Altogether, we may say, the adventures of the previous day had thoroughly unnerved Mr. Golyadkin. Our hero passed a very bad night; that is, he did not get thoroughly off to sleep for five minutes: as though some practical joker had scattered bristles in his bed. He spent the whole night in a sort of half-sleeping state, tossing from side to side, from right to left, moaning and groaning, dozing off for a moment, waking up again a minute later, and all was accompanied by a strange misery, vague memories, hideous visions — in fact, everything disagreeable that can be imagined . . . .
At one moment the figure of Andrey Filippovitch appeared before him in a strange, mysterious half-light. It was a frigid, wrathful figure, with a cold, harsh eye and with stiffly polite word of blame on its lips . . . and as soon as Mr. Golyadkin began going up to Andrey Filippovitch to defend himself in some way and to prove to him that he was not at all such as his enemies represented him, that he was like this and like that, that he even possessed innate virtues of his own, superior to the average — at once a person only too well known for his discreditable behaviour appeared on the scene, and by some most revolting means instantly frustrated poor Mr. Golyadkin’s efforts, on the spot, almost before the latter’s eyes, blackened his reputation, trampled his dignity in the mud, and then immediately took possession of his place in the service and in society.
At another time Mr. Golyadkin’s head felt sore from some sort of slight blow of late conferred and humbly accepted, received either in the course of daily life or somehow in the performance of his duty, against which blow it was difficult to protest . . . And while Mr. Golyadkin was racking his brains over the question of why it was difficult to protest even against such a blow, this idea of a blow gradually melted away into a different form — into the form of some familiar, trifling, or rather important piece of nastiness which he had seen, heard, or even himself committed — and frequently committed, indeed, and not on nasty ground, not from any nasty impulse, even, but just because it happened — sometimes, for instance, out of delicacy, another time owing to his absolute defencelessness — in fact, because . . . because, in fact, Mr. Golyadkin knew perfectly well because of what! At this point Mr. Golyadkin blushed in his sleep, and, smothering his blushes, muttered to himself that in this case he ought to be able to show the strength of his character, he ought to be able to show in this case the remarkable strength of his character, and then wound up by asking himself, “What, after all, is strength of character? Why understand it now?” . . .
But what irritated and enraged Mr. Golyadkin most of all was that invariably, at such a moment, a person well known for his undignified burlesque turned up uninvited, and, regardless of the fact that the matter was apparently settled, he, too, would begin muttering, with an unseemly little smile “What’s the use of strength of character! How could you and I, Yakov Petrovitch, have strength of character? . . .”
Then Mr. Golyadkin would dream that he was in the company of a number of persons distinguished for their wit and good breeding; that he, Mr. Golyadkin, too, was conspicuous for his wit and politeness, that everybody like him, which was very agreeable to Mr. Golyadkin, too, was conspicuous for his wit and politeness, that everybody liked him, even some of his enemies who were present began to like him, which was very agreeable to Mr. Golyadkin; that every one gave him precedence, and that at last Mr. Golyadkin himself, with gratification, overheard the host, drawing one of the guests aside, speak in his, Mr. Golyadkin’s praise . . . and all of a sudden, apropos of nothing, there appeared again a person, notorious for his treachery and brutal impulses, in the form of Mr. Golyadkin junior, and on the spot, at once, by his very appearance on the scene, Mr. Golyadkin junior destroyed the whole triumph and glory of Mr. Golyadkin senior, eclipsed Mr. Golyadkin senior, trampled him in the mud, and, at last, proved clearly that Golyadkin senior — that is, the genuine one — was not the genuine one at all but the sham, and that he, Golyadkin junior, was the real one; that, in fact, Mr. Golyadkin senior was not at all what he appeared to be, but something very disgraceful, and that consequently he had no right to mix in the society of honourable and well-bred people. And all this was done so quickly that Mr. Golyadkin had not time to open his mouth before all of them were subjugated, body and soul, by the wicked, sham Mr. Golyadkin, and with profound contempt rejected him, the real and innocent Mr. Golyadkin. There was not one person left whose opinion the infamous Mr. Golyadkin would not have changed round. There was not left one person, even the most insignificant of the company, to whom the false and worthless Mr. Golyadkin would not make up in his blandest manner, upon whom he would not fawn in his own way, before whom he would not burn sweet and agreeable incense, so that the flattered person simply sniffed and sneezed till the tears came, in token of the intensest pleasure. And the worst of it was that all this was done in a flash: the swiftness of movement of the false and worthless Mr. Golyadkin was marvellous! he sincerely had time, for instance, to make up to one person and win his good graces — and before one could wink an eye he was at another. He stealthily fawns on another, drops a smile of benevolence, twirls on his short, round, though rather wooden-looking leg, and already he’s at a third, and is cringing upon a third, he’s making up to him in a friendly way; before one has time to open one’s mouth, before one has time to feel surprised he’s at a fourth, at the same manoeuvres with him — it was horrible: sorcery and nothing else! And every one was pleased with him and everybody liked him, and every one was exalting him, and all were proclaiming in chorus that his politeness and sarcastic wit were infinitely superior to the politeness and sarcastic wit of the real Mr. Golyadkin and putting the real and innocent Mr. Golyadkin to shame thereby and rejecting the veritable Mr. Golyadkin, and shoving and pushing out the loyal Mr. Golyadkin, and showering blows on the man so well known for his love towards his fellow creatures! . . .
