Petrushka came in swaggering, with a strangely casual manner and an air of vulgar triumph on his face. It was evident that he had some idea in his head, that he felt thoroughly within his rights, and he looked like an unconcerned spectator — that is, as though he were anybody’s servant rather than Mr. Golyadkin’s.
“I say, you know, my good lad,” our hero began breathlessly, “what time is it?”
Without speaking, Petrushka went behind his partition, then returned, and in a rather independent tone announced that it was nearly half-past seven.
“Well, that’s all right, my lad, that’s all right. Come, you see, my boy . . . allow me to tell you, my good lad, that everything, I fancy, is at an end between us.”
Petrushka said nothing.
“Well, now as everything is over between us, tell me openly, as a friend, where you have been.”
“Where I’ve been? To see good people, sir.”
“I know, my good lad, I know. I have always been satisfied with you, and I give you a character . . . Well, what are you doing with them now?”
“Why, sir! You know yourself. We all know a decent man won’t teach you any harm.”
“I know, my dear fellow, I know. Nowadays good people are rare, my lad; prize them, my friend. Well, how are they?”
“To be sure, they . . . Only I can’t serve you any longer, sir; as your honour must know.”
“I know, my dear fellow, I know your zeal and devotion; I have seen it all, my lad, I’ve noticed it. I respect you, my friend. I respect a good and honest man, even though he’s a lackey.”
“Why, yes, to be sure! The like’s of us, of course, as you know yourself, are as good as anybody. That’s so. We all know, sir, that there’s no getting on without a good man.”
“Very well, very well, my boy, I feel it. . . . Come, here’s your money and here’s your character. Now we’ll kiss and say good-bye, brother. . . . Come, now, my lad, I’ll ask one service of you, one last service,” said Mr. Golyadkin, in a solemn voice. “You see, my dear boy, all sorts of things happen. Sorrow is concealed in gilded palaces, and there’s no escaping it. You know, my boy, I’ve always been kind to you, my boy.
Petrushka remained mute.
“I believe I’ve always been kind to you, my dear fellow . . . Come, how much linen have we now, my dear boy?”
“Well, it’s all there. Linen shirts six, three pairs of socks; four shirtfronts; flannel vests; of underlinen two sets. You know all that yourself. I’ve got nothing of yours, sir. . . . I look after my master’s belongings, sir. I am like that, sir . . . we all know . . . and I’ve . . . never been guilty of anything of the sort, sir, you know yourself, sir . . .”
“I trust you, my lad, I trust you. I didn’t mean that, my friend, I didn’t mean that, you know, my lad; I tell you what . . . ”
“To be sure, sir, we know that already. Why, when I used to be in the service at general Stolnyakov’s . . . I lost the lace through the family’s going away to Saratov . . . they’ve an estate there . . .”
“No; I didn’t mean that, my lad, I didn’t mean that; don’t think anything of the sort, my dear fellow . . .”
“To be sure. It’s easy, as you know yourself, sir, to take away the character of folks like us. And I’ve always given satisfaction — ministers, generals, senators, counts — I’ve served them all. I’ve been at Prince Svintchatkin’s, at Colonel Pereborkin’s, at General Nedobarov’s — they’ve gone away too, they’ve gone to their property. As we all know . . .”
“Yes, my lad, very good, my lad, very good. And now I’m going away, my friend . . . A different path lies before each man, no one can tell what road he may have to take. Come, my lad, put out my clothes now, lay out my uniform too . . . and my other trousers, my sheets, quilts and pillows . . .”
“Am I to pack them all in the bag?”
“Yes, my lad, yes; the bag, please. Who knows what may happen to us. Come, my dear boy, you can go and find a carriage . . .”
“A carriage? . . . ”
“Yes, my lad, a carriage; a roomy one, and take it by the hour. And don’t imagine anything . . .”
“Are you planning to go far away, sir?”
“I don’t know my lad, I don’t know that either. I think you had better pack my feather bed too. What do you think, my lad? I am relying on you, my dear fellow . . .”
