He recovered himself a little on the staircase as he went up to his flat.
“Oh, I’m a sheep’s head,” he railed at himself inwardly. “Where am I taking him? I am thrusting my head into the noose. What will Petrushka think, seeing us together? What will the scoundrel dare to imagine now? He’s suspicious . . .”
But it was too late to regret it. Mr. Golyadkin knocked at the door; it was opened, and Petrushka began taking off the visitor’s coat as well as his master’s. Mr. Golyadkin looked askance, just stealing a glance at Petrushka, trying to read his countenance and divine what he was thinking. But to his intense astonishment he saw that his servant showed no trace of surprise, but seemed, on the contrary, to be expecting something of the sort. Of course he did not look morose, as it was; he kept his eyes turned away and looked as though he would like to fall upon somebody.
“Hasn’t somebody bewitched them all today?” thought our hero. “Some devil must have got round them. There certainly must be something peculiar in the whole lot of them today. Damn it all, what a worry it is!”
Such were Mr. Golyadkin’s thoughts and reflections as he led his visitor into his room and politely asked him to sit down. The visitor appeared to be greatly embarrassed, he was very shy, and humbly watched every movement his host made, caught his glance, and seemed trying to divine his thoughts from them. There was a downtrodden, crushed, scared look about all his gestures, so that — if the comparison may be allowed — he was at that moment rather like the man who, having lost his clothes, is dressed up in somebody else’s: the sleeves work up to the elbows, the waist is almost up to his neck, and he keeps every minute pulling down the short waistcoat; he wriggles sideways and turns away, tries to hide himself, or peeps into every face, and listens whether people are talking of his position, laughing at him or putting him to shame — and he is crimson with shame and overwhelmed with confusion and wounded vanity. . . . Mr. Golyadkin put down his hat in the window, and carelessly sent it flying to the floor. The visitor darted at once to pick it up, brushed off the dust, and carefully put it back, while he laid his own on the floor near a chair, on the edge of which he meekly seated himself. This little circumstance did something to open Mr. Golyadkin’s eyes; he realized that the man was in great straits, and so did not put himself out for his visitor as he had done at first, very properly leaving all that to the man himself. The visitor, for his part, did nothing either; whether he was shy, a little ashamed, or from politeness was waiting for his host to begin is not certain and would be difficult to determine. At that moment Petrushka came in; he stood still in the doorway, and fixed his eyes in the direction furthest from where the visitor and his master were seated.
“Shall I bring in dinner for two?” he said carelessly, in a husky voice.
“I— I don’t know . . . you . . . yes, bring dinner for two, my boy.”
Petrushka went out. Mr. Golyadkin glanced at his visitor. The latter crimsoned to his ears. Mr. Golyadkin was a kind-hearted man, and so in the kindness of his heart he at once elaborated a theory.
“The fellow’s hard up,” he thought. “Yes, and in his situation only one day. Most likely he’s suffered in his time. Maybe his good clothes are all that he has, and nothing to get him a dinner. Ah, poor fellow, how crushed he seems! But no matter; in a way it’s better so. . . . Excuse me,” began Mr. Golyadkin, “allow me to ask what I may call you.”
“I . . . I . . . I’m Yakov Petrovitch,” his visitor almost whispered, as though conscience-stricken and ashamed, as though apologizing for being called Yakov Petrovitch too.
“Yakov Petrovitch!” repeated our visitor, unable to conceal his confusion.
“Yes, just so. . . . The same name as yours,” responded the meek visitor, venturing to smile and speak a little jocosely. But at once he drew back, assuming a very serious air, though a little disconcerted, noticing that his host was in no joking mood.
“You . . . allow me to ask you, to what am I indebted for the honour . . .?”
“Knowing your generosity and your benevolence,” interposed the visitor in a rapid but timid voice, half rising from his seat, “I have ventured to appeal to you and to beg for your . . . acquaintance and protection . . .” he concluded, choosing his phrases with difficulty and trying to select words not too flattering or servile, that he might not compromise his dignity and not so bold as to suggest an unseemly equality. In fact, one may say the visitor behaved like a gentlemanly beggar with a darned waistcoat, with an honourable passport in his pocket, who has not yet learnt by practice to hold out his hand properly for alms.
“You perplex me,” answered Mr. Golyadkin, gazing round at himself, his walls and his visitor. “In what could I . . . that is, I mean, in what way could I be of service to you?”