In misery, in terror and in fury, the cruelly treated Mr. Golyadkin ran out into the street and began trying to take a cab in order to drive straight to his Excellency’s, or, at any rate, to Andrey Filippovitch, but — horror! the cabman absolutely refused to take Mr. Golyadkin, saying, “We cannot drive two gentlemen exactly alike, sir; a good man tries to like honestly, your honour, and never has a double.” Overcome with shame, the unimpeachable, honest Mr. Golyadkin looked round and did, in fact, assure himself with his own eyes that the cabman and Petrushka, who had joined them, were all quite right, for the depraved Mr. Golyadkin was actually on the spot, beside him, close at hand, and with his characteristic nastiness was again, at this critical moment, certainly preparing to do something very unseemly, and quite out of keeping with that gentlemanliness of character which is usually acquired by good breeding — that gentlemanliness of which the loathsome Mr. Golyadkin the second was always boasting on every opportunity. Beside himself with shame and despair, the utterly ruined though perfectly just Mr. Golyadkin dashed headlong away, wherever fate might lead him; but with every step he took, with every thud of his foot on the granite of the pavement, there leapt up as though out of the earth a Mr. Golyadkin precisely the same, perfectly alike, and of a revolting depravity of heart. And all these precisely similar Golyadkins set to running after one another as soon as they appeared, and stretched in a long chain like a file of geese, hobbling after the real Mr. Golyadkin, so there was nowhere to escape from these duplicates — so that Mr. Golyadkin, who was in every way deserving of compassion, was breathless with terror; so that at last a terrible multitude of duplicates had sprung into being; so that the whole town was obstructed at last by duplicate Golyadkins, and the police officer, seeing such a breach of decorum, was obliged to seize all these duplicates by the collar and to put them into the watch-house, which happened to be beside him . . . Numb and chill with horror, our hero woke up, and numb and chill with horror felt that his waking state was hardly more cheerful . . . It was oppressive and harrowing . . . He was overcome by such anguish that it seemed as though some one were gnawing at his heart.
At last Mr. Golyadkin could endure it no longer. “This shall not be!” he cried, resolutely sitting up in bed, and after this exclamation he felt fully awake.
It seemed as though it were rather late in the day. It was unusually light in the room. The sunshine filtered through the frozen panes and flooded the room with light, which surprised Mr. Golyadkin not a little and, so far as Mr. Golyadkin could remember, at least, there had scarcely ever been such exceptions in the course of the heavenly luminary before. Our hero had hardly time to wonder at this when he heard the clock buzzing behind the partition as thought it was just on the point of striking. “Now,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, and he prepared to listen with painful suspense . . . .
But to complete Mr. Golyadkin’s astonishment, clock whirred and only struck once.
“What does this mean?” cried our hero, finally leaping out of bed. And, unable to believe his ears, he rushed behind the screen just as he was. It actually was one o’clock. Mr. Golyadkin glanced at Petrushka’s bed; but the room did not even smell of Petrushka: his bed had long been made and left, his boots were nowhere to be seen either — an unmistakable sign that Petrushka was not in the house. Mr. Golyadkin rushed to the door: the door was locked. “But where is he, where is Petrushka?” he went on in a whisper, conscious of intense excitement and feeling a perceptible tremor run all over him . . . Suddenly a thought floated into his mind . . . Mr. Golyadkin rushed to the table, looked all over it, felt all round — yes, it was true, his letter of the night before to Vahramyev was not there. Petrushka was nowhere behind the screen either, the clock had just struck one, and some new points were evident to him in Vahramyev’s letter, points that were obscure at first sight though now they were fully explained. Petrushka had evidently been bribed at last! “Yes, yes, that was so!”
“So this was how the chief plot was hatched!” cried Mr. Golyadkin, slapping himself on the forehead, opening his eyes wider and wider; “so in that filthy German woman’s den the whole power of evil lies hidden now! So she was only making a strategic diversion in directing me to the Ismailovsky Bridge — she was putting me off the scent, confusing me (the worthless witch), and in that way laying her mines! Yes, that is so! If one only looks at the thing from that point of view, all of this is bound to be so, and the scoundrel’s appearance on the scene is fully explained: it’s all part and parcel of the same thing. They’ve kept him in reserve a long while, they had him in readiness for the evil day. This is how it has all turned out! This is what it has come to. But there, never mind. No time has been lost so far.”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin recollected with horror that it was past one in the afternoon. “What if they have succeeded by now? . . .” He uttered a moan. . . . “But, no, they are lying, they’ve not had time — we shall see . . . .”