“Is your honour setting off at once?”
“Yes, my friend, yes! Circumstances have turned out so . . . so it is, my dear fellow, so it is . . .”
“To be sure, sir; when we were in the regiment the same thing happened to the lieutenant; they eloped from a country gentleman’s . . .”
“Eloped? . . . How! My dear fellow!”
“Yes, sir, eloped, and they were married in another house. Everything was got ready beforehand. There was a hue and cry after them; the late prince took their part, and so it was all settled . . .”
“They were married, but . . . how is it, my dear fellow . . . How did you come to know, my boy?”
“Why, to be sure! The earth is full of rumours, sir. We know, sir, we’ve all . . . to be sure, there’s no one without sin. Only I’ll tell you now, sir, let me speak plainly and vulgarly, sir; since it has come to this, I must tell you, sir; you have an enemy — you’ve a rival, sir, a powerful rival, so there . . .”
“I know, my dear fellow, I know; you know yourself, my dear fellow. . . . So, you see, I’m relying upon you. What are we to do now, my friend! How do you advise me?”
“Well, sir, if you are in that way now, if you’ve come, so to say, to such a pass, sir, you’ll have to make some purchases, sir — say some sheets, pillows, another feather bed, a double one, a good quilt — here at the neighbours downstairs — she’s a shopkeeper, sir — she has a good fox-fur cloak, so you might look at it and buy it, you might have a look at it at once. You’ll need it now, sir; it’s a good cloak, sir, satin-lined with fox . . .”
“Very good, my lad, very good, I agree; I rely upon you, I rely upon you entirely; a cloak by all means, if necessary . . . Only make haste, make haste! For God’s sake make haste! I’ll buy the cloak — only please make haste! It will soon be eight o’clock. Make haste for God’s sake, my dear lad! Hurry up, my lad . . .”
Petrushka ran up to gather together a bundle of linen, pillows, quilt, sheets, and all sorts of odds and ends, tied them up and rushed headlong out of the room. Meanwhile, Mr. Golyadkin seized the letter once more, but he could not read it. Clutching his devoted head, he leaned against the wall in a state of stupefaction. He could not think of anything, he could do nothing either, and could not even tell what was happening to him. At last, seeing that time was passing and neither Petrushka nor the fur cloak had made their appearance, Mr. Golyadkin made up his mind to go himself. Opening the door into the entry, he heard below noise, talk, disputing and scuffling . . . Several of the women of the neighbouring flats were shouting, talking and protesting about something — Mr. Golyadkin knew what. Petrushka’s voice was heard: then there was a sound of footsteps.
“My goodness! They’ll bring all the world in here,” moaned Mr. Golyadkin, wringing his hands in despair and rushing back into his room. Running back into his room, he fell almost senseless on the sofa with his face in the pillow. After lying a minute in this way, he jumped up and, without waiting for Petrushka, he put on his goloshes, his hat and his greatcoat, snatched up his papers and ran headlong downstairs.
“Nothing is wanted, nothing, my dear fellow! I will manage myself — everything myself. I don’t need you for the time, and meantime, things may take a better turn, perhaps,” Mr. Golyadkin muttered to Petrushka, meeting him on the stair; then he ran out into the yard, away from the house. There was a faintness at his heart, he had not yet made up his mind what was his position, what he was to do, how he was to act in the present critical position.
