WITH his long, rapid strides, Mitya walked straight up to the table.
“Gentlemen,” he said in a loud voice, almost shouting, yet stammering at every word, “I . . . I’m all right! Don’t be afraid!” he exclaimed, “I— there’s nothing the matter,” he turned suddenly to Grushenka, who had shrunk back in her chair towards Kalganov, and clasped his hand tightly. “I . . . I’m coming, too. I’m here till morning. Gentlemen, may I stay with you till morning? Only till morning, for the last time, in this same room?”
So he finished, turning to the fat little man, with the pipe, sitting on the sofa. The latter removed his pipe from his lips with dignity and observed severely:
“Panie,12 we’re here in private. There are other rooms.”
12 Pan and Panie mean Mr. in Polish. Pani means Mrs., Panovie, gentlemen.
“Why, it’s you, Dmitri Fyodorovitch! What do you mean?” answered Kalgonov suddenly. “Sit down with us. How are you?”
“Delighted to see you, dear . . . and precious fellow, I always thought a lot of you.” Mitya responded, joyfully and eagerly, at once holding out his hand across the table.
“Aie! How tight you squeeze! You’ve quite broken my fingers,” laughed Kalganov.
“He always squeezes like that, always,” Grushenka put in gaily, with a timid smile, seeming suddenly convinced from Mitya’s face that he was not going to make a scene. She was watching him with intense curiosity and still some uneasiness. She was impressed by something about him, and indeed the last thing she expected of him was that he would come in and speak like this at such a moment.
“Good evening,” Maximov ventured blandly on the left. Mitya rushed up to him, too.
“Good evening. You’re here, too! How glad I am to find you here, too! Gentlemen, gentlemen, I— “ (He addressed the Polish gentleman with the pipe again, evidently taking him for the most important person present.) “I flew here. . . . I wanted to spend my last day, my last hour in this room, in this very room . . . where I, too, adored . . . my queen. . . . Forgive me, Panie,” he cried wildly, “I flew here and vowed — Oh, don’t be afraid, it’s my last night! Let’s drink to our good understanding. They’ll bring the wine at once. . . . I brought this with me.” (Something made him pull out his bundle of notes.) “Allow me, panie! I want to have music, singing, a revel, as we had before. But the worm, the unnecessary worm, will crawl away, and there’ll be no more of him. I will commemorate my day of joy on my last night.”
He was almost choking. There was so much, so much he wanted to say, but strange exclamations were all that came from his lips. The Pole gazed fixedly at him, at the bundle of notes in his hand; looked at Grushenka, and was in evident perplexity.
“If my suverin lady is permitting — “ he was beginning.
“What does ‘suverin’ mean? ‘Sovereign,’ I suppose?” interrupted Grushenka. “I can’t help laughing at you, the way you talk. Sit down, Mitya, what are you talking about? Don’t frighten us, please. You won’t frighten us, will you? If you won’t, I am glad to see you . . . ”
“Me, me frighten you?” cried Mitya, flinging up his hands. “Oh, pass me by, go your way, I won’t hinder you! . . . ”
And suddenly he surprised them all, and no doubt himself as well, by flinging himself on a chair, and bursting into tears, turning his head away to the opposite wall, while his arms clasped the back of the chair tight, as though embracing it.
“Come, come, what a fellow you are!” cried Grushenka reproachfully. “That’s just how he comes to see me — he begins talking, and I can’t make out what he means. He cried like that once before, and now he’s crying again! It’s shamefull Why are you crying? As though you had anything to cry for!” she added enigmatically, emphasising each word with some irritability.
“I . . . I’m not crying. . . . Well, good evening!” He instantly turned round in his chair, and suddenly laughed, not his abrupt wooden laugh, but a long, quivering, inaudible nervous laugh.
“Well, there you are again. . . . Come, cheer up, cheer up!” Grushenka said to him persuasively. “I’m very glad you’ve come, very glad, Mitya, do you hear, I’m very glad! I want him to stay here with us,” she said peremptorily, addressing the whole company, though her words were obviously meant for the man sitting on the sofa. “I wish it, I wish it! And if he goes away I shall go, too!” she added with flashing eyes.
“What my queen commands is law!” pronounced the Pole, gallantly kissing Grushenka’s hand. “I beg you, panie, to join our company,” he added politely, addressing Mitya.
