, stay with him, take my place!"

"That's enough, Jennie, stop it, darling!" in a tone of sincere
suffering retorted Kolya. "I understand everything, everything, it's
not necessary now ... Don't be finishing me off, then! ..."

"I don't understand anything of what's happened," the frivolous Manka
spread out her hands. "Maybe you'll treat a poor little girl to
something?"

"Well, go on, go on!" Jennka sent her away gently. "I'll come right
away. We just played a joke."

Already dressed, they stood for long in the open door between the
bedroom and the corridor; and without words sadly looked at each other.
And Kolya did not understand, but sensed, that at this moment in his
soul was taking place one of those tremendous crises which tell
imperiously upon the entire life.

Then he pressed Jennie's hand hard and said:

"Forgive! ... Will you forgive me, Jennie? Will you forgive? ..."

"Yes, my boy! ... Yes, my fine one! ... Yes...yes..."

She tenderly, softly, like a mother, stroked his closely cropped harsh
head and gave him, a slight shove into the corridor.

"Where are you bound now?" she sent after him, half opening her door.

"I'll take my comrade right away, and then home."

"As you know best! ... God bless you, dearie!"

"Forgive me! ... Forgive me! ..." once more repeated Kolya, stretching
out his hands to her.

"I've already told you, my splendid boy...And you forgive me too...For
we won't see each other anymore!"

And she, having closed the door, was left alone.

In the corridor Gladishev hesitated, because he did not know how to
find the room to which Petrov had retired with Tamara. But the
housekeeper Zociya helped him, running past him very quickly, and with
a very anxious, alarmed air.

"Oh, I haven't time to bother with you now!" she snarled back at
Gladishev's question. "Third door to the left."

Kolya walked up to the door indicated and knocked. Some sort of bustle
and whispering sounded in the room. He knocked once more.

"Kerkovius, open! This is me--Soliterov."

Among the cadets, setting out on expeditions of this sort, it was
always agreed upon to call each other by fictitious names. It was not
so much a conspiracy or a shift against the vigilance of those in
authority, or fear of compromising one's self before a chance
acquaintance of the family, but rather a play, of its own kind, at
mysteriousness and disguise--a play tracing its beginning from those
times when the young people were borne away by Gustave Aimard, Mayne
Reid, and the detective Lecocq.

"You can't come in!" the voice of Tamara came from behind the door.
"You can't come in. We are busy."

But the bass voice of Petrov immediately cut her short:

"Nonsense! She's lying. Come in. It's all right."

Kolya opened the door.

Petrov was sitting on a chair dressed, but all red, morose, with lips
pouting like a child's, with downcast eyes.

"Well, what a friend you've brought--I must say!" Tamara began speaking
sneeringly and wrathfully. "I thought he was a man in earnest, but this
is only some sort of a little girl! He's sorry to lose his innocence,
if you please. What a treasure you've found, to be sure! But take back,
take back your two roubles!" she suddenly began yelling at Petrov and
tossed two coins on the table. "You'll give them away to some poor
chambermaid or other! Or else save them for gloves for yourself, you
marmot!"

"But what are you cursing for?" grumbled Petrov, without raising his
eyes. "I'm not cursing you, am I? Then why do you curse first? I have a
full right to act as I want to. But I have passed some time with you,
and so take them. But to be forced, I don't want to. And on your part,
Gladishev--that is, Soliterov--this isn't at all nice. I thought she
was a nice girl, but she's trying to kiss all the time, and does God
knows what..."

Tamara, despite her wrath, burst into laughter.

"Oh, you little stupid, little stupid! Well, don't be angry--I'll take
your money. Only watch: this very evening you'll be sorry, you'll be
crying. Well, don't be angry, don't be angry, angel, let's make up. Put
your hand out to me, as I'm doing to you."

"Let's go, Kerkovius," said Gladishev. "Au revoir, Tamara!"

Tamara let the money down into her stocking, through the habit of all
prostitutes, and went to show the boys the way.

Even at the time that they were passing through the corridor Gladishev
was struck by the strange, silent, tense bustle in the drawing room;
the trampling of feet and some muffled, low-voiced, rapid conversations.

Near that place where they had just been sitting below the picture, all
the inmates of Anna Markovna's house and several outsiders had
gathered. They were standing in a close knot, bending down. Kolya
walked up with curiosity, and, wedging his way through a little, looked
in between the heads: on the floor, sideways, somehow unnaturally drawn
up, was lying Roly-Poly. His face was blue, almost black. He did not
move, and was lying strangely small, shrunken, with legs bent. One arm
was squeezed in under his breast, while the other was flung back.

"What's the matter with him?" asked Gladishev in a fright.

Niurka answered him, starting to speak in a rapid, jerky whisper:

"Roly-Poly just came here...Gave Manka the candy, and then started in
to put Armenian riddles to us...'Of a blue colour, hangs in the parlor
and whistles'...We couldn't guess nohow, but he says: 'A
herring'...Suddenly he started laughing, had a coughing spell, and
began falling sideways; and then--bang on the ground and don't
move...They sent for the police...Lord, there's doings for you! ... I'm
horribly afraid of corpseses!"

"Wait!" Gladishev stopped her. "It's necessary to feel his forehead; he
may be alive yet..."

He did try to thrust himself forward, but Simeon's fingers, just like
iron pincers, seized him above the elbows and dragged him back.

"There's nothing, there's nothing to be inspecting," sternly ordered
Simeon, "go on, now, young gents, out of here! This is no place for
you: the police will come, will summon you as witnesses--then it's
scat! to the devil's dam! for you out of the military high school!
Better go while you're good and healthy!"

He escorted them to the entrance hall, shoved the great-coats into
their hands and added still more sternly:

"Well, now--go at a run...Lively! So's there won't be even a whiff of
you left. And if you come another time, then I won't let youse in at
all. You are wise guys, you are! You gave the old hound money for
whiskey--so now he's gone and croaked."

"Well, don't you get too smart, now!" Gladishev flew at him, all
ruffled up.

"What d'you mean, don't get smart? ..." Simeon suddenly began to yell
infuriatedly, and his black eyes without lashes and brows became so
terrible that the cadets shrank back. "I'll soak you one on the snout
so hard you'll forget how to say papa and mamma! Git, this second! Or
else I'll bust you in the neck!"

The boys went down the steps.

At this time two men were going up, in cloth caps on the sides of their
heads; one in a blue, the other in a red blouse, with the skirts
outside, under the unbuttoned, wide open jackets--evidently, Simeon's
comrades in the profession.

"What?" one of them called out gaily from below, addressing Simeon, "Is
it bye-bye for Roly-Poly?"

"Yes, it must be the finish," answered Simeon. "We've got to throw him
out into the street in the meantime, fellows, or else the spirits will
start haunting. The devil with him, let 'em think that he drank himself
full and croaked on the road."

"But you didn't ... well, now? ... You didn't do for him?"

"Well, now, there's foolish talk! If there'd only been some reason. He
was a harmless fellow. Altogether like a little lamb. It must be just
that his turn came."

"And didn't he find a place where to die! Couldn't he have thought up
something worse?" said the one who was in the red shirt.

"Right you are, there!" seconded the other. "Lived to grin and died in
sin. Well, let's go, mate, what?"

The cadets ran with all their might. Now, in the darkness, the figure
of Roly-Poly drawn up on the floor, with his blue face, appeared before
them in all the horror that the dead possess for early youth; and
especially if recalled at night, in the dark.



CHAPTER IV.


A fine rain, like dust, obstinate and tedious, had been drizzling since
morning. Platonov was working in the port at the unloading of
watermelons. At the mill, where he had since the very summer proposed
to establish himself, luck had turned against him; after a week he had
already quarreled, and almost had a fight, with the foreman, who was
extremely brutal with the workers. About a month Sergei Ivanovich had
struggled along somehow from hand to mouth, somewheres in the
back-yards of Temnikovskaya Street, dragging into the editorial rooms
of The Echoes, from time to time, notes of street accidents or little
humorous scenes from the court rooms of the justices of the peace. But
the hard newspaper game had long ago grown distasteful to him. He was
always drawn to adventures, to physical labour in the fresh air, to
life completely devoid of even the least hint at comfort; to care-free
vagabondage, in which a man, having cast from him all possible external
conditions, does not know himself what is going to be with him on the
morrow. And for that reason, when from the lower stretches of the
Dnieper the first barges with watermelons started coming in, he
willingly entered a gang of labourers, in which he was known even from
last year, and loved for his merry nature, for his comradely spirit,
and for his masterly ability of keeping count.

This labour was carried on with good team work and with skill. Four
parties, each of five men, worked on each barge. Number one would reach
for a watermelon and pass it on to the second, who was standing on the
side of the barge. The second cast it to the third, standing already on
the wharf; the third threw it over to the fourth; while the fourth
handed it up to the fifth, who stood on a horse cart and laid the
watermelons away--now dark-green, now white, now striped--into even
glistening rows. This work is clean, lively, and progresses rapidly.
When a good party is gotten up, it is a pleasure to see how the
watermelons fly from hand to hand, are caught with a circus-like
quickness and success, and anew, and anew, without a break, fly, in
order to fill up the dray. It is only difficult for the novices, that
have not as yet gained the skill, have not caught on to that especial
sense of the tempo. And it is not as difficult to catch a watermelon as
to be able to throw it.

Platonov remembered well his first experiences of last year. What
swearing--virulent, mocking, coarse--poured down upon him when for the
third or fourth time he had been gaping and had slowed up the passing:
two watermelons, not thrown in time, had smashed against the pavement
with a succulent crunch, while the completely lost Platonov dropped the
one which he was holding in his hands as well. The first time they
treated him gently; on the second day, however, for every mistake they
began to deduct from him five kopecks per watermelon out of the common
share. The following time when this happened, they threatened to throw
him out of the party at once, without any reckoning. Platonov even now
still remembered how a sudden fury seized him: "Ah, so? The devil take
you!" he had thought. "And yet you want me to be chary of your
watermelons? So then, here you are, here you are! ..." This flare-up
helped him as though instantaneously. He carelessly caught the
watermelons, just as carelessly threw them over, and to his amazement
suddenly felt that precisely just now he had gotten into the real swing
of the work with all his muscles, sight, and breathing; and understood,
that the most important thing was not to think at all of the
watermelons representing some value, and that then everything went
well. When he, finally, had fully mastered this art, it served him for
a long time as a pleasant and entertaining athletic game of its own
kind. But that, too, passed away. He reached, in, the end, the stage
where he felt himself a will-less, mechanical wheel in a general
machine consisting of five men and an endless chain of flying
watermelons.

Now he was number two. Bending downward rhythmically, he, without
looking, received with both hands the cold, springy, heavy watermelon;
swung it to the right; and, also almost without looking, or looking
only out of the corner of his eye, tossed it downward, and immediately
once again bent down for the next watermelon. And his ear seized at
this time how smack-smack ...smack-smack...the caught watermelons
slapped in the hands; and immediately bent downwards and again threw,
letting the air out of himself noisily--ghe...ghe...

The present work was very profitable; their gang, consisting of forty
men, had taken on the work, thanks to the great rush, not by the day
but by the amount of work done, by the waggon load. Zavorotny, the
head--an enormous, mighty Poltavian--had succeeded with extreme
deftness in getting around the owner; a young man, and, to boot, in all
probability not very experienced as yet. The owner, it is true, came to
his senses later and wanted to change the stipulations; but experienced
melon growers dissuaded him from it in time: "Drop it. They'll kill
you," they told him simply and firmly. And so, through this very stroke
of good luck every member of the gang was now earning up to four
roubles a day. They all worked with unusual ardour, even with some sort
of vehemence; and if it had been possible to measure with some
apparatus the labour of each one of them, then, in all probability, the
number of units of energy created would have equalled the work of a
large Voronezhian train horse.

However, Zavorotny was not satisfied even with this--he hurried and
hurried his lads on all the time. Professional ambition was speaking
within him; he wanted to bring the daily earnings of every member of
the gang up to five roubles per snout. And gaily, with unusual ease,
twinkled from the harbour to the waggon, twirling and flashing, the wet
green and white watermelons; and their succulent plashing resounded
against accustomed palms.

But now a long blast sounded on the dredging machine in the port. A
second, a third, responded to it on the river; a few more on shore; and
for a long time they roared together in a mighty chorus of different
voices.

"Ba-a-a-st-a-a!" hoarsely and thickly, exactly like a locomotive blast,
Zavorotny started roaring.

And now the last smack-smack--and the work stopped instantaneously.

Platonov with enjoyment straightened out his back and bent it backward,
and spread out his swollen arms. With pleasure he thought of having
already gotten over that first pain in all the muscles, which tells so
during the first days, when one is just getting back into the work
after disuse. While up to this day, awaking in the mornings in his lair
on Temnikovskaya--also to the sound of a factory blast agreed upon--he
would during the first minutes experience such fearful pains in his
neck, back, in his arms and legs, that it seemed to him as if only a
miracle would be able to compel him to get up and make a few steps.

"Go-o-o and e-at," Zavorotny began to clamour again.

The stevedores went down to the water; got down on their knees or laid
down flat on the gangplank or on the rafts; and, scooping up the water
in handfuls, washed their wet, heated faces and arms. Right here, too,
on the shore, to one side, where a little grass had been left yet, they
disposed themselves for dinner: placed in a circle ten of the most ripe
watermelons, black bread, and twenty dried porgies. Gavriushka the
Bullet was already running with a half-gallon bottle to the pot-house
and was singing as he went the soldiers' signal for dinner:

    "Drag spoon and mess-kit out,
    If there's no bread, eat without."

A bare-footed urchin, dirty and so ragged that there was more of his
bare body than clothes upon him, ran up to the gang.

"Which one of you here is Platonov?" he asked, quickly running over
them with his thievish eyes.

"I'm Platonov, and by what name do they tease you?"

"Around the corner here, behind the church, some sort of a young lady
is waiting for you...Here's a note for you."

The whole gang neighed deeply.

"What d'you open up your mouths for, you pack of fools!" said Platonov
calmly. "Give me the note here."

This was a letter from Jennka, written in a round, naive, rolling,
childish handwriting, and not very well spelt.

"Sergei Ivanich. Forgive me that I disturbe you. I must talk over a
very, very important matter with you. I would not be troubling you if
it was Trifles. For only 10 minutes in all. Jennka, whom you know, from
Anna Markovna's."

Platonov got up.

"I'm going away for a little while," he said to Zavorotny. "When you
begin, I'll be in my place."

"Now you've found somethin' to do," lazily and contemptuously said the
head of the gang. "There's the night for that business...Go ahead, go
ahead, who's holding you. But only if you won't be here when we begin
work, then this day don't count. I'll take any tramp. And as many
watermelons as he busts--that's out of your share, too...I didn't think
it of you, Platonov--that you're such a he-dog..."

