Mr. Golyadkin’s breath failed him; he flew as though on wings after his rapidly retreating enemy. He was conscious of immense energy. Yet in spite of this terrible energy he might confidently have said that at that moment a humble gnat — had a gnat been able to exist in Petersburg at that time of the year — could very easily have knocked him down. He felt, too, that he was utterly weak again, that he was carried along by a peculiar outside force, that it was not he himself who was running, but, on the contrary, that his legs were giving way under him, and refused to obey him. This all might turn out for the best, however.
“Whether it is for the best or not for the best,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, almost breathless from running so quickly, “but that the game is lost there cannot be the slightest doubt now; that I am utterly done for is certain, definite, signed and ratified.”
In spite of all this our hero felt as though he had risen from the dead, as though he had withstood a battalion, as though he had won a victory when he succeeded in clutching the overcoat of his enemy, who had already raised one foot to get into the cab he had engaged.
“My dear sir! My dear sir!” he shouted to the infamous Mr. Golyadkin junior, holding him by the button. “My dear sir, I hope that you . . .”
“No, please do not hope for anything,” Mr. Golyadkin’s heartless enemy answered evasively, standing with one foot on the step of the cab and vainly waving the other leg in the air, in his efforts to get in, trying to preserve his equilibrium, and at the same time trying with all his might to wrench his coat away from Mr. Golyadkin senior, while the latter held on to it with all the strength that had been vouchsafed to him by nature.
“Yakov Petrovitch, only ten minutes . . .”
“Excuse me, I’ve no time . . .”
“You must admit, Yakov Petrovitch . . . please, Yakov Petrovitch . . . For God’s sake, Yakov Petrovitch . . . let us have it out — in a straightforward way . . . one little second, Yakov Petrovitch . . .
“My dear fellow, I can’t stay,” answered Mr. Golyadkin’s dishonourable enemy, with uncivil familiarity, disguised as good-natured heartiness; “another time, believe me, with my whole soul and all my heart; but now I really can’t . . .”
“Scoundrel!” thought our hero. “Yakov Petrovitch,” he cried miserably. “I have never been your enemy. Spiteful people have described me unjustly . . . I am ready, on my side . . . Yakov Petrovitch, shall we go in here together, at once, Yakov Petrovitch? And with all my heart, as you have so justly expressed it just now, and in straightforward, honourable language, as you have expressed it just now — here into this coffee-house; there the facts will explain themselves: they will really, Yakov Petrovitch. Then everything will certainly explain itself . . .”
“Into the coffee-house? Very good. I am not against it. Let us go into the coffee-house on one condition only, my dear, on one condition — that these things shall be cleared up. We will have it out, darling,” said Mr. Golyadkin junior, getting out of the cab and shamelessly slapping our hero on the shoulder; “You friend of my heart, for your sake, Yakov Petrovitch, I am ready to go by the back street (as you were pleased to observe so aptly on one occasion, Yakov Petrovitch). Why, what a rogue he is! Upon my word, he does just what he likes with one!” Mr. Golyadkin’s false friend went on, fawning upon him and cajoling him with a little smile. The coffee-house which the two Mr. Golyadkins entered stood some distance away from the main street and was at the moment quite empty. A rather stout German woman made her appearance behind the counter. Mr. Golyadkin and his unworthy enemy went into the second room, where a puffy-looking boy with a closely shaven head was busy with a bundle of chips at the stove, trying to revive the smouldering fire. At Mr. Golyadkin junior’s request chocolate was served.
“And a sweet little lady-tart,” said Mr. Golyadkin junior, with a sly wink at Mr. Golyadkin senior.
Our hero blushed and was silent.