Mitya was jumping up with the obvious intention of delivering another tirade, but the words did not come.
“Let’s drink, Panie,” he blurted out instead of making a speech. Everyone laughed.
“Good heavens! I thought he was going to begin again!” Grushenka exclaimed nervously. “Do you hear, Mitya,” she went on insistently, “don’t prance about, but it’s nice you’ve brought the champagne. I want some myself, and I can’t bear liqueurs. And best of all, you’ve come yourself. We were fearfully dull here. . . . You’ve come for a spree again, I suppose? But put your money in your pocket. Where did you get such a lot?”
Mitya had been, all this time, holding in his hand the crumpled bundle of notes on which the eyes of all, especially of the Poles, were fixed. In confusion he thrust them hurriedly into his pocket. He flushed. At that moment the innkeeper brought in an uncorked bottle of champagne, and glasses on a tray. Mitya snatched up the bottle, but he was so bewildered that he did not know what to do with it. Kalgonov took it from him and poured out the champagne.
“Another! Another bottle!” Mitya cried to the inn-keeper, and, forgetting to clink glasses with the Pole whom he had so solemnly invited to drink to their good understanding, he drank off his glass without waiting for anyone else. His whole countenance suddenly changed. The solemn and tragic expression with which he had entered vanished completely, and a look of something childlike came into his face. He seemed to have become suddenly gentle and subdued. He looked shyly and happily at everyone, with a continual nervous little laugh, and the blissful expression of a dog who has done wrong, been punished, and forgiven. He seemed to have forgotten everything, and was looking round at everyone with a childlike smile of delight. He looked at Grushenka, laughing continually, and bringing his chair close up to her. By degrees he had gained some idea of the two Poles, though he had formed no definite conception of them yet.
The Pole on the sofa struck him by his dignified demeanour and his Polish accent; and, above all, by his pipe. “Well, what of it? It’s a good thing he’s smoking a pipe,” he reflected. The Pole’s puffy, middle-aged face, with its tiny nose and two very thin, pointed, dyed and impudent-looking moustaches, had not so far roused the faintest doubts in Mitya. He was not even particularly struck by the Pole’s absurd wig made in Siberia, with love-locks foolishly combed forward over the temples. “I suppose it’s all right since he wears a wig,” he went on, musing blissfully. The other, younger Pole, who was staring insolently and defiantly at the company and listening to the conversation with silent contempt, still only impressed Mitya by his great height, which was in striking contrast to the Pole on the sofa. “If he stood up he’d be six foot three.” The thought flitted through Mitya’s mind. It occurred to him, too, that this Pole must be the friend of the other, as it were, a “bodyguard,” and no doubt the big Pole was at the disposal of the little Pole with the pipe. But this all seemed to Mitya perfectly right and not to be questioned. In his mood of doglike submissiveness all feeling of rivalry had died away.
Grushenka’s mood and the enigmatic tone of some of her words he completely failed to grasp. All he understood, with thrilling heart, was that she was kind to him, that she had forgiven him, and made him sit by her. He was beside himself with delight, watching her sip her glass of champagne. The silence of the company seemed somehow to strike him, however, and he looked round at everyone with expectant eyes.
“Why are we sitting here though, gentlemen? Why don’t you begin doing something?” his smiling eyes seemed to ask.
“He keeps talking nonsense, and we were all laughing,” Kalgonov began suddenly, as though divining his thought, and pointing to Maximov.
Mitya immediately stared at Kalgonov and then at Maximov
“He’s talking nonsense?” he laughed, his short, wooden laugh, seeming suddenly delighted at something — “ha ha!”
“Yes. Would you believe it, he will have it that all our cavalry officers in the twenties married Polish women. That’s awful rot, isn’t it?”
“Polish women?” repeated Mitya, perfectly ecstatic.