He dressed after a fashion, seized paper and a pen, and scribbled the following missive —
“Dear Sir Yakov Petrovitch!
“Either you or I, but both together is out of the question! And so I must inform you that your strange, absurd, and at the same time impossible desire to appear to be my twin and to give yourself out as such serves no other purpose than to bring about your complete disgrace and discomfiture. And so I beg you, for the sake of your own advantage, to step aside and make way for really honourable men of loyal aims. In the opposite case I am ready to determine upon extreme measures. I lay down my pen and await . . . However, I remain ready to oblige or to meet you with pistols.
Our hero rubbed his hands energetically when he had finished the letter. Then, pulling on his greatcoat and putting on his hat, he unlocked his flat with a spare key and set off for the department. He reached the office but could not make up his mind to go in — it was by now too late. It was half-past two by Mr. Golyadkin’s watch. All at once a circumstance of apparently little importance settled some doubts in Mr. Golyadkin’s mind: a flushed and breathless figure suddenly made its appearance from behind the screen of the department building and with a stealthy movement like a rat he darted up the steps and into the entry. It was a copying clerk called Ostafyev, a man Mr. Golyadkin knew very well, who was rather useful and ready to do anything for a trifle. Knowing Ostafyev’s weak spot and surmising that after his brief, unavoidable absence he would probably be greedier than ever for tips, our hero made up his mind not to be sparing of them, and immediately darted up the steps, and then into the entry after him, called to him and, with a mysterious are, drew him aside into a convenient corner, behind a huge iron stove. And having led him there, our hero began questioning him.
“Well, my dear fellow, how are things going in there . . . you understand me? . . .”
“Yes, your honour, I wish you good health, your honour.”
“All right, my good man, all right; but I’ll reward you, my good fellow. Well, you see, how are things?”
“What is your honour asking?” At this point Ostafyev held his hand as though by accident before his open mouth.
“You see, my dear fellow, this is how it is . . . but don’t you imagine . . . Come, is Andrey Filippovitch here?. . .”
“Yes, he is here.”
“And are the clerks here?”
“Yes, sir, they are here as usual.”
“And his Excellency too?”
“And his Excellency too.” Here the man held his hand before his mouth again, and looked rather curiously and strangely at Mr. Golyadkin, so at least our hero fancied.
“And there’s nothing special there, my good man?”
“No, sir, certainly not, sir.”
“So there’s nothing concerning me, my friend. Is there nothing going on there — that is, nothing more than . . . eh? nothing more, you understand, my friend?”
“No, sir, I’ve heard nothing so far, sir.” Again the man put his hand before his mouth and again looked rather strangely at Mr. Golyadkin. The fact was, Mr. Golyadkin was trying to read Ostafyev’s countenance, trying to discover whether there was not something hidden in it. And, in fact, he did look as though he were hiding something: Ostafyev seemed to grow colder and more churlish, and did not enter into Mr. Golyadkin’s interests with the same sympathy as at the beginning of the conversation. “He is to some extent justified,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “After all, what am I to him? Perhaps he has already been bribed by the other side, and that’s why he has just been absent. but, here, I’ll try him . . .” Mr. Golyadkin realized that the moment for kopecks had arrived.
“Here, my dear fellow . . .”
“I’m feelingly grateful for your honour’s kindness.”
“I’ll give you more than that.”
“Yes, your honour.”
“I’ll give you some more directly, and when the business is over I’ll give you as much again. Do you understand?”
The clerk did not speak. He stood at attention and stared fixedly at Mr. Golyadkin.
“Come, tell me now: have you heard nothing about me? . . .”
“I think, so far, I have not . . . so to say . . . nothing so far.” Ostafyev, like Mr. Golyadkin, spoke deliberately and preserved a mysterious air, moving his eyebrows a little, looking at the ground, trying to fall into the suitable tone, and, in fact, doing his very utmost to earn what had been promised him, for what he had received already he reckoned as already earned.
“And you know nothing?”
“So far, nothing, sir.”
“Listen . . . you know . . . maybe you will know . . .”
“Later on, of course, maybe I shall know.”
“It’s a poor look out,” thought our hero. “Listen: here’s something more, my dear fellow.”
“I am truly grateful to your honour.”
“Was Vahramyev here yesterday? . . .”
“And . . . somebody else? . . . Was he? . . . Try and remember, brother.”
The man ransacked his memory for a moment, and could think of nothing appropriate.
“No, sir, there wasn’t anybody else.”
“H’m!” a silence followed.
“Listen, brother, here’s some more; tell me all, every detail.”
“Yes, sir,” Ostafyev had by now become as soft as silk; which was just what Mr. Golyadkin needed.
“Explain to me now, my good man, what footing is he on?”
“All right, sir, a good one, sir,” answered the man, gazing open-eyed at Mr. Golyadkin.
“How do you mean, all right?”
“Well, it’s just like that, sir.” Here Ostafyev twitched his eyebrows significantly. But he was utterly nonplussed and didn’t know what more to say.