“I felt drawn to you, Yakov Petrovitch, at first sight, and, graciously forgive me, I built my hopes Yakov Petrovitch. I . . . I’m in a desperate plight here, Yakov Petrovitch; I’m poor, I’ve had a great deal of trouble, Yakov Petrovitch, and have only recently come here. Learning that you, with your innate goodness and excellence of heart, are of the same name . . .”
Mr. Golyadkin frowned.
“Of the same name as myself and a native of the same district, I made up my mind to appeal to you, and to make known to you my difficult position.”
“Very good, very good; I really don’t know what to say,” Mr. Golyadkin responded in an embarrassed voice. “We’ll have a talk after dinner . . .”
The visitor bowed; dinner was brought in. Petrushka laid the table, and Mr. Golyadkin and his visitor proceeded to partake of it. The dinner did not last long, for they were both in a hurry, the host because he felt ill at ease, and was, besides, ashamed that the dinner was a poor one — he was partly ashamed because he wanted to give the visitor a good meal, and partly because he wanted to show him he did not live like a beggar. The visitor, on his side too, was in terrible confusion and extremely embarrassed. When he had finished the piece of bread he had taken, he was afraid to put out his hand to take another piece, was ashamed to help himself to the best morsels, and was continually assuring his host that he was not at all hungry, that the dinner was excellent, that he was absolutely satisfied with it, and should not forget it to his dying day. When the meal was over Mr. Golyadkin lighted his pipe, and offered a second, which was brought in, to his visitor. They sat facing each other, and the visitor began telling his adventures.
Mr. Golyadkin junior’s story lasted for three or four hours. His history was, however, composed of the most trivial and wretched, if one may say so, incidents. It dealt with details of service in some lawcourt in the provinces, of prosecutors and presidents, of some department intrigues, of the depravity of some registration clerks, of an inspector, of the sudden appointment of a new chief in the department, of how the second Mr. Golyadkin had suffered quite without any fault on his part; of his aged aunt, Pelegea Semyonovna; of how, through various intrigues on the part of his enemies, he had lost his situation, and had come to Petersburg on foot; of the harassing and wretched time he had spent here in Petersburg, how for a long time he had tried in vain to get a job, had spent all his money, had nothing left, had been living almost in the street, lived on a crust of bread and washed it down with his tears, slept on the bare floor, and finally how some good Christian had exerted himself on his behalf, had given him an introduction, and had nobly got him into a new berth. Mr. Golyadkin’s visitor shed tears as he told his story, and wiped his eyes with a blue-check handkerchief that looked like oilcloth. He ended by making a clean breast of it to Mr. Golyadkin, and confessing that he was not only for the time without means of subsistence and money for a decent lodging, but had not even the wherewithal to fit himself out properly, so that he had, he said in conclusion, been able to get together enough for a pair of wretched boots, and that he had had to hire a uniform for the time.
Mr. Golyadkin was melted; he was genuinely touched. Even though his visitor’s story was the paltriest story, every word of it was like heavenly manna to his heart. The fact was that Mr. Golyadkin was beginning to forget his last misgivings, to surrender his soul to freedom and rejoicing, and at last mentally dubbed himself a fool. It was all so natural! And what a thing to break his heart over, what a thing to be so distressed about! To be sure there was, there really was, one ticklish circumstance — but, after all, it was not a misfortune; it could be no disgrace to a man, it could not cast a slur on his honour or ruin his career, if he were innocent, since nature herself was mixed up in it. Moreover, the visitor begged for protection, wept, railed at destiny, seemed such an artless, pitiful, insignificant person, with no craft or malice about him, and he seemed now to be ashamed himself, though perhaps on different grounds, of the strange resemblance of his countenance with that of Mr. Golyadkin’s. his behaviour was absolutely unimpeachable; his one desire was to please his host, and he looked as a man looks who feels conscience-stricken and to blame in regard to some one else. If any doubtful point were touched upon, for instance, the visitor at once agreed with Mr. Golyadkin’s opinion. If by mistake he advanced an opinion in opposition to