Jennka was waiting for him in the tiny little square, sheltered between
a church and the wharf, and consisting of ten sorry poplars. She had on
a gray, one-piece street dress; a simple, round, straw hat with a small
black ribbon. "And yet, even though she has dressed herself simply,"
reflected Platonov, looking at her from a distance with his habitually
puckered eyes, "and yet, every man will walk past, give a look, and
inevitably look back three or four times; he'll feel the especial tone
at once."

"Howdy do, Jennka! Very glad to see you," he said cordially, squeezing
the girl's hand. "There, now, I didn't expect it!"

Jennka was reserved, sad, and apparently troubled over something.
Platonov at once understood and sensed this.

"You excuse me, Jennechka, I must have dinner right away," said he,
"so, perhaps, you'll go together with me and tell me what's the matter,
while I'll manage to eat at the same time. There's a modest little inn
not far from here. At this time there are no people there at all, and
there's even a tiny little stall, a sort of a private room; that will
be just the thing for you and me. Let's go! Perhaps you'll also have a
bite of something."

"No. I won't eat," answered Jennka hoarsely, "and I won't detain you
for long...a few minutes. I have to talk things over, have some
advice--but I haven't anybody."

"Very well...Let's go then! In whatever way I can, I'm always at your
service, in everything. I love you very much, Jennka!"

She looked at him sadly and gratefully.

"I know this, Serge Ivanovich; that's why I've come."

"You need money, perhaps? Just say so. I haven't got much with me,
myself; but the gang will trust me with an advance."

"No, thanks...it isn't that at all. I'll tell everything at once,
there, where we're going now."

In the dim, low-ceiled little inn, the customary haunt of petty
thieves, where business was carried on only in the evening, until very
far into the night, Platonov took the little half-dark cubby hole.

"Give me boiled meat, cucumbers, a large glass of vodka, and bread," he
ordered the waiter.

The waiter--a young fellow with a dirty face; pugnosed; as dirty and
greasy in all his person as though he had just been pulled out of a
cesspool, wiped his lips and asked hoarsely:

"How many kopecks' bread?" "As much as it comes to." Then he started
laughing:

"Bring as much as possible--we'll reckon it up later... and some bread
cider!"

"Well, Jennie, say what your trouble is...I can already see by your
face that there's trouble, or something distasteful in general...Go
ahead and tell it!"

Jennka for a long time plucked her handkerchief and looked at the tips
of her slippers, as though, gathering her strength. Timorousness had
taken possession of her--the necessary and important words would not
come into her mind, for anything. Platonov came to her aid: "Don't be
embarrassed, my dear Jennie, tell all there is! For you know that I'm
like one of the family, and will never give you away. And perhaps I may
really give you some worth-while advice. Well, dive off with a splash
into the water--begin!"

"That's just it, I don't know how to begin," said Jennka irresolutely.
"Here's what, Sergei Ivanovich, I'm a sick woman...Understand?--sick in
a bad way...With the most nasty disease...Do you know which?"

"Go on!" said Platonov, nodding his head.

"And I've been that way for a long time...more than a month...a month
and a half, maybe...Yes, more than a month, because I found out about
this on the Trinity..."

Platonov quickly rubbed his forehead with his hand. "Wait a while, I've
recalled it...This was that day I was there together with the
students...isn't that so?"

"That's right, Sergei Ivanovich, that's so..."

"Ah, Jennka," said Platonov reproachfully and with regret. "For do you
know, that after this two of the students got sick...Wasn't it from
you?"

Jennka wrathfully and disdainfully flashed her eyes.

"Perhaps even from me...How should I know? There were a lot of them...I
remember there was this one, now, who was even trying to pick a fight
with you all the time ...A tall sort of fellow, fair-haired, in
pince-nez..."

"Yes, yes...That's Sobashnikov. They passed the news to me...That's
he...that one was nothing--a little coxcomb! But then the other--him
I'm sorry for. Although I've known him long, somehow I never made the
right inquiries about his name...I only remember that he comes from
some city or other--Poliyansk...Zvenigorodsk... His comrades called him
Ramses...When the physicians--he turned to several physicians--when
they told him irrevocably that he had the lues, he went home and shot
himself...And in the note that he wrote there were amazing things,
something like this: I supposed all the meaning of life to be in the
triumph of mind, beauty and good; with this disease I am not a man, but
junk, rottenness, carrion; a candidate for a progressive paralytic. My
human dignity cannot reconcile itself to this. But guilty in all that
has happened, and therefore in my death as well, am I alone; for that
I, obeying a momentary bestial inclination, took a woman without love,
for money. For that reason have I earned the punishment which I myself
lay upon me..."

"I am sorry for him..." added Platonov quietly.

Jennka dilated her nostrils.

"But I, now, not the very least bit."

"That's wrong...You go away now, young fellow. When I'll need you I'll
call out," said Platonov to the serving-man "Absolutely wrong,
Jennechka! This was an unusually big and forceful man. Such come only
one to the hundreds of thousands. I don't respect suicides. Most
frequent of all, these are little boys, who shoot and hang themselves
over trifles, like a child that has not been given a piece of candy,
and hits itself against the wall to spite those around it. But before
his death I reverently and with sorrow bow my head. He was a wise,
generous, kindly man, attentive to all; and, as you see, too strict to
himself."

"But to me this is absolutely all one," obstinately contradicted
Jennka, "wise or foolish, honest or dishonest, old or young--I have
come to hate them all. Because--look upon me--what am I? Some sort of
universal spittoon, cesspool, privy. Think of it, Platonov; why,
thousands, thousands of people have taken me, clutched me; grunted,
snorted over me; and all those who were, and all those who might yet
have been on my bed--oh, how I hate them all! If I only could, I would
sentence them to torture by fire and iron! ... I would order..."

"You are malicious and proud, Jennie," said Platonov quietly.

"I was neither malicious nor proud...It's only now. I wasn't ten yet
when my own mother sold me; and since that time I've been travelling
from hand to hand... If only some one had seen a human being in me! No!
... I am vermin, refuse, worse than a beggar, worse than a thief, worse
than a murderer! ... Even a hangman...we have even such coming to the
establishment--and even he would have treated me loftily, with
loathing: I am nothing; I am a public wench! Do you understand, Sergei
Ivanovich, what a horrible word this is? Pub-lic! ... This means
nobody's: not papa's, not mamma's, not Russian, not Riyazan, but
simply--public! And not once did it enter anybody's head to walk up to
me and think: why, now, this is a human being too; she has a heart and
a brain; she thinks of something, feels something; for she's not made
out of wood, and isn't stuffed with straw, small hay, or excelsior! And
yet, only I feel this. I, perhaps, am the only one out of all of them
who feels the horror of her position; this black, stinking, filthy pit.
But then, all the girls with whom I have met, and with whom I am living
right now--understand, Platonov, understand me!--why, they don't
realize anything... Talking, walking pieces of meat! And this is even
worse than my malice! ..."

"You are right!" said Platonov quietly. "And this is one of those
questions where you'll always run up against a wall. No one will help
you..."

"No one, no one! ..." passionately exclaimed Jennka. "Do you
remember--this was while you were there: a student carried away our
Liubka..."

"Why, certainly, I remember well! ... Well, and what then?"

"And this is what, that yesterday she came back tattered,
wet...Crying...Left her, the skunk! ... Played a while at kindliness,
and then away with her! 'You,' he says, 'are a sister.' 'I,' he says,
'will save you, make a human being of you...'"

"Is that possible?"

"Just so! ... One man I did see, kindly, indulgent, without the designs
of a he-dog--that's you. But then, you're altogether different. You're
somehow queer. You're always wandering somewhere, seeking
something...You forgive me, Sergei Ivanovich, you're some sort of a
little innocent! ... And that's just why I've come to you, to you
alone! ..."

"Speak on, Jennechka..."

"And so, when I found out that I was sick, I almost went out of my mind
from wrath; I choked from wrath ...I thought: and here's the end;
therefore, there's no more use in pitying, there's nothing to grieve
about, nothing to expect...The lid! ... But for all that I have
borne--can it be that there's no paying back for it? Can it be that
there's no justice in the world? Can it be that I can't even feast
myself with revenge?--for that I have never known love; that of family
life I know only by hearsay; that, like a disgustin', nasty little dog,
they call me near, pat me and then with a boot over the head--get
out!--that they made me over, from a human being, equal to all of them,
no more foolish than all those I've met; made me over into a floor mop,
some sort of a sewer pipe for their filthy pleasures? ...Ugh! ... Is it
possible that for all of this I must take even such a disease with
gratitude as well? ... Or am I a slave? ... A dumb object? ... A pack
horse? ... And so, Platonov, it was just then that I resolved to infect
them all: young, old, poor, rich, handsome, hideous--all, all, all! ..."

Platonov, who had already long since put his plate away from him, was
looking at her with astonishment, and even more--almost with horror.
He, who had seen in life much of the painful, the filthy, at times even
of the bloody--he grew frightened with an animal fright before this
intensity of enormous, unvented hatred. Coming to himself, he said:

"One great writer tells of such a case. The Prussians conquered the
French and lorded it over them in every possible way: shot the men,
violated the women, pillaged the houses, burned down the fields...And
so one handsome woman--a Frenchwoman, very handsome,--having become
infected, began out of spite to infect all the Germans who happened to
fall into her embraces. She made ill whole hundreds, perhaps even
thousands...And when she was dying in a hospital, she recalled this
with joy and with pride...[25] But then, those were enemies, trampling
upon her fatherland and slaughtering her brothers...But you, you,
Jennechka! ..."


[25] This story is Lit. No. 29, by Guy de Maupassant.--Trans.


"But I--all, just all! Tell me, Sergei Ivanovich, only tell me on your
conscience: if you were to find in the street a child, whom some one
had dishonoured, had abused...well, let's say, had stuck its eyes out,
cut its ears off--and then you were to find out that this man is at
this minute walking past you, and that only God alone, if only He
exists, is looking at you this minute from heaven--what would you do?"

"Don't know," answered Platonov, dully and downcast; but he paled, and
his fingers underneath the table convulsively clenched into fists,
"Perhaps I would kill him..."

"Not 'perhaps,' but certainly! I know you, I sense you. Well, and now
think: every one of us has been abused so, when we were children! ...
Children! ..." passionately moaned out Jennka and covered her eyes for
a moment with her palm. "Why, it comes to me, you also spoke of this at
one time, in our place--wasn't it on that same evening before the
Trinity? ... Yes, children--foolish, trusting, blind, greedy,
frivolous...And we cannot tear ourselves out of our harness...where are
we to go? what are we to do? ... And please, don't you think it, Sergei
Ivanovich--that the spite within me is strong only against those who
wronged just me, me personally...No, against all our guests in general;
all these cavaliers, from little to big...Well, and so I have resolved
to avenge myself and my sisters. Is that good or no? ..."

"Jehnechka, really I don't know...I can't...I dare not say anything...I
don't understand."

"But even that's not the main thing...For the main thing is this: I
infected them, and did not feel anything--no pity, no remorse, no guilt
before God or my fatherland. Within me was only joy, as in a hungry
wolf that has managed to get at blood...But yesterday something
happened which even I can't understand. A cadet came to me, altogether
a little bit of a lad, silly, with yellow around his mouth...He used to
come to me from still last winter...And then suddenly I had pity on
him... Not because he was very handsome and very young; and not because
he had always been very polite--even tender, if you will...No, both the
one and the other had come to me, but I did not spare them: with
enjoyment I marked them off, just like cattle, with a red-hot brand
...But this one I suddenly pitied...I myself don't understand--why? I
can't make it out. It seemed to me, that it would be all the same as
stealing money from a little simpleton, a little idiot; or hitting a
blind man, or cutting a sleeper's throat...if he only were some
dried-up marasmus or a nasty little brute, or a lecherous old fellow, I
would not have stopped. But he was healthy, robust, with chest and arms
like a statue's...and I could not... I gave him his money back, showed
him my disease; in a word, I acted like a fool among fools. He went
away from me...burst into tears...And now since last evening I haven't
slept. I walk around as in a fog...Therefore--I'm thinking right
now--therefore, that which, I meditated; my dream to infect them all;
to infect their fathers, mothers, sisters, brides--even all the
world--therefore, all this was folly, an empty fantasy, since I have
stopped? ... Once again, I don't understand anything ...Sergei
Ivanovich, you are so wise, you have seen so much of life--help me,
then, to find myself now!..."

"I don't know, Jennechka!" quietly pronounced Platonov. "Not that I
fear telling you, or advising you, but I know absolutely nothing. This
is above my reason... above conscience..."

Jennie crossed her fingers and nervously cracked them.

"And I, too, don't know...Therefore, that which I thought--is not the
truth. Therefore, there is but one thing left me...This thought came
into my head this morning..."

"Don't, don't do it, Jennechka! ... Jennie! ..." Platonov quickly
interrupted her.

"There's one thing: to hang myself..."

"No, no, Jennie, only not that! ... If there were other circumstances,
unsurmountable, I would, believe me, tell you boldly: well, it's no
use, Jennie; it's time to close up shop... But what you need isn't that
at all... If you wish, I can suggest one way out to you, no less
malicious and merciless; but which, perhaps, will satiate your wrath a
hundredfold..."

"What's that?" asked Jennie, wearily, as though suddenly wilted after
her flare-up.

"Well, this is it ... You're still young, and I'll tell you the truth,
you are very handsome; that is, you can be, if you only want to,
unusually stunning ... That's even more than beauty. But you've never
yet known the bounds and the power of your appearance; and, mainly, you
don't know to what a degree such natures as yours are bewitching, and
how mightily they enchain men to them, and make out of them more than
slaves and brutes ... You are proud, you are brave, you are
independent, you are a clever woman. I know--you have read a great
deal, let's presuppose even trashy books, but still you have read, you
have an entirely different speech from the others. With a successful
turn of life, you can cure yourself, you can get out of these 'Yamkas,'
these 'Little Ditches,' into freedom. You have only to stir a finger,
in order to see at your feet hundreds of men; submissive, ready for
your sake for vileness, for theft, for embezzlement ... Lord it over
them with tight reins, with a cruel whip in your hands! ... Ruin them,
make them go out of their minds, as long as your desire and energy hold
out! ... Look, my dear Jennie, who manages life now if not women!
Yesterday's chambermaid, laundress, chorus girl goes through estates
worth millions, the way a country-woman of Tver cracks sunflower seeds.
A woman scarcely able to sign her name, at times affects the destiny of
an entire kingdom through a man. Hereditary princes marry the
street-walkers, the kept mistresses of yesterday... Jennechka, there is
the scope for your unbridled vengeance; while I will admire you from a
distance... For you--you are made of this stuff--you are a bird of
prey, a spoliator... Perhaps not with such a broad sweep--but you will
cast them down under your feet."

