As soon as I was announced, Anna Andreyevna threw down her sewing and rushed to meet me in the outermost of her rooms, a thing which had never happened before. She held out both hands to me and flushed quickly. She led me into her room in silence, sat down to her needlework again, made me sit down beside her. She did not go on with her sewing, but still scrutinized me with the same fervent sympathy, without uttering a word.
“You sent Darya Onisimovna to me,” I began bluntly, rather overwhelmed by this exaggerated display of sympathy, though I found it agreeable.
She suddenly began talking without answering my question.
“I have heard all about it, I know all about it. That terrible night. . . . Oh, what you must have gone through! Can it be true! Can it be true that you were found unconscious in the frost?”
“You heard that . . . from Lambert . . . .” I muttered, reddening.
“I heard it all from him at the time; but I’ve been eager to see you. Oh, he came to me in alarm! At your lodging . . . where you have been lying ill, they would not let him in to see you . . . and they met him strangely . . . I really don’t know how it was, but he kept telling me about that night; he told me that when you had scarcely come to yourself, you spoke of me, and . . . and of your devotion to me. I was touched to tears, Arkady Makarovitch, and I don’t know how I have deserved such warm sympathy on your part, especially considering the condition in which you were yourself! Tell me, M. Lambert was the friend of your childhood, was he not?”
“Yes, but what happened? . . . I confess I was indiscreet, and perhaps I told him then a great deal I shouldn’t have.”
“Oh, I should have heard of that wicked horrible intrigue apart from him! I always had a presentiment that they would drive you to that, always. Tell me, is it true that Büring dared to lift his hand against you?”
She spoke as though it were entirely owing to Büring and HER that I had been found under the wall. And she is right too, I thought, but I flared up:
“If he had lifted his hand against me, he would not have gone away unpunished. And I should not be sitting before you now without having avenged myself,” I answered hotly. It struck me that she wanted for some reason to irritate me, to set me against somebody (I knew of course against whom); yet I fell in with it.
“You say that you had a presentiment that I should be driven to THIS, but on Katerina Nikolaevna’s side it was of course only a misunderstanding . . . though it is true that she was too hasty in allowing her kindly feeling for me to be influenced by that misunderstanding . . . .”
“I should think she was too hasty indeed!” Anna Andreyevna assented quickly, with a sort of ecstasy of sympathy. “Oh, if only you knew the intrigue that is being hatched there now! Of course, Arkady Makarovitch, of course it is difficult for you to realize now all the delicacy of my position,” she brought out, blushing and casting down her eyes. “Since I saw you last . . . that very morning I took a step which not every one would be able to understand and interpret rightly; so it is hardly likely that it would be understood by anyone with your still uncorrupted mind, and your fresh, loving, unsophisticated heart. Believe me, my dear friend, I appreciate your devotion to me, and I shall repay it with my everlasting gratitude. In the world, of course, they will throw stones at me, they have thrown them already. But even if they were right, from their odious point of view, which of them could, which of them dare judge me I have been abandoned by my father from childhood up; we Versilovs are an ancient noble Russian family, yet we are adventurers, and I am eating the bread of charity. Was it not natural I should turn to one who has taken the place of a father to me, at whose hands I have received nothing but kindness during all these years? My feelings for him are known only to God, and he alone can judge them, and I refuse to accept the judgment of the world upon the step I have taken. When there is, moreover, at the bottom of this the most cunning, the most evil intrigue, and the plot to ruin a trusting, noble-hearted father is the work of his own daughter, is it to be endured? No, I will save him if I have to ruin my reputation. I am ready to be with him simply as a nurse, to take care of him, and to look after him, but I will not let hateful, cold, mercenary worldliness triumph!”
She spoke with unwonted fire, very possibly half assumed, though at the same time sincere, because it was evident how deeply involved she was in the matter. Oh, I felt that she was lying (though sincerely, for one can lie sincerely). And that she was now evil; but it is wonderful how it often is, in dealing with women: this assumption of perfect refinement, these lofty manners, these inaccessible heights of well-bred grandeur and proud chastity — all this quite threw me out of my reckoning, and I began agreeing with her on every point, so long as I was with her; that is, I could not bring myself to contradict her, anyway. Oh, a man is in absolute moral slavery to a woman, especially if he is a generous man! Such a woman can convince a generous man of anything she likes. “She and Lambert, my goodness!” I thought, looking at her in perplexity. To tell the whole truth, however, I don’t know what to think of her to this day; truly her feelings were known only to God, and, besides, human beings are such complicated machines, that one cannot analyse them in some cases, and above all if the human being in question is a woman.
“Anna Andreyevna, what is it you exactly want me to do?” I asked, with a good deal of decision however.
“How? What do you mean by your question, Arkady Makarovitch?”
“I fancy, from everything . . . and from certain other considerations . . .” I explained stammering, “that you sent to me because you expected something from me; so what is it exactly?”