“It’s a poor look out,” thought Mr. Golyadkin.
“And hasn’t anything more happened . . . in there . . . about Vahramyev?”
“But everything is just as usual.”
“Think a little.”
“There is, they say . . .”
Ostafyev put his hand in front of his mouth.
“Wasn’t there a letter . . . from here . . . to me?”
“Mihyeev the attendant went to Vahramyev’s lodging, to their German landlady, so I’ll go and ask him if you like.”
“Do me the favour, brother, for goodness’ sake! . . . I only mean . . . you mustn’t imagine anything, brother, I only mean . . . Yes, you question him, brother, find out whether they are not getting up something concerning me. Find out how he is acting. That is what I want; that is what you must find out, my dear fellow, and then I’ll reward you, my good man . . . .”
“I will, your honour, and Ivan Semyonovitch sat in your place today, sir.”
“Ivan Semyonovitch? Oh! really, you don’t say so.”
“Andrey Filippovitch told him to sit there.”
“Re-al-ly! How did that happen? You must find out, brother; for God’s sake find out, brother; find it all out — and I’ll reward you, my dear fellow; that’s what I want to know . . . and don’t you imagine anything, brother . . . .”
“Just so, sir, just so; I’ll go at once. And aren’t you going in today, sir?”
“No, my friend; I only looked round, I only looked round, you know. I only came to have a look round, my friend, and I’ll reward you afterwards, my friend.”
“Yes, sir.” The man ran rapidly and eagerly up the stairs and Mr. Golyadkin was left alone.
“It’s a poor look out!” he thought. “Eh, it’s a bad business, a bad business! Ech! things are in a bad way with us now! What does it all mean? What did that drunkard’s insinuations mean, for instance, and whose trickery was it? Ah! I know whose it was. And what a thing this is. No doubt they found out and made him sit there. . . . But, after all, did they sit him there? It was Andrey Filippovitch sat him there and with what object? Probably they found out. . . . That is Vahramyev’s work — that is, not Vahramyev, he is as stupid as an ashen post, Vahramyev is, and they are all at work on his behalf, and they egged that scoundrel on to come here for the same purpose, and the German woman brought up her grievance, the one-eyed hussy. I always suspected that this intrigue was not without an object and that in all this old-womanish gossip there must be something, and I said as much to Krestyan Ivanovitch, telling him they’d sworn to cut a man’s throat — in a moral sense, of course — and they pounced upon Karolina Ivanovna. Yes, there are master hands at work in this, one can see! Yes, sir, there are master hands at work in this, not Vahramyev’s. I’ve said already that Vahramyev is stupid, but . . . I know who it is behind it all, it’s that rascal, that impostor! It’s only that he relies upon, which is partly proved by his successes in the best society. And it would certainly be desirable to know on what footing he stands now. What is he now among them? Only, why have they taken Ivan Semyonovitch? What the devil do they want with Ivan Semyonovitch? Could not they have found any one else? Though it would come to the same thing whoever it had been, and the only thing I know is that I have suspected Ivan Semyonovitch for a long time past. I noticed long ago what a nasty, horrid old man he was — they say he lends money and takes interest like any Jew. To be sure, the bear’s the leading spirit in the whole affair. One can detect the bear in the whole affair. It began in this way. It began at the Ismailovsky Bridge; that’s how it began . . .”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin frowned, as though he had taken a bite out of a lemon, probably remembering something very unpleasant.
“But, there, it doesn’t matter,” he thought. “I keep harping on my own troubles. What will Ostafyev find out? Most likely he is staying on or has been delayed somehow. It is a good thing, in a sense, that I am intriguing like this, and am laying mines on my side too. I’ve only to give Ostafyev ten kopecks and he’s . . . so to speak, on my side. Only the point is, is he really on my side? Perhaps they’ve got him on their side too . . . and they are carrying on an intrigue by means of him on their side too. He looks a ruffian, the rascal, a regular ruffian; he’s hiding something, the rogue. ‘No, nothing,’ says he, ‘and I am deeply grateful to your honour.’ says he. You ruffian, you!”
He heard a noise . . . Mr. Golyadkin shrank up and skipped behind the stove. Some one came down stairs and went out into the street. “Who could that be going away now?” our hero thought to himself. A minute later footsteps were audible again . . . At this point Mr. Golyadkin could not resist poking the very tip of his nose out beyond his corner — he poked it out and instantly withdrew it again, as though some one had pricked it with a pin. This time some one he knew well was coming — that is the scoundrel, the intriguer and the reprobate — he was approaching with his usual mean, tripping little step, prancing and shuffling with his feet as though he were going to kick some one.
“The rascal,” said our hero to himself.
Mr. Golyadkin could not, however, help observing that the rascal had under his arm a huge green portfolio belonging to his Excellency.
“He’s on a special commission again,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, flushing crimson and shrinking into himself more than ever from vexation.