Kalgonov was well aware of Mitya’s attitude to Grushenka, and he guessed about the Pole, too, but that did not so much interest him, perhaps did not interest him at all; what he was interested in was Maximov. He had come here with Maximov by chance, and he met the Poles here at the inn for the first time in his life. Grushenka he knew before, and had once been with someone to see her; but she had not taken to him. But here she looked at him very affectionately: before Mitya’s arrival, she had been making much of him, but he seemed somehow to be unmoved by it. He was a boy, not over twenty, dressed like a dandy, with a very charming fair-skinned face, and splendid thick, fair hair. From his fair face looked out beautiful pale blue eyes, with an intelligent and sometimes even deep expression, beyond his age indeed, although the young man sometimes looked and talked quite like a child, and was not at all ashamed of it, even when he was aware of it himself. As a rule he was very wilful, even capricious, though always friendly. Sometimes there was something fixed and obstinate in his expression. He would look at you and listen, seeming all the while to be persistently dreaming over something else. Often he was listless and lazy; at other times he would grow excited, sometimes, apparently, over the most trivial matters.
“Only imagine, I’ve been taking him about with me for the last four days,” he went on, indolently drawling his words, quite naturally though, without the slightest affectation. “Ever since your brother, do you remember, shoved him off the carriage and sent him flying. That made me take an interest in him at the time, and I took him into the country, but he keeps talking such rot I’m ashamed to be with him. I’m taking him back.”
“The gentleman has not seen Polish ladies, and says what is impossible,” the Pole with the pipe observed to Maximov.
He spoke Russian fairly well, much better, anyway, than he pretended. If he used Russian words, he always distorted them into a Polish form.
“But I was married to a Polish lady myself,” tittered Maximov.
“But did you serve in the cavalry? You were talking about the cavalry. Were you a cavalry officer?” put in Kalgonov at once.
“Was he a cavalry officer indeed? Ha ha!” cried Mitya, listening eagerly, and turning his inquiring eyes to each as he spoke, as though there were no knowing what he might hear from each.
“No, you see,” Maximov turned to him. “What I mean is that those pretty Polish ladies . . . when they danced the mazurka with our Uhlans . . . when one of them dances a mazurka with a Uhlan she jumps on his knee like a kitten . . . a little white one . . . and the pan-father and pan-mother look on and allow it . . . They allow it . . . and next day the Uhlan comes and offers her his hand. . . . That’s how it is . . . offers her his hand, he he!” Maximov ended, tittering.
“The pan is a lajdak!”13 the tall Pole on the chair growled suddenly and crossed one leg over the other. Mitya’s eye was caught by his huge greased boot, with its thick, dirty sole. The dress of both the Poles looked rather greasy.
“Well, now it’s lajdak! What’s he scolding about?” said Grushenka, suddenly vexed.
“Pani Agrippina, what the gentleman saw in Poland were servant girls, and not ladies of good birth,” the Pole with the pipe observed to Grushenka.
“You can reckon on that,” the tall Pole snapped contemptuously.
“What next! Let him talk! People talk, why hinder them? It makes it cheerful,” Grushenka said crossly.
“I’m not hindering them, pani,” said the Pole in the wig, with a long look at Grushenka, and relapsing into dignified silence he sucked his pipe again.
“No, no. The Polish gentleman spoke the truth.” Kalgonov got excited again, as though it were a question of vast import. “He’s never been in Poland, so how can he talk about it? I suppose you weren’t married in Poland, were you?”
“No, in the Province of Smolensk. Only, a Uhlan had brought her to Russia before that, my future wife, with her mamma and her aunt, and another female relation with a grown-up son. He brought her straight from Poland and gave her up to me. He was a lieutenant in our regiment, a very nice young man. At first he meant to marry her himself. But he didn’t marry her, because she turned out to be lame.”
“So you married a lame woman?” cried Kalganov.
“Yes. They both deceived me a little bit at the time, and concealed it. I thought she was hopping; she kept hopping. . . . I thought it was for fun.”
“So pleased she was going to marry you!” yelled Kalganov, in a ringing, childish voice.
“Yes, so pleased. But it turned out to be quite a different cause. Afterwards, when we were married, after the wedding, that very evening, she confessed, and very touchingly asked forgiveness. ‘I once jumped over a puddle when I was a child,’ she said, ‘and injured my leg.’ He he!”
Kalgonov went off into the most childish laughter, almost falling on the sofa. Grushenka, too, laughed. Mitya was at the pinnacle of happiness.
“Do you know, that’s the truth, he’s not lying now,” exclaimed Kalganov, turning to Mitya; “and do you know, he’s been married twice; it’s his first wife he’s talking about. But his second wife, do you know, ran away, and is alive now.”