Without answering my question, she immediately began talking again, as rapidly and as earnestly as before:
“But I cannot, I am too proud to enter into explanations and negotiations with unknown persons, like M. Lambert. I have been waiting for you, I don’t want M. Lambert. My position is awful, desperate, Arkady Makarovitch! I am forced to duplicity, hemmed in by the machinations of that woman — and that is more than I can endure. I am driven almost to the humiliation of intriguing, and I have been waiting for you as my saviour. You must not blame me for looking greedily about me to find one friend at least, and so I cannot help being glad to see a friend: he, who could think of me and even utter my name, half frozen on that night, must be devoted to me. That’s what I’ve been thinking all this time and that is why I rely on you.”
She looked into my face with impatient inquiry. And again I had not the heart to disillusion her, and to tell her plainly that Lambert had deceived her, and that I had by no means told him that I was so devoted to her, and that her name was not the only one I mentioned. And so by my silence I confirmed, as it were, Lambert’s lie. Oh, she knew very well, I am convinced, that Lambert had been exaggerating and simply lying to her, solely in order to have a plausible excuse to call upon her, and to get into touch with her; though she looked into my face as though she were convinced of my truth and devotion, she must have known that I did not bring myself to contradict her from delicacy of feeling, and the awkwardness of youth. But whether I was right in this surmise, I don’t know. Perhaps I am horribly evil-minded.
“My brother is taking my part,” she said with sudden heat, seeing that I was not disposed to speak.
“I’m told you have been at my lodgings,” I muttered in confusion.
“Yes . . . you know poor Prince Nikolay Ivanitch has no place now where he can take refuge from this intrigue, or rather from his own daughter, unless in your lodgings, that is the lodgings of a friend; you know he looks upon you at least as a friend! . . . And if you will only do something for his benefit, then do this — if only you can, if only you have the generosity and courage . . . and, and finally if it is really true, that there is SOMETHING YOU CAN DO. Oh, it is not for my sake, it’s not for my sake, but for the sake of the poor old man, the only person who genuinely loved you, and who has become as attached to you as though you were his own son, and is still missing you! For myself I expect nothing, even from you — since even my own father has played me such a treacherous, such a spiteful trick.”
“I believe, Andrey Petrovitch . . .” I began.
“Andrey Petrovitch,” she repeated with bitter mockery; “Andrey Petrovitch, in answer to a direct question from me, told me on his word of honour that he had never had any intentions in regard to Katerina Nikolaevna and I completely believed it when I took that step; and yet it seemed that his composure only lasted till he heard of Baron Büring.”
“That’s wrong,” I cried, “there was a moment when I too believed in his love for that woman, but it’s a mistake . . . and even if it were so, he might, I should think, be perfectly composed about it now . . . since the retirement of that gentleman.”
“Who has told you of his retirement? Perhaps the gentle man in question never had any such views,” she jeered malignantly; I fancied too, that she looked at me jeeringly.
“Darya Onisimovna told me,” I muttered in confusion, which I was not able to conceal, and which she saw only too clearly.
“Darya Onisimovna is a very nice person, and, of course, I cannot forbid her loving me, but she has no means of knowing what does not concern her.”
My heart began to ache; and, as she had been reckoning on rousing my indignation, I did in fact begin to feel indignant, but not with “that woman,” but for the time being with Anna Andreyevna herself. I got up.
“As an honourable man, I ought to warn you, Anna Andreyevna, that your expectations . . . in regard to me . . . may turn out to be utterly unfounded . . . .”
“I expect you to be my champion,” she said, looking at me resolutely: “abandoned as I am by every one . . . your sister, if you care to have it so, Arkady Makarovitch.”
Another instant, and she would have burst into tears.
“Well, you had better not expect anything, for, ‘perhaps’ nothing will come of it,” I muttered with an indescribable feeling of disgust.
“How am I to understand your words?” she said, showing her consternation too plainly.
“Why, that I am going away from you all, and — that’s the end of it!” I suddenly exclaimed almost furiously, “and the LETTER— I shall tear up. Good-bye.”
I bowed to her, and went out without speaking, though at the same time I scarcely dared to look at her, but had hardly gone downstairs when Darya Onisimovna ran after me, with a half sheet of paper folded in two. Where Darya Onisimovna had sprung from, and where she had been sitting while I was talking with Anna Andreyevna, I cannot conceive. She did not utter a word, but merely gave me the paper, and ran away. I unfolded it: on the paper, clearly and distinctly written, was Lambert’s address, and it had apparently been got ready several days before. I suddenly recalled that when Darya Onisimovna had been with me that day, I had told her that I did not know where Lambert lived, meaning, “I don’t know and don’t want to know.” But by this time I had learned Lambert’s address from Liza, whom I had specially asked to get it for me from the address bureau. Anna Andreyevna’s action seemed to me too definite, even cynical: although I had declined to assist her, she was simply sending me straight to Lambert, as though she had not the slightest faith in my refusal. It was quite clear to me that she knew everything about the letter, and from whom could she have learnt it if not from Lambert, to whom she was sending me that I might co-operate with him.
There was no doubt that they all, every one of them, looked upon me as a feeble boy without character or will, with whom they could do anything, I thought with indignation.
