Sanin woke up very early. He found himself at the highest pinnacle of human happiness; but it was not that prevented him from sleeping; the question, the vital, fateful question — how he could dispose of his estate as quickly and as advantageously as possible — disturbed his rest. The most diverse plans were mixed up in his head, but nothing had as yet come out clearly. He went out of the house to get air and freshen himself. He wanted to present himself to Gemma with a project ready prepared and not without.
What was the figure, somewhat ponderous and thick in the legs, but well-dressed, walking in front of him, with a slight roll and waddle in his gait? Where had he seen that head, covered with tufts of flaxen hair, and as it were set right into the shoulders, that soft cushiony back, those plump arms hanging straight down at his sides? Could it be Polozov, his old schoolfellow, whom he had lost sight of for the last five years? Sanin overtook the figure walking in front of him, turned round. . . . A broad, yellowish face, little pig’s eyes, with white lashes and eyebrows, a short flat nose, thick lips that looked glued together, a round smooth chin, and that expression, sour, sluggish, and mistrustful — yes; it was he, it was Ippolit Polozov!
‘Isn’t my lucky star working for me again?’ flashed through Sanin’s mind.
‘Polozov! Ippolit Sidorovitch! Is it you?’
The figure stopped, raised his diminutive eyes, waited a little, and ungluing his lips at last, brought out in a rather hoarse falsetto, ‘Dimitri Sanin?’
‘That’s me!’ cried Sanin, and he shook one of Polozov’s hands; arrayed in tight kid-gloves of an ashen-grey colour, they hung as lifeless as before beside his barrel-shaped legs. ‘Have you been here long? Where have you come from? Where are you stopping?’
‘I came yesterday from Wiesbaden,’ Polozov replied in deliberate tones, ‘to do some shopping for my wife, and I’m going back to Wiesbaden today.’
‘Oh, yes! You’re married, to be sure, and they say, to such a beauty!’
Polozov turned his eyes away. ‘Yes, they say so.’
Sanin laughed. ‘I see you’re just the same . . . as phlegmatic as you were at school.’
‘Why should I be different?’
‘And they do say,’ Sanin added with special emphasis on the word ‘do,’ ‘that your wife is very rich.’
‘They say that too.’
‘Do you mean to say, Ippolit Sidorovitch, you are not certain on that point?’
‘I don’t meddle, my dear Dimitri . . . Pavlovitch? Yes, Pavlovitch! — in my wife’s affairs.’
‘You don’t meddle? Not in any of her affairs?’
Polozov again shifted his eyes. ‘Not in any, my boy. She does as she likes, and so do I.’
‘Where are you going now?’ Sanin inquired.
‘I’m not going anywhere just now; I’m standing in the street and talking to you; but when we’ve finished talking, I’m going back to my hotel, and am going to have lunch.’
‘Would you care for my company?’
‘You mean at lunch?’
‘Delighted, it’s much pleasanter to eat in company. You’re not a great talker, are you?’
‘I think not.’
‘So much the better.’
Polozov went on. Sanin walked beside him. And Sanin speculated — Polozov’s lips were glued together, again he snorted heavily, and waddled along in silence — Sanin speculated in what way had this booby succeeded in catching a rich and beautiful wife. He was not rich himself, nor distinguished, nor clever; at school he had passed for a dull, slow-witted boy, sleepy, and greedy, and had borne the nickname ‘driveller.’ It was marvellous!
‘But if his wife is very rich, they say she’s the daughter of some sort of a contractor, won’t she buy my estate? Though he does say he doesn’t interfere in any of his wife’s affairs, that passes belief, really! Besides, I will name a moderate, reasonable price! Why not try? Perhaps, it’s all my lucky star. . . . Resolved! I’ll have a try!’
Polozov led Sanin to one of the best hotels in Frankfort, in which he was, of course, occupying the best apartments. On the tables and chairs lay piles of packages, cardboard boxes, and parcels. ‘All purchases, my boy, for Maria Nikolaevna!’ (that was the name of the wife of Ippolit Sidorovitch). Polozov dropped into an arm-chair, groaned, ‘Oh, the heat!’ and loosened his cravat. Then he rang up the head-waiter, and ordered with intense care a very lavish luncheon. ‘And at one, the carriage is to be ready! Do you hear, at one o’clock sharp!’
The head-waiter obsequiously bowed, and cringingly withdrew.
Polozov unbuttoned his waistcoat. From the very way in which he raised his eyebrows, gasped, and wrinkled up his nose, one could see that talking would be a great labour to him, and that he was waiting in some trepidation to see whether Sanin was going to oblige him to use his tongue, or whether he would take the task of keeping up the conversation on himself.