“Is it possible?” said Mitya, turning quickly to Maximov with an expression of the utmost astonishment.
“Yes. She did run away. I’ve had that unpleasant experience,” Maximov modestly assented, “with a monsieur. And what was worse, she’d had all my little property transferred to her beforehand. ‘You’re an educated man,’ she said to me. ‘You can always get your living.’ She settled my business with that. A venerable bishop once said to me: ‘One of your wives was lame, but the other was too light-footed.’ He he!
“Listen, listen!” cried Kalganov, bubbling over, “if he’s telling lies — and he often is — he’s only doing it to amuse us all. There’s no harm in that, is there? You know, I sometimes like him. He’s awfully low, but it’s natural to him, eh? Don’t you think so? Some people are low from self-interest, but he’s simply so, from nature. Only fancy, he claims (he was arguing about it all the way yesterday) that Gogol wrote Dead Souls about him. Do you remember, there’s a landowner called Maximov in it, whom Nozdryov thrashed. He was charged, do you remember, ‘for inflicting bodily injury with rods on the landowner Maximov in a drunken condition.’ Would you believe it, he claims that he was that Maximov and that he was beaten! Now can it be so? Tchitchikov made his journey, at the very latest, at the beginning of the twenties, so that the dates don’t fit. He couldn’t have been thrashed then, he couldn’t, could he?”
It was diffcult to imagine what Kalgonov was excited about, but his excitement was genuine. Mitya followed his lead without protest.
“Well, but if they did thrash him!” he cried, laughing.
“It’s not that they thrashed me exactly, but what I mean is — “ put in Maximov.
“What do you mean? Either they thrashed you or they didn’t.”
“What o’clock is it, panie?” the Pole, with the pipe, asked his tall friend, with a bored expression. The other shrugged his shoulders in reply. Neither of them had a watch.
“Why not talk? Let other people talk. Mustn’t other people talk because you’re bored?” Grushenka flew at him with evident intention of finding fault. Something seemed for the first time to flash upon Mitya’s mind. This time the Pole answered with unmistakable irritability.
“Pani, I didn’t oppose it. I didn’t say anything.”
“All right then. Come, tell us your story,” Grushenka cried to Maximov. “Why are you all silent?”
“There’s nothing to tell, it’s all so foolish,” answered Maximov at once, with evident satisfaction, mincing a little. “Besides, all that’s by way of allegory in Gogol, for he’s made all the names have a meaning. Nozdryov was really called Nosov, and Kuvshinikov had quite a different name, he was called Shkvornev. Fenardi really was called Fenardi, only he wasn’t an Italian but a Russian, and Mamsel Fenardi was a pretty girl with her pretty little legs in tights, and she had a little short skirt with spangles, and she kept turning round and round, only not for four hours but for four minutes only, and she bewitched everyone . . . ”
“But what were you beaten for?” cried Kalganov.
“For Piron!” answered Maximov.
“What Piron?” cried Mitya.
“The famous French writer, Piron. We were all drinking then, a big party of us, in a tavern at that very fair. They’d invited me, and first of all I began quoting epigrams. ‘Is that you, Boileau? What a funny get-up!’ and Boileau answers that he’s going to a masquerade, that is to the baths, he he! And they took it to themselves, so I made haste to repeat another, very sarcastic, well known to all educated people:
Yes, Sappho and Phaon are we!
But one grief is weighing on me.
You don’t know your way to the sea!
“They were still more offended and began abusing me in the most unseemly way for it. And as ill-luck would have it, to set things right, I began telling a very cultivated anecdote about Piron, how he was not accepted into the French Academy, and to revenge himself wrote his own epitaph:
Ci-git Piron qui ne fut rien,
Pas meme academicien,14
14 Here lies Piron, who was nothing, not even an Academician.
They seized me and thrashed me.”
“But what for? What for?”
“For my education. People can thrash a man for anything,” Maximov concluded, briefly and sententiously.
“Eh, that’s enough! That’s all stupid, I don’t want to listen. I thought it would be amusing,” Grushenka cut them short, suddenly.
Mitya started, and at once left off laughing. The tall Pole rose upon his feet, and with the haughty air of a man, bored and out of his element, began pacing from corner to corner of the room, his hands behind his back.