Nevertheless, I did go to Lambert’s. Where else could I have satisfied my curiosity? Lambert, as it appeared, lived a long way off, in Cross Alley, close to the Summer Gardens, still in the same lodgings; but when I ran away from him that night I had so completely failed to notice the way and the distance, that when I got his address from Liza, four days earlier, I was surprised and could scarcely believe that he lived there. As I was going upstairs I noticed at the door of the flat, on the third storey, two young men, and thought they had rung the bell before I came and were waiting for the door to be opened. While I was mounting the stairs they both, turning their backs on the door, scrutinized me very attentively. “The flat is all let out in rooms, and they must be going to see another lodger,” I thought, frowning, as I went up to them. It would have been very disagreeable to me to find anyone else at Lambert’s. Trying not to look at them, I put out my hand to the bell.
“Attendez!” one of them cried to me.
“Please, please don’t ring again yet,” said the other young man in a soft musical voice, slightly drawling the words. “Here we’ll finish this, and then we’ll all ring altogether. Shall we?”
I waited. They were both very young men, about twenty or twenty-two; they were doing something rather strange at the door, and I began to watch them with surprise. The one who had cried “attendez” was a very tall fellow, over six feet, thin and lean, but very muscular, with a very small head in proportion to his height, and with a strange, as it were comic expression of gloom on his rather pock-marked though agreeable and by no means stupid face. There was a look as it were of exaggerated intentness and of unnecessary and excessive determination in his eyes. He was very badly dressed: in an old wadded overcoat, with a little fur collar of mangy-looking raccoon; it was too short for him and obviously second-hand. He had on shabby high boots almost like a peasant’s, and on his head was a horribly crushed, dirty-looking top-hat. His whole appearance was marked by slovenliness; his ungloved hands were dirty and his long nails were black. His companion, on the other hand, was smartly dressed, judging from his light skunk fur coat, his elegant hat, and the light new gloves on his slender fingers; he was about my height, and he had an extremely charming expression on his fresh and youthful face.
The tall fellow was taking off his tie — an utterly threadbare greasy ribbon, hardly better than a piece of tape — and the pretty-looking youth, taking out of his pocket another newly purchased black tie, was putting it round the neck of the tall fellow, who, with a perfectly serious face, submissively stretched out his very long neck, throwing his overcoat back from his shoulders.
“No; it won’t do if the shirt is so dirty,” said the younger one, “the effect won’t be good, it will only make it look dirtier. I told you to put on a collar. I don’t know how . . . do you know how to do it,” he said, turning suddenly to me.
“What?” I asked.
“Why, fasten his tie. You see it ought to go like this, to hide his dirty shirt, or else the whole effect is spoilt whatever we do. I have just bought the tie for a rouble at Filip’s, the hairdresser’s, on purpose for him.”
“Was it — that rouble?” muttered the tall one.
“Yes, I haven’t a farthing now. Then you can’t do it? In that case we must ask Alphonsine.”
“To see Lambert?” the tall fellow asked me abruptly.
“Yes,” I answered with no less determination, looking him in the face.
“Dolgorowky?” he went on with the same air and the same voice.
“No, not Korovkin,” I answered as abruptly, mistaking what he said.
“Dolgorowky?” the tall fellow almost shouted again, and he took a step towards me almost menacingly. His companion burst out laughing.
“He says ‘Dolgorowky’ and not Korovkin,” he explained to me. “You know in the Journal des Débats the French constantly distort Russian names . . . .”
“In the Indépendance,” growled the tall fellow.
“Well, it’s just the same in the Indépendance. Dolgoruky, for instance, they write Dolgorowky — I have seen it myself, and Valonyev is always written comte Wallonieff.”
“Doboyny! “cried the tall fellow.
“Yes, there’s Doboyny, too, I’ve seen it myself; and we both laughed; some Russian Madame Doboyny abroad . . . but there’s no need to mention them all, you know,” he said, turning suddenly to the tall fellow.
“Excuse me, are you M. Dolgoruky?”
“Yes, my name is Dolgoruky; how do you know it?”
The tall one suddenly whispered something to the pretty-looking lad; the latter frowned and shook his head, but the tall fellow immediately addressed me;
“Monsieur le prince, vous n’avez pas de rouble d’argent pour nous, pas deux, mais un seul, voulez-vous?”
“Oh, how horrid you are,” cried the boy.
“Nous vous rendons,” concluded the tall one, mispronouncing the French words coarsely and clumsily.
“He’s a cynic, you know,” the boy laughed to me; “and do you suppose he can’t speak French? He speaks like a Parisian, but he is mimicking those Russians who are awfully fond of talking aloud in French together before other people, though they can’t speak it themselves . . . .”
“Dans les wagons,” the tall fellow explained.
“To be sure, in railway carriages; oh, what a bore you are! There’s no need to explain. Why will you always pretend to be a fool?”
Meanwhile I took out a rouble and offered it to the tall fellow.
“Nous vous rendons,” said the latter, pocketing the rouble; and turning to the door with a perfectly unmoved and serious face, he proceeded to kick it with his huge coarse boot and without the faintest sign of ill-humour . . . .
“Ah, you will be fighting with Lambert again!” the boy observed uneasily. “You had much better ring the bell!”