"No," faintly smiled Jennka. "I thought of this before ... But
something of the utmost importance has burned out within me. There are
no forces within me, there is no will within me, no desires ... I am
somehow all empty inside, rotted ... Well, now, you know, there's a
mushroom like that--white, round,--you squeeze it, and snuff pours out
of it. And the same way with me. This life has eaten out everything
within me save malice. And I am flabby, and my malice is flabby ...
I'll see some little boy again, will have pity on him, will be
punishing myself again ... No, it's better ... better so! ..."

She became silent. And Platonov did not know what to say. It became
oppressive and awkward for both. Finally, Jennka got up, and, without
looking at Platonov, extended her cold, feeble hand to him.

"Good-bye, Sergei Ivanovich! Excuse me, that I took up your time ...
Oh, well, I can see myself that you'd help me, if you only could ...
But, evidently, there's nothing to be done here ... Good-bye!"

"Only don't do anything foolish, Jennechka! I implore you! ..."

"Oh, that's all right!" said she and made a tired gesture with her hand.

Having come out of the square, they parted; but, having gone a few
steps, Jennka suddenly called after him:

"Sergei Ivanovich, oh Sergei Ivanovich! ..."

He stopped, turned around, walked back to her.

"Roly-Poly croaked last evening in our drawing room. He jumped and he
jumped, and then suddenly plumped down ... Oh, well, it's an easy death
at least! And also I forgot to ask you, Sergei Ivanovich ... This is
the last, now ... Is there a God or no?"

Platonov knit his eyebrows.

"What answer can I make? I don't know. I think that there is, but not
such as we imagine Him. He is more wise, more just..."

"And future life? There, after death? Is there, now, as they tell us, a
paradise or hell? Is that the truth? Or is there just nothing at all? A
barren void? A sleep without a dream? A dark basement?"

Platonov kept silent, trying not to look at Jennka. He felt oppressed
and frightened.

"I don't know," said he, finally, with an effort. "I don't want to lie
to you."

Jennka sighed, and smiled with a pitiful, twisted smile.

"Well, thanks, my dear. And thanks for even that much ... I wish you
happiness. With all my soul. Well, good-bye..."

She turned away from him and began slowly, with a wavering walk, to
climb up the hill.

Platonov returned to work just in the nick of time. The gathering of
tramps, scratching, yawning, working out their accustomed dislocations,
were getting into their places. Zavorotny, at a distance, with his keen
eyes caught sight of Platonov and began to yell over the whole port:

"You did manage to get here in time, you round-shouldered devil ... But
I was already wanting to take you by the tail and chase you out of the
gang ... Well, get in your place! ..."

"Well, but I did get a he-dog in you, Serejka! ..." he added, in a
kindly manner. "If only it was night; but no,--look you, he starts in
playing ring-around-a-rosie in broad daylight..."



CHAPTER V.


Saturday was the customary day of the doctor's inspection, for which
they prepared very carefully and with quaking in all the houses; as,
however, even society ladies prepare themselves, when getting ready for
a visit to a physician-specialist; they diligently made their intimate
toilet and inevitably put on clean underthings, even as dressy as
possible. The windows toward the street were closed with shutters,
while at one of those windows, which gave out upon the yard, was put a
table with a hard bolster to put under the back.

All the girls were agitated ... "And what if there's a disease, which I
haven't noticed myself? ... And then the despatch to a hospital;
disgrace; the tedium of hospital life; bad food; the hard course of
treatment..."

Only Big Manka--or otherwise Manka the Crocodile--Zoe, and
Henrietta--all thirty years old, and, therefore, in the reckoning of
Yama, already old prostitutes, who had seen everything, had grown
inured to everything, grown indifferent to their trade, like white, fat
circus horses--remained imperturbably calm. Manka the Crocodile even
often said of herself:

"I have gone through fire and water and pipes of brass ... Nothing will
stick to me any more."

Jennka, since morning, was meek and pensive. She presented to Little
White Manka a golden bracelet; a medallion upon a thin little chain
with her photograph; and a silver neck crucifix. Tamara she moved
through entreaty into taking two rings for remembrance: one of silver,
in three hoops, that could be moved apart, with a heart in the middle,
and under it two hands that clasped one another when all the three
parts of the ring were joined; while the other was of thin gold wire
with an almandine.

"As for my underwear, Tamarochka--you give it to Annushka, the
chambermaid. Let her wash it out well and wear it in good health, in
memory of me."

The two of them were sitting in Tamara's room. Jennka had in the very
morning sent after cognac; and now slowly, as though lazily, was
imbibing wine-glass after wine-glass, eating lemon and a piece of sugar
after drinking. Tamara was observing this for the first time and
wondered, because Jennka had always disliked wine, and drank very
rarely; and then only at the constraint of guests.

"What are you giving stuff away so to-day?" asked Tamara. "Just as
though you'd gotten ready to die, or to go into a convent?"

"Yes, and I will go away," answered Jennka listlessly. "I am weary,
Tamarochka! ..."

"Well, which one of us has a good time?"

"Well, no! ... It isn't so much that I'm weary; but somehow
everything--everything is all the same ... I look at you, at the table,
at the bottle; at my hands and feet; and I'm thinking, that all this is
alike and everything is to no purpose ... There's no sense in anything
... Just like on some old, old picture. Look there--there's a soldier
walking on the street, but it's all one to me, as though they had wound
up a doll, and it's moving ... And that he's wet under the ram, is also
all one to me ... And that he'll die, and I'll die, and you, Tamara,
will die--in this also I see nothing frightful, nothing amazing... So
simple and wearisome is everything to me..."

Jennka was silent for a while; drank one more wine-glass; sucked the
sugar, and, still looking out at the street, suddenly asked:

"Tell me, please, Tamara, I've never asked you about it--from where did
you get in here, into the house? You don't at all resemble all of us;
you know everything; for everything that turns up you have a good,
clever remark ... Even French, now--how well you spoke it that time!
But none of us knows anything at all about you ... Who are you?"

"Darling Jennechka, really, it's not worth while ... A life like any
life ... I went to boarding school; was a governess; sang in a choir;
then kept a shooting gallery in a summer garden; and then got mixed up
with a certain charlatan and taught myself to shoot with a Winchester
... I traveled with circuses--I represented an American Amazon. I used
to shoot splendidly ... Then I found myself in a monastery. There I
passed two years ... I've been through a lot ... Can't recall
everything ... I used to steal..."

"You've lived through a great deal ... Checkered-like."

"But then, my years are not a few. Well, what do you think--how many?"

"Twenty-two, twenty-four? ..."

"No, my angel! It just struck thirty-two a week ago. I, if you like, am
older than all of you here in Anna Markovna's. Only I didn't wonder at
anything, didn't take anything near to heart. As you see, I never drink
... I occupy myself very carefully with the care of my body; and the
main thing, the very main thing--I don't allow myself ever to be
carried away with men..."

"Well, but what about your Senka? ..."

"Senka--that's a horse of another colour; the heart of woman is
foolish, inconsistent ... Can it possibly live without love? And even
so, I don't love him, but just so ... a self-deception ... But,
however, I shall be in very great need of Senka soon."

Jennka suddenly grew animated and looked at her friend with curiosity.

"But how did you come to get stuck right here, in this hole? So clever,
handsome, sociable..."

"I'd have to take a long time in telling it ... And then I'm too lazy
... I got in here out of love; I got mixed up with a certain young man
and went into a revolution with him. For we always act so, we women:
where the dearie is looking, there we also look; what the dearie sees,
that we also see ... I didn't believe at soul in his work, but I went.
A flattering man he was; smart, a good talker, a good looker ... Only
he proved to be a skunk and a traitor afterwards. He played at
revolution; while he himself gave his comrades away to the gendarmes. A
stool-pigeon, he was. When they had killed and shown him up, then all
the foolishness left me. However, it was necessary to conceal myself
... I changed my passport. Then they advised me, that the easiest thing
of all was to screen myself with a yellow ticket ... And then the fun
began! ... And even here I'm on a sort of pasture ground; when the time
comes, the successful moment arrives--I'll go away!"

"Where?" asked Jennie with impatience.

"The world is large ... And I love life! ... There, now, I was the same
way in the convent: I lived on and I lived on; sang antiphonies and
dulias, until I had rested up, and had finally grown weary of it; and
then all at once--hop! and into a cabaret ... Wasn't that some jump?
The same way out of here ... I'll get into a theatre, into a circus,
into a corps de ballet ... but do you know, Jennechka, I'm drawn to the
thieving trade the most, after all ... Daring, dangerous, hard, and
somehow intoxicating ... It's drawing me! ... Don't you mind that I'm
so respectable and modest, and can appear an educated young lady. I'm
entirely, entirely different."

Her eyes suddenly blazed up, vividly and gaily.

"There's a devil dwells in me!"

"It's all very well for you," pensively and with weariness pronounced
Jennie. "You at least desire something, but my soul is some sort of
carrion ... I'm twenty-five years old, now; but my soul is like that of
an old woman, shrivelled up, smelling of the earth ... And if I had
only lived sensibly! ... Ugh! ... There was only some sort of slush."

"Drop it, Jennka; you're talking foolishly. You're smart, you're
original; you have that special power before which men crawl and creep
so willingly. You go away from here, too. Not with me, of course--I'm
always single--but go away all by your own self."

Jennka shook her head and quietly, without tears, hid her face in her
palms.

"No," she responded dully, after a long silence, "no, this won't work
out with me: fate has chewed me all up! ... I'm not a human being any
more, but some sort of dirty cud ... Eh!" she suddenly made a gesture
of despair. 'Let's better drink some cognac, Jennechka,'" she addressed
herself, "'and let's suck the lemon a little! ...' Brr ... what nasty
stuff! ... And where does Annushka always get such abominable stuff? If
you smear a dog's wool with it, it will fall off ... And always, the
low-down thing, she'll take an extra half. Once I somehow ask
her--'What are you hoarding money for?' 'Well, I,' she says, 'am saving
it up for a wedding. What sort,' she says, 'of joy will it be for my
husband, that I'll offer him up my innocence alone! I must earn a few
hundreds in addition.' She's happy! ... I have here, Tamara, a little
money in the little box under the mirror; you pass it on to her,
please..."

"And what are you about, you fool; do you want to die, or what?"
sharply, with reproach, said Tamara.

"No, I'm saying it just so, if anything happens ... Take it, now, take
the money! Maybe they'll take me off to the hospital ... And how do you
know what's going to take place there? I left myself some small change,
if anything happens ... And supposing that I wanted to do something to
myself in downright earnest, Tamarochka--is it possible that you'd
interfere with me?"

Tamara looked at her fixedly, deeply, and calmly. Jennie's eyes were
sad, and as though vacant. The living fire had become extinguished in
them, and they seemed turbid, just as though faded, with whites like
moonstone.

"No," Tamara said at last, quietly but firmly. "If it was on account of
love, I'd interfere; if it was on account of money, I'd talk you out of
it: but there are cases where one must not interfere. I wouldn't help,
of course; but I also wouldn't seize you and interfere with you."

At this moment the quick-limbed housekeeper Zociya whirled through the
corridor with an outcry:

"Ladies, get dressed! The doctor has arrived ... Ladies, get dressed!
... Lively, ladies! ..."

"Well, go on, Tamara, go on," said Jennka tenderly, getting up. "I'll
run into my room for just a minute--I haven't changed my dress yet,
although, to tell the truth, this also is all one. When they'll be
calling out for me, and I don't come in time, call out, run in after
me."

And, going out of Tamara's room, she embraced her by the shoulder, as
though by chance, and stroked it tenderly.

Doctor Klimenko--the official city doctor--was preparing in the parlor
everything indispensable for an inspection--vaseline, a solution of
sublimate, and other things--and was placing them on a separate little
table. Here also were arranged for him the white blanks of the girls,
replacing their passports, as well as a general alphabetical list. The
girls, dressed only in their chemises, stockings, and slippers, were
standing and sitting at a distance. Nearer the table was standing the
proprietress herself--Anna Markovna--while a little behind her were
Emma Edwardovna and Zociya.

The doctor--aged, disheartened, slovenly; a man indifferent to
everything--put the pince-nez crookedly upon his nose, looked at the
list, and called out:

"Alexandra Budzinskaya! ..."

The frowning, little, pug-nosed Nina stepped out. Preserving on her
face an angry expression, and breathing heavily from shame, from the
consciousness of her own awkwardness, and from the exertions, she
clumsily climbed up on the table. The doctor, squinting through his
pince-nez and dropping it every minute, carried out the inspection.

"Go ahead! ... You're sound."

And on the reverse side of the blank he marked off: "Twenty-eighth of
August. Sound" and put down a curly-cue. And when he had not even
finished writing called out:

"Voshchenkova, Irene! ..."

Now it was the turn of Liubka. She, during the past month and a half of
comparative freedom, had had time to grow unaccustomed to the
inspections of every week; and when the doctor turned up the chemise
over her breast, she suddenly turned as red as only very bashful women
can--even with her back and breast.

After her was the turn of Zoe; then of Little White Manka; after that
of Tamara and Niurka--the last, the doctor found, had gonorrhoea, and
ordered her to be sent off to a hospital.

The doctor carried out the inspection with amazing rapidity. It was now
nearly twenty years that every week, on Saturdays, he had to inspect in
such a manner several hundred girls; and he had worked out that
habitual technical dexterity and rapidity, a calm carelessness of
movements, which is; frequently to be found in circus artists, in card
sharpers, in furniture movers and packers, and in other professionals.
And he carried out his manipulations with the same calmness with which
a drover or a veterinary inspects several hundred head of cattle in a
day.

Did he ever think that before him were living people; or that he
appeared as the last and most important link of that fearful chain
which is called legalized prostitution?

No! And even if he did experience this, then it must have been in the
very beginning of his career. Now before him were only naked abdomens,
naked backs, and opened mouths. Not one exemplar of all this faceless
herd of every Saturday would he have recognized subsequently on the
street. The main thing was the necessity of finishing as soon as
possible the inspection in one establishment, in order to pass on to
another, to a third, a ninth, a twentieth...

"Susannah Raitzina!" the doctor finally called out.

No one walked up to the table.

All the inmates of the house began to exchange glances and to whisper.

"Jennka ... Where's Jennka? ..."

But she was not among the girls.

Then Tamara, just released by the doctor, moved a little forward and
said:

"She isn't here. She hasn't had a chance to get herself ready yet.
Excuse me, Mr. Doctor, I'll go right away and call her."

She ran into the corridor and did not return for a long time. After her
went, at first Emma Edwardovna, then Zociya, several girls, and even
Anna Markovna herself.

