The doctor of medicine and surgery, Krestyan Ivanovitch Rutenspitz, a very hale though elderly man, with thick eyebrows and whiskers that were beginning to turn grey, eyes with an expressive gleam in them that looked capable of routing every disease, and, lastly, with orders of some distinction on his breast, was sitting in his consulting-room that morning in his comfortable armchair. He was drinking coffee, which his wife had brought him with her own hand, smoking a cigar and from time to time writing prescriptions for his patients. After prescribing a draught for an old man who was suffering from haemorrhoids and seeing the aged patient out by the side door, Krestyan Ivanovitch sat down to await the next visitor.
Mr. Golyadkin walked in.
Apparently Krestyan Ivanovitch did not in the least expect nor desire to see Mr. Golyadkin, for he was suddenly taken aback for a moment, and his countenance unconsciously assumed a strange and, one may almost say, a displeased expression. As Mr. Golyadkin almost always turned up inappropriately and was thrown into confusion whenever he approached any one about his own little affairs, on this occasion, too, he was desperately embarrassed. Having neglected to get ready his first sentence, which was invariably a stumbling-block for him on such occasions, he muttered something — apparently an apology — and, not knowing what to do next, took a chair and sat down, but, realizing that he had sat down without being asked to do so, he was immediately conscious of his lapse, and made haste to efface his offence against etiquette and good breeding by promptly getting up again from the seat he had taken uninvited. Then, on second thoughts, dimly perceiving that he had committed two stupid blunders at once, he immediately decided to commit a third — that is, tried to right himself, muttered something, smiled, blushed, was overcome with embarrassment, sank into expressive silence, and finally sat down for good and did not get up again. Only, to protect himself from all contingencies, he looked at the doctor with that defiant glare which had an extraordinary power of figuratively crushing Mr. Golyadkin’s enemies and reducing them to ashes. This glance, moreover, expressed to the full Mr. Golyadkin’s independence — that is, to speak plainly, the fact that Mr. Golyadkin was “all right,” that he was “quite himself, like everybody else,” and that there was “nothing wrong in his upper storey.” Krestyan Ivanovitch coughed, cleared his throat, apparently in token of approval and assent to all this, and bent an inquisitorial interrogative gaze upon his visitor.
“I have come to trouble you a second time, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” began Mr. Golyadkin, with a smile, “and now I venture to ask your indulgence a second time . . . .” He was obviously at a loss for words.
“H’m . . . Yes!” pronounced Krestyan Ivanovitch, puffing out a spiral of smoke and putting down his cigar on the table, “but you must follow the treatment prescribed to you; I explained to you that what would be beneficial to your health is a change of habits. . . . Entertainment, for instance, and, well, friends — you should visit your acquaintances, and not be hostile to the bottle; and likewise keep cheerful company.”
Mr. Golyadkin, still smiling, hastened to observe that he thought he was like every one else, that he lived by himself, that he had entertainments like every one else . . . that, of course, he might go to the theatre, for he had the means like every one else, that he spent the day at the office and the evenings at home, that he was quite all right; he even observed, in passing, that he was, so far as he could see, as good as any one, that he lived at home, and finally, that he had Petrushka. At this point Mr. Golyadkin hesitated.
“H’m! no, that is not the order of proceeding that I want; and that is not at all what I would ask you. I am interested to know, in general, are you a great lover of cheerful company? Do you take advantages of festive occasions; and well, do you lead a melancholy or cheerful manner of life?”
“Krestyan Ivanovitch, I . . .”
“H’m! . . . I tell you,” interrupted the doctor, “that you must have a radical change of life, must, in a certain sense, break in your character.” (Krestyan Ivanovitch laid special stress on the word “break in,” and paused for a moment with a very significant air.) “Must not shrink from gaiety, must visit entertainments and clubs, and in any case, be not hostile to the bottle. Sitting at home is not right for you . . . sitting at home is impossible for you.”