“Yes, how am I to act? Lord, have mercy on me! And that all this should happen!” he cried out at last in despair, tottering along the street at random; “that all this must needs happen! Why, but for this, but for just this, everything would have been put right; at one stroke, at one skilful, vigorous, firm stroke it would have been set right. I would have my finger cut off to have set right! And I know, indeed, how it would have been settled. This is how it would have been managed: I’d have gone on the spot . . . said how it was . . . ‘with your permission, sir, I’m neither here nor there in it . . . things aren’t done like that,’ I would say, ‘my dear sir, things aren’t done like that, there’s no accepting an imposter in our office; an imposter . . . my dear sir, is a man . . . who is worthless and of no service to his country. Do you understand that? Do you understand that, my dear sir,’ I should say! That’s how it would be . . . But no . . . after all, things are not like that . . . not a bit like that . . . I am talking nonsense, like a fool! A suicidal fool! It’s not like that at all, you suicidal fool . . . This is how things are done, though, you profligate man! . . . Well, what am I to do with myself now? Well, what am I going to do with myself now. What am I fit for now? Come, what are you fit for now, for instance, you, Golyadkin, you, you worthless fellow! Well, what now? I must get a carriage; ‘hire a carriage and bring it here,’ says she, ‘we shall get our feet wet without a carriage,’ says she . . . And who could ever have thought it! Fie, fie, my young lady! Fie, fie, a young lady of virtuous behaviour! Well, well, the girl we all thought so much of! You’ve distinguished yourself, madam, there’s no doubt of that! you’ve distinguished yourself! . . . And it all comes from immoral education. And now that I’ve looked into it and seen through it all I see that it is due to nothing else but immorality. Instead of looking after her as a child . . . and the rod at times . . . they stuff her with sweets and dainties, and the old man is always doting over her: saying ‘my dear, my love, my beauty,’ saying, ‘we’ll marry you to a count!’ . . . And now she has come forward herself and shown her cards, as though to say that’s her little game! Instead of keeping her at home as a child, they sent her to a boarding school, to a French madame, and emigre, a Madame Falbalas or something, and she learned all sorts of things at that Madame Falbalas’, and this is how it always turns out. ‘Come,’ says she, ‘and be happy! Be in a carriage,’ she says, ‘at such a time, under the windows, and sing a sentimental serenade in the Spanish style; I await you and I know you love me, and we will fly together and live in a hut.’ But the fact is it’s impossible; since it has come to that, madam, it’s impossible, it is against the law to abduct an innocent, respectable girl from her parents’ roof without their sanction! And, if you come to that, why, what for and what need is there to do it? Come, she should marry a suitable person, the man marked out by destiny, and that would be the end of it. But I’m in the government service, I might lose my berth through it: I might be arrested for it, madam! I tell you that! If you did not know it. It’s that German woman’s doing. She’s at the bottom of it all, the witch; she cooked the whole kettle of fish. For they’ve slandered a man, for they’ve invented a bit of womanish gossip about him, a regular performance by the advice of Andrey Filippovitch, that’s what it came from. Otherwise how could Petrushka be mixed up in it? What has he to do with it? What need for the rogue to be in it? No, I cannot, madam, I cannot possibly, not on any account . . . No, madam, this time you must really excuse me. It’s all your doing, madam, it’s not all the German’s doing, it’s not the witch’s doing at all, but simply yours. For the witch is a good woman, for the witch is not to blame in any way; it’s your fault, madam; it’s you who are to blame, let me tell you! I shall not be charged with a crime through you, madam. . . . A man might be ruined . . . a man might lose sight of himself, and not be able to restrain himself — a wedding, indeed! And how is it all going to end? And how will it all be arranged? I would give a great deal to know all that! . . .”
So our hero reflected in his despair. Coming to himself suddenly, he observed that he was standing somewhere in Liteyny Street. The weather was awful: it was a thaw; snow and rain were falling — just as at that memorable time when at the dread hour of midnight all Mr. Golyadkin’s troubles had begun. “This is a nice night for a journey!” thought Mr. Golyadkin, looking at the weather; “it’s death all round. . . . Good Lord! Where am I to find a carriage, for instance? I believe there’s something black there at the corner. We’ll see, we’ll investigate . . . Lord, have mercy on us!” our hero went on, bending his weak and tottering steps in the direction in which he saw something that looked like a cab.