I rang the bell, but the tall fellow continued kicking the door nevertheless.
“Ah, sacré . . .” we heard Lambert’s voice the other side of the door, and he quickly opened it.
“Dites donc, voulez-vous que je vous casse la tête, mon ami!” he shouted to the tall man.
“Mon ami, voilà Dolgorowky, l’autre mon ami,” the tall fellow replied with dignified gravity, staring at Lambert, who was red with anger. As soon as the latter saw me, he seemed suddenly transformed.
“It’s you, Arkady! At last! Then you are better, better are you at last?”
He seized my hands, pressing them warmly; he was in fact so genuinely delighted that I felt pleased at once, and even began to like him.
“I’ve come to you first of all!”
“Alphonsine!” cried Lambert.
She instantly skipped out from behind the screen.
“C’est lui!” cried Alphonsine, clasping and unclasping her hands; she would have rushed to embrace me, but Lambert protected me.
“There, there, there, down, down!” he shouted to her as though she were a dog. “It’s like this, Arkady: some fellows have agreed to dine together to-day at the Tatars’. I shan’t let you go, you must come with us. We’ll have dinner; I’ll get rid of these fellows at once, and then we can have a chat. Come in, come in! We’ll set off at once, only wait a minute . . .”
I went in and stood in the middle of that room, looking about me, and remembering it. Lambert behind the screen hurriedly dressed. The tall fellow and his companion followed us in, in spite of Lambert’s words. We all remained standing.
“Mlle. Alphonsine, voulez-vous me baiser?” growled the tall man.
“Mlle. Alphonsine,” the younger one was beginning, showing her the tie, but she flew savagely at both of them.
“Ah, le petit vilain! “ she shouted to the younger one; “ne m’approchez pas, ne me salissez pas, et vous, le grand dadais, je vous planque à la porte tous les deux, savez vous cela!”
Though she warned him off with contempt and disgust, as though she were really afraid of being soiled by contact with him (which I could not at all understand because he was such a pretty fellow, and turned out to be just as well dressed when he took off his overcoat), the younger of the two men kept asking her to tie his tall friend’s cravat for him, and to put him on one of Lambert’s clean collars first. She was on the point of beating them in her indignation at such a suggestion, but Lambert overhearing, shouted to her behind the screen not to hinder them, but to do as they asked; “they won’t leave off if you don’t,” he added, and Alphonsine instantly produced a collar and began to fasten the tall man’s cravat without the slightest sign of disinclination. The man stretched out his neck just as he had done on the stairs, while she tied his cravat.
“Mlle. Alphonsine, avez vous vendu votre bologne?” he asked.
“Qu’est-ce que ça, ma bologne?”
The younger man explained that “ma bologne” meant a lapdog.
“Tiens, quel est ce baragouin?”
“Je parle comme une dame russe sur les eaux minérales,” observed le grand dadais, still with his neck outstretched.
“Qu’est-ce que ça qu’une dame russe sur les eaux minérales et . . . où est donc votre jolie montre, que Lambert vous a donnée,” she said suddenly to the younger one.
“What, no watch again,” Lambert chimed in irritably behind the screen.
“We’ve eaten it up!” growled le grand dadais.
“I sold it for eight roubles: it was only silver gilt, and you said it was gold; so now at the shop it’s only sixteen roubles,” the younger answered Lambert, defending himself reluctantly.
“We must put an end to this!” Lambert said even more irritably. “I don’t buy you clothes, my young friend, and give you good things, for you to spend them on your tall friend. . . . What was that tie too that you bought him?”
“That was only a rouble; that was not with your money. He had no cravat at all, and he ought to buy a hat too.”
“Nonsense!” Lambert was really angry. “I gave him enough for a hat too, and he goes off and wastes it on oysters and champagne. He positively reeks; he’s dirty and untidy; you can’t take him anywhere. How can I take him out to dinner?”
“I’m a cad,” growled the dadais. “Nous avons un rouble d’argent que nous avons prêté chez notre nouvel ami.”
“Don’t you give him anything, Arkady,” Lambert cried again.
“Excuse me, Lambert; I ask you plainly for ten roubles,” cried the boy, growing suddenly angry and flushing, which made him look twice as handsome as before; “and don’t ever dare to say such stupid things as you did just now to Dolgoruky. I must have ten roubles to pay Dolgoruky back that rouble at once, and with the rest I’ll buy Andreyev a hat, so you see.”
Lambert came out from behind the screen:
“Here are three yellow notes, and three roubles, and there’s nothing more till Tuesday, and don’t dare . . . or else . . . .”
Le grand dadais fairly snatched the money from him.
“Dolgorowky, here is the rouble nous vous rendons avec beaucoup de grâce. Petya, come along!” he called to his companion. Then holding up the two notes and waving them in the air, while he stared fixedly at Lambert, he yelled at the top of his voice:
“Ohé Lambert! Oû est Lambert, as-tu vu Lambert?”
“How dare you, how dare you,” Lambert yelled too, in terrible wrath: I saw that underlying all this was something in the past of which I knew nothing, and I looked on in astonishment. But the tall fellow was not in the least alarmed by Lambert’s wrath; on the contrary, he yelled louder than ever: “Ohé Lambert!” and so on. And so shouting, they went out on the stairs. Lambert was running after them, but he turned back.