“I like quiet, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” said Mr. Golyadkin, with a significant look at the doctor and evidently seeking words to express his ideas more successfully: “In my flat there’s only me and Petrushka. . . . I mean my man, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I mean to say, Krestyan Ivanovitch, that I go my way, my own way, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I keep myself to myself, and so far as I can see am not dependent on any one. I go out for walks, too, Krestyan Ivanovitch.”
“What? Yes! well, nowadays there’s nothing agreeable in walking: the climate’s extremely bad.”
“Quite so, Krestyan Ivanovitch. Though I’m a peaceable man, Krestyan Ivanovitch, as I’ve had the honour of explaining to you already, yet my way lies apart, Krestyan Ivanovitch. The ways of life are manifold . . . I mean . . . I mean to say, Krestyan Ivanovitch. . . . Excuse me, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I’ve no great gift for eloquent speaking.”
“H’m . . . you say . . .”
“I say, you must excuse me, Krestyan Ivanovitch, that as far as I can see I am no great hand at eloquence in speaking,” Mr. Golyadkin articulated, stammering and hesitating, in a half-aggrieved voice. “In that respect, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I’m not quite like other people,” he added, with a peculiar smile, “I can’t talk much, and have never learnt to embellish my speech with literary graces. On the other hand, I act, Krestyan Ivanovitch; on the other hand, I act, Krestyan Ivanovitch.”
“H’m . . . How’s that . . . you act?” responded Krestyan Ivanovitch.
Then silence followed for half a minute. The doctor looked somewhat strangely and mistrustfully at his visitor. Mr. Golyadkin, for his part, too, stole a rather mistrustful glance at the doctor.
“Krestyan Ivanovitch,” he began, going on again in the same tone as before, somewhat irritated and puzzled by the doctors extreme obstinacy: “I like tranquillity and not the noisy gaiety of the world. Among them, I mean, in the noisy world, Krestyan Ivanovitch one must be able to polish the floor with one’s boots . . .” (here Mr. Golyadkin made a slight scrape on the floor with his toe); “they expect it, and they expect puns too . . . one must know how to make a perfumed compliment . . . that’s what they expect there. And I’ve not learnt to do it, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I’ve never learnt all those tricks, I’ve never had the time. I’m a simple person, and not ingenious, and I’ve no external polish. On that side I surrender, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I lay down my arms, speaking in that sense.”
All this Mr. Golyadkin pronounced with an air which made it perfectly clear that our hero was far from regretting that he was laying down his arms in that sense and that he had not learnt these tricks; quite the contrary, indeed. As Krestyan Ivanovitch listened to him, he looked down with a very unpleasant grimace on his face, seeming to have a presentiment of something. Mr. Golyadkin’s tirade was followed by a rather long and significant silence.
“You have, I think, departed a little from the subject,” Krestyan Ivanovitch said at last, in a low voice: “I confess I cannot altogether understand you.”
“I’m not a great hand at eloquent speaking, Krestyan Ivanovitch; I’ve had the honour to inform you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, already,” said Mr. Golyadkin, speaking this time in a sharp and resolute tone.
“H’m!” . . .
“Krestyan Ivanovitch!” began Mr. Golyadkin again in a low but more significant voice in a somewhat solemn style and emphasizing every point: “Krestyan Ivanovitch, when I came in here I began with apologies. I repeat the same thing again, and again ask for your indulgence. There’s no need for me to conceal it, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I’m an unimportant man, as you know; but fortunately for me, I do not regret being an unimportant man. Quite the contrary, indeed, Krestyan Ivanovitch, and, to be perfectly frank, I’m proud that I’m not a great man but an unimportant man. I’m not one to intrigue and I’m proud of that too, I don’t act on the sly, but openly, without cunning, and although I could do harm too, and a great deal of harm, indeed, and know to whom and how to do it, Krestyan Ivanovitch, yet I won’t sully myself, and in that sense I wash my hands. In that sense, I say, I wash them, Krestyan Ivanovitch!” Mr. Golyadkin paused expressively for a moment; he spoke with mild fervour.