“No, I know what I’ll do; I’ll go straight and fall on my knees, if I can, and humbly beg, saying ‘I put my fate in your hands, in the hands of my superiors’; saying, ‘Your Excellency, be a protector and a benefactor’; and then I’ll say this and that, and explain how it is and that it is an unlawful act; ‘Do not destroy me, I look upon you as my father, do not abandon me . . . save my dignity, my honour, my name, my reputation . . . and save me from a miscreant, a vicious man. . . . He’s another person, your Excellency, and I’m another person too; he’s apart and I am myself by myself too; I am really myself by myself, your Excellency; really myself by myself,’ that’s what I shall say. ‘I cannot be like him. Change him, dismiss him, give orders for him to be changed and a godless, licentious impersonation to be suppressed . . . that it may not be an example to others, your Excellency. I look upon you as a father’; those in authority over us, our benefactors and protectors, are bound, of course, to encourage such impulses. . . . There’s something chivalrous about it: I shall say, ‘I look upon you, my benefactor and superior, as a father, and trust my fate to you, and I will not say anything against it; I put myself in your hands, and retire from the affair myself’ . . . that’s what I would say.”
“Well, my man, are you a cabman?”
“Yes . . .”
“I want a cab for the evening . . .”
“And does your honour want to go far?”
“For the evening, for the evening; wherever I have to go, my man, wherever I have to go.”
“Does your honour want to drive out of town?”
“Yes, my friend, out of town, perhaps. I don’t quite know myself yet, I can’t tell you for certain, my man. Maybe you see it will all be settled for the best. We all know, my friend . . .”
“Yes, sir, of course we all know. Please God it may.”
“Yes, my friend, yes; thank you, my dear fellow; come, what’s your fare, my good man? . . .”
“Do you want to set off at once?”
“Yes, at once, that is, no, you must wait at a certain place. . . . A little while, not long, you’ll have to wait . . . .”
“Well, if you hire me for the whole time, I couldn’t ask less than six roubles for weather like this . . .”
“Oh, very well, my friend; and I thank you, my dear fellow. So, come, you can take me now, my good man.”
“Get in; allow me, I’ll put it straight a bit — now will your honour get in. Where shall I drive?”
“To the Ismailovsky Bridge, my friend.”
The driver plumped down on the box, with difficulty roused his pair of lean nags from the trough of hay, and was setting off for Ismailovsky Bridge. But suddenly Mr. Golyadkin pulled the cord, stopped the cab, and besought him in an imploring voice not to drive to Ismailovsky Bridge, but to turn back to another street. The driver turned into another street, and then minutes later Mr. Golyadkin’s newly hired equipage was standing before the house in which his Excellency had a flat. Mr. Golyadkin got out of the carriage, begged the driver to be sure to wait and with a sinking heart ran upstairs to the third storey and pulled the bell; the door was opened and our hero found himself in the entry of his Excellency’s flat.
“Is his Excellency graciously pleased to be at home?” said Mr. Golyadkin, addressing the man who opened the door.
“What do you want?” asked the servant, scrutinizing Mr. Golyadkin from head to foot.
“I, my friend . . . I am Golyadkin, the titular councillor, Golyadkin . . . To say . . . something or other . . . to explain . . .”
“You must wait; you cannot . . .”
“My friend, I cannot wait; my business is important, it’s business that admits of no delay . . .”
“But from whom have you come? Have you brought papers? . . . ”
“No, my friend, I am on my own account. Announce me, my friend, say something or other, explain. I’ll reward you, my good man . . .”
“I cannot. His Excellency is not at home, he has visitors. Come at ten o’clock in the morning . . .”
“Take in my name, my good man, I can’t wait — it is impossible. . . . You’ll have to answer for it, my good man.”
“Why, go and announce him! What’s the matter with you; want to save your shoe leather?” said another lackey who was lolling on the bench and had not uttered a word till then.
“Shoe leather! I was told not to show any one up, you know; their time is the morning.”
“Announce him, have you lost your tongue?”
“I’ll announce him all right — I’ve not lost my tongue. It’s not my orders; I’ve told you, it’s not my orders. Walk inside.”