"PFUI! What indecency is this! ..." the majestic Emma Edwardovna was
saying in the corridor, making an indignant face. "And eternally this
Jennka! ... Always this Jennka! ... It seems my patience has already
burst ..."

But Jennka was nowhere--neither in her room, nor in Tamara's. They
looked into other chambers, in all the out-of-the-way corners ... But
she did not prove to be even there.

"We must look in the water-closet ... Perhaps she's there?" surmised
Zoe.

But this institution was locked from the inside with a bolt. Emma
Edwardovna knocked on the door with her fist.

"Jennie, do come out at last! What foolishness is this?"

And, raising her voice, she cried out impatiently and threateningly:

"Do you hear, you swine? ... Come out this minute--the doctor's
waiting!"

But there was no answer of any sort.

All exchanged glances with fear in their eyes, with one and the same
thought in mind.

Emma Edwardovna shook the door by the brass knob, but the door did not
yield.

"Go after Simeon!" Anna Markovna directed.

Simeon was called ... He came, sleepy and morose, as was his wont. By
the distracted faces of the girls and the housekeepers, he already saw
that some misunderstanding or other had occurred, in which his
professional cruelty and strength were required. When they explained to
him what the matter was, he silently took the door-knob with both
hands, braced himself against the wall, and gave a yank.

The knob remained in his hands; and he himself, staggering backward,
almost fell to the floor on his back.

"A-a, hell!" he began to growl in a stifled voice. "Give me a table
knife."

Through the crack of the door he felt the inner bolt with the table
knife; whittled away with the blade the edges of the crack, and widened
it so that he could at last push the end of the knife through it, and
began gradually to scrape back the bolt. Only the grating of metal
against metal could be heard.

Finally Simeon threw the door wide open.

Jennka was hanging in the middle of the water-closet on a tape from her
corset, fastened to the lamphook. Her body, already motionless after an
unprolonged agony, was slowly swinging in the air, and describing
scarcely perceptible turns to the right and left around its vertical
axis. Her face was bluishly-purple, and the tip of the tongue was
thrust out between clenched and bared teeth. The lamp which had been
taken off was also here, sprawling on the floor.

Some one began to squeal hysterically, and all the girls, like a
stampeded herd, crowding and jostling each other in the narrow
corridor, vociferating and choking with hysterical sobbings, started in
to run.

The doctor came upon hearing the outcries... Came, precisely, and not
ran. Seeing what the matter was, he did not become amazed or excited;
during his practice as an official city doctor, he had had his fill of
seeing such things, so that he had already grown benumbed and hardened
to human sufferings, wounds and death. He ordered Simeon to lift the
corpse of Jennka a bit upward, and himself getting up on the seat, cut
through the tape. Proforma, he ordered Jennka's body to be borne away
into the room that had been hers, and tried with the help of the same
Simeon to produce artificial respiration; but after five minutes gave
it up as a bad job, fixed the pince-nez, which had become crooked, on
his nose, and said:

"Call the police in to make a protocol."

Again Kerbesh came, again whispered for a long time with the
proprietress in her little bit of a cabinet, and again crunched in his
pocket a new hundred-rouble bill.

The protocol was made in five minutes; and Jennka, just as half-naked
as she had hung herself, was carted away in a hired wagon into an
anatomical theatre, wrapped up in and covered with two straw mats.

Emma Edwardovna was the first to find the note that Jennka had left on
her night table. On a sheet, torn out of the income-expense book,
compulsory for every prostitute, in pencil, in a naive, rounded,
childish handwriting--by which, however, it could be judged that the
hands of the suicide had not trembled during the last minutes--was
written:

"I beg that no one be blamed for my death. I am dying because I have
become infected, and also because all people are scoundrels and it is
very disgusting to live. How to divide my things--Tamara knows about
that. I told her in detail."

Emma Edwardovna turned around upon Tamara, who was right on the spot
among a number of other girls, and with eyes filled with a cold, green
hatred, hissed out:

"Then you knew, you low-down thing, what she was preparing to do? ...
You knew, you vermin? ... You knew and didn't tell? ..."

She already had swung back, in order, as was her wont, to hit Tamara
cruelly and calculatingly; but suddenly stopped just as she was, with
gaping mouth and with eyes wide open. It was just as though she was
seeing, for the first time, Tamara, who was looking at her with a firm,
wrathful, unbearable gaze, and slowly, slowly was raising from below,
and at last brought up to the level of the housekeeper's face, a small
object, glistening with white metal.



CHAPTER VI.


That very same day, at evening, a very important event took place in
the house of Anna Markovna: the whole institution--with land and house,
with live and inanimate stock--passed into the hands of Emma Edwardovna.

They had been speaking of this, on and off, for a long time in the
establishment; but when the rumours so unexpectedly, immediately right
after the death of Jennka, turned into realities, the misses could not
for a long time come to themselves for amazement and fear. They knew
well, having experienced the sway of the German upon themselves, her
cruel, implacable pedantism; her greed, arrogance, and, finally, her
perverted, exacting, repulsive love, now for one, now for another
favorite. Besides that, it was no mystery to any one, that out of the
fifteen thousand which Emma Edwardovna had to pay the former
proprietress for the firm and for the property, one third belonged to
Kerbesh, who had, for a long time already, been carrying on
half-friendly, half-business relations with the fat housekeeper. From
the union of two such people, shameless, pitiless, and covetous, the
girls could expect all sorts of disasters for themselves.

Anna Markovna had to let the house go so cheaply not simply because
Kerbesh, even if he had not known about certain shady little
transactions to her credit, could still at any time he liked trip her
up and eat her up without leaving anything. Of pretexts and cavils for
this even a hundred could be found every day; and certain ones of them
not merely threatened the shutting down of the house alone, but, if you
like, even with the court.

But, dissembling, oh-ing and sighing, bewailing her poverty, her
maladies and orphanhood, Anna Markovna at soul was glad of even such a
settlement. And then it must be said: she was already for a long time
feeling the approach of senile infirmity, together with all sorts of
ailments and the thirst for complete, benevolent rest, undisturbed by
anything. All, of which she had not even dared dream in her early
youth, when she herself had yet been a prostitute of the rank and
file--all had now come to her of itself, one in addition to the other:
peaceful old age, a house--a brimming cup on one of the quiet, cozy
streets, almost in the centre of the city,--the adored daughter Birdie,
who--if not to-day then tomorrow--must marry a respected man, an
engineer, a house-owner, and member of the city-council; provided for
as she was with a respectable dowry and magnificent valuables ... Now
it was possible peacefully, without hurrying, with gusto, to dine and
sup on sweet things, for which Anna Markovna had always nourished a
great weakness; to drink after dinner good, home-made, strong
cherry-brandy; and of evenings to play a bit at "preference," for
kopeck stakes, with esteemed elderly ladies of her acquaintance, who,
even although they never as much as let it appear that they knew the
real trade of the little old woman, did in reality know it very well;
and not only did not condemn her business but even bore themselves with
respect toward those enormous percentages which she earned upon her
capital. And these charming friends, the joy and consolation of an
untroubled old age, were: one--the keeper of a loan office;
another--the proprietress of a lively hotel near the railroad; the
third--the owner of a jewelry shop, not large, but all the go and well
known among the big thieves, &c. And about them, in her turn, Anna
Markovna knew and could tell several shady and not especially
flattering anecdotes; but in their society it was not customary to talk
of the sources of the family well-being--only cleverness, daring,
success, and decent manners were esteemed.

But, even besides that, Anna Markovna, sufficiently limited in mind and
not especially developed, had some sort of an amazing inner intuition,
which during all her life permitted her instinctively but
irreproachably to avoid unpleasantnesses, and to find prudent paths in
time. And so now, after the sudden death of Roly-Poly, and the suicide
of Jennka which followed the next day, she, with her
unconsciously--penetrating soul foreguessed that fate--which had been
favouring her house of ill-fame, sending her good fortunes, turning
away all under-water shoals--was now getting ready to turn its back
upon her. And she was the first to retreat.

They say, that not long before a fire in a house, or before the wreck
of a ship, the wise, nervous rats in droves make their way into another
place. And Anna Markovna was directed by the same rat-like, animal,
prophetic intuition. And she was right: immediately right after the
death of Jennka some fearful curse seemed to hang over the house,
formerly Anna Markovna Shaibes', but now Emma Edwardovna Titzner's:
deaths, misfortunes, scandals just simply descended upon it
ceaselessly, becoming constantly more frequent, on the manner of bloody
events in Shakespeare's tragedies; as, however, was the case at all the
remaining houses of the Yamas as well.

And one of the first to die, a week after the liquidation of the
business, was Anna Markovna herself. However, this frequently happens
with people put out of their accustomed rut of thirty years: so die war
heroes, who have gone into retirement--people of insuperable health and
iron will; so quickly go off the stage former stock brokers, who have
happily gone away to rest, but have been deprived of the burning
allurement of risk and hazard; so, too, age rapidly, droop, and grow
decrepit, the great artists who leave the stage ... Her death was the
death of the just. Once at a game of cards she felt herself unwell;
begged them to wait a while for her; said that she would lie down for
just a minute; lay down in the bedroom on a bed; sighed deeply, and
passed on into another world--with a calm face, with a peaceful, senile
smile upon her lips. Isaiah Savvich--her faithful comrade on the path
of life, a trifle downtrodden, who had always played a secondary,
subordinate role--survived her only a month.

Birdie was left sole heiress. She very successfully turned the cozy
house into money, as well as the land somewheres at the edge of the
town; married, as it had been presupposed, very happily; and up to this
time is convinced that her father carried on a great commercial
business in the export of wheat through Odessa and Novorossiysk into
Asia Minor.

On the evening of the day when Jennie's corpse had been carried away to
an anatomical theatre; at an hour when not even a chance guest appears
on Yamskaya Street, all the girls, at the insistence of Emma
Edwardovna, assembled in the drawing room. Not one of them dared murmur
against the fact that on this distressing day, when they had not yet
recovered from the impression of Jennka's horrible death, they would be
compelled to dress up, as usual, in wildly festive finery, and to go
into the brightly illuminated drawing room, in order to dance, sing,
and to entice lecherous men with their denuded bodies.

And at last into the drawing room walked Emma Edwardovna herself. She
was more majestic than she had ever been--clad in a black silk gown,
from which, just like battlements, her enormous breasts jutted out,
upon which descended two fat chins; in black silk mittens; with an
enormous gold chain wound thrice around her neck, and terminating in a
ponderous medallion hanging upon the very abdomen.

"Ladies! ..." she began impressively, "I must ... Stand up!" she
suddenly called out commandingly. "When I speak, you must hear me out
standing."

They all exchanged glances with perplexity: such an order was a novelty
in the establishment. However, the girls got up one after another,
irresolutely, with eyes and mouths gasping.

"Sie sollen ... you must from this day show me that respect which you
are bound to show to your mistress," importantly and weightily began
Emma Edwardovna. "Beginning from to-day, the establishment in a legal
manner has passed from our good and respected Anna Markovna to me, Emma
Edwardovna Titzner. I hope that we will not quarrel, and that you will
behave yourselves like sensible, obedient, and well-brought-up girls. I
will be to you like in place of your own mother, but only remember,
that I will not stand for laziness, or drunkenness, or notions of any
sort; or any kind of disorder. The kind Madam Shaibes, it must be said,
held you in too loose reins. O--o, I will be far more strict.
Discipline uber alles ... before everything. It's a great pity, that
the Russian people are lazy, dirty and stoopid, do not understand this
rule; but don't you trouble yourself, I will teach you this for your
own good. I say 'for your own good,' because my main thought is to kill
the competition of Treppel. I want that my client should be a man of
substance, and not some charlatan and ragamuffin, some kind of student,
now, or ham actor. I want that my ladies should be the most beautiful,
best brought-up, the healthiest and gayest in the whole city. I won't
spare any money in order to set up swell furnishings; and you will have
rooms with silk furniture and with genuine, beautiful rugs. Your guests
will no longer be demanding beer, but only genteel Bordeaux and
Burgundy wines and champagne. Remember, that a rich, substantial,
elderly man never likes your common, ordinary, coarse love. He requires
Cayenne pepper; he requires not a trade, but an art, and you will soon
acquire this. At Treppel's they take three roubles for a visit and ten
roubles for a night ... I will establish it so, that you will receive
five roubles for a visit and twenty-five for a night. They will present
you with gold and diamonds. I will contrive it so, that you won't have
to pass on into establishments of a lower sort, und so weiter ... right
down to the soldiers' filthy den. No! Deposits will be put away and
saved with me for each one of you every month; and will be put away in
your name in a banker's office, where there will increase interest upon
them, and interest upon interest. And then, if a girl feels herself
tired, or wants to marry a respectable man, there will always be at her
disposal not a large, but a sure capital. So is it done in the best
establishments in Riga, and everywhere abroad. Let no one say about me,
that Emma Edwardovna is a spider, a vixen, a cupping glass. But for
disobedience, for laziness, for notions, for lovers on the side, I will
punish cruelly and, like nasty weeds, will throw out--on the street, or
still worse. Now I have said all that I had to. Nina, come near me. And
all the rest of you come up in turn."

Ninka irresolutely walked right up to Emma Edwardovna--and even
staggered back in amazement: Emma Edwardovna was extending her right
hand to her, with the fingers lowered downward, and slowly nearing it
to Ninka's lips.

"Kiss it! ..." impressively and firmly pronounced Emma Edwardovna,
narrowing her eyes and with head thrown back, in the magnificent pose
of a princess ascending her throne.

Ninka was so bewildered that her right arm gave a jerk in order to make
the sign of the cross; but she corrected herself, loudly smacked the
extended hand, and stepped aside. Following her Zoe, Henrietta, Vanda
and others stepped up also. Tamara alone continued to stand near the
wall with her back to the mirror; that mirror into which Jennka so
loved to gaze, in gone-by times, admiring herself as she walked back
and forth through the drawing room.

Emma Edwardovna let the imperious, obstinate gaze of a boa-constrictor
rest upon her; but the hypnosis did not work. Tamara bore this gaze
without turning away, without flinching; but without any expression on
her face. Then the new proprietress put down her hand, produced on her
face something resembling a smile, and said hoarsely:

"And with you, Tamara, I must have a little talk separately, eye to
eye. Let's go!"

"I hear you, Emma Edwardovna!" calmly answered Tamara.

Emma Edwardovna came to the little bit of a cabinet, where formerly
Anna Markovna loved to drink coffee with clotted cream; sat down on the
divan and pointed out a place opposite her to Tamara. For some time the
women kept silent; searchingly, mistrustfully eyeing each other.

"You acted rightly, Tamara," said Emma Edwardovna finally. "You did
wisely in not stepping up, on the manner of those sheep, to kiss my
hand. But just the same, I would not have let you come to that. I
wanted right there, in the presence of all, when you walked up to me,
to press your hand and to offer you the place of first housekeeper--you
understand?--my chief assistant--and on terms very advantageous to
you..."