“I’ll throw them out by the scr-r-ruff of their necks! They cost more than they are worth. . . . Come along, Arkady! I’m late. I am expected there by another . . . fellow I need . . . a beast too. . . . They’re all beasts! A low lot, a low lot!” he shouted again, almost gnashing his teeth; but all at once he recovered himself completely.
“I am glad that you have come at last. Alphonsine, not a step out of the house! Let us go.”
At the steps a smart turn-out was waiting for him. We got in; but all the way he could not quite regain his composure and get over a sort of rage against the two young men. I was surprised at his taking it so seriously; and what’s more, at their being so disrespectful to Lambert, and his seeming almost frightened of them.
From the old impression that had been stamped on me from childhood, it still seemed to me that every one must be afraid of Lambert, as in spite of all my independence, I certainly stood in awe of him myself at that moment.
“I tell you now they are all a low lot,” Lambert persisted. “Would you believe it that tall ruffian pestered me, the day before yesterday, in decent company. He stood in front of me and shouted: ‘Ohé Lambert!’ in decent company! Every one laughed, and do you know, it was for me to give him money — would you believe it. I gave it him. Oh, that — r-r-ruffian! Would you believe it? He was an ensign in a regiment, but he was kicked out, and, you wouldn’t imagine it, but he is a man of education: he was brought up in a good family, you would hardly believe it! He has ideas, he might . . . and damn it all! And he is a perfect Hercules. He is of use, though of not much use. And you can see he does not wash his hands. I interested a lady in his case, an old lady of very good position, telling her that he was penitent, and on the point of committing suicide from remorse, and he went to see her, sat down and began whistling. And the other, the pretty fellow, is a general’s son; his family is ashamed of him. I got him off when he was arrested, I saved him, and you see how he repays me. There are no people worth their salt here! I’ll pay them out, I’ll pay them out!”
“They know my name; did you talk to them about me?”
“Yes, it was stupid of me. Please stay on a little after dinner, control your feelings. . . . There’s an awful canaille coming. Yes, he’s an awful canaille, and awfully cunning; they are all rascals here, there’s not an honest man about! Well, we’ll finish — then. . . . What’s your favourite dish? But it doesn’t matter, the fare is always good. I’ll pay, don’t you worry. It’s a good thing you are well dressed. I can give you money. You must come often. Only fancy, I’ve stood them meat and drink here, it’s fish pie every day of the week; that watch he sold — it’s the second time. That little fellow, Trishatov, you saw him; Alphonsine is sick at the very sight of him, and won’t let him come near her; and here in the presence of officers he calls out: ‘I must have woodcock.’ I stood him woodcock! But I’ll pay them out.”
“Do you remember, Lambert, how we went to a restaurant together in Moscow, and you stuck a fork into me, and how you had fifty roubles then!”
“Yes, I remember! Damn it, I remember! I like you . . . you may believe it. Nobody likes you; but I like you; I’m the only one that does, you remember that. . . . The pockmarked fellow that is coming here is a cunning canaille; don’t you answer any of his questions; if he begins talking, it’s all right; but if he begins questioning, make some nonsensical answer, or hold your tongue.”
At any rate, in his excitement he did not question me much on the way. I even felt insulted at his having such confidence in me, and not even suspecting that I mistrusted him; I fancied that I detected in him the absurd idea that he could still order me about. “And what’s more, he’s awfully ignorant and ill-bred,” I thought, as I went into the restaurant.
I had been into that restaurant, in the Morskaya, before, during my disgraceful period of degradation and depravity, and so the impression of those rooms, of those lackeys looking at me, and recognizing me as a familiar visitor, and finally the impression made on me by the mysterious company of Lambert’s friends, amongst whom I found myself so suddenly, and to whom I seemed already to belong, and above all an obscure feeling that of my own freewill I was going into something abominable, and that I should certainly end up by doing something horrid — all this seemed to go through me in a flash. There was a moment when I very nearly went away; but the moment passed and I remained.
The “pock-marked man,” of whom for some reason Lambert was so much afraid, was already waiting for us. He was one of those men of stupidly practical appearance, whom I have always from my childhood detested; he was about forty-five, of middle height, with hair just turning grey. He was disgustingly close-shaven, except for two little neatly trimmed grey whiskers, like sausages, one on each side of his extremely flat and spiteful-looking face. He was of course dull, solemn, and taciturn, and even conceited, as such nonentities always are. He looked at me very attentively, but he did not say a word. Lambert was so stupid that though he sat us down at the same table together, he did not think it necessary to introduce us, and so he may well have taken me for one of the blackmailers associated with Lambert. To the two young men (who arrived almost simultaneously with us) he did not address a single word during the whole of dinner, but it was evident that he knew them well. He talked only to Lambert, and then almost in a whisper, and indeed Lambert did most of the talking, and the pock-marked man confined himself to fragmentary and wrathful ejaculations, which sounded like an ultimatum. He behaved superciliously, was ill-humoured and sarcastic, while Lambert on the other hand was extremely excited and was evidently trying to persuade him all the time, probably urging him on to some undertaking. On one occasion I put out my hand to take a bottle of red wine; the pock-marked man immediately took a bottle of sherry and handed it to me, though he had not said a word to me till then.