As soon as Mr. Golyadkin junior had slipped past Mr. Golyadkin senior without observing him in the least, footsteps were heard for the third time, and this time Mr. Golyadkin guessed that these were Ostafyev’s. It was, in fact, the sleek figure of a copying clerk, Pisarenko by name. This surprised Mr. Golyadkin. Why had he mixed up other people in their secret? our hero wondered. What barbarians! nothing is sacred to them! “Well, my friend?” he brought out, addressing Pisarenko: “who sent you, my friend? . . .”
“I’ve come about your business. There’s no news so far from any one. But should there be any we’ll let you know.”
“It was quite impossible for him to come, your honour. His Excellency has walked through the room twice, and I’ve no time to stay.”
“Thank you, my good man, thank you . . . only, tell me . . .”
“Upon my word, sir, I can’t stay. . . . They are asking for us every minute . . . but if your honour will stay here, we’ll let you know if anything happens concerning your little affair.”
“No, my friend, you just tell me . . .”
“Excuse me, I’ve no time to stay, sir,” said Pisarenko, tearing himself away from Mr. Golyadkin, who had clutched him by the lapel of his coat. “I really can’t. If your honour will stay here we’ll let you know.”
“In a minute, my good man, in a minute! In a minute, my good fellow! I tell you what, here’s a letter; and I’ll reward you, my good man.”
“Try and give it to Mr. Golyadkin my dear fellow.”
“Yes, my man, to Mr. Golyadkin.”
“Very good, sir; as soon as I get off I’ll take it, and you stay here, meanwhile; no one will see you here . . . ”
“No, my good man, don’t imagine . . . I’m not standing here to avoid being seen. But I’m not going to stay here now, my friend . . . I’ll be close here in the side of the street. There’s a coffee-house near here; so I’ll wait there, and if anything happens, you let me know about anything, you understand?”
“Very good, sir. Only let me go; I understand.”
“And I’ll reward you,” Mr. Golyadkin called after Pisarenko, when he had at last released him . . . .”
“The rogue seemed to be getting rather rude,” our hero reflected as he stealthily emerged from behind the stove. “There’s some other dodge here. That’s clear . . . At first it was one thing and another . . . he really was in a hurry, though; perhaps there’s a great deal to do in the office. And his Excellency had been through the room twice . . . How did that happen? . . . Ough! never mind! it may mean nothing, perhaps; but now we shall see . . . .”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin was about to open the door, intending to go out into the street, when suddenly, at that very instant, his Excellency’s carriage was opened from within and a gentleman jumped out. This gentleman was no other than Mr. Golyadkin junior, who had only gone out ten minutes before. Mr. Golyadkin senior remembered that the Director’s flat was only a couple of paces away.
“He has been out on a special commission,” our hero thought to himself.
Meanwhile, Mr. Golyadkin junior took out of the carriage a thick green portfolio and other papers. Finally, giving some orders to the coachman, he opened the door, almost ran up against Mr. Golyadkin senior, purposely avoided noticing him, acting in this way expressly to annoy him, and mounted the office staircase at a rapid canter.
“It’s a bad look out,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “This is what it has come to now! Oh, good Lord! look at him.”
For half a minute our hero remained motionless. At last he made up his mind. Without pausing to think, though he was aware of a violent palpitation of the heart and a tremor in all his limbs, he ran up the stair after his enemy.
“Here goes; what does it matter to me? I have nothing to do with the case,” he thought, taking off his hat, his greatcoat and his goloshes in the entry.
When Mr. Golyadkin walked into his office, it was already getting dusk. Neither Andrey Filippovitch nor Anton Antonovitch were in the room. Both of them were in the Director’s room, handing in reports. The Director, so it was rumoured, was in haste to report to a still higher Excellency. In consequence of this, and also because twilight was coming on, and the office hours were almost over, several of the clerks, especially the younger ones, were, at the moment when our hero entered, enjoying a period of inactivity; gathered together in groups, they were talking, arguing, and laughing, and some of the most youthful — that is, belonging to the lowest grades in the service, had got up a game of pitch-farthing in a corner, by a window. Knowing what was proper, and feeling at the moment a special need to conciliate and get on with them, Mr. Golyadkin immediately approached those with him he used to get on best, in order to wish them good day, and so on. But his colleagues answered his greetings rather strangely. He was unpleasantly impressed by a certain coldness, even curtness, one might almost say severity in their manner. No one shook hands with him. Some simply said, “Good day” and walked away; others barely nodded; one simply turned away and pretended not to notice him; at last some of them — and what mortified Mr. Golyadkin most of all, some of the youngsters of the lowest grades, mere lads who, as Mr. Golyadkin justly observed about them, were capable of nothing but hanging about and playing pitch-farthing at every opportunity — little by little collected round Mr. Golyadkin, formed a group round him and almost barred his way. They all looked at him with a sort of insulting curiosity.
It was a bad sign. Mr. Golyadkin felt this, and very judiciously decided not to notice it. Suddenly a quite unexpected event completely finished him off, as they say, and utterly crushed him.