“I set to work, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” our hero continued, “directly, openly, by no devious ways, for I disdain them, and leave them to others. I do not try to degrade those who are perhaps purer than you and I . . . that is, I mean, I and they, Krestyan Ivanovitch — I didn’t mean you. I don’t like insinuations; I’ve no taste for contemptible duplicity; I’m disgusted by slander and calumny. I only put on a mask at a masquerade, and don’t wear one before people every day. I only ask you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, how you would revenge yourself upon your enemy, your most malignant enemy — the one you would consider such?” Mr. Golyadkin concluded with a challenging glance at Krestyan Ivanovitch.
Though Mr. Golyadkin pronounced this with the utmost distinctness and clearness, weighing his words with a self-confident air and reckoning on their probable effect, yet meanwhile he looked at Krestyan Ivanovitch with anxiety, with great anxiety, with extreme anxiety. Now he was all eyes: and timidly waited for the doctor’s answer with irritable and agonized impatience. But to the perplexity and complete amazement of our hero, Krestyan Ivanovitch only muttered something to himself; then he moved his armchair up to the table, and rather drily though politely announced something to the effect that his time was precious, and that he did not quite understand; that he was ready, however, to attend to him as far as he was able, but he wold not go into anything further that did not concern him. At this point he took the pen, drew a piece of paper towards him, cut out of it the usual long strip, and announced that he would immediately prescribe what was necessary.
“No, it’s not necessary, Krestyan Ivanovitch! No, that’s not necessary at all!” said Mr. Golyadkin, getting up from his seat, and clutching Krestyan Ivanovitch’s right hand. “That isn’t what’s wanted, Krestyan Ivanovitch.”
And, while he said this, a queer change came over him. His grey eyes gleamed strangely, his lips began to quiver, all the muscles, all the features of his face began moving and working. He was trembling all over. After stopping the doctor’s hand, Mr. Golyadkin followed his first movement by standing motionless, as though he had no confidence in himself and were waiting for some inspiration for further action.
Then followed a rather strange scene.
Somewhat perplexed, Krestyan Ivanovitch seemed for a moment rooted to his chair and gazed open-eyed in bewilderment at Mr. Golyadkin, who looked at him in exactly the same way. At last Krestyan Ivanovitch stood up, gently holding the lining of Mr. Golyadkin’s coat. For some seconds they both stood like that, motionless, with their eyes fixed on each other. Then, however, in an extraordinarily strange way came Mr. Golyadkin’s second movement. His lips trembled, his chin began twitching, and our hero quite unexpectedly burst into tears. Sobbing, shaking his head and striking himself on the chest with his right hand, while with his left clutching the lining of the doctor’s coat, he tried to say something and to make some explanation but could not utter a word.
At last Krestyan Ivanovitch recovered from his amazement.
“Come, calm yourself!” he brought out at last, trying to make Mr. Golyadkin sit down in an armchair.
“I have enemies, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I have enemies; I have malignant enemies who have sworn to ruin me . . .” Mr Golyadkin answered in a frightened whisper.
“Come, come, why enemies? you mustn’t talk about enemies! You really mustn’t. Sit down, sit down,” Krestyan Ivanovitch went on, getting Mr. Golyadkin once and for all into the armchair.
Mr. Golyadkin sat down at last, still keeping his eyes fixed on the doctor. With an extremely displeased air, Krestyan Ivanovitch strode from one end of the room to another. A long silence followed.
“I’m grateful to you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I’m very grateful, and I’m very sensible of all you’ve done for me now. To my dying day I shall never forget your kindness, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” said Mr. Golyadkin, getting up from his seat with an offended air.
“Come, give over! I tell you, give over!” Krestyan Ivanovitch responded rather sternly to Mr. Golyadkin’s outburst, making him sit down again.
“Well, what’s the matter? Tell me what is unpleasant,” Krestyan Ivanovitch went on, “and what enemies are you talking about? What is wrong?”