“Try this,” he said, offering me the bottle. I guessed, on the spot, that he too, knew everything in the world about me — my story, and my name, and perhaps the fact that Lambert was counting upon me. The idea that he was taking me for a satellite maddened me again, and Lambert’s face betrayed an intense and very stupid uneasiness when the pock-marked man addressed me; the latter noticed it and laughed. “There’s no doubt that Lambert depends on all of them,” I thought, hating him at that instant with my whole soul. In this way, though we were sitting at the same table, throughout the whole dinner we were divided into two groups; the pock-marked man with Lambert, facing each other close to the window, while I was beside the grubby Andreyev, and Trishatov sat facing me. Lambert hurried on the dinner, continually urging the waiters to make haste with the dishes. When the champagne was brought he held out his glass to me:
“To your health, let’s clink glasses!” he said, breaking off his conversation with the pock-marked man.
“And will you let me clink with you too?” said the pretty youth, holding out his glass across the table. Till the champagne arrived he had been very silent, and seemed pensive. The dadais said nothing at all, but sat silent and ate a great deal.
“With pleasure,” I answered Trishatov. We clinked glasses and drank.
“But I’m not going to drink your health,” observed the dadais turning to me; “not because I desire your death, but so that you may not drink any more here to-day.” He spoke gloomily and ponderously. “Three glasses is enough for you. I see you are looking at my unwashed fist!” he went on, putting his fist on the table. “I don’t wash it, but as it is I put it at Lambert’s service for smashing other people’s heads when he’s in a tight place.” And saying this he brought down his fist on the table with such force that he set all the plates and glasses rattling. Besides us there were people dining at four other tables, all of them officers or gentlemen of dignified appearance. It was a fashionable restaurant; all broke off their conversation for a moment and looked round to our corner; and indeed I fancied we had attracted curiosity for some time past. Lambert flushed crimson.
“Ah, he’s at it again! I thought I had asked you to behave yourself, Nikolay Semyonovitch,” he said to Andreyev in a furious whisper. The latter gave him a prolonged stare.
“I don’t want my new friend Dolgorowky to drink a great deal here to-day.”
Lambert flushed more hotly than ever.
The pock-marked man listened in silence but with evident pleasure. Andreyev’s behaviour seemed to please him, for some reason. I was the only one who did not understand why I was not to drink much wine.
“He says that because he’s only just had some money! You shall have another seven roubles directly after dinner — only do let us have dinner, don’t disgrace us,” Lambert hissed at him.
“Aha!” the dadais growled triumphantly. At this the pock-marked man was absolutely delighted, and he sniggered spitefully.
“Listen, you really . . .” began Trishatov to his friend with uneasiness and almost distress in his voice, evidently anxious to restrain him. Andreyev subsided, but not for long; that was not his intention. Just across the table, five paces from us, two gentleman were dining, engaged in lively conversation. Both were middle-aged gentleman, who looked extremely conscious of their own dignity; one was tall and very stout, the other was also very stout but short, they were discussing in Polish the events of the day in Paris. For some time past the dadais had been watching them inquisitively and listening to their talk. The short Pole evidently struck him as a comic figure, and he promptly conceived an aversion for him after the manner of envious and splenetic people, who often take such sudden dislikes for no reason whatever. Suddenly the short Pole pronounced the name of the deputy, Madier de Montjeau, but, as so many Poles do, he pronounced it with an accent on the syllable before the last, instead of on the last syllable; this was enough for the dadais, he turned to the Poles, and drawing up himself with dignity, he suddenly articulated loudly and distinctly as though addressing a question to them:
“Madier de Montjeáu?”
The Poles turned to him savagely.
“What do you want?” the tall stout Pole shouted threateningly to him in Russian.
The dadais paused. “Madier de Montjeáu,” he repeated suddenly again, to be heard by the whole room, giving no sort of explanation, just as he had stupidly set upon me at the door with the reiterated question “Dolgorowky.” The Poles jumped up from their seats, Lambert leapt up from the table and rushed to Andreyev, but leaving him, darted up to the Poles and began making cringing apologies to them.
“They are buffoons, Pani, they are buffoons,” the little Pole repeated contemptuously, as red as a carrot with indignation. “Soon it will be impossible to come!” There was a stir all over the room too, and a murmur of disapproval, though laughter was predominant.
“Come out . . . please . . . come along!” Lambert muttered completely disconcerted, doing his utmost to get Andreyev out of the room. The latter looking searchingly at Lambert, and judging that he would now give the money, agreed to follow him. Probably he had already extorted money from Lambert by the same kind of disgraceful behaviour. Trishatov seemed about to run after them too, but he looked at me and checked himself.
“Ach, how horrid,” he said hiding his eyes with his slender fingers.
“Very horrid,” whispered the pock-marked man, looking really angry at last.