"I thank you ..."

"No, wait a while, don't interrupt me. I will have my say to the end,
and then you will express your pros and cons. But will you explain to
me, please, when yesterday you were aiming at me out of a revolver,
what did you want? Can it possibly be, to kill me?"

"On the contrary, Emma Edwardovna," retorted Tamara respectfully, "on
the contrary; it seemed to me that you wanted to strike me."

"PJUI! What do you mean, Tamarochka! ... Have you paid no attention to
the fact that during all the time of our acquaintance I never permitted
myself, not only to hit you, but even to address you with a rude word?
... What do you mean, what do you mean? ... I don't confuse you with
this poor Russian trash ... Glory be to God, I am an experienced person
and one who knows people well. I can very well see that you are a
genuinely cultured young lady; far more educated, for example, than I
myself. You are refined, elegant, smart. I am convinced of the fact
that you even know music not at all badly. Finally, if I were to
confess, I was a little ... how shall I put it to you? ... I always was
a little in love with you. And now you wanted to shoot me! Me, a person
who could be a very good friend to you! Well, what will you say to
that?"

"Well ... nothing at all, Emma Edwardovna," retorted Tamara in the
meekest and most plausible tone. "Everything was very simple. Even
before that I found the revolver under Jennka's pillow and brought it,
in order to give it over to you. I did not want to interfere, when you
were reading the letter; but then you turned around to me--I stretched
the revolver out to you and wanted to say: 'See, Emma Edwardovna, what
I found'--for, don't you see, it surprised me awfully how the late
Jennie, having a revolver at her disposal, preferred such a horrible
death as hanging? And that's all."

The bushy, frightful eyebrows of Emma Edwardovna rose upward; the eyes
widened joyously; and a real, uncounterfeited smile spread over her
cheeks of a behemoth. She quickly extended both hands to Tamara.

"And is this all? O, MEIN KIND? And I thought ... God knows what I
imagined! Give me your hands, Tamara, your little charming white hands,
and allow me to press them auf mein Herz, upon my heart, and to kiss
you."

The kiss was so long, that Tamara with great difficulty and with
aversion barely freed herself from the embraces of Emma Edwardovna.

"Well, and now to business. And so, here are my terms: you will be
housekeeper, I give you fifteen percent, out of the clear gain. Mind
you, Tamara, fifteen percent. And, besides that, a small
salary--thirty, forty, well, if you like, fifty roubles a month.
Splendid terms--isn't that the truth? I am deeply convinced, that none
other than just you will help me to raise the house to a real height,
and make it the swellest not only in our city, but in all the south of
Russia as well. You have taste, and an understanding of things! ...
Besides that, you will always be able to entertain, and to stir up the
most exacting, the most unyielding guests. In rare instances, when a
very rich and distinguished gentleman--in Russian they call it one
"sun-fish," while with us, ein Freier,[26]--when he becomes infatuated
with you--for you are so handsome, Tamarochka," (the proprietress
looked at her with misty, humid eyes), "then I do not at all forbid you
to pass the time with him gaily; only to bear down always upon the fact
that you have no right, owing to your duty, your position, Und so
weiter, und so weiter ... aber sagen sie bitte, do you easily make
yourself understood in German?"


[26] In English, a "toff"; in American, a "swell."--trans.


"Die Deutsche Sprache beherrsche ich in geringerem Grade als die
franzosische; indes kann ich stets in einer Salon-Plauderei
mitmachen."[27]


[27] "My mastery of the German language is a trifle worse than that of
the French, but I can always keep up my end in parlor small talk."


"O, wunderbar! sie haben eine entzuckende Rigaer Aussprache, die beste
alter deutschen Aussprachen. Und also--fahren wir in unserer Sprache
fort. Sie klingt viel susser meinem Ohr, die Muttersprache. Schon?"[28]


[28] O, splendid! ... You have a bewitching Riga enunciation, the most
correct of all the German ones. And so, let us continue in my tongue.
That is far sweeter to my ear--my mother tongue. All right?"


"SCHON."[29]


[29] "All right."


"Zuletzt werden Sie nachgeben, dem Anschein nach ungern, unwillkurlich,
van der Laune des Augenblicks hingerissen--und, was die Hauptsache ist,
lautlos, heimlich vor mir. Sie verstehen? Dafur zahlen Narren ein
schweres Geld. Ubrigens brauche ich Sie wohl nicht zu lernen."[30]


[30] "In the very end you will give in, as though unwillingly, as
though against your will, as though from infatuation, a momentary
caprice, and--which is the main thing--as though on the sly from me.
You understand? For this the fools pay enormous money. However, it
seems I will not have to teach you."


"Ja, gnadige Frau. Sie sprechen gar kluge Dinge. Doch das ist schon
keine Plauderei mehr, sondern eine ernste unterhaltung. Yes, my dear
madam. You say very wise things. But this is no longer small talk; it
is, rather, serious conversation ... And for that reason it is more
convenient for me, if you will revert to the Russian language ... I am
ready to obey you."

"Furthermore! ... I was just now talking about a lover. I dare not
forbid you this pleasure, but let us be prudent: let him not appear
here, or appear as rarely as possible. I will give you days for going
out, when you will be perfectly free. But it's best if you would get
along without him entirely. It will serve your benefit too. This is
only a drag and a yoke. I am telling you this from my own personal
experience. Wait a while; after three or four years we will expand this
business so, that you will have substantial money already, and then I
vill take you into the business as a partner with full rights. After
ten years you will still be young and handsome, and then take and buy
men as much as you want to. By that time romantic follies will go out
of your head entirely, and it will not be you who will be chosen
already, but you who will be choosing with sense and with feeling, as a
connoisseur picks out precious stones. Do you agree with me?"

Tamara cast down her eyes, and smiled just the least trifle.

"You speak golden truths, Emma Edwardovna. I will drop mine, but not at
once. For that I will need some two weeks. I will try not to have him
appear here. I accept your proposition."

"And that's splendid!" said Emma Edwardovna, get ting up. "Now let us
conclude our agreement with one good, sweet kiss."

And she again embraced and took to kissing Tamara hard; who, with her
downcast eyes and naive, tender face, seemed now altogether a little
girl. But, having freed herself, finally, from the proprietress, she
asked in Russian:

"You see, Emma Edwardovna, that I agree in everything with you, but for
that I beg you to fulfill one request of mine. It will not cost you
anything. Namely, I hope that you will allow me and the other girls to
escort the late Jennie to the cemetery."

Emma Edwardovna made a wry face.

"Oh, if you want to, my darling Tamara, I have nothing against your
whim. Only what for? This will not help the dead person and will not
make her alive. Only sentimentalism alone will come out of it ... But
very well! Only, however, you know yourself that in accordance with
your law suicides are not buried, or--I don't know with certainty--it
seems they throw them into some dirty hole beyond the cemetery."

"No, do allow me to do as I want to myself. Let it be my whim, but
concede it to me, my darling, dear, bewitching Emma Edwardovna! But
then, I promise you that this will be my last whim. After this I will
be like a wise and obedient soldier at the disposal of a talented
general."

"IS' GUT!" Emma Edwardovna gave in with a sigh. "I can not deny you in
anything, my child. Let me press your hand. Let us toil and labour
together for the common good."

And, having opened the door, she called out across the drawing room
into the entrance-hall: "Simeon!" And when Simeon appeared in the room,
she ordered him weightily and triumphantly:

"Bring us a bottle of champagne here, but the real thing--Rederer demi
sec, and as cool as possible. Step lively!" she ordered the porter, who
was gaping at her with popping eyes. "We will drink with you, Tamara,
to the new business, to our brilliant and beautiful future."

They say that dead people bring luck. If there is any foundation at all
in this superstition, then on this Saturday it could not have told
plainer: the influx of visitors was out of the ordinary, even for a
Saturday night. True, the girls, passing through the corridor or past
the room that had been Jennka's increased their steps; timorously
glanced at it sidelong, out of the corner of the eye; while others even
crossed themselves. But late in the night the fear of death somehow
subsided, grew bearable. All the rooms were occupied, while in the
drawing room a new violinist was trilling without cease--a
free-and-easy, clean-shaven young man, whom the pianist with the
cataract had searched out somewhere and brought with him.

The appointment of Tamara as housekeeper was received with cold
perplexity, with taciturn dryness. But, having bided her time, Tamara
managed to whisper to Little White Manka:

"Listen, Manya! You tell them all that they shouldn't pay any attention
to the fact that I've been chosen housekeeper. It's got to be so. But
let them do as they wish, only don't let them trip me up. I am as
before--their friend and intercessor ... And further on we'll see."



CHAPTER VII.


On the next day, on Sunday, Tamara had a multitude of cares. She had
become possessed by a firm and undeviating thought to bury her friend
despite all circumstances, in the way that nearest friends are
buried--in a Christian manner, with all the sad solemnity of the burial
of secular persons.

She belonged to the number of those strange persons who underneath an
external indolent calmness, careless taciturnity, egotistical
withdrawal into one's self, conceal within them unusual energy; always
as though slumbering with half an eye, guarding itself from unnecessary
expenditure; but ready in one moment to become animated and to rush
forward without reckoning the obstacles.

At twelve o'clock she descended in a cab into the old town; rode
through it into a little narrow street giving out upon a square where
fairs were held; and stopped near a rather dirty tea-room, having
ordered the cabby to wait. In the room she made inquiries of a boy,
red-haired, with a badger hair-cut and the parting slicked down with
butter, if Senka the Depot had not come here? The serving lad, who,
judging by his refined and gallant readiness, had already known Tamara
for a long time, answered that "Nohow, ma'am; they--Semen Ignatich--had
not been in yet, and probably would not be here soon seein' as how
yesterday they had the pleasure of going on a spree at the Transvaal,
and had played at billiards until six in the morning; and that now
they, in all probabilities, are at home, in the Half Way House rooms,
and if the young lady will give the word, then it's possible to hop
over to them this here minute."

Tamara asked for paper and pencil, and wrote a few words right on the
spot. Then she gave the note to the waiter, together with a half-rouble
piece for a tip, and rode away.

The following visit was to the artiste Rovinskaya, living, as Tamara
had known even before, in the city's most aristocratic
hotel--Europe--where she occupied several rooms in a consecutive suite.
To obtain an interview with the singer was not very easy: the doorman
below said that it looked as if Ellena Victorovna was not at home;
while her own personal maid, who came out in answer to Tamara's
knocking, declared that madam had a headache, and that she was not
receiving any one. Again Tamara was compelled to write on a piece of
paper:

"I come to you from her who once, in a house which is not spoken of
loudly, cried, standing before you on her knees, after you had sung the
ballad of Dargomyzhsky. Your kind treatment of her was so splendid. Do
you remember? Do not fear--she has no need of any one's help now:
yesterday she died. But you can do one very important deed in her
memory, which will be almost no trouble to you at all. While I--am that
very person who permitted herself to say a few bitter truths to the
baroness T--, who was then with you; for which truths I am remorseful
and apologize even now."

"Hand this over!" she ordered the chambermaid.

She returned after two minutes.

"The madam requests you. They apologize very much that they will
receive you not fully dressed."

She escorted Tamara, opened a door before her and quietly shut it.

The great artiste was lying upon an enormous ottoman, covered with a
beautiful Tekin rug and a multitude of little silk pillows, and soft
cylindrical bolsters of tapestry. Her feet were wrapped up in silvery,
soft fur. Her fingers, as usual, were adorned by a multiplicity of
rings with emeralds, attracting the eyes by their deep and tender green.

The artiste was having one of her evil, black days to-day. Yesterday
morning some misunderstandings with the management had arisen; while in
the evening the public had received her not as triumphantly as she
would have desired, or, perhaps, this had simply appeared so to her;
while to-day in the newspaper the fool of a reviewer, who understood
just as much of art as a cow does of astronomy, had praised up her
rival, Titanova, in a big article. And so Ellena Victorovna had
persuaded herself that her head was aching; that there was a nervous
tic in her temples; and that her heart, time and again, seemed suddenly
to fall through somewheres.

"How do you do, my dear!" she said, a trifle nasally, in a weak, wan
voice, with pauses, as heroines on the stage speak when dying from love
and from consumption. "Sit down here ... I am glad to see you ... Only
don't be angry--I am almost dying from migraine, and from my miserable
heart. Pardon my speaking with difficulty. I think I sang too much and
tired my voice ..."

Rovinskaya, of course, had recalled both the mad escapade of that
evening; and the striking, unforgettable face of Tamara; but now, in a
bad mood, in the wearisome, prosaic light of an autumn day, this
adventure appeared to her as unnecessary bravado; something artificial,
imagined, and poignantly shameful. But she was equally sincere on that
strange, night-marish evening when she, through the might of talent,
had prostrated the proud Jennka at her feet, as well as now, when she
recalled it with fatigue, indolence, and artistic disdain. She, as well
as many distinguished artists, was always playing a role; was always
not her own self, and always regarded her words, movements, actions, as
though looking at herself from a distance with the eyes and feelings of
the spectators.

She languidly raised from the pillow her narrow, slender, beautiful
hand, and applied it to her forehead; and the mysterious, deep emeralds
stirred as though alive and began to flash with a warm, deep sparkle.

"I just read in your note that this poor ... pardon me, her name has
vanished out of my head..."

"Jennie."

"Yes, yes, thank you! I recall it now. She died? But from what?"

"She hanged herself ... yesterday morning, during the doctor's
inspection..."

The eyes of the artiste, so listless, seemingly faded, suddenly opened,
and, as through a miracle, grew animated and became shining and green,
just like her emeralds; and in them were reflected curiosity, fear and
aversion.

"Oh, my God! Such a dear, so original, handsome, so fiery ... Oh, the
poor, poor soul! ... And the reason for this was? ..."

"You know ... the disease. She told you."

"Yes, yes ... I remember, I remember ... But to hang one's self! ...
What horror! ... Why, I advised her to treat herself then. Medicine
works miracles now. I myself know several people who absolutely ...
well, absolutely cured themselves. Everybody in society knows this and
receives them ... Ah, the poor little thing, the poor little thing! ..."

"And so I've come to you, Ellena Victorovna. I wouldn't have dared to
disturb you, but I seem to be in a forest, and have no one to turn to.
You were so kind then, so touchingly attentive, so tender to us ... I
need only your advice and, perhaps, a little of your influence, your
protection..."

"Oh, please, my dear! ... All I can do, I will ... Oh, my poor head!
And then this horrible news. Tell me, in what way can I be of
assistance to you?"