“Oh, yes, I forgot, I beg your pardon. I know your taste. We are sweet on charming little Germans, sir; you and I are sweet on charming and agreeable little Germans, aren’t we, you upright soul? We take their lodgings, we seduce their morals, they win our hearts with their beersoup and their milksoup, and we give them notes of different sorts, that’s what we do, you Faublas, you deceiver!” All this Mr. Golyadkin junior said, making an unworthy though villainously artful allusion to a certain personage of the female sex, while he fawned upon our hero, smiled at him with an amiable air, with a deceitful show of being delighted with him and pleased to have met him. Seeing that Mr. Golyadkin senior was by no means so stupid and deficient in breeding and the manners of good society as to believe in him, the infamous man resolved to change his tactics and to make a more open attack upon him. After uttering his disgusting speech, the false Mr. Golyadkin ended by slapping the real and substantial Mr. Golyadkin on the shoulder, with a revolting effrontery and familiarity. Not content with that, he began playing pranks utterly unfit for well-bred society; he took it into his head to repeat his old, nauseous trick — that is, regardless of the resistance and faint cries of the indignant Mr. Golyadkin senior, he pinched the latter on the cheek. At the spectacle of such depravity our hero boiled within, but was silent . . . only for the time, however.
“That is the talk of my enemies,” he answered at last, in a trembling voice, prudently restraining himself. At the same time our hero looked round uneasily towards the door. The fact was that Mr. Golyadkin junior seemed in excellent spirits, and ready for all sorts of little jokes, unseemly in a public place, and, speaking generally, not permissible by the laws of good manners, especially in well-bred society.
“Oh, well, in that case, as you please,” Mr. Golyadkin junior gravely responded to our hero’s thought, setting down upon the table the empty cup which he had gulped down with unseemly greed. “Well, there’s no need for me to stay long with you, however. . . . Well, how are you getting on now, Yakov Petrovitch?”
“There’s only one thing I can tell you, Yakov Petrovitch,” our hero answered, with sangfroid and dignity; “I’ve never been your enemy.”
“H’m . . . Oh, what about Petrushka? Petrushka is his name, I fancy? Yes, it is Petrushka! Well, how is he? Well? The same as ever?”
“He’s the same as ever, too, Yakov Petrovitch,” answered Mr. Golyadkin senior, somewhat amazed. “I don’t know, Yakov Petrovitch . . . from my standpoint . . . from a candid, honourable standpoint, Yakov Petrovitch, you must admit, Yakov Petrovitch . . . .”
“Yes, but you know yourself, Yakov Petrovitch,” Mr. Golyadkin junior answered in a soft and expressive voice, so posing falsely as a sorrowful man overcome with remorse and deserving compassion. “You know yourself as we live in difficult time . . . I appeal to you, Yakov Petrovitch; you are an intelligent man and your reflections are just,” Mr. Golyadkin junior said in conclusion, flattering Mr. Golyadkin senior in an abject way. “Life is not a game, you know yourself, Yakov Petrovitch,” Mr. Golyadkin junior added, with vast significance, assuming the character of a clever and learned man, who is capable of passing judgements on lofty subjects.
“For my part, Yakov Petrovitch,” our hero answered warmly, “for my part, scorning to be roundabout and speaking boldly and openly, using straightforward, honourable language and putting the whole matter on an honourable basis, I tell you I can openly and honourably assert, Yakov Petrovitch, that I am absolutely pure, and that, you know it yourself, Yakov Petrovitch, the error is mutual — it may all be the world’s judgment, the opinion of the slavish crowd. . . . I speak openly, Yakov Petrovitch, everything is possible. I will say, too, Yakov Petrovitch, if you judge it in this way, if you look at the matter from a lofty, noble point of view, then I will boldly say, without false shame I will say, Yakov Petrovitch, it will positively be a pleasure to me to discover that I have been in error, it will positively be a pleasure to me to recognize it. You know yourself you are an intelligent man and, what is more, you are a gentleman. Without shame, without false shame, I am ready to recognize it,” he wound up with dignity and nobility.
“It is the decree of destiny, Yakov Petrovitch . . . but let us drop all this,” said Mr. Golyadkin junior. “Let us rather use the brief moment of our meeting for a more pleasant and profitable conversation, as is only suitable between two colleagues in the service . . . Really, I have not succeeded in saying two words to you all this time. . . . I am not to blame for that, Yakov Petrovitch . . . .”
“Nor I,” answered our hero warmly, “nor I, either! My heart tells me, Yakov Petrovitch, that I’m not to blame in all this matter. Let us blame fate for all this, Yakov Petrovitch,” added Mr. Golyadkin senior, in a quick, conciliatory tone of voice. His voice began little by little to soften and to quaver.
“Well! How are you in health?” said the sinner in a sweet voice.