“Ah, he can’t sit still,” said Grushenka, looking at him contemptuously. Mitya began to feel anxious. He noticed besides, that the Pole on the sofa was looking at him with an irritable expression.
“Panie!” cried Mitya, “Let’s drink! and the other pan, too! Let us drink.”
In a flash he had pulled three glasses towards him, and filled them with champagne.
“To Poland, Panovie, I drink to your Poland!” cried Mitya.
“I shall be delighted, panie,” said the Pole on the sofa, with dignity and affable condescension, and he took his glass.
“And the other pan, what’s his name? Drink, most illustrious, take your glass!” Mitya urged.
“Pan Vrublevsky,” put in the Pole on the sofa.
Pan Vrublevsky came up to the table, swaying as he walked.
“To Poland, Panovie!” cried Mitya, raisin, his glass. “Hurrah!”
All three drank. Mitya seized the bottle and again poured out three glasses.
“Now to Russia, Panovie, and let us be brothers!”
“Pour out some for us,” said Grushenka; “I’ll drink to Russia, too!”
“So will I,” said Kalganov.
“And I would, too . . . to Russia, the old grandmother!” tittered Maximov.
“All! All!” cried Mitya. “Trifon Borissovitch, some more bottles!”
The other three bottles Mitya had brought with him were put on the table. Mitya filled the glasses.
“To Russia! Hurrah!” he shouted again. All drank the toast except the Poles, and Grushenka tossed off her whole glass at once. The Poles did not touch theirs.
“How’s this, Panovie?” cried Mitya, “won’t you drink it?”
Pan Vrublevsky took the glass, raised it and said with a resonant voice:
“To Russia as she was before 1772.”
“Come, that’s better!” cried the other Pole, and they both emptied their glasses at once.
“You’re fools, you Panovie,” broke suddenly from Mitya.
“Panie!” shouted both the Poles, menacingly, setting on Mitya like a couple of cocks. Pan Vrublevsky was specially furious.
“Can one help loving one’s own country?” he shouted.
“Be silent! Don’t quarrel! I won’t have any quarrelling!” cried Grushenka imperiously, and she stamped her foot on the floor. Her face glowed, her eyes were shining. The effects of the glass she had just drunk were apparent. Mitya was terribly alarmed.
“Panovie, forgive me! It was my fault, I’m sorry. Vrublevsky, panie Vrublevsky, I’m sorry.”
“Hold your tongue, you, anyway! Sit down, you stupid!”. Grushenka scolded with angry annoyance.
Everyone sat down, all were silent, looking at one another.
“Gentlemen, I was the cause of it all,” Mitya began again, unable to make anything of Grushenka’s words. “Come, why are we sitting here? What shall we do . . . to amuse ourselves again?”
“Ach, it’s certainly anything but amusing!” Kalgonov mumbled lazily.
“Let’s play faro again, as we did just now,” Maximov tittered suddenly.
“Faro? Splendid!” cried Mitya. “If only the panovie-”
“It’s lite, panovie,” the Pole on the sofa responded, as it were unwillingly.
“That’s true,” assented Pan Vrublevsky.
“Lite? What do you mean by ‘lite’?” asked Grushenka.
“Late, pani! ‘A late hour’ I mean,” the Pole on the sofa explained.
“It’s always late with them. They can never do anything!” Grushenka almost shrieked in her anger. “They’re dull themselves, so they want others to be dull. Before came, Mitya, they were just as silent and kept turning up their noses at me.”
“My goddess!” cried the Pole on the sofa, “I see you’re not well-disposed to me, that’s why I’m gloomy. I’m ready, panie,” added he, addressing Mitya.
“Begin, panie,” Mitya assented, pulling his notes out of his pocket, and laying two hundred-rouble notes on the table. “I want to lose a lot to you. Take your cards. Make the bank.”
“We’ll have cards from the landlord, panie,” said the little Pole, gravely and emphatically.
“That’s much the best way,” chimed in Pan Vrublevsky.
“From the landlord? Very good, I understand, let’s get them from him. Cards!” Mitya shouted to the landlord.
The landlord brought in a new, unopened pack, and informed Mitya that the girls were getting ready, and that the Jews with the cymbals would most likely be here soon; but the cart with the provisions had not yet arrived. Mitya jumped up from the table and ran into the next room to give orders, but only three girls had arrived, and Marya was not there yet. And he did not know himself what orders to give and why he had run out. He only told them to take out of the box the presents for the girls, the sweets, the toffee and the fondants. “And vodka for Andrey, vodka for Andrey!” he cried in haste. “I was rude to Andrey!”