"To confess, I don't know even myself yet," answered Tamara. "You see,
they carried her away to an anatomical theatre ... But until they had
made the protocol, until they made the journey--then the time for
receiving had gone by also--in general I think that they have not had a
chance to dissect her yet ... I'd like, if it's only possible, that she
should not be touched. To-day is Sunday; perhaps they'll postpone it
until to-morrow, and in the meanwhile something may be done for her..."

"I can't tell you, dear ... Wait! ... Haven't I some friend among the
professors, in the medical world? ... I will look later in my
memo-books. Perhaps we will succeed in doing something."

"Besides that," continued Tamara, "I want to bury her ... At my expense
... I was attached to her with all my heart during her life."

"I will help you with pleasure in this, materially..."

"No, no! ... A thousand thanks! ... I'll do everything myself. I would
not hesitate to have recourse to your kind heart, but this ... --you
will understand me-- ... this is something in the nature of a vow, that
a person gives to one's self and to the memory of a friend. The main
difficulty is in how we may manage to bury her with Christian rites.
She was, it seems, an unbeliever, or believed altogether poorly. And
it's only by chance that I, also, will cross my forehead. But I don't
want them to bury her just like a dog, somewhere beyond the enclosure
of the cemetery; in silence, without words, without singing ... I don't
know, will they permit burying her properly--with choristers, with
priests? For that reason I'm asking you to assist me with your advice.
Or, perhaps, you will direct me somewhere? ..."

Now the artiste had little by little become interested and was already
beginning to forget about her fatigue, and migraine, and the
consumptive heroine dying in the fourth act. She was already picturing
the role of an intercessor, the beautiful figure of genius merciful to
a fallen woman. This was original, extravagant, and at the same time so
theatrically touching! Rovinskaya, like many of her confreres, did not
let one day pass by--and, if it were possible, she would not have let
pass even one hour--without standing out from the crowd, without
compelling people to talk about her: to-day she would participate in a
pseudo-patriotic manifestation, while to-morrow she would read from a
platform, for the benefit of revolutionaries exiled to Siberia,
inciting verses, full of fire and vengeance. She loved to sell flowers
at carnivals, in riding academies; and to sell champagne at large
balls. She would think up her little bon mots beforehand, which on the
morrow would be caught up by the whole town. She desired that
everywhere and always the crowd should look only at her, repeat her
name, love her Egyptian, green eyes, her rapacious and sensuous mouth;
her emeralds on the slender and nervous hands.

"I can't grasp it all properly at once," said she after a silence. "But
if a person wants anything hard, he will attain it, and I want to
fulfill your wish with all my soul. Stay, stay! ... I think a glorious
thought is coming into my head ... For then, on that evening, if I
mistake not, there was with us, beside the baroness and me..."

"I don't know them ... One of them walked out of the cabinet later than
all of you. He kissed Jennie's hand and said, that if she should ever
need him, he was always at her service; and gave her his card, but
asked her not to show it to any strangers. But later all this passed
off somehow and was forgotten. In some way I never found the time to
ask Jennie who this man was; while yesterday I searched for the card
but couldn't find it..."

"Allow me, allow me! ... I have recalled it!" the artiste suddenly
became animated. "Aha!" exclaimed she, rapidly getting off the ottoman.
"It was Ryazanov... Yes, yes, yes... The advocate Ernst Andreievich
Ryazanov. We will arrange everything right away. That's a splendid
thought!"

She turned to the little table upon which the telephone apparatus was
standing, and rang:

"Central--18-35 please ... Thank you ... Hello! ... Ask Ernst
Andreievich to the telephone ... The artiste Rovinskaya ... Thank you
... Hello! ... Is this you, Ernst Andreievich? Very well, very well,
but now it isn't a matter of little hands. Are you free? ... Drop the
nonsense! ... The matter is serious. Couldn't you come up to me for a
quarter of an hour? ...No, no ... Yes ... Only as a kind and a clever
man. You slander yourself ... Well, that's splendid, really ... Well, I
am not especially well-dressed, but I have a justification--a fearful
headache. No, a lady, a girl ... You will see for yourself, come as
soon as possible ... Thanks! Au revior! ..."

"He will come right away," said Rovinskaya, hanging up the receiver.
"He is a charming and awfully clever man. Everything is possible to
him, even the almost impossible to man ... But in the meantime ...
pardon me--your name?"

Tamara was abashed, but then smiled at herself:

"Oh, it isn't worth your disturbing yourself, Ellena Victorovna! Mon
nomme de guerre is Tamara but just so--Anastasia Nikolaevna. It's all
the same--call me even Tamara ... I am more used to it..."

"Tamara! ... That is so beautiful! ... So now, Mile. Tamara, perhaps
you will not refuse to breakfast with me? Perhaps Ryazanov will also do
so with us..."

"I have no time, forgive me."

"That's a great pity! ... I hope, some other time ... But, perhaps you
smoke," and she moved toward her a gold case, adorned with an enormous
letter E out of the same emeralds she adored.

Ryazanov came very soon.

Tamara, who had not examined him properly on that evening, was struck
by his appearance. Tall of stature, almost of an athletic build, with a
broad brow, like Beethoven's, tangled with artistically negligent
black, grizzled hair; with the large fleshy mouth of the passionate
orator; with clear, expressive, clever, mocking eyes--he had such an
appearance as catches one's eyes among thousands--the appearance of a
vanquisher of souls and a conqueror of hearts; deeply ambitious, not
yet oversated with life; still fiery in love and never retreating
before a beautiful indiscretion ... "If fate had not broken me up so,"
reflected Tamara, watching his movements with enjoyment, "then here's a
man to whom I'd throw my life; jestingly, with delight, with a smile,
as a plucked rose is thrown to the beloved..."

Ryazanov kissed Rovinskaya's hand, then with unconstrained simplicity
exchanged greetings with Tamara and said:

"We are acquainted even from that mad evening, when you dumbfounded all
of us with your knowledge of the French language, and when you spoke.
That which you said was, between us, paradoxical; but then, how it was
said! ... To this day I remember the tone of your voice, so warm,
expressive ... And so, Ellena Victorovna," he turned to Rovinskaya
again, sitting down on a small, low chair without a back, "in what can
I be of use to you? I am at your disposal."

Rovinskaya, with a languid air, again applied the tips of her fingers
to her temples.

"Ah, really, I am so upset, my dear Ryazanov," said she, intentionally
extinguishing the sparkle of her magnificent eyes, "and then, my
miserable head ... May I trouble you to pass me the pyramidon what-not
from that table ... Let Mile. Tamara tell you everything ... I can not,
I am not able to ... This is so horrible! ..."

Tamara briefly, lucidly, narrated to Ryazanov all the sad history of
Jennka's death; recalled also about the card left with Jennie; and also
how the deceased had reverently preserved this card; and--in
passing--about his promise to help in case of need.

"Of course, of course!" exclaimed Ryanzanov, when she had finished; and
at once began pacing the room back and forth with big steps, ruffling
and tossing back his picturesque hair through habit. "You are
performing a magnificent, sincere, comradely action! That is good! ...
That is very good! ... I am yours ... You say--a permit for the funeral
... Hm ... God grant me memory!..."

He rubbed his forehead with his palm.

"Hm ... hm ... If I'm not mistaken--Monocanon, rule one hundred seventy
... one hundred seventy ... eight ... Pardon me, I think I remember it
by heart ... Pardon me! ... Yes, so! 'If a man slayeth himself, he
shall not be chanted over, nor shall a mass be said for him, unless he
were greatly astonied, that is, to wit, out of his mind'... Hm ... See
St. Timothy Alexandrine ... And so, my dear miss, the first thing ...
You say, that she was taken down from the noose by your doctor--i.e.,
the official city doctor ... His name? ..."

"Klimenko."

"It seems I've met him somewheres ... All right ... Who is the district
inspector in your precinct station?"

"Kerbesh."

"Aha, I know ... Such a strong, virile fellow, with a red beard in a
fan ... Yes?"

"Yes, that is he."

"I know him very well! There, now, is somebody that a sentence to hard
labour is hankering after ... Some ten times he fell into my hands; and
always, the skunk, gave me the slip somehow. Slippery, just like an
eel-pout ... We will have to slip him a little present. Well, now! And
then the anatomical theatre ... When do you want to bury her?"

"Really, I don't know ... I would like to do it as soon as possible ...
if possible, to-day."

"Hm ... To-day ... I don't vouch for it--we will hardly manage it ...
But here is my memorandum book. Well, take even this page, where are my
friends under the letter T--just write the very same way: Tamara, and
your address. In two hours I will give you an answer. Does that suit
you? But I repeat again, that probably you will have to postpone the
burial till to-morrow ... Then--pardon my unceremoniousness--is money
needed, perhaps?"

"No, thank you!" refused Tamara. "I have money. Thanks for your
interest! ... It's time for me to be going. I thank you with all my
heart, Ellen Victorovna! ..."

"Then expect it in two hours," repeated Ryazanov, escorting her to the
door.

Tamara did not at once ride away to the house. She turned into a little
coffee-house on Catholicheskaya Street on the way. There Senka the
Depot was waiting for her--a gay fellow with the appearance of a
handsome Tzigan; not black--but blue-haired; black-eyed, with yellow
whites; resolute and daring in his work; the pride of local thieves--a
great celebrity in their world, the first leader of experience, and a
constant, all-night gamester.

He stretched out his hand to her, without getting up. But in the way in
which he so carefully, with a certain force, seated her in her place
could be seen a broad, good-natured endearment.

"How do you do, Tamarochka! Haven't seen you in a long time--I grew
weary ... Do you want coffee?"

"No! Business first ... To-morrow we bury Jennka ... She hanged
herself..." "Yes, I read it in a newspaper," carelessly drawled out
Senka through his teeth. "What's the odds? ..."

"Get fifty roubles for me at once."

"Tamarochka, my sweetheart--I haven't a kopeck! ..."

"I'm telling you--get them!" ordered Tamara, imperiously, but without
getting angry.

"Oh, my Lord! ... Yours, now, I didn't touch, like I promised; but
then, it's Sunday ... The savings banks are closed..."

"Let them! ... Hock the savings book! In general, it's up to you!"

"Why do you need this, my dearie?"

"Isn't it all the same to you, you fool? ... For the funeral."

"Oh! Well, all right then!" sighed Senka. "Then I'd best bring it to
you myself in the evening ... Right, Tamarochka? ... It's so very hard
for me to stand it without you! Oh, my dearie, how I'd kiss and kiss
you; I wouldn't let you close your eyes! ... Shan't I come? ..."

"No, no! ... You do as I ask you, Senechka ... Give in to me. But you
mustn't come--I'm housekeeper now."

"Well, what d'you know about that! ..." drawled out the astonished
Senka and even whistled.

"Yes. And don't you come to me in the meantime. But afterwards,
afterwards, sweetheart, whatever you desire ... There will be an end to
everything soon!"

"Oh, if you wouldn't make me suffer so! Wind things up as soon as you
can!"

"And I will wind 'em up! Wait one little week more, dearie! Did you get
the powders?"

"The powders are a trifle!" discontentedly answered Senka. "And it
isn't powders at all, but pills."

"And you're sure when you say that they'll dissolve at once in water?"

"Sure, I saw it myself."

"But he won't die? Listen, Senya: he won't die? Is that right?..."

"Nothing will happen to him ... He'll only snooze for a while ... Oh,
Tamara!" exclaimed he in a passionate whisper; and even suddenly
stretched himself hard from an unbearable emotion, so that his joints
cracked. "Finish it, for God's sake, as soon as possible! ... Let's do
the trick and--bye-bye! Wherever you want to go to, sweet-heart! I am
all at your will: if you want to, we start off for Odessa; if you want
to--abroad. Finish it up as soon as possible! ..."

"Soon, soon..."

"You just wink at me, and I'm all ready ... with powders, with
instruments, with passports ... And then--choo-choo! The machine is
off! Tamarochka! My angel! ... My precious, my sparkler! ..."

And he, always restrained, having forgotten that he could be seen by
strangers, already wanted to embrace and hug Tamara to himself.

"Now, now!" ... rapidly and deftly, like a cat, Tamara jumped off the
chair. "Afterwards ... afterwards, Senechka, afterwards, little dearie!
... I'll be all yours--there won't be any denial, nor forbiddance. I'll
myself make you weary of me ... Good-bye, my little silly!"

And with a quick movement of her hand having rumpled up his black
curls, she hastily went out of the coffee-house.



CHAPTER VIII.


On the next day, on Monday, toward ten o'clock in the morning, almost
all the inmates of the house--formerly Madam Shaibes', but now Emma
Edwardovna Titzner's--rode off in cabs to the centre of the city, to
the anatomical theatre--all, except the far-sighted, much-experienced
Henrietta; the cowardly and insensible Ninka; and the feeble-minded
Pashka, who for two days now had not gotten up from her bed, kept
silent, and to questions directed at her answered by a beatific,
idiotical smile and with some sort of inarticulate animal lowing. If
she were not given to eat, she would not even ask; but if food were
brought, she would eat with greediness, right with her hands. She
became so slovenly and forgetful, that it was necessary to remind her
of certain necessary functions in order to avoid unpleasantness. Emma
Edwardovna did not send out Pashka to her steady guests, who asked for
Pashka every day. Even before, she had had such periods of a detriment
of consciousness; however, they had not lasted long, and Emma
Edwardovna in any case determined to tide it over: Pashka was a
veritable treasure for the establishment, and its truly horrible victim.

The anatomical theatre represented a long, one-storied, dark-gray
building, with white frames around the windows and doors. There was in
its very exterior something low, pressed down, receding into the
ground, almost weird. The girls one after the other stopped near the
gates and timidly passed through the yard into the chapel; nestled down
at the other end of the yard, in a corner, painted over in the same
dark gray colour, with white frame-work.

The door was locked. It was necessary to go after the watchman. Tamara
with difficulty sought out a bald, ancient old man, grown over as
though with bog moss by entangled gray bristles; with little rheumy
eyes and an enormous, reddish, dark-blue granulous nose, on the manner
of a cookie.

He unlocked the enormous hanging lock, pushed away the bolt and opened
the rusty, singing door. The cold, damp air together with the mixed
smell of the dampness of stones, frankincense, and dead flesh breathed
upon the girls. They fell back, huddling closely into a timorous flock.
Tamara alone went after the watchman without wavering.

It was almost dark in the chapel. The autumn light penetrated scantily
through the little, narrow prison-like window, barred with an iron
grating. Two or three images without chasubles, dark and without
visages, hung upon the walls. Several common board coffins were
standing right on the floor, upon wooden carrying shafts. One in the
middle was empty, and the taken-off lid was lying alongside.

"What sort is yours, now?" asked the watchman hoarsely and took some
snuff. "Do you know her face or not?"

"I know her."

"Well, then, look! I'll show them all to you. Maybe this one? ..."