“No, Krestyan Ivanovitch we’d better leave that now,” answered Mr. Golyadkin, casting down his eyes; “let us put all that aside for the time. . . . Till another time, Krestyan Ivanovitch, till a more convenient moment, when everything will be discovered and the mask falls off certain faces, and something comes to light. But, meanwhile, now, of course, after what has passed between us . . . you will agree yourself, Krestyan Ivanovitch. . . . Allow me to wish you good morning, Krestyan Ivanovitch,” said Mr. Golyadkin, getting up gravely and resolutely and taking his hat.
“Oh, well . . . as you like . . . h’m . . .” (A moment of silence followed.) “For my part, you know . . . whatever I can do . . . and I sincerely wish you well.”
“I understand you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I understand: I understand you perfectly now . . . In any case excuse me for having troubled you, Krestyan Ivanovitch.”
“H’m, no, I didn’t mean that. However, as you please; go on taking the medicines as before . . . .”
“I will go with the medicines as you say, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I will go on with them, and I will get them at the same chemist’s . . . To be a chemist nowadays, Krestyan Ivanovitch, is an important business . . . .”
“How so? In what sense do you mean?”
“In a very ordinary sense, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I mean to say that nowadays that’s the way of the world. . .”
“H’m. . .”
“And that every silly youngster, not only a chemist’s boy turns up his nose at respectable people.”
“H’m. How do you understand that?”
“I’m speaking of a certain person, Krestyan Ivanovitch . . . of a common acquaintance of ours, Krestyan Ivanovitch, of Vladimir Semyonovitch . . .”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch: and I know certain people, Krestyan Ivanovitch, who didn’t keep to the general rule of telling the truth, sometimes.”
“Ah! How so?”
“Why, yes, it is so: but that’s neither here nor there: they sometimes manage to serve you up a fine egg in gravy.”
“What? Serve up what?”
“An egg in gravy, Krestyan Ivanovitch. It’s a Russian saying. They know how to congratulate some one the right moment, for instance; there are people like that.”
“yes, congratulate, Krestyan Ivanovitch, as some one I know very well did the other day!” . . .
“Some one you know very well . . . Ah! how was that?” said Krestyan Ivanovitch, looking attentively at Mr. Golyadkin.
“Yes, some one I know very well indeed congratulated some one else I know very well — and, what’s more, a comrade, a friend of his heart, on his promotion, on his receiving the rank of assessor. This was how it happened to come up: ‘I am exceedingly glad of the opportunity to offer you, Vladimir Semyonovitch, my congratulations, my sincere congratulations, on your receiving the rank of assessor. And I’m the more pleased, as all the world knows that there are old women nowadays who tell fortunes.’”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin gave a sly nod, and screwing up his eyes, looked at Krestyan Ivanovitch . . .
“H’m. So he said that . . . .”
“He did, Krestyan Ivanovitch, he said it and glanced at once at Andrey Filippovitch, the uncle of our Prince Charming, Vladimir Semyonovitch. But what is it to me, Krestyan Ivanovitch, that he has been made an assessor? What is it to me? And he wants to get married and the milk is scarcely dry on his lips, if I may be allowed the expression. And I said as much. Vladimir Semyonovitch, said I! I’ve said everything now; allow me to withdraw.”
“H’m . . .”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, all me now, I say, to withdraw. But, to kill two birds with one stone, as I twitted our young gentleman with the old women, I turned to Klara Olsufyevna (it all happened the same day, before yesterday at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s), and she had only just sung a song with feeling, ‘You’ve sung songs of feeling, madam,’ said I, ‘but they’ve not been listened to with a pure heart.’ And by that I hinted plainly, Krestyan Ivanovitch, hinted plainly, that they were not running after her now, but looking higher . . .”
“Ah! And what did he say?”
“He swallowed the pill, Krestyan Ivanovitch, as the saying is.”