At the moment most trying to Mr. Golyadkin senior, suddenly, as though by design, there appeared in the group of fellow clerks surrounding him the figure of Mr. Golyadkin junior, gay as ever, smiling a little smile as ever, nimble, too, as ever; in short, mischievous, skipping and tripping, chuckling and fawning, with sprightly tongue and sprightly toe, as always, precisely as he had been the day before at a very unpleasant moment for Mr. Golyadkin senior, for instance.
Grinning, tripping and turning with a smile that seemed to say “good evening,” to every one, he squeezed his way into the group of clerks, shaking hands with one, slapping another on the shoulder, putting his arm round another, explaining to a fourth how he had come to be employed by his Excellency, where he had been, what he had done, what he had brought with him; to the fifth, probably his most intimate friend, he gave a resounding kiss — in fact, everything happened as it had in Mr. Golyadkin’s dream. When he had skipped about to his heart’s content, polished them all off in his usual way, disposed them all in his favour, whether he needed them or not, when he had lavished his blandishments to the delectation of all the clerks, Mr. Golyadkin junior suddenly, and most likely by mistake, for he had not yet had time to notice his senior, held out his hand to Mr. Golyadkin senior also. Probably also by mistake — though he had had time to observe the dishonourable Mr. Golyadkin junior thoroughly, our hero at once eagerly seized the hand so unexpectedly held out to him and pressed it in the warmest and friendliest way, pressed it with a strange, quite unexpected, inner feeling, with a tearful emotion. Whether our hero was misled by the first movement of his worthless foe, or was taken unawares, or, without recognizing it, felt at the bottom of his heart how defenceless he was — it is difficult to say. The fact remains that Mr. Golyadkin senior, apparently knowing what he was doing, of his own free will, before witnesses, solemnly shook hands with him whom he called his mortal foe. But what was the amazement, the stupefaction and fury, what was the horror and the shame of Mr. Golyadkin senior, when his enemy and mortal foe, the dishonourable Mr. Golyadkin junior, noticing the mistake of that persecuted, innocent, perfidiously deceived man, without a trace of shame, of feeling, of compassion or of conscience, pulled his hand away with insufferable rudeness and insolence. What was worse, he shook the hand as though it had been polluted with something horrid; what is more, he spat aside with disgust, accompanying this with a most insulting gesture; worse still, he drew out his handkerchief and, in the most unseemly way, wiped all the fingers that had rested for one moment in the hand of Mr. Golyadkin senior. While he did this Mr. Golyadkin junior looked about him in his characteristic horrid way, took care that every one should see what he was doing, glanced into people’s eyes and evidently tried to insinuate to every one everything that was most unpleasant in regard to Mr. Golyadkin senior. Mr. Golyadkin junior’s revolting behaviour seemed to arouse general indignation among the clerks that surrounded them; even the frivolous youngsters showed their displeasure. A murmur of protest rose on all sides. Mr. Golyadkin could not but discern the general feeling; but suddenly — an appropriate witticism that bubbled from the lips of Mr. Golyadkin junior shattered, annihilated our hero’s last hopes, and inclined the balance again in favour of his deadly and undeserving for.
“He’s our Russian Faublas, gentlemen; allow me to introduce the youthful Faublas,” piped Mr. Golyadkin junior, with his characteristic insolence, pirouetting and threading his way among the clerks, and directing their attention to the petrified though genuine Mr. Golyadkin. “Let us kiss each other, darling,” he went on with insufferable familiarity, addressing the man he had so treacherously insulted. Mr. Golyadkin junior’s unworthy jest seemed to touch a responsive chord, for it contained an artful allusion to an incident with which all were apparently familiar. Our hero was painfully conscious of the hand of his enemies. But he had made up his mind by now. With glowing eyes, with pale face, with a fixed smile he tore himself somehow out of the crowd and with uneven, hurried steps made straight for his Excellency’s private room. In the room next to the last he was met by Andrey Filippovitch, who had only just come out from seeing his Excellency, and although there were present in this room at the moment a good number of persons of whom Mr. Golyadkin knew nothing, yet our hero did not care to take such a fact into consideration. Boldly, resolutely, directly, almost wondering at himself and inwardly admiring his own courage, without loss of time he accosted Andrey Filippovitch, who was a good deal surprised by the unexpected attack.
“Ah! . . . What is it . . . what do you want?” asked the head of the division, not hearing Mr. Golyadkin’s hesitant words.
“Andrey Filippovitch, may . . . might I, Andrey Filippovitch, may I have a conversation with his Excellency at once and in private?” our hero said resolutely and distinctly, fixing the most determined glance on Andrey Filippovitch.
“What next! of course not.” Andrey Filippovitch scanned Mr. Golyadkin from head to foot.
“I say all this, Andrey Filippovitch, because I am surprised that no-one here unmasks the imposter and scoundrel.”
“Scoundrel, Andrey Filippovitch!”
“Of whom are you pleased to speak in those terms?”