And he took the lid off one of the coffins, not yet fastened down with
nails. A wrinkled old woman, dressed any old way in her tatters, with a
swollen blue face, was lying there. Her left eye was closed; while the
right was staring and gazing immovably and frightfully, having already
lost its sparkle and resembling mica that had lain for a long time.

"Not this one, you say? Well, look ... Here's more for you!" said the
watchman; and one after the other, opening the lids, exhibited the
decedents--all, probably, the poorest of the poor: picked up on the
streets, intoxicated, crushed, maimed and mutilated, beginning to
decompose. Certain ones had already begun to show on their hands and
faces bluish-green spots, resembling mould--signs of putrefaction. One
man, without a nose, with an upper hare-lip cloven in two, had worms,
like little white dots, swarming upon his sore-eaten face. A woman who
had died from hydropsy, reared like a whole mountain from her board
couch, bulging out the lid.

All of them had been hastily sewn up after autopsy, repaired, and
washed by the moss-covered watchman and his mates. What affair was it
of theirs if, at times, the brain got into the stomach; while the skull
was stuffed with the liver and rudely joined with the help of sticking
plaster to the head? The watchmen had grown used to everything during
their night-marish, unlikely, drunken life; and, by the bye, almost
never did their voiceless clients prove to have either relatives or
acquaintances...

A heavy odour of carrion--thick, cloying, and so viscid that to Tamara
it seemed as though it was covering all the living pores of her body
just like glue--stood in the chapel.

"Listen, watchman," asked Tamara, "what's this crackling under my feet
all the time?"

"Crack-ling?" the watchman questioned her over again, and scratched
himself, "why, lice, it must be," he said indifferently. "It's fierce
how these beasties do multiply on the corpseses! ... But who you
lookin' for--man or woman?"

"A woman," answered Tamara.

"And that means that all these ain't yours?"

"No, they're all strangers."

"There, now! ... That means I have to go to the morgue. When did they
bring her, now?"

"On Saturday, grandpa," and Tamara at this got out her purse.
"Saturday, in the daytime. There's something for tobacco for you, my
dear sir!"

"That's the way! Saturday, you say in the daytime? And what did she
have on?"

"Well, almost nothing; a little night blouse, an underskirt ... both
the one and the other white."

"So-o! That must be number two hundred and seventeen ... How is she
called, now? ..."

"Susannah Raitzina."

"I'll go and see--maybe she's there. Well, now, mam'selles," he turned
to the young ladies, who were dully huddling in the doorway,
obstructing the light. "Which of you are the braver? If your friend
came the day before yesterday, then that means that she's now lying in
the manner that the Lord God has created all mankind--that is, without
anything ... Well, who of you will be the bolder? Which two of you will
come? She's got to be dressed..."

"Well, now, you go, Manka," Tamara ordered her mate, who, grown chill
and pale from horror and aversion, was staring at the dead with widely
open, limpid eyes. "Don't be afraid, you fool--I'll go with you! Who's
to go, if not you?

"Well, am I ... well, am I? ..." babbled Little White Manka with barely
moving lips. "Let's go. It's all the same to me..."

The morgue was right here, behind the chapel--a low, already entirely
dark basement, into which one had to descend by six steps.

The watchman ran off somewhere, and returned with a candle-end and a
tattered book. When he had lit the candle, the girls saw a score of
corpses that were lying directly on the stone floor in regular
rows--extended, yellow, with faces distorted by pre-mortal convulsions,
with skulls split open, with clots of blood on their faces, with
grinning teeth.

"Right away ... right away..." the watchman was saying, guiding his
finger over the headings. "The day before yesterday ... that means, on
Saturday ... on Saturday ... What did you say her name was, now?"

"Raitzina, Susannah," answered Tamara.

"Rai-tzina Susannah ..." said the watchman, just as though he were
singing, "Raitzina, Susannah. Just as I said. Two hundred seventeen."
Bending over the dead and illuminating them with the guttered and
dripping candle-end, he passed from one to another. Finally he stopped
before a corpse, upon whose foot was written in ink, in large black
figures: 217.

"Here's the very same one! Let me, I'll carry her out into the little
corridor and run after her stuff ... Wait a while! ..."

Grunting, but still with an ease amazing in one of his age, he lifted
up the corpse of Jennka by the feet, and threw it upon his back with
the head down, as though it were a carcass of meat, or a bag of
potatoes.

It was a trifle lighter in the corridor; and, when the watchman had
lowered his horrible burden to the floor, Tamara for a moment covered
her face with her hands, while Manka turned away and began to cry.

"If you need anything, say so," the watchman was instructing them. "If
you want to dress the deceased as is fitting, then we can get
everything that's required--cloth of gold, a little wreath, a little
image, a shroud, gauze--we keep everything ... You can buy a thing or
two in, clothing ... Slippers, too, now..."

Tamara gave him money and went out into the air, letting Manka go in
front of her.

After some time two wreaths were brought; one from Tamara, of asters
and georginas with an inscription in black letters upon a white ribbon:
"To Jennie from a friend;" the other was from Ryazanov, all of red
flowers; upon its red ribbon stood in gold characters: "Through
suffering shall we be purified." He also sent a short little note,
expressing commiseration and apologizing for not being able to come, as
he was occupied with an undeferrable business meeting.

Then came the singers who had been invited by Tamara--fifteen men from
the very best choir in the city.

The precentor, in a gray overcoat and a gray hat, all gray, somehow, as
though covered with dust, but with long, straight moustaches, like a
military person's, recognized Verka; opened his eyes wide in
astonishment, smiled slightly and winked at her. Two or three times a
month, and sometimes even oftener, he visited Yamskaya Street with
ecclesiastical academicians of his acquaintance, just the same
precentors as he, and some psalmists; and having usually made a full
review of all the establishments, always wound up with the house of
Anna Markovna, where he invariably chose Verka.

He was a merry and sprightly man; danced in a lively manner, in a
frenzy; and executed such figures during the dances that all those
present just melted from laughter.

Following the singers came the two-horsed catafalque, that Tamara had
hired; black, with white plumes, and seven torch-bearers along with it.
They also brought a white, glazed brocade coffin; and a pedestal for
it, stretched over with black calico. Without hurrying, with habitually
deft movements, they put away the deceased into the coffin; covered her
face with gauze; curtained off the corpse with cloth of gold, and lit
the candles--one at the head and two at the feet.

Now, in the yellow, trembling light of the candles, the face of Jennka
became more clearly visible. The lividness had almost gone off it,
remaining only here and there on the temples, on the nose, and between
the eyes, in party-coloured, uneven, serpentine spots. Between the
parted dark lips slightly glimmered the whiteness of the teeth, and the
tip of the bitten tongue was still visible. Out of the open collar of
the neck, which had taken on the colour of old parchment, showed two
stripes: one dark--the mark of the rope; another red--the sign of the
scratch, inflicted by Simeon during the encounter--just like two
fearful necklaces. Tamara approached and with a safety pin pinned
together the lace on the collar, at the very chin.

The clergy came: a little gray priest in gold spectacles, in a
skull-cap; a lanky, tall, thin-haired deacon with a sickly, strangely
dark and yellow face, as though of terra-cotta; and a sprightly,
long-skirted psalmist, animatedly exchanging on his way some gay,
mysterious signs with his friends among the singers.

Tamara walked up to the priest:

"Father," she asked, "how will you perform the funeral service; all
together or each one separate?"

"We perform the funeral service for all of them conjointly," answered
the priest, kissing the stole, and extricating his beard and hair out
of its slits. "Usually, that is. But by special request, and by special
agreement, it's also possible to do it separately. What death did the
deceased undergo?"

"She's a suicide, father."

"Hm ... a suicide? ... But do you know, young person, that by the
canons of the church there isn't supposed to be any funeral service ...
there ought not to be any? Of course, there are exceptions--by special
intercession..."

"Right here, father, I have certificates from the police and from the
doctor ... She wasn't in her right mind ... in a fit of insanity..."

Tamara extended to the priest two papers, sent her the evening before
by Ryazanov, and on top of them three bank-notes of ten roubles each.
"I would beg of you, father, to do everything fitting--Christian like.
She was a splendid being, and suffered a very great deal. And won't you
be so kind--go along with her to the cemetery, and there hold one more
little mass..."

"It's all right for me to go along with her to the cemetery, but in the
cemetery itself I have no right to hold service--there is a clergy of
their own ... And also here's how, young person; in view of the fact
that I'll have to return once more after the rest, won't you, now ...
add another little ten-spot."

And having taken the money from Tamara's hand, the priest blessed the
thurible, which had been brought up by the psalmist, and began to walk
around the body of the deceased with thurification. Then, having
stopped at her head, he in a meek, wontedly sad voice, uttered:

"Blessed is our God. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall
be, world without end!"

The psalmist began pattering: Holy God, Most Holy Trinity and Our
Father poured out like peas.

Quietly, as though confiding some deep, sad, occult mystery, the
singers began in a rapid, sweet recitative: "With Thy blessed saints in
glory everlasting, the soul of this Thy servant save, set at rest;
preserving her in the blessed life, as Thou hast loving kindness for
man."

The psalmist distributed the candles; and they with warm, soft, living
little flames, one after the other, were lit in the heavy, murky air,
tenderly and transparently illuminating the faces of the women.

Harmoniously the mournful melody flowed forth, and like the sighs of
aggrieved angels sounded the great words:

"Rest, oh God, this Thy servant and establish her in Heaven, wherein
the faces of the just and the saints of the Lord shine like unto
lights; set at rest this Thy servant who hath fallen asleep, contemning
all her trespasses."

Tamara was listening intently to the long familiar, but now long
unheard words, and was smiling bitterly. The passionate, mad words of
Jennka came back to her, full of such inescapable despair and unbelief
... Would the all-merciful, all-gracious Lord forgive or would He not
forgive her foul, fumy, embittered, unclean life? All-Knowing--can it
be that Thou wouldst repulse her--the pitiful rebel, the involuntary
libertine; a child that had uttered blasphemies against Thy radiant,
holy name? Thou--Benevolence, Thou--our Consolation!

A dull, restrained wailing, suddenly passing into a scream, resounded
in the chapel. "Oh, Jennechka!" This was Little White Manka, standing
on her knees and stuffing her mouth with her handkerchief, beating
about in tears. And the remaining mates, following her, also got down
upon their knees; and the chapel was filled with sighs, stifled
lamentations and sobbings ...

"Thou alone art deathless, Who hast created and made man; out of the
dust of the earth were we made, and unto the same dust shall we return;
as Thou hast ordained me, creating me and saying unto me, dust thou art
and unto dust shalt thou return."

Tamara was standing motionless and with an austere face that seemed
turned to stone. The light of the candle in thin gold spirals shone in
her bronze-chestnut hair; while she could not tear her eyes away from
the lines of Jennka's moist, yellow forehead and the tip of her nose,
which were visible to Tamara from her place.

"Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return ..." she was mentally
repeating the words of the canticles. "Could it be that that would be
all; only earth alone and nothing more? And which is better: nothing,
or even anything at all--even the most execrable--but merely to be
existing?"

And the choir, as though affirming her thoughts, as though taking away
from her the last consolation, was uttering forlornly:

    "And all mankind may go..."

They sang Eternal Memory through, blew out the candles, and the little
blue streams spread in the air, blue from frankincense. The priest read
through the farewell prayer; and afterwards, in the general silence,
scooped up some sand with the little shovel handed to him by the
psalmist, and cast it cross-wise upon the corpse, on top of the gauze.
And at this he was uttering great words, filled with the austere, sad
inevitability of a mysterious universal law: "The world is the Lord's,
and its fulfillment the universe, and all that dwelleth therein."

The girls escorted their dead mate to the very cemetery. The road
thither intersected the very entrance to Yamskaya Street. It would have
been possible to turn to the left through it, and that would have been
almost half as short; but dead people were not usually carried through
Yamskaya.

Nevertheless, out of almost all the doors their inmates poured out
towards the cross roads, in whatever they had on: in slippers upon bare
feet, in night gowns, with kerchiefs upon their heads; they crossed
themselves, sighed, wiped their eyes with their handkerchiefs and the
edges of their jackets.

The weather cleared up ... The cold sun shone brightly from a cold sky
of radiant blue enamel; the last grass showed its green, the withered
leaves on the trees glowed, showing their pink and gold ... And in the
crystal clear, cold air solemnly, and mournfully reverberated the
sonorous sounds: "Holy God, Holy Almighty, Holy Everliving, have mercy
upon us!" And with what flaming thirst for life, not to be satiated by
aught; with what longing for the momentary--transient like unto a
dream--joy and beauty of being; with what horror before the eternal
silence of death, sounded the ancient refrain of John Damascene!

Then a brief requiem at the grave, the dull thud of the earth against
the lid of the coffin ... a small fresh hillock ...

"And here's the end!" said Tamara to her comrades, when they were left
alone. "Oh, well, girls--an hour earlier, an hour later! ... I'm sorry
for Jennka! ... Horribly sorry! ... We won't ever find such another.
And yet, my children, it's far better for her in her pit than for us in
ours ... Well, let's cross ourselves for the last time--and home! ..."

And when they all were already nearing their house, Tamara suddenly
uttered pensively the strange, ominous words:

"And we won't be long together without her: soon we will be scattered,
by the wind far and wide. Life is good! ... Look: there's the sun, the
blue sky ... How pure the air is ... Cobwebs are floating--it's Indian
summer ... How good it is in this world! ... Only we alone--we
wenches--are wayside rubbish."

The girls started off on their journey. But suddenly from somewhere on
the side, from behind a monument, a tall sturdy student detached
himself. He caught up with Liubka and softly touched her sleeve. She
turned around and beheld Soloviev. Her face instantaneously turned
pale, her eyes opened wide and her lips began to tremble.

"Go away!" she said quietly, with infinite hatred.

"Liuba ... Liubochka ..." Soloviev began to mumble. "I searched ...
searched for you ... I ... Honest to God, I'm not like that one ...
like Lichonin ... I'm in earnest ... even right now, even to-day.

"Go away!" still more quietly pronounced Liubka.

"I'm serious ... I'm serious ... I'm not trifling, I want to marry..."

"Oh, you creature!" suddenly squealed out Liubka, and quickly, hard,
peasant-like, hit Soloviev on the cheek with her palm.

Soloviev stood a little while, slightly swaying. His eyes were like
those of a martyr ... The mouth half-open, with mournful creases at the
sides.

"Go away! Go away! I can't bear to look at all of you!" Liubka was
screaming with rage. "Hangmen, swine!"

Soloviev unexpectedly covered his face with his palms and went back,
without knowing his way, with uncertain steps, like one drunk.



CHAPTER IX.


And in reality, the words of Tamara proved to be prophetic: since the
funeral of Jennie not more than two weeks had passed, but during this
brief space of time so many events burst over the house of Emma
Edwardovna as do not befall sometimes even in half a decade.