Meanwhile Lambert came back looking quite pale, and gesticulating eagerly, began whispering something to the pock-marked man. The latter listened disdainfully, and meanwhile ordered the waiter to make haste with the coffee; he was evidently in a hurry to get off. And yet the whole affair had only been a schoolboyish prank. Trishatov got up with his cup of coffee, and came and sat down beside me.
“I am very fond of him,” he said to me with a face as open as though he had been talking to me like this all his life. “You can’t imagine how unhappy Andreyev is. He has wasted all his sister’s dowry on eating and drinking, and in fact all they had he spent on eating and drinking during the year he was in the service, and I see now he worries. And as for his not washing, it’s just through despair. And he has awfully strange ideas: he’ll tell you all of a sudden that he’s both a scoundrel and an honest man — that it’s all the same and no difference: and that there’s no need to do anything, either good or bad, they are just the same, one may do good or bad, but that the best of all is to be still, not taking off one’s clothes for a month at a time, to eat, and drink, and sleep — and nothing else. But believe me, he only says that. And do you know, I really believe he played the fool like this just now to break off with Lambert once for all. He spoke of it yesterday. Would you believe it, sometimes at night or when he has been sitting long alone, he begins to cry, and, do you know, when he cries, it’s different from anyone else; he howls, he howls in an awful way, and you know it’s even more pitiful . . . and he’s such a big strong fellow, and then all of a sudden — to see him howling. It is sad, poor fellow, isn’t it? I want to save him, though I am a wretched hopeless scamp myself, you wouldn’t believe. Will you let me in, Dolgoruky, if I ever come and see you?”
“Oh, do come, I really like you.”
“What for? Well, thank you. Listen, will you drink another glass? But after all you’d better not. He was right when he said you had better not drink any more,” he suddenly gave me a significant wink, “but I’ll drink it all the same. I have nothing now, but would you believe it, I can’t hold myself back in anything; if you were to tell me I must not dine at a restaurant again, I should be ready to do anything, simply to dine there. Oh, we genuinely want to be honest, I assure you, but we keep putting it off,
“And the years pass by and the best of our years!
“I am awfully afraid that he will hang himself. He’ll go and do it without telling anyone. He’s like that. They are all hanging themselves nowadays; why, I don’t know — perhaps there are a great many people like us. I, for instance, can’t exist without money to spend. Luxuries matter a great deal more to me than necessities.
“I say, are you fond of music? I’m awfully fond of it. I’ll play you something when I come and see you. I play very well on the piano and I studied music a very long time. I’ve studied seriously. If I were to compose an opera, do you know I should take the subject from Faust. I am very fond of that subject. I am always making up a scene in the cathedral, just imagining it in my head, I mean. The Gothic cathedral, the interior, the choirs, the hymns; Gretchen enters, and mediaeval singing, you know, so that you can hear the fifteenth century in it. Gretchen overwhelmed with grief; to begin with a recitative, subdued but terrible, full of anguish; the choirs thunder on, gloomily, sternly, callously,
“Dies irae, dies illa!
“And all of a sudden — the voice of the devil, the song of the devil. He is unseen, there is only his song, side by side with the hymns, mingling with the hymns, almost melting into them, but at the same time quite different from them — that must be managed somehow. The song is prolonged, persistent, it must be a tenor, it must be a tenor. It begins softly, tenderly: ‘Do you remember, Gretchen, when you were innocent, when you were a child, you came with your mother to this cathedral and lisped your prayers from an old prayer-book?’ But the song gets louder and louder, more intense; on higher notes: there’s a sound of tears in them, misery unceasing, and hopeless, and finally despair. ‘There’s no forgiveness, Gretchen, there’s no forgiveness for you here!’ Gretchen tries to pray, but only cries of misery rise up from her soul — you know when the breast is convulsed with tears — but Satan’s song never ceases, and pierces deeper and deeper into the soul like a spear; it gets higher and higher, and suddenly breaks off almost in a shriek: ‘The end to all, accursed one!’ Gretchen falls on her knees, clasps her hands before her — and then comes her prayer, something very short, semi-recitative, but naïve, entirely without ornament, something mediaeval in the extreme, four lines, only four lines altogether — Stradella has some such notes — and at the last note she swoons! General confusion. She is picked up, carried out, and then the choir thunders forth. It is, as it were, a storm of voices, a hymn of inspiration, of victory, overwhelming, something in the style of our
‘Borne on high by angels’
— so that everything is shaken to its foundations, and it all passes into the triumphant cry of exaltation ‘Hosanna!’— as though it were the cry of the whole universe and it rises and rises, and then the curtain falls! Yes, you know if only I could, I should have done something; only I can never do anything now, I do nothing but dream. I am always dreaming; my whole life has turned into a dream. I dream at night too. Ah, Dolgoruky, have you read Dickens’ ‘Old Curiosity Shop’?”