“I have a little cough,” answered our hero, even more sweetly.
“Take care of yourself. There is so much illness going about, you may easily get quinsy; for my part I confess I’ve begun to wrap myself up in flannel.”
“One may, indeed, Yakov Petrovitch, very easily get quinsy,” our hero pronounced after a brief silence; “Yakov Petrovitch, I see that I have made a mistake, I remember with softened feelings those happy moments which we were so fortunate as to spend together, under my poor, though I venture to say, hospitable roof . . .”
“In your letter, however, you wrote something very different,” said Mr. Golyadkin junior reproachfully, speaking on this occasion — though only on this occasion — quite justly.
“Yakov Petrovitch, I was in error. . . . I see clearly now that I was in error in my unhappy letter too. Yakov Petrovitch, I am ashamed to look at you, Yakov Petrovitch, you wouldn’t believe . . . Give me that letter that I may tear it to pieces before your eyes, Yakov Petrovitch, and if that is utterly impossible I entreat you to read it the other way before — precisely the other way before — that is, expressly with a friendly intention, giving the opposite sense to the whole letter. I was in error. Forgive me, Yakov Petrovitch, I was quite . . . I was grievously in error, Yakov Petrovitch.”
“You say so?” Mr. Golyadkin’s perfidious friend inquired, rather casually and indifferently.
“I say that I was quite in error, Yakov Petrovitch, and that for my part, quite without false shame, I am . . .”
“Ah, well, that’s all right! That’s a nice thing your being in error,” answered Mr. Golyadkin junior.
“I even had an idea, Yakov Petrovitch,” our candid hero answered in a gentlemanly way, completely failing to observe the horrible perfidy of his deceitful enemy; “I even had an idea that here were two people created exactly alike . . . .”
“Ah, is that your idea?”
At this point the notoriously worthless Mr. Golyadkin took up his hat. Still failing to observe his treachery, Mr. Golyadkin senior, too, got up and with a noble, simple-hearted smile to his false friend, tried in his innocence to be friendly to him, to encourage him, and in that way to form a new friendship with him.
“Good-bye, your Excellency,” Mr. Golyadkin junior called out suddenly. Our hero started, noticing in his enemy’s face something positively Bacchanalian, and, solely to get rid of him, put two fingers into the unprincipled man’s outstretched hand; but then . . . then his enemy’s shameless ness passed all bounds. Seizing the two fingers of Mr. Golyadkin’s hand and at first pressing them, the worthless fellow on the spot, before Mr. Golyadkin’s eyes, had the effrontery to repeat the shameful joke of the morning. The limit of human patience was exhausted.
He had just hidden in his pocket the handkerchief with which he had wiped his fingers when Mr. Golyadkin senior recovered from the shock and dashed after him into the next room, into which his irreconcilable foe had in his usual hasty way hastened to decamp. As though perfectly innocent, he was standing at the counter eating pies, and with perfect composure, like a virtuous man, was making polite remarks to the German woman behind the counter.
“I can’t go into it before ladies,” thought our hero, and he, too, went up to the counter, so agitated that he hardly knew what he was doing.
“The tart is certainly not bad! What do you think?” Mr. Golyadkin junior began upon his unseemly sallies again, reckoning, no doubt, upon Mr. Golyadkin’s infinite patience. The stout German, for her part, looked at both her visitors with pewtery, vacant-looking eyes, smiling affably and evidently not understanding Russian. Our hero flushed red as fire at the words of the unabashed Mr. Golyadkin junior, and, unable to control himself, rushed at him with the evident intention of tearing him to pieces and finishing him off completely, but Mr. Golyadkin junior, in his usual mean way, was already far off; he took flight, he was already on the steps. It need hardly be said that, after the first moment of stupefaction with which Mr. Golyadkin senior was naturally overcome, he recovered himself and went at full speed after his insulting enemy, who had already got into a cab, whose driver was obviously in collusion with him. But at that very instant the stout German, seeing both her customers make off, shrieked and rang her bell with all her might. Our hero was on the point of flight, but he turned back, and, without asking for change, flung her money for himself and for the shameless man who had left without paying, and although thus delayed he succeeded in catching up his enemy. Hanging on to the side of the cab with all the force bestowed on him by nature, our hero was carried for some time along the street, clambering upon the vehicle, while Mr. Golyadkin junior did his utmost to dislodge him. Meanwhile the cabman, with whip, with reins, with kicks and with shouts urged on his exhausted nag, who quite unexpectedly dropped into a gallop, biting at the bit, and kicking with his hind legs in a horrid way. At last our enemy and with his back to the driver, his knees touching the knees and his right hand clutching the very shabby fur collar of his depraved and exasperated foe.