Sanin understood his companion’s disposition of mind, and so he did not burden him with questions; he restricted himself to the most essential. He learnt that he had been for two years in the service (in the Uhlans! how nice he must have looked in the short uniform jacket!) that he had married three years before, and had now been for two years abroad with his wife, ‘who is now undergoing some sort of cure at Wiesbaden,’ and was then going to Paris. On his side too, Sanin did not enlarge much on his past life and his plans; he went straight to the principal point — that is, he began talking of his intention of selling his estate.
Polozov listened to him in silence, his eyes straying from time to time to the door, by which the luncheon was to appear. The luncheon did appear at last. The head-waiter, accompanied by two other attendants, brought in several dishes under silver covers.
‘Is the property in the Tula province?’ said Polozov, seating himself at the table, and tucking a napkin into his shirt collar.
‘In the Efremovsky district . . . I know it.’
‘Do you know my place, Aleksyevka?’ Sanin asked, sitting down too at the table.
‘Yes, I know it.’ Polozov thrust in his mouth a piece of omelette with truffles. ‘Maria Nikolaevna, my wife, has an estate in that neighbourhood. . . . Uncork that bottle, waiter! You’ve a good piece of land, only your peasants have cut down the timber. Why are you selling it?’
‘I want the money, my friend. I would sell it cheap. Come, you might as well buy it . . . by the way.’
Polozov gulped down a glass of wine, wiped his lips with the napkin, and again set to work chewing slowly and noisily.
‘Oh,’ he enunciated at last. . . . ‘I don’t go in for buying estates; I’ve no capital. Pass the butter. Perhaps my wife now would buy it. You talk to her about it. If you don’t ask too much, she’s not above thinking of that. . . . What asses these Germans are, really! They can’t cook fish. What could be simpler, one wonders? And yet they go on about “uniting the Fatherland.” Waiter, take away that beastly stuff!’
‘Does your wife really manage . . . business matters herself?’ Sanin inquired.
‘Yes. Try the cutlets — they’re good. I can recommend them. I’ve told you already, Dimitri Pavlovitch, I don’t interfere in any of my wife’s concerns, and I tell you so again.’
Polozov went on munching.
‘H’m. . . . But how can I have a talk with her, Ippolit Sidorovitch?’
‘It’s very simple, Dimitri Pavlovitch. Go to Wiesbaden. It’s not far from here. Waiter, haven’t you any English mustard? No? Brutes! Only don’t lose any time. We’re starting the day after tomorrow. Let me pour you out a glass of wine; it’s wine with a bouquet — no vinegary stuff.’
Polozov’s face was flushed and animated; it was never animated but when he was eating — or drinking.
‘Really, I don’t know, how that could be managed,’ Sanin muttered.
‘But what makes you in such a hurry about it all of a sudden?’
‘There is a reason for being in a hurry, brother.’
‘And do you need a lot of money?’
‘Yes, a lot. I . . . how can I tell you? I propose . . . getting married.’
Polozov set the glass he had been lifting to his lips on the table.
‘Getting married!’ he articulated in a voice thick with astonishment, and he folded his podgy hands on his stomach. ‘So suddenly?’
‘Yes . . . soon.’
‘Your intended is in Russia, of course?’
‘No, not in Russia.’
‘Here in Frankfort.’
‘And who is she?’
‘A German; that is, no — an Italian. A resident here.’
‘With a fortune?’
‘No, without a fortune.’
‘Then I suppose your love is very ardent?’
‘How absurd you are! Yes, very ardent.’
‘And it’s for that you must have money?’
‘Well, yes . . . yes, yes.’
Polozov gulped down his wine, rinsed his mouth, and washed his hands, carefully wiped them on the napkin, took out and lighted a cigar. Sanin watched him in silence.
‘There’s one means,’ Polozov grunted at last, throwing his head back, and blowing out the smoke in a thin ring. ‘Go to my wife. If she likes, she can take all the bother off your hands.’
‘But how can I see your wife? You say you are starting the day after tomorrow?’
Polozov closed his eyes.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ he said at last, rolling the cigar in his lips, and sighing. ‘Go home, get ready as quick as you can, and come here. At one o’clock I am going, there’s plenty of room in my carriage. I’ll take you with me. That’s the best plan. And now I’m going to have a nap. I must always have a nap, brother, after a meal. Nature demands it, and I won’t go against it And don’t you disturb me.’
Sanin thought and thought, and suddenly raised his head; he had made up his mind.
‘Very well, agreed, and thank you. At half-past twelve I’ll be here, and we’ll go together to Wiesbaden. I hope your wife won’t be angry. . . . ’
But Polozov was already snoring. He muttered, ‘Don’t disturb me!’ gave a kick, and fell asleep, like a baby.
Sanin once more scanned his clumsy figure, his head, his neck, his upturned chin, round as an apple, and going out of the hotel, set off with rapid strides to the Rosellis’ shop. He had to let Gemma know.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14