“Do you remember — wait, I will have another glass — do you remember, there’s one passage at the end, when they — that mad old man and that charming girl of thirteen, his grandchild, take refuge after their fantastic flight and wandering in some remote place in England, near a Gothic mediaeval church, and the little girl has received some post there, and shows the church to visitors . . . then the sun is setting, and the child in the church porch, bathed in the last rays of light, stands and gazes at the sunset, with gentle pensive contemplation in her child soul, a soul full of wonder as though before some mystery, for both alike are mysteries, the sun, the thought of God, and the church, the thought of man, aren’t they? Oh, I don’t know how to express it, only God loves such first thoughts in children. . . . While near her, on the step, the crazy old grandfather gazes at her with a fixed look . . . you know there’s nothing special in it, in that picture of Dickens, there’s absolutely nothing in it, but yet one will remember it all one’s life, and it has survived for all Europe — why? It’s splendid! It’s the innocence in it! And I don’t know what there is in it, but it’s fine. I used always to be reading novels when I was at school. Do you know I had a sister in the country only a year older than me. . . . Oh, now it’s all sold, and we have no country-place! I was sitting with her on the terrace under our old lime trees, we were reading that novel, and the sun was setting too, and suddenly we left off reading, and said to one another that we would be kind too, that we would be good — I was then preparing for the university and . . . Ach, Dolgoruky, you know, every man has his memories! . . .”
And he suddenly let his pretty little head fall on my shoulder and burst out crying. I felt very very sorry for him. It is true that he had drunk a great deal of wine, but he had talked to me so sincerely, so like a brother, with such feeling. . . . Suddenly, at that instant, we heard a shout from the street, and there was a violent tapping at the window (there was a large plate-glass window on the ground floor, so that anyone could tap on the window with his fingers from the street). This was the ejected Andreyev.
“Ohé Lambert! Où est Lambert? As-tu vu Lambert?” we heard his wild shout in the street.
“Ah! yes, here he is! So he’s not gone away?” cried the boy, jumping up from his place.
“Our account!” Lambert cried through his clenched teeth to the waiter. His hands shook with anger as he paid the bill, but the pock-marked man did not allow Lambert to pay for him.
“Why not? Why, I invited you, you accepted my invitation.”
“No, excuse me,” the pock-marked man pulled out his purse, and reckoning out his share he paid separately.
“You’ll offend me, Semyon Sidorovitch.”
“That’s what I wish,” Semyon Sidorovitch snapped out, taking his hat, and without saying good-bye to anybody, he walked alone out of the room. Lambert tossed the money to the waiter and hurriedly ran after him, even forgetting my existence in his confusion. Trishatov and I walked out last of all. Andreyev was standing like a post at the door, waiting for Trishatov.
“You scoundrel!” cried Lambert, unable to restrain himself.
“There, there!” Andreyev grunted at him, and with one swing of his arm he knocked off his round hat, which went spinning along the pavement. Lambert flew abjectly to pick it up.
“Vinq-cinq roubles!” Andreyev showed Trishatov the note, which he had just got from Lambert.
“That’s enough,” Trishatov shouted to him. “Why must you always make an uproar? . . . And why have you wrung twenty-five roubles out of him? You only ought to have had seven.”
“Why did I wring it out of him? He promised us a private dinner with Athenian women, and instead of women he regaled us with the pock-marked man, and what’s more, I did not finish my dinner and I’ve been freezing here in the cold, it’s certainly worth eighteen roubles. He owed me seven, so that makes twenty-five.”
“Go to the devil both of you!” yelled Lambert. “I’ll send you both packing, I’ll pay you out . . .”
“Lambert, I’ll send you packing. I’ll pay you out!” cried Andreyev. “Adieu, mon prince, don’t drink any more wine! Petya, marche! Ohé Lambert! Où est Lambert? As-tu vu Lambert?” he roared for the last time as he strode away.
“So I shall come and see you, may I?” Trishatov murmured hurriedly, and hastened after his friend.
I was left alone with Lambert.
“Well . . . come along!” he brought out, seeming stupefied and breathing with difficulty.
“Where shall I come along? I’m not coming anywhere with you!” I made haste to reply defiantly.
“You’re not coming,” he said, startled and apprehensive. “Why, I have only been waiting for us to be alone!”
“But where to go?” I must confess I, too, had a slight ringing in my head, from the three glasses of champagne and the two wine-glasses of sherry I had drunk.
“This way, this way. Do you see?”
“But this is an oyster bar: you see it is written up. It smells so horrid . . .”
“That’s only because you have just had dinner. We won’t have oysters, but I’ll give you some champagne . . . .”
“I don’t want any! You want to make me drunk.”
“That’s what they told you; they’ve been laughing at you. You believe blackguards like that!”
“No, Trishatov’s not a blackguard. But I know how to take care of myself — that’s all!”
“So you’ve a will of your own, have you?”
“Yes, I have a character; more than you have, for you’re servile to everybody you meet. You disgraced us, you begged pardon of the Poles like a lackey. I suppose you’ve often been beaten in restaurants?”
“But we must have a talk, you fool!” he cried with the same contemptuous impatience, which almost implied, what are you driving at? “Why, you are afraid, aren’t you? Are you my friend or not?”
“I am not your friend and you are a swindler. We’ll go along simply to show you I’m not afraid of you. Oh, what a horrid smell, it smells of cheese! How disgusting!”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53