The enemies were borne along for some time in silence. Our hero could scarcely breathe. It was a bad road and he was jolted at every step and in peril of breaking his neck. Moreover, his exasperated foe still refused to acknowledge himself vanquished and was trying to shove him off into the mud. To complete the unpleasantness of his position the weather was detestable. The snow was falling in heavy flakes and doing its utmost to creep under the unfastened overcoat of the genuine Mr. Golyadkin. It was foggy and nothing could be seen. It was difficult to tell through what street and in what direction they were being taken . . . It seemed to Mr. Golyadkin that what was happening to him was somehow familiar. One instant he tried to remember whether he had had a presentiment of it the day before, in a dream, for instance . . . .
At last his wretchedness reached the utmost pitch of agony. Leaning upon his merciless opponent, he was beginning to cry out. But his cries died away upon his lips. . . . There was a moment when Mr. Golyadkin forgot everything, and made up his mind that all this was of no consequence and that it was all nothing, that it was happening in some inexplicable manner, and that, therefore, to protest was effort thrown away. . . . But suddenly and almost at the same instant that our hero was drawing this conclusion, an unexpected jolt gave quite a new turn to the affair. Mr. Golyadkin fell off the cab like a sack of flour and rolled on the ground, quite correctly recognizing, at the moment of his fall, that his excitement had been very inappropriate. Jumping up at last, he saw that they had arrived somewhere; the cab was standing in the middle of some courtyard, and from the first glance our hero noticed that it was the courtyard of the house in which was Olsufy Ivanovitch’s flat. At the same instant he noticed that his enemy was mounting the steps, probably on his way to Olsufy Ivanovitch’s. In indescribable misery he was about to pursue his enemy, but, fortunately for himself, prudently thought better of it. Not forgetting to pay the cabman, Mr. Golyadkin ran with all his might along the street, regardless of where he was going. The snow was falling heavily as before; as before it was muggy, wet, and dark. Our hero did not walk, but flew, coming into collision with every one on the way — men, women and children. About him and after him he heard frightened voices, squeals, screams . . . But Mr. Golyadkin seemed unconscious and would pay no heed to anything. . . . He came to himself, however, on Semyonovsky Bridge, and then only through succeeding in tripping against and upsetting two peasant women and the wares they were selling, and tumbling over them.
“That’s no matter,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, “that can easily be set right,” and felt in his pocket at once, intending to make up for the cakes, apples, nuts and various trifles he had scattered with a rouble. Suddenly a new light dawned upon Mr. Golyadkin; in his pocket he felt the letter given him in the morning by the clerk. Remembering that there was a tavern he knew close by, he ran to it without a moment’s delay, settled himself at a little table lighted up by a tallow candle, and, taking no notice of anything, regardless of the waiter who came to ask for his orders, broke the seal and began reading the following letter, which completely astounded him —
“You noble man, who are suffering for my sake, and will be dear to my heart for ever!
“I am suffering, I am perishing — save me! The slanderer, the intriguer, notorious for the immorality of his tendencies, has entangled me in his snares and I am undone! I am lost! But he is abhorrent to me, while you! . . . They have separated us, they have intercepted my letters to you — and all this has been the vicious man who has taken advantage of his one good quality — his likeness to you. A man can always be plain in appearance, yet fascinate by his intelligence, his strong feelings and his agreeable manners . . . I am ruined! I am being married against my will, and the chief part in this intrigue is taken by my parent, benefactor and civil councillor, Olsufy Ivanovitch, no doubt desirous of securing me a place and relations in well-bred society. . . . But I have made up my mind and I protest by all the powers bestowed on me by nature. Be waiting for me with a carriage at nine o’clock this evening at the window of Olsufy Ivanovitch’s flat. We are having another ball and a handsome lieutenant is coming. I will come out and we will fly. Moreover, there are other government offices in which one can be of service to one’s country. In any case, remember, my friend, that innocence is strong in its very innocence. Farewell. Wait with the carriage at the entrance. I shall throw myself into the protection of your arms at two o’clock in the night.