Mr. Golyadkin’s and afterwards noticed that he had made a slip, he immediately corrected his mistake, explained himself and made it clear that he meant the same thing as his host, that he thought as he did and took the same view of everything as he did. In fact, the visitor made every possible effort to “make up to” Mr. Golyadkin, so that the latter made up his mind at last that his visitor must be a very amiable person in every way. Meanwhile, tea was brought in; it was nearly nine o’clock. Mr. Golyadkin felt in a very good-humour, grew lively and skittish, let himself go a little, and finally plunged into a most animated and interesting conversation with his visitor. In his festive moments Mr. Golyadkin was fond of telling interesting anecdotes. So now he told the visitor a great deal about Petersburg, about its entertainments and attractions, about the theatre, the clubs, about Brulov’s picture, and about the two Englishmen who came from England to Petersburg on purpose to look at the iron railing of the Summer Garden, and returned at once when they had seen it; about the office; about Olsufy Ivanovitch and Andrey Filippovitch; about the way that Russia was progressing, was hour by hour progressing towards a state of perfection, so that
“Arts and letters flourish here today”;
about an anecdote he had lately read in the Northern Bee concerning a boa-constrictor in India of immense strength; about Baron Brambeus, and so on. In short, Mr. Golyadkin was quite happy, first, because his mind was at rest, secondly, because, so far from being afraid of his enemies, he was quite prepared now to challenge them all to mortal combat; thirdly, because he was now in the role of patron and was doing a good deed. Yet he was conscious at the bottom of his heart that he was not perfectly happy, that there was still a hidden worm gnawing at his heart, though it was only a tiny one. He was extremely worried by the thought of the previous evening at Olsufy Ivanovitch’s. He would have given a great deal now for nothing to have happened of what took place then.
“It’s no matter, though!” our hero decided at last, and he firmly resolved in his heart to behave well in future and never to be guilty of such pranks again. As Mr. Golyadkin was now completely worked up, and had suddenly become almost blissful, the fancy took him to have a jovial time. Rum was brought in by Petrushka, and punch was prepared. The visitor and his host drained a glass each, and then a second. The visitor appeared even more amiable than before, and gave more than one proof of his frankness and charming character; he entered keenly into Mr. Golyadkin’s joy, seemed only to rejoice in his rejoicing, and to look upon him as his one and only benefactor. Taking up a pen and a sheet of paper, he asked Golyadkin not to look at what he was going to write, but afterwards showed his host what he had written. It turned out to be a verse of four lines, written with a good deal of feeling, in excellent language and handwriting, and evidently was the composition of the amiable visitor himself. the lines were as follows —
“If thou forget me,
I shall not forget thee;
Though all things may be,
Do not thou forget me.”
With tears in his eyes Mr. Golyadkin embraced his companion, and, completely overcome by his feelings, he began to initiate his friend into some of his own secrets and private affairs, Andrey Filippovitch and Klara Olsufyevna being prominent in his remarks.
“Well, you may be sure we shall get on together, Yakov Petrovitch,” said our hero to his visitor. “You and I will take to each other like fish to the water, Yakov Petrovitch; we shall be like brothers; we’ll be cunning, my dear fellow, we’ll work together; we’ll get up an intrigue, too, to pay them out. To pay them out we’ll get up an intrigue too. And don’t you trust any of them. I know you, Yakov Petrovitch, and I understand your character; you’ll tell them everything straight out, you know, you’re a guileless soul! You must hold aloof from them all, my boy.”
His companion entirely agreed with him, thanked Mr. Golyadkin, and he, too, grew tearful at last.
“Do you know, Yasha,” Mr. Golyadkin went on in a shaking voice, weak with emotion, “you must stay with me for a time, or stay with me for ever. We shall get on together. What do you say, brother, eh? And don’t you worry or repine because there’s such a strange circumstance about us now; it’s a sin to repine, brother; it’s nature! And Mother Nature is liberal with her gifts, so there, brother Yasha! It’s from love for you that I speak, from brotherly love. But we’ll be cunning, Yasha; we’ll lay a mine, too, and we’ll make them laugh out the other side of their mouths.”