Mr. Golyadkin went into the outermost room; there was a clock on the table. He glanced at it: it was half-past eight. His heart ached within him. Already he wanted to turn back, but at that very moment the footman standing at the door of the next room had already boomed out Mr. Golyadkin’s name.
“Oh, what lungs,” thought our hero in indescribable misery. “Why, you ought to have said: ‘he has come most humbly and meekly to make an explanation . . . something . . . be graciously pleased to see him’ . . . Now the whole business is ruined; all my hopes are scattered to the winds. But . . . however . . . never mind . . .”
There was no time to think, moreover. The lackey, returning, said, “Please walk in,” and led Mr. Golyadkin into the study.
When our hero went in, he felt as though he were blinded, for he could see nothing at all . . . But three or four figures seemed flitting before his eyes: “Oh, yes, they are the visitors,” flashed through Mr. Golyadkin’s mind. At last our hero could distinguish clearly the star on the black coat of his Excellency, then by degrees advanced to seeing the black coat and at last gained the power of complete vision . . . .
“What is it?” said a familiar voice above Mr. Golyadkin.
“The titular councillor, Golyadkin, your Excellency.”
“I have come to make an explanation . . .”
“How? . . . What?”
“Why, yes. This is how it is. I’ve come for an explanation, your Excellency . . .”
“But you . . . but who are you? . . .”
“M-m-m-mist-er Golyadkin, your Excellency, a titular councillor.”
“Well, what is it you want?”
“Why, this is how it is, I look upon you as a father; I retire . . . defend me from my enemy! . . .”
“What’s this? . . .”
“We all know . . .”
“What do we all know?”
Mr. Golyadkin was silent: his chin began twitching a little.
“I thought it was chivalrous, your Excellency . . . ‘There’s something chivalrous in it,’ I said, ‘and I look upon my superior as a father’ . . . this is what I thought; ‘protect me, I tear . . . earfully . . . b . . . eg and that such imp . . . impulses ought . . . to . . . be encouraged . . .”
His excellency turned away, our hero for some minutes could distinguish nothing. There was a weight on his chest. His breathing was laboured; he did not know where he was standing . . . He felt ashamed and sad. God knows what followed . . . Recovering himself, our hero noticed that his Excellency was talking with his guests, and seemed to be briskly and emphatically discussing something with them. One of the visitors Mr. Golyadkin recognized at once. This was Andrey Filippovitch; he knew no one else; yet there was another person that seemed familiar — a tall, thick-set figure, middle-aged, possessed of very thick eyebrows and whiskers and a significant sharp expression. On his chest was an order and in his mouth a cigar. This gentleman was smoking and nodding significantly without taking the cigar out of his mouth, glancing from time to time at Mr. Golyadkin. Mr. Golyadkin felt awkward; he turned away his eyes and immediately saw another very strange visitor. Through a door which our hero had taken for a looking-glass, just as he had done once before — he made his appearance — we know who: a very intimate friend and acquaintance of Mr. Golyadkin’s. Mr. Golyadkin junior had actually been till then in a little room close by, hurriedly writing something; now, apparently, he was needed — and he came in with papers under his arm, went up to his Excellency, and while waiting for exclusive attention to be paid him succeeded very adroitly in putting his spoke into the talk and consultation, taking his place a little behind Andrey Filippovitch’s back and partly screening him from the gentleman smoking the cigar. Apparently Mr. Golyadkin junior took an intense interest in the conversation, to which he was listening now in a gentlemanly way, nodding his head, fidgeting with his feet, smiling, continually looking at his Excellency — as it were beseeching him with his eyes to let him put his word in.
“The scoundrel,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, and involuntarily he took a step forward. At this moment his Excellency turned round and came rather hesitatingly towards Mr. Golyadkin.
“Well, that’s all right, that’s all right; well, run along, now. I’ll look into your case, and give orders for you to be taken . . .”
At this point his Excellency glanced at the gentleman with the thick whiskers. The latter nodded in assent.