“Yours till death,
After reading the letter our hero remained for some minutes as though petrified. In terrible anxiety, in terrible agitation, white as a sheet, with the letter in his hand, he walked several times up and down the room; to complete the unpleasantness of his position, though our hero failed to observe it, he was at that moment the object of the exclusive attention of every one in the room, his gesticulating with both hands, perhaps some enigmatic words unconsciously addressed to the air, probably all this prejudiced Mr. Golyadkin in the opinion of the customers, and even the waiter began to look at him suspiciously. Coming to himself, Mr. Golyadkin noticed that he was standing in the middle of the room and was in an almost unseemly, discourteous manner staring at an old man of very respectable appearance who, having dined and said grace before the ikon, had sat down again and fixed his eyes upon Mr. Golyadkin. Our hero looked vaguely about him and noticed that every one, actually every one, was looking at him with a hostile and suspicious air. All at once a retired military man in a red collar asked loudly for the Police News. Mr. Golyadkin started and turned crimson: he happened to look down and saw that he was in such disorderly attire as he would not have worn even at home, much less in a public place. His boots, his trousers and the whole of his left side were covered with mud; the trouser-strap was torn off his right foot, and his coat was even torn in many places. In extreme misery our hero went up to the table at which he had read the letter, ad saw that the attendant was coming up to him with a strange and impudently peremptory expression of face. utterly disconcerted and crestfallen, our hero began to look about the table at which he was now standing. On the table stood a dirt plate, left there from somebody’s dinner, a soled table-napkin and a knife, fork and spoon that had just been used. “Who has been having dinner?” thought our hero. “Can it have been I? Anything is possible! I must have had dinner without noticing it; what am I to do?”
Raising his eyes, Mr. Golyadkin again saw beside him the waiter who was about to address him.
“How much is my bill, my lad?” our hero inquired, in a trembling voice.
A loud laugh sounded round Mr. Golyadkin, the waiter himself grinned. Mr. Golyadkin realized that he had blundered again, and had done something dreadfully stupid. He was overcome by confusion, and to avoid standing there with nothing to do he put his hand in his pocket to get out his handkerchief; but to the indescribable amazement of himself and all surrounding him, he pulled out instead of his handkerchief the bottle of medicine which Krestyan Ivanovitch had prescribed for him four days earlier. “Get the medicine at the same chemist’s,” floated through Mr. Golyadkin’s brain . . . .
Suddenly he started and almost cried out in horror. A new light dawned. . . . The dark reddish and repulsive liquid had a sinister gleam to Mr. Golyadkin’s eyes. . . . The bottle dropped from his hands and was instantly smashed. Our hero cried out and stepped back a pace to avoid the spilled medicine . . . he was trembling in every limb, and drops of sweat came out on to his brow and temples. “So my life is in danger!” Meantime there was a stir, a commotion in the room; every one surrounded Mr. Golyadkin, every one talked to Mr. Golyadkin, some even caught hold of Mr. Golyadkin. But our hero was dumb and motionless, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, feeling nothing. . . . At last, as though tearing himself from the place, he rushed out of the tavern, pushing away all and each who tried to detain him; almost unconscious, he got into the first cab that passed him and drove to his flat.
In the entry of his flat he met Mihyeev, an attendant from the office, with an official envelope in his hand.
“I know, my good man, I know all about it,” our exhausted hero answered, in a weak, miserable voice; “it’s official . . .”
The envelope did, in fact, contain instructions to Mr. Golyadkin, signed by Andrey Filippovitch, to give up the business in his hands to Ivan Semyonovitch. Taking the envelope and giving ten kopecks to the man, Mr. Golyadkin went into his flat and saw that Petrushka was collecting all his odds and ends, all his things into a heap, evidently intending to abandon Mr. Golyadkin and move to the flat of Karolina Ivanovna, who had enticed him to take the place of Yevstafy.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07