Suddenly Maximov, who had followed him out, touched him on the shoulder.
“Give me five roubles,” he whispered to Mitya. “I’ll stake something at faro, too, he he!”
“Capital! Splendid! Take ten, here!”
Again he took all the notes out of his pocket and picked out one for ten roubles. “And if you lose that, come again, come again.”
“Very good,” Maximov whispered joyfully, and he ran back again. Mitya, too, returned, apologising for having kept them waiting. The Poles had already sat down, and opened the pack. They looked much more amiable, almost cordial. The Pole on the sofa had lighted another pipe and was preparing to throw. He wore an air of solemnity.
“To your places, gentlemen,” cried Pan Vrublevsky.
“No, I’m not going to play any more,” observed Kalganov, “I’ve lost fifty roubles to them just now.”
“The pan had no luck, perhaps he’ll be lucky this time,” the Pole on the sofa observed in his direction.
“How much in the bank? To correspond?” asked Mitya.
“That’s according, panie, maybe a hundred, maybe two hundred, as much as you will stake.” “A million!” laughed Mitya.
“The Pan Captain has heard of Pan Podvysotsky, perhaps?”
“In Warsaw there was a bank and anyone comes and stakes against it. Podvysotsky comes, sees a thousand gold pieces, stakes against the bank. The banker says, ‘Panie Podvysotsky, are you laying down the gold, or must we trust to your honour?’ ‘To my honour, panie,’ says Podvysotsky. ‘So much the better.’ The banker throws the dice. Podvysotsky wins. ‘Take it, panie,’ says the banker, and pulling out the drawer he gives him a million. ‘Take it, panie, this is your gain.’ There was a million in the bank. ‘I didn’t know that,’ says Podvysotsky. ‘Panie Podvysotsky,’ said the banker, ‘you pledged your honour and we pledged ours.’ Podvysotsky took the million.”
“That’s not true,” said Kalganov.
“Panie Kalganov, in gentlemanly society one doesn’t say such things.”
“As if a Polish gambler would give away a million!” cried Mitya, but checked himself at once. “Forgive me, panie, it’s my fault again; he would, he would give away a million, for honour, for Polish honour. You see how I talk Polish, ha ha! Here, I stake ten roubles, the knave leads.”
“And I put a rouble on the queen, the queen of hearts, the pretty little panienotchka15 he! he!” laughed Maximov, pulling out his queen, and, as though trying to conceal it from everyone, he moved right up and crossed himself hurriedly under the table. Mitya won. The rouble won, too.
15 Little miss.
“A corner!” cried Mitya.
“I’ll bet another rouble, a ‘single’ stake,” Maximov muttered gleefully, hugely delighted at having won a rouble.
“Lost!” shouted Mitya. “A ‘double’ on the seven!”
The seven too was trumped.
“Stop!” cried Kalganov suddenly.
“Double! Double!” Mitya doubled his stakes, and each time he doubled the stake, the card he doubled was trumped by the Poles. The rouble stakes kept winning.
“On the double!” shouted Mitya furiously.
“You’ve lost two hundred, panie. Will you stake another hundred?” the Pole on the sofa inquired.
“What? Lost two hundred already? Then another two hundred! All doubles!” And pulling his money out of his pocket, Mitya was about to fling two hundred roubles on the queen, but Kalgonov covered it with his hand.
“That’s enough!” he shouted in his ringing voice.
“What’s the matter?” Mitya stared at him.
“That’s enough! I don’t want you to play anymore. Don’t!”
“Because I don’t. Hang it, come away. That’s why. I won’t let you go on playing.”
Mitya gazed at him in astonishment.
“Give it up, Mitya. He may be right. You’ve lost a lot as it is,” said Grushenka, with a curious note in her voice. Both the Poles rose from their seats with a deeply offended air.
“Are you joking, panie?” said the short man, looking severely at Kalganov.
“How dare you!” Pan Vrublevsky, too, growled at Kalganov.
“Don’t dare to shout like that,” cried Grushenka. “Ah, you turkey-cocks!”