“Of a certain person, Andrey Filippovitch; I’m alluding, Andrey Filippovitch, to a certain person; I have the right . . . I imagine, Andrey Filippovitch, that the authorities would surely encourage such action,” added Mr. Golyadkin, evidently hardly knowing what he was saying. “Andrey Filippovitch . . . but no doubt you see yourself, Andrey Filippovitch, that this honourable action is a mark of my loyalty in every way — of my looking upon my superior as a father, Andrey Filippovitch; I as much as to say look upon my benevolent superior as a father and blindly trust my fate to him. It’s as much as to say . . . you see . . . “ At this point Mr. Golyadkin’s voice trembled and two tears ran down his eyelashes.
As Andrey Filippovitch listened to Mr. Golyadkin he was so astonished that he could not help stepping back a couple of paces. Then he looked about him uneasily . . . It is difficult to say how the matter would have ended. But suddenly the door of his Excellency’s room was opened, and he himself came out, accompanied by several officials. All the persons in his room followed in a string. His Excellency called to Andrey Filippovitch and walked beside him, beginning to discuss some business details. When all had set off and gone out of the room, Mr. Golyadkin woke up. Growing calmer, he took refuge under the wing of Anton Antonovitch, who came last in the procession and who, Mr. Golyadkin fancied, looked stern and anxious. “I’ve been talking nonsense, I’ve been making a mess of it again, but there, never mind,” he thought.
“I hope, at least, that you, Anton Antonovitch will consent to listen to me and to enter into my position,” he said quietly, in a voice that still trembled a little. “Rejected by all, I appeal to you. I am still at a loss to understand what Andrey Filippovitch’s words mean, Anton Antonovitch. Explain them to me if you can . . .”
“Everything will be explained in due time,” Anton Antonovitch replied sternly and emphatically, and as Mr. Golyadkin fancied with an air that gave him plainly to understand that Anton Antonovitch did not wish to continue the conversation. “You will soon know all about it. You will be officially informed about everything today.”
“What do you mean by officially informed, Anton Antonovitch? Why officially?” our hero asked timidly.
“It is not for you and me to discuss what our superiors decide upon, Yakov Petrovitch.”
“Why our superiors, Anton Antonovitch?” said our hero, still more intimidated; “why our superiors? I don’t see what reason there is to trouble our superiors in the matter, Anton Antonovitch . . . Perhaps you mean to say something about yesterday’s doings, Anton Antonovitch?”
“Oh no, nothing to do with yesterday; there’s something else amiss with you.”
“What is there amiss, Anton Antonovitch? I believe, Anton Antonovitch, that I have done nothing amiss.”
“Why, you were meaning to be sly with some one,” Anton Antonovitch cut in sharply, completely flabbergasting Mr. Golyadkin.
Mr. Golyadkin started, and turned as white as a pocket-handkerchief.
“Of course, Anton Antonovitch,” he said, in a voice hardly audible, “if one listens to the voice of calumny and hears one’s enemies’ tales, without heeding what the other side has to say in its defence, then, of course . . . then, of course, Anton Antonovitch, one must suffer innocently and for nothing.”
“To be sure; but your unseemly conduct, in injuring the reputation of a virtuous young lady belonging to that benevolent, highly distinguished and well-known family who had befriended you . . .”
“What conduct do you mean, Anton Antonovitch?”
“What I say. Do you know anything about your praiseworthy conduct in regard to that other young lady who, though poor, is of honourable foreign extraction?”
“Allow me, Anton Antonovitch . . . if you would kindly listen to me, Anton Antonovitch . . .”
“And your treacherous behaviour and slander of another person, your charging another person with your own sins. Ah, what do you call that?”
“I did not send him away, Anton Antonovitch,” said our hero, with a tremor; “and I’ve never instructed Petrushka, my man, to do anything of the sort . . . He has eaten my bread, Anton Antonovitch, he has taken advantage of my hospitality,” our hero added expressively and with deep emotion, so much so that his chin twitched a little and tears were ready to start again.
“That is only your talk, that he has eaten your bread,” answered Anton Antonovitch, somewhat offended, and there was a perfidious note in his voice which sent a pang to Mr. Golyadkin’s heart.
“Allow me most humbly to ask you again, Anton Antonovitch, is his Excellency aware of all this business?”
“Upon my word, you must let me go now, though. I’ve not time for you now. . . . You’ll know everything you need to know today.”
“Allow me, for God’s sake, one minute, Anton Antonovitch.”
“Tell me afterwards. . .”
“No, Anton Antonovitch; I . . . you see, Anton Antonovitch . . . only listen . . . I am not one for freethinking, Anton Antonovitch; I shun freethinking; I am quite ready for my part . . . and, indeed, I’ve given up that idea . . . .”
“Very good, very good. I’ve heard that already.”