Mr. Golyadkin felt and distinctly understood that they were taking him for something different and not looking at him in the proper light at all.
“In one way or another I must explain myself,” he thought; “I must say, ‘This is how it is, your Excellency.’”
At this point in his perplexity he dropped his eyes to the floor and to his great astonishment he saw a good-sized patch of something white on his Excellency’s boots.
“Can there be a hole in them?” thought Mr. Golyadkin. Mr. Golyadkin was, however, soon convinced that his Excellency’s boots were not split, but were only shining brilliantly — a phenomenon fully explained by the fact that they were patent leather and highly polished.
“It is what they call blick,” thought our hero; “the term is used particularly in artists studios; in other places such a reflected light is called a rib of light.”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin raised his eyes and saw that the time had come to speak, for things might easily end badly . . .
Our hero took a step forward.
“I say this is how it is, your Excellency,” he said, “and there’s no accepting imposters nowadays.”
His Excellency made no answer, but rang the bell violently. Our hero took another step forward.
“He is a vile, vicious man, your Excellency,” said our hero, beside himself and faint with terror, though he still pointed boldly and resolutely at his unworthy twin, who was fidgeting about near his Excellency. “I say this is how it is, and I am alluding to a well-known person.”
There was a general sensation at Mr. Golyadkin’s words. Andrey Filippovitch and the gentleman with the cigar nodded their heads; his Excellency impatiently tugged at the bell to summon the servants. At this point Mr. Golyadkin junior came forward in his turn.
“Your Excellency,” he said, “I humbly beg permission to speak.” There was something very resolute in Mr. Golyadkin junior’s voice; everything showed that he felt himself completely in the right.
“Allow me to ask you,” he began again, anticipating his Excellency’s reply in his eagerness, and this time addressing Mr. Golyadkin; “allow me to ask you, in whose presence you are making this explanation? Before whom are you standing, in whose room are you? . . .”
Mr. Golyadkin junior was in a state of extraordinary excitement, flushed and glowing with wrath and indignation; there were positively tears in his eyes.
A lackey, appearing in the doorway, roared at the top of his voice the name of some new arrivals, the Bassavryukovs.
“A good aristocratic name, hailing from Little Russia,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, and at that moment he felt some one lay a very friendly hand on his back, then a second hand was laid on his back. Mr. Golyadkin’s infamous twin was tripping about in front leading the way; and our hero saw clearly that he was being led to the big doors of the room.
“Just as it was at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s,” he thought, and he found himself in the hall. Looking round, he saw beside him two of the Excellency’s lackeys and his twin.
“The greatcoat, the greatcoat, the greatcoat, the greatcoat, my friend! The greatcoat of my best friend!” whispered the depraved man, snatching the coat from one of the servants, and by way of a nasty and ungentlemanly joke flinging it straight at Mr. Golyadkin’s head. Extricating himself from under his coat, Mr. Golyadkin distinctly heard the two lackeys snigger. But without listening to anything, or paying attention to it, he went out of the hall and found himself on the lighted stairs. Mr. Golyadkin junior following him.
“Goodbye, your Excellency!” he shouted after Mr. Golyadkin senior.
“Scoundrel!” our hero exclaimed, beside himself.
“Well, scoundrel, then . . .”
“Depraved man! . . .”
“Well, depraved man, then . . .” answered Mr. Golyadkin’s unworthy enemy, and with his characteristic baseness he looked down from the top of the stairs straight into Mr. Golyadkin’s face as though begging him to go on. Our hero spat with indignation and ran out of the front door; he was so shattered, so crushed, that he had no recollection of how he got into the cab or who helped him in. Coming to himself, he found that he was being driven to Fontanka. “To Ismailovsky Bridge, then,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. At this point Mr. Golyadkin tried to think of something else, but could not; there was something so terrible that he could not explain it . . . “Well, never mind,” our hero concluded, and he drove to Ismailovsky Bridge.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53