Mitya looked at each of them in turn. But something in Grushenka’s face suddenly struck him, and at the same instant something new flashed into his mind — a strange new thought! “Pani Agrippina,” the little Pole was beginning, crimson with anger, when Mitya suddenly went up to him and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Most illustrious, two words with you.“cried Grushenka.
“What do you want?”
“In the next room, I’ve two words to say to you, something pleasant, very pleasant. You’ll be glad to hear it.”
The little pan was taken aback and looked apprehensively at Mitya. He agreed at once, however, on condition that Pan Vrublevsky went with them.
“The bodyguard? Let him come, and I want him, too. I must have him!” cried Mitya. “March, panovie!”
“Where are you going?” asked Grushenka, anxiously.
“We’ll be back in one moment,” answered Mitya.
There was a sort of boldness, a sudden confidence shining in his eyes. His face had looked very different when he entered the room an hour before.
He led the Poles, not into the large room where the chorus of girls was assembling and the table was being laid, but into the bedroom on the right, where the trunks and packages were kept, and there were two large beds, with pyramids of cotton pillows on each. There was a lighted candle on a small deal table in the corner. The small man and Mitya sat down to this table, facing each other, while the huge Vrublevsky stood beside them, his hands behind his back. The Poles looked severe but were evidently inquisitive.
“What can I do for you, panie?” lisped the little Pole.
“Well, look here, panie, I won’t keep you long. There’s money for you,” he pulled out his notes. “Would you like three thousand? Take it and go your way.”
The Pole gazed open-eyed at Mitya, with a searching look.
“Three thousand, panie?” He exchanged glances with Vrublevsky.
“Three, panovie, three! Listen, panie, I see you’re a sensible man. Take three thousand and go to the devil, and Vrublevsky with you d’you hear? But, at once, this very minute, and for ever. You understand that, panie, for ever. Here’s the door, you go out of it. What have you got there, a great-coat, a fur coat? I’ll bring it out to you. They’ll get the horses out directly, and then-good-bye, panie!”
Mitya awaited an answer with assurance. He had no doubts. An expression of extraordinary resolution passed over the Pole’s face.
“And the money, panie?”
“The money, panie? Five hundred roubles I’ll give you this moment for the journey, and as a first instalment, and two thousand five hundred to-morrow, in the town — I swear on my honour, I’ll get it, I’ll get it at any cost!” cried Mitya.
The Poles exchanged glances again. The short man’s face looked more forbidding.
“Seven hundred, seven hundred, not five hundred, at once, this minute, cash down!” Mitya added, feeling something wrong. “What’s the matter, panie? Don’t you trust me? I can’t give you the whole three thousand straight off. If I give it, you may come back to her to-morrow. . . . Besides, I haven’t the three thousand with me. I’ve got it at home in the town,” faltered Mitya, his spirit sinking at every word he uttered. “Upon my word, the money’s there, hidden.”
In an instant an extraordinary sense of personal dignity showed itself in the little man’s face.
“What next?” he asked ironically. “For shame!” and he spat on the floor. Pan Vrublevsky spat too.
“You do that, panie,” said Mitya, recognising with despair that all was over, “because you hope to make more out of Grushenka? You’re a couple of capons, that’s what you are!”
“This is a mortal insult!” The little Pole turned as red as a crab, and he went out of the room, briskly, as though unwilling to hear another word. Vrublevsky swung out after him, and Mitya followed, confused and crestfallen. He was afraid of Grushenka, afraid that the Pan would at once raise an outcry. And so indeed he did. The Pole walked into the room and threw himself in a theatrical attitude before Grushenka.
“Pani Agrippina, I have received a mortal insult!” he exclaimed. But Grushenka suddenly lost all patience, as though they had wounded her in the tenderest spot.
“Speak Russian! Speak Russian!” she cried, “not another word of Polish! You used to talk Russian. You can’t have forgotten it in five years.”
She was red with passion.
“My name’s Agrafena, Grushenka, speak Russian or I won’t listen!”
The Pole gasped with offended dignity, and quickly and pompously delivered himself in broken Russian:
“Pani Agrafena, I came here to forget the past and forgive it, to forget all that has happened till to-day-”
“Forgive? Came here to forgive me?” Grushenka cut him short, jumping up from her seat.