“No, you have not heard it, Anton Antonovitch. It is something else, Anton Antonovitch: it’s a good thing, really, a good thing and pleasant to hear . . . As I’ve explained to you, Anton Antonovitch, I admit that idea, that divine Providence has created two men exactly alike, and that a benevolent government, seeing the hand of Providence, provided a berth for two twins. That is a good thing, Anton Antonovitch, and that I am very far from freethinking. I look upon my benevolent government as a father; I say ‘yes,’ by all means; you are benevolent authorities, and you, of course . . . A young man must be in the service . . . Stand up for me, Anton Antonovitch, take my part, Anton Antonovitch . . . I am all right . . . Anton Antonovitch, for God’s sake, one little word more. . . . Anton Antonovitch . . . .”
But by now Anton Antonovitch was far away from Mr. Golyadkin . . . Our hero was so bewildered and overcome by all that had happened and all that he had heard that he did not know where he was standing, what he had heard, what he had done, what was being done to him, and what was going to be done to him.
With imploring eyes he sought for Anton Antonovitch in the crowd of clerks, that he might justify himself further in his eyes and say something to him extremely high toned and very agreeable, and creditable to himself. . . . By degrees, however, a new light began to break upon our hero’s bewildered mind, a new and awful light that revealed at once a whole perspective of hitherto unknown and utterly unsuspected circumstances . . . At that moment somebody gave our bewildered hero a poke in the ribs. He looked around. Pisarenko was standing before him.
“A letter, your honour.”
“Ah, you’ve been taken out already, my good man?”
“No, it was brought at ten o’clock this morning. Sergey Mihyeev, the attendant, brought it form Mr. Vahramyev’s lodging.”
“Very good, very good, and I’ll reward you now, my dear fellow.”
Saying this, Mr. Golyadkin thrust the letter in his side pocket of his uniform and buttoned up every button of it; then he looked round him, and to his surprise, found that he was by now in the hall of the department in a group of clerks crowding at the outer door, for office hours were over. Mr. Golyadkin had not only failed till that moment to observe this circumstance, but had no notion how he suddenly came to be wearing his greatcoat and goloshes and to be holding his hat in his hand. All the clerks were motionless, in reverential expectation. The fact was that his Excellency was standing at the bottom of the stairs waiting for his carriage, which was for some reason late in arriving, and was carrying on a very interesting conversation with Andrey Filippovitch and two councillors. At a little distance from Andrey Filippovitch stood Anton Antonovitch and several other clerks, who were all smiles, seeing that his Excellency was graciously making a joke. The clerks who were crowded at the top of the stair were smiling too, in expectation of his Excellency’s laughing again. The only one who was not smiling was Fedosyevitch, the corpulent hall-porter, who stood stiffly at attention, holding the handle of the door, waiting impatiently for the daily gratification that fell to his share — that is, the task of flinging one half of the door wide open with a swing of his arm, and then, with a low bow, reverentially making way for his Excellency to pass. But the one who seemed to be more delighted than any and to feel the most satisfaction of all was the worthless and ungentlemanly enemy of Mr. Golyadkin. At that instant he positively forgot all the clerks, and even gave up tripping and pirouetting in his usual odious way; he even forgot to make up to anybody. He was all eyes and ears, he even doubled himself up strangely, no doubt in the strained effort to hear, and never took his eyes off his Excellency, and only from time to time his arms, legs and head twitched with faintly perceptible tremors that betrayed the secret emotions of his soul.
“Ah, isn’t he in a state!” thought our hero; “he looks like a favourite, the rascal! I should like to know how it is that he deceives society of every class. He has neither brains nor character, neither education nor feeling; he’s a lucky rogue! Mercy on us! How can a man, when you think of it, come and make friends with every one so quickly! And he’ll get on, I swear the fellow will get on, the rogue will make his way — he’s a lucky rascal! I should like to know, too, what he keeps whispering to every one — what plots he is hatching with all these people, and what secrets they are talking about? Lord, have mercy on us! If only I could . . . get on with them a little too . . . say this and that and the other. Hadn’t I better ask him . . . tell him I won’t do it again; say ‘I’m in fault, and a young man must serve nowadays, your Excellency’? I am not going to protest in any way, either; I shall bear it all with meekness and patience, so there! Is that the way to behave? . . . Though you’ll never see through him, though, the rascal; you can’t reach him with anything you say; you can’t hammer reason into his head . . . We’ll make an effort, though. I may happen to hit on a good moment, so I’ll make an effort . . . .”
Feeling in his uneasiness, his misery and his bewilderment that he couldn’t leave things like this, that the critical moment had come, that he must explain himself to some one, our hero began to move a little towards the place where his worthless and undeserving enemy stood: but at that very moment his Excellency’s long-expected carriage rolled up into the entrance, Fedosyevitch flung open the door and, bending double, let his Excellency pass out. All the waiting clerks streamed out towards the door, and for a moment separated Mr. Golyadkin senior from Mr. Golyadkin junior.
“You shan’t get away!” said our hero, forcing his way through the crowd while he kept his eyes fixed upon the man he wanted. At last the crowd dispersed. Our hero felt he was free and flew in pursuit of his enemy.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07