“H’m . . .”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch. To the old man himself, too, I said, ‘Olsufy Ivanovitch,’ said I, ‘I know how much I’m indebted to you, I appreciate to the full all the kindness you’ve showered upon me from my childhood up. But open your eyes, Olsufy Ivanovitch,’ I said. ‘Look about you. I myself do things openly and aboveboard, Olsufy Ivanovitch.’”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch. Really . . .”
“What did he say?”
“Yes, what, indeed, Krestyan Ivanovitch? He mumbled one thing and another, and ‘I know you,’ and that ‘his Excellency was a benevolent man’ — he rambled on . . . But, there, you know! he’s begun to be a bit shaky, as they say, with old age.”
“Ah! So that’s how it is now . . .”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch. And that’s how we all are! Poor old man! He looks towards the grave, breathes incense, as they say, while they concoct a piece of womanish gossip and he listens to it; without him they wouldn’t . . .”
“Gossip, you say?”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, they’ve concocted a womanish scandal. Our bear, too, had a finger in it, and his nephew, our Prince Charming. They’ve joined hands with the old women and, of course, they’ve concocted the affair. Would you believe it? They plotted the murder of some one! . . .”
“The murder of some one?”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, the moral murder of some one. They spread about . . . I’m speaking of a man I know very well.”
Krestyan Ivanovitch nodded.
“They spread rumours about him . . . I confess I’m ashamed to repeat them, Krestyan Ivanovitch.”
“H’m.” . . .
“They spread a rumour that he had signed a promise to marry though he was already engaged in another quarter . . . and would you believe it, Krestyan Ivanovitch, to whom?”
“To a cook, to a disreputable German woman from whom he used to get his dinners; instead of paying what he owed, he offered her his hand.”
“Is that what they say?”
“Would you believe it, Krestyan Ivanovitch? A low German, a nasty shameless German, Karolina Ivanovna, if you know . . .”
“I confess, for my part . . .”
“I understand you, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I understand, and for my part I feel it . . .”
“Tell me, please, where are you living now?”
“Where am I living now, Krestyan Ivanovitch?”
“Yes . . . I want . . . I believe you used to live . . .”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I did, I used to. To be sure I lived!” answered Mr. Golyadkin, accompanying his words with a little laugh, and somewhat disconcerting Krestyan Ivanovitch by his answer.
“No, you misunderstood me; I meant to say . . .”
“I, too, meant to say, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I meant it too,” Mr. Golyadkin continued, laughing. “But I’ve kept you far too long, Krestyan Ivanovitch. I hope you will allow me now, to wish you good morning.”
“H’m . . .”
“Yes, Krestyan Ivanovitch, I understand you; I fully understand you now,” said our hero, with a slight flourish before Krestyan Ivanovitch. “And so permit me to wish you good morning . . .”
At this point our hero made a scraping with the toe of his boot and walked out of the room, leaving Krestyan Ivanovitch in the utmost amazement. As he went down the doctor’s stairs he smiled and rubbed his hands gleefully. On the steps, breathing the fresh air and feeling himself at liberty, he was certainly prepared to admit that he was the happiest of mortals, and thereupon to go straight to his office — when suddenly his carriage rumbled up to the door: he glanced at it and remembered everything. Petrushka was already opening the carriage door. Mr. Golyadkin was completely overwhelmed by a strong and unpleasant sensation. He blushed, as it were, for a moment. Something seemed to stab him. He was just about to raise his foot to the carriage step when he suddenly turned round and looked towards Krestyan Ivanovitch’s window. Yes, it was so! Krestyan Ivanovitch was standing at the window, was stroking his whiskers with his right hand and staring with some curiosity at the hero of our story.
“That doctor is silly,” thought Mr. Golyadkin, huddling out of sight in the carriage; “extremely silly. He may treat his patients all right, but still . . . he’s as stupid as a post.”
Mr. Golyadkin sat down, Petrushka shouted “Off!” and the carriage rolled towards Nevsky Prospect again.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53