They reached their third and fourth glasses of punch at last, and then Mr. Golyadkin began to be aware of two sensations: the one that he was extraordinarily happy, and the other that he could not stand on his legs. The guest was, of course, invited to stay the night. A bed was somehow made up on two chairs. Mr. Golyadkin junior declared that under a friend’s roof the bare floor would be a soft bed, that for his part he could sleep anywhere, humbly and gratefully; that he was in paradise now, that he had been through a great deal of trouble and grief in his time; he had seen ups and downs, had all sorts of things to put up with, and — who could tell what the future would be? — maybe he would have still more to put up with. Mr. Golyadkin senior protested against this, and began to maintain that one must put one’s faith in God. His guest entirely agreed, observing that there was, of course, no one like God. At this point Mr. Golyadkin senior observed that in certain respects the Turks were right in calling upon God even in their sleep. Then, though disagreeing with certain learned professors in the slanders thy had promulgated against the Turkish prophet Mahomet and recognizing him as a great politician in his own line, Mr. Golyadkin passed to a very interesting description of an Algerian barber’s shop which he had read in a book of miscellanies. The friends laughed heartily at the simplicity of the Turks, but paid due tribute to their fanaticism, which they ascribed to opium. . . . At last the guest began undressing, and thinking in the kindness of his heart that very likely he hadn’t even a decent shirt, Mr. Golyadkin went behind the screen to avoid embarrassing a man who had suffered enough, and partly to reassure himself as far as possible about Petrushka, to sound him, to cheer him up if he could, to be kind to the fellow so that every one might be happy and that everything might be pleasant all round. It must be remarked that Petrushka still rather bothered Mr. Golyadkin.
“You go to bed now, Pyotr,” Mr. Golyadkin said blandly, going into his servant’s domain; “you go to bed now and wake me up at eight o’clock. Do you understand Petrushka?”
Mr. Golyadkin spoke with exceptional softness and friendliness. But Petrushka remained mute. He was busy making his bed, and did not even turn round to face his master, which he ought to have done out of simple respect.
“Did you hear what I said, Pyotr?” Mr. Golyadkin went on. “You go to bed now and wake me tomorrow at eight o’clock; do you understand?”
“Why, I know that; what’s the use of telling me?” Petrushka grumbled to himself.
“Well, that’s right, Petrushka; I only mention it that you might be happy and at rest. Now we are all happy, so I want you, too, to be happy and satisfied. And now I wish you good-night. Sleep, Petrushka, sleep; we all have to work . . . Don’t think anything amiss, my man . . .” Mr. Golyadkin began, but stopped short. “Isn’t this too much?” he thought. “Haven’t I gone too far? That’s how it always is; I always overdo things.”
Our hero felt much dissatisfied with himself as he left Petrushka. He was, besides, rather wounded by Petrushka’s grumpiness and rudeness. “One jests with the rascal, his master does him too much honour, and the rascal does not feel it,” thought Mr. Golyadkin. “But there, that’s the nasty way of all that sort of people!”
Somewhat shaken, he went back to his room, and, seeing that his guest had settled himself for the night, he sat down on the edge of his bed for a minute.
“Come, you must own, Yasha,” he began in a whisper, wagging his head, “you’re a rascal, you know; what a way you’ve treated me! You see, you’ve got my name, do you know that?” he went on, jesting in a rather familiar way with his visitor. At last, saying a friendly good-night to him, Mr. Golyadkin began preparing for the night. The visitor meanwhile began snoring. Mr. Golyadkin in his turn got into bed, laughing and whispering to himself: “You are drunk today, my dear fellow, Yakov Petrovitch, you rascal, you old Golyadkin — what a surname to have! Why, what are you so pleased about? You’ll be crying tomorrow, you know, you sniveller; what am I to do with you?”
At this point a rather strange sensation pervaded Mr. Golyadkin’s whole being, something like doubt or remorse.
“I’ve been over-excited and let myself go,” he thought; “now I’ve a noise in my head and I’m drunk; I couldn’t restrain myself, ass that I am! and I’ve been babbling bushels of nonsense, and, like a rascal, I was planning to be so sly. Of course, to forgive and forget injuries is the height of virtue; but it’s a bad thing, nevertheless! Yes, that is so!”
At this point Mr. Golyadkin got up, took a candle and went on tiptoe to look once more at his sleeping guest. He stood over him for a long time meditating deeply.
“An unpleasant picture! A burlesque, a regular burlesque, and that’s the fact of the matter!”
At last Mr. Golyadkin settled down finally. There was a humming, a buzzing, a ringing in his head. He grew more and more drowsy . . . tried to think about something very important, some delicate question — but could not. Sleep descended upon his devoted head, and he slept as people generally do sleep who are not used to drinking and have consumed five glasses of punch at some festive gathering.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07