On the very next day they had to send off to a charitable
institution--into a lunatic asylum--the unfortunate Pashka, who had
fallen completely into feeble-mindedness. The doctors said that there
was no hope of her ever improving. And in reality, as they had placed
her in the hospital on the floor, upon a straw mattress, so did she
remain upon it without getting up from it to her very death; submerging
more and more into the black, bottomless abyss of quiet
feeble-mindedness; but she died only half a year later, from bed-sores
and infection of the blood.

The next turn was Tamara's.

For about half a month she fulfilled the duties of a housekeeper, was
all the time unusually active, energetic; and somehow unwontedly wound
up with that inner something of her own, which was so strongly
fomenting within her. On a certain evening she vanished, and did not
return at all to the establishment...

The matter of fact was, that in the city she had carried on a
protracted romance with a certain notary--an elderly man, sufficiently
rich, but exceedingly niggardly. Their acquaintance had been scraped up
yet a year back, when they had been by chance travelling together on
the same steamer to a suburban monastery, and had begun a conversation.
The clever, handsome Tamara; her enigmatic, depraved smile; her
entertaining conversation; her modest manner of deporting herself, had
captivated the notary. She had even then marked down for herself this
elderly man with picturesque gray hair, with seigniorial manners; an
erstwhile jurisconsult and a man of good family. She did not tell him
about her profession--it pleased her rather to mystify him. She only
hazily, in a few words, hinted at the fact that she was a married lady
of the middle class; that she was unfortunate in domestic life, since
her husband was a gambler and a despot; and that even by fate she was
denied such a consolation as children. At parting she refused to pass
an evening with the notary, and did not want to meet him; but then she
allowed him to write to her--general delivery, under a fictitious name.
A correspondence commenced between them, in which the notary flaunted
his style and the ardency of his feelings, worthy of the heroes of Paul
Bourget. She maintained the same withdrawn, mysterious tone.

Then, being touched by the entreaties of the notary for a meeting, she
made an appointment in Prince Park; was charming, witty, and
languishing; but refused to go with him anywhere.

So she tortured her adorer and skillfully inflamed within him the last
passion, which at times is stronger and more dangerous than first love.
Finally, this summer, when the family of the notary had gone abroad,
she decided to visit his rooms; and here for the first time gave
herself up to him with tears, with twinges of her conscience, and at
the same time with such ardour and tenderness, that the poor secretary
lost his head completely--was plunged entirely into that senile love,
which no longer knows either reason or retrospect; which compels a man
to lose the last thing--the fear of appearing ridiculous.

Tamara was very sparing of her meetings. This inflamed her impatient
friend still more. She consented to receiving from him bouquets of
flowers, a modest breakfast in a suburban restaurant; but indignantly
refused all expensive presents, and bore herself so skillfully and
subtly, that the notary never got up the courage to offer her money.
When he once stammered out something about a separate apartment and
other conveniences, she looked him in the eyes so intently, haughtily,
and sternly, that he, like a boy, turned red in his picturesque gray
hairs, and kissed her hands, babbling incoherent apologies.

So did Tamara play with him, and feel the ground more and more under
her. She already knew now on what days the notary kept in his fireproof
iron safe especially large sums. However, she did not hurry, fearing to
spoil the business through clumsiness or prematurity.

And so right now this long expected day arrived; a great contractors'
fair had just ended, and all the notaries' offices were transacting
deals for enormous suras every day. Tamara knew that the notary usually
carried off the money to the bank on Saturdays, in order to be
perfectly free on Sunday. And for that reason on Friday the notary
received the following letter:

"My dear, my adored King Solomon! Thy Shoilamite, thy girl of the
vineyard, greets thee with burning kisses ... Dear, to-day is a holiday
for me, and I am infinitely happy. To-day I am free, as well as you. HE
has gone away to Homel for twenty-four hours on business matters, and I
want to pass all the evening and ALL the night in your place. Ah, my
beloved! All my life I am ready to pass on my knees before thee. I do
not want to go anywhere. The suburban road-houses and cabarets have
bored me long ago. I want you, only you ... you ... you alone. Await
me, then, in the evening, my joy, about ten-eleven-o'clock! Prepare a
great quantity of cold white wine, a canteloupe, and sugared chestnuts.
I am burning, I am dying from desire! It seems to me, I will tire you
out! I can not wait! My head is spinning around, my face burning, and
my hands as cold as ice. I embrace you. Thy Valentina."

That very same evening, about eleven o'clock, she artfully, through
conversation, led the notary into showing her his fireproof safe;
playing upon his odd, pecuniary vanity. Rapidly gliding with her glance
over the shelves and the movable boxes, Tamara turned away with a
skillfully executed yawn and said:

"Fie, what a bore!"

And, having embraced the notary's neck, she whispered with her lips at
his very ears, burning him with her hot breath:

"Lock up this nastiness, my treasure! Let's go! .... Let's go! ..."

And she was the first to go out into the dining room.

"Come here, now, Volodya!" she cried out from there. "Come quicker! I
want wine and after that love, love, love without end! ... No! Drink it
all, to the very bottom! Just as we will drain our love to the very
bottom today!"

The notary clinked glasses with her and at one gulp drank off his
glass. Then he drew in his lips and remarked:

"Strange ... The wine seems to be sort of bitter to-day."

"Yes!" agreed Tamara and looked attentively at her lover. "This wine is
always the least bit bitter. For such is the nature of Rhine wines..."

"But to-day it's especially strong," said the notary. "No, thanks, my
dear--I don't want any more!"

After five minutes he fell asleep, sitting in his chair; his head
thrown back against its back, and his lower jaw hanging down. Tamara
waited for some time and started to awaken him. He was without motion.
Then she took the lit candle, and, having placed it on the window sill
giving out upon the street, went out into the entrance hall and began
to listen, until she heard light steps on the stairs. Almost without a
sound she opened the door and let in Senka, dressed like a real
gentleman, with a brand new leather hand-bag in his hands.

"Ready?" asked the thief in a whisper.

"He's sleeping," answered Tamara, just as quietly. "Look and here are
the keys."

They passed together into the study with the fireproof safe. Having
looked over the lock with the aid of a flashlight, Senka swore in a low
voice:

"The devil take him, the old animal! ... I just knew that it would be a
lock with a combination. Here you've got to know the letters ... It's
got to be melted with electricity, and the devil knows how much time
it'll take."

"It's not necessary," retorted Tamara hurriedly. "I know the word ...
Pick it out: m-o-r-t-g-a-g-. Without the e."

After ten minutes they descended the steps together; went in purposely
broken lines through several streets, hiring a cab to the depot only in
the old city; and rode out of the city with irreproachable passports of
citizens and landed proprietors--the Stavnitzkys, man and wife. For a
long time nothing was heard of them until, a year later, Senka was
caught in Moscow in a large theft, and gave Tamara away during the
interrogation. They were both tried and sentenced to imprisonment.

Following Tamara came the turn of the naive, trusting, and amorous
Verka. For a long time already she had been in love with a
semi-military man, who called himself a civic clerk in the military
department. His name was Dilectorsky. In their relations Verka was the
adoring party; while he, like an important idol, condescendingly
received the worship and the proffered gifts. Even from the end of
summer Verka noticed that her beloved was becoming more and more cold
and negligent; and, talking with her, was dwelling in thought somewhere
far, far away. She tortured herself, was jealous, questioned him, but
always received in answer some indeterminate phrases, some ominous
hints at a near misfortune, at a premature grave ...

In the beginning of September he finally confessed to her, that he had
embezzled official money, big money, something around three thousand;
and that after five days he would be checked up, and that he,
Dilectorsky, was threatened with disgrace, the court, and finally, hard
labour ... Here the civic clerk of the military department burst into
sobs, clasping his head, and exclaimed:

"My poor mother! ... What will become of her? She will not be able to
sustain this degradation ... No! Death is a thousand times better than
these hellish tortures of a being guilty of naught."

Although he was expressing himself, as always, in the style of the dime
novels (in which way he had mainly enticed the trusting Verka), still,
the theatrical thought of suicide, once arisen, no longer forsook him.

Somehow one day he was promenading for a long time with Verka in Prince
Park. Already greatly devastated by autumn, this wonderful ancient park
glistened and played with the magnificent tones of the foliage,
blossoming out into colours: crimson, purple, lemon, orange and the
deep cherry colour of old, settled wine; and it seemed that the cold
air was diffusing sweet odours, like precious wine. And yet, a fine
impress, a tender aroma of death, was wafted from the bushes, from the
grass, from the trees.

Dilectorsky waxed tender; gave his feelings a free rein, was moved over
himself, and began to weep. Verka wept a bit with him, too.

"To-day I will kill myself!" said Dilectorsky finally. "All is over!
..."

"My own, don't! ... My precious, don't! ..."

"It's impossible," answered Dilectorsky sombrely. "The cursed money!
... Which is dearer--honour or life?!"

"My dear..."

"Don't speak, don't speak, Annetta!" (He, for some reason, preferred to
the common name of Verka the aristocratic Annetta, thought up by
himself.) "Don't speak. This is decided!"

"Oh, if only I could help you!" exclaimed Verka woefully. "Why, I'd
give my life away ... Every drop of blood! ..."

"What is life?" Dilectorsky shook his head with an actor's despondence.
"Farewell, Annetta! ... Farewell! ..."

The girl desperately began to shake her head:

"I don't want it! ... I don't want it! ... I don't want it! ... Take
me! ... I'll go with you too! ..."

Late in the evening Dilectorsky took a room in an expensive hotel. He
knew, that within a few hours, perhaps minutes, he and Verka would be
corpses; and for that reason, although he had in his pocket only eleven
kopecks, all in all, he gave orders sweepingly, like a habitual,
downright prodigal; he ordered sturgeon stew, double snipes, and
fruits; and, in addition to all this, coffee, liqueurs and two bottles
of frosted champagne. And he was in reality convinced that he would
shoot himself; but thought of it somehow affectedly, as though
admiring, a trifle from the side, his tragic role; and enjoying
beforehand the despair of his relatives and the amazement of his fellow
clerks. While Verka, when she had suddenly said that she would commit
suicide with her beloved, had been immediately strengthened in this
thought. And there was nothing fearful to Verka in this impending
death. "Well, now, is it better to croak just so, under a fence? But
here it's together with your dearie! At least a sweet death! ..." And
she frantically kissed her clerk, laughed, and with dishevelled, curly
hair, with sparkling eyes, was prettier than she had ever been.

The final triumphal moment arrived at last.

"You and I have both enjoyed ourselves, Annetta ... We have drained the
cup to the bottom and now, to use an expression of Pushkin's, must
shatter the goblet!" said Dilectorsky. "You do not repent, oh, my dear?
..."

"No, no! ..."

"Are you ready?"

"Yes!" whispered she and smiled.

"Then turn away to the wall and shut your eyes!"

"No, no, my dearest, I don't want it so! ... I don't want it! Come to
me! There, so! Nearer, nearer.. Give me your eyes, I will be gazing
into them. Give me your lips--I will be kissing you, while you... I am
not afraid! ... Be braver! ... Kiss me harder! ..."

He killed her; and when he looked upon the horrible deed of his hands,
he then suddenly felt a loathsome, abominable, abject fear. The
half-naked body of Verka was still quivering on the bed. The legs of
Dilectorsky gave in from horror; but the reason of a hypocrite, coward
and blackguard kept vigil: he did still have spirit sufficient to
stretch away at his side the skin over his ribs, and to shoot through
it. And when he was falling, frantically crying out from pain, from
fright, and from the thunder of the shot, the last convulsion was
running through the body of Verka.

While two weeks after the death of Verka, the naive, sportful, meek,
brawling Little White Manka perished as well. During one of the
general, clamourous brawls, usual in the Yamkas, in an enormous affray,
some one killed her, hitting her with a heavy empty bottle over the
head. And the murderer remained undiscovered to the last.

So rapidly did events take place in the Yamkas, in the house of Emma
Edwardovna; and well nigh not a one of its inmates escaped a bloody,
foul or disgraceful doom.

The final, most grandiose, and at the same time most bloody calamity
was the devastation committed on the Yamkas by soldiers.

Two dragoons had been short-changed in a rouble establishment, beaten
up, and thrown out at night into the street. Tom to pieces, in blood,
they returned to the barracks, where their comrades, having begun in
the morning, were still finishing up their regimental holiday. And so,
not half an hour passed, when a hundred soldiers burst into the Yamkas
and began to wreck house after house. They were joined by an
innumerable mob that gathered on the run--men of the golden squad[31],
ragamuffins, tramps, crooks, souteneurs. The panes were broken in all
the houses, and the grand pianos smashed to smithereens. The feather
beds were ripped open and the down thrown out into the street; and yet
for a long while after--for some two days--the countless bits of down
flew and whirled over the Yamkas, like flakes of snow. The wenches,
bare-headed, perfectly naked, were driven out into the street. Three
porters were beaten to death. The rabble shattered, befouled, and rent
into pieces all the silk and plush furniture of Treppel. They also
smashed up all the neighbouring taverns and drink-shops, while they
were at it.


[31] Zolotorotzi--a subtle euphemism for cleaners of cesspools and
carters of the wealth contained therein.--trans.


The drunken, bloody, hideous slaughter continued for some three hours;
until the arrayed military authorities, together with the fire company,
finally succeeded in repulsing and scattering the infuriated mob. Two
half-rouble establishments were set on fire, but the fire was soon put
out. However, on the next day the tumult again flared up; this time
already over the whole city and its environs. Altogether unexpectedly
it took on the character of a Jewish pogrom, which lasted for three
days, with all its horrors and miseries.

And a week after followed the order of the governor-general about the
immediate shutting down of houses of prostitution, on the Yamkas as
well as other streets of the city. The proprietresses were given only a
week's time for the settlement of matters in connection with their
property.

Annihilated, crushed, plundered; having lost all the glamour of their
former grandeur; ludicrous and pitiful, the aged, faded proprietresses
and fat-faced, hoarse housekeepers were hastily packing up their
things. And a month after only the name reminded one of merry Yamskaya
Street; of the riotous, scandalous, horrible Yamkas.

However, even the name of the street was soon replaced by another, more
respectable one, in order to efface even the memory of the former
unpardonable times.

And all these Henriettas-Horses, Fat Kitties, Lelkas-Polecats and other
women--always naive and foolish, often touching and amusing, in the
majority of cases deceived and perverted children,--spread through the
big city, were dissolved within it. Out of them was born a new stratum
of society--a stratum of the strolling, street prostitutes--solitaries.
And about their life, just as pitiful and incongruous, but tinged by
other interests and customs, the author of this novel--which he still
dedicates to youths and mothers--will some time tell.



THE END





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