“Just so, Pani, I’m not pusillanimous, I’m magnanimous. But I was astounded when I saw your lovers. Pan Mitya offered me three thousand, in the other room to depart. I spat in the pan’s face.”
“What? He offered you money for me?” cried Grushenka, hysterically. “Is it true, Mitya? How dare you? Am I for sale?”
“Panie, panie!” yelled Mitya, “she’s pure and shining, and I have never been her lover! That’s a lie . . . ”
“How dare you defend me to him?” shrieked Grushenka. “It wasn’t virtue kept me pure, and it wasn’t that I was afraid of Kuzma, but that I might hold up my head when I met him, and tell him he’s a scoundrel. And he did actually refuse the money?”
“He took it! He took it!” cried Mitya; “only he wanted to get the whole three thousand at once, and I could only give him seven hundred straight off.”
“I see: he heard I had money, and came here to marry me!”
“Pani Agrippina!” cried the little Pole. “I’m — a knight, I’m — a nobleman, and not a lajdak. I came here to make you my wife and I find you a different woman, perverse and shameless.”
“Oh, go back where you came from! I’ll tell them to turn you out and you’ll be turned out,” cried Grushenka, furious. “I’ve been a fool, a fool, to have been miserable these five years! And it wasn’t for his sake, it was my anger made me miserable. And this isn’t he at all! Was he like this? It might be his father! Where did you get your wig from? He was a falcon, but this is a gander. He used to laugh and sing to me. . . . And I’ve been crying for five years, damned fool, abject, shameless I was!
She sank back in her low chair and hid her face in her hands. At that instant the chorus of Mokroe began singing in the room on the left — a rollicking dance song.
“A regular Sodom!” Vrublevsky roared suddenly. “Landlord, send the shameless hussies away!”
The landlord, who had been for some time past inquisitively peeping in at the door, hearing shouts and guessing that his guests were quarrelling, at once entered the room.
“What are you shouting for? D’you want to split your throat?” he said, addressing Vrublevsky, with surprising rudeness.
“Animal!” bellowed Pan Vrublevsky.
“Animal? And what sort of cards were you playing with just now? I gave you a pack and you hid it. You played with marked cards! I could send you to Siberia for playing with false cards, d’you know that, for it’s just the same as false banknotes . . .
And going up to the sofa he thrust his fingers between the sofa back and the cushion, and pulled out an unopened pack of cards.
“Here’s my pack unopened!”
He held it up and showed it to all in the room. “From where I stood I saw him slip my pack away, and put his in place of it — you’re a cheat and not a gentleman!”
“And I twice saw the pan change a card!” cried Kalganov.
“How shameful! How shameful!” exclaimed Grushenka, clasping her hands, and blushing for genuine shame. “Good Lord, he’s come to that!”
“I thought so, too!” said Mitya. But before he had uttered the words, Vrublevsky, with a confused and infuriated face, shook his fist at Grushenka, shouting:
“You low harlot!”
Mitya flew at him at once, clutched him in both hands, lifted him in the air, and in one instant had carried him into the room on the right, from which they had just come.
“I’ve laid him on the floor, there,” he announced, returning at once, gasping with excitement. “He’s struggling, the scoundrel! But he won’t come back, no fear of that! . . . ”
He closed one half of the folding doors, and holding the other ajar called out to the little Pole:
“Most illustrious, will you please to retire as well?”
“My dear Dmitri Fyodorovitch,” said Trifon Borissovitch, “make them give you back the money you lost. It’s as good as stolen from you.”
“I don’t want my fifty roubles back,” Kalgonov declared suddenly.
“I don’t want my two hundred, either,” cried Mitya, “I wouldn’t take it for anything! Let him keep it as a consolation.”
“Bravo, Mitya! You’re a trump, Mitya!” cried Grushenka, and there was a note of fierce anger in the exclamation.
The little pan, crimson with fury but still mindful of his dignity, was making for the door, but he stopped short and said suddenly, addressing Grushenka:
“Pani, if you want to come with me, come. If not, good-bye.”
And swelling with indignation and importance he went to the door. This was a man of character: he had so good an opinion of himself that after all that had passed, he still expected that she would marry him. Mitya slammed the door after him.
“Lock it,” said Kalganov. But the key clicked on the other side, they had locked it from within.
“That’s capital!” exclaimed Grushenka relentlessly. “Serve them right!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07