Yama (the Pit) by Alexander Kuprin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – Yama (the Pit) – Contents

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Chapter XII > > >

Part I

Chapter XI

At this moment Simeon walked into the cabinet with a tray upon which stood two goblets of a bubbling golden wine and lay a large visiting card.

“May I ask which of you here might be Mister Gavrila Petrovich Yarchenko?” he said, looking over all those sitting.

“I,” responded Yarchenko.

“If youse please. The actor gent sent this.”

Yarchenko took the visiting card and read aloud:

Eumenii Poluectovich
Dramatic Artist of Metropolitan Theatres

“It’s remarkable,” said Volodya Pavlov, “that all the Russian Garricks bear such queer names, on the style of Chrysantov, Thetisov, Mamontov and Epimhakov.”

“And besides that, the best known of them must needs either speak thickly, or lisp, or stammer,” added the reporter.

“Yes, but most remarkable of all is the fact that I do not at all have the honour of knowing this artist of the metropolitan theatres. However, there’s something else written on the reverse of this card. Judging by the handwriting, it was written by a man greatly drunk and little lettered.

“‘I dreenk’—not drink, but dreenk,” explained Yarchenko. “‘I dreenk to the health of the luminary of Russian science, Gavrila Petrovich Yarchenko, whom I saw by chance when I was passing by through the collidor. Would like to clink glasses together personally. If you do not remember, recollect the National Theatre, Poverty Is No Disgrace, and the humble artist who played African.’ Yes, that’s right,” said Yarchenko. “Once, somehow, they saddled me with the arrangement of this benefit performance in the National Theatre. Also, there dimly glimmers some clean-shaven haughty visage, but … What shall it be, gentlemen?”

Lichonin answered good-naturedly:

“Why, drag him here. Perhaps he’s funny.”

“And you?” the sub-professor turned to Platonov.

“It’s all the same to me. I know him slightly. At first he’ll shout: ‘KELLNER, champagne!’ then burst into tears about his wife, who is an angel, then deliver a patriotic speech and finally raise a row over the bill, but none too loudly. All in all he’s entertaining.”

“Let him come,” said Volodya, from behind the shoulder of Katie, who was sitting on his knees, swinging her legs.

“And you, Veltman?”

“What?” the student came to with a start. He was sitting on the divan with his back to his companions, near the reclining Pasha, bending over her, and already for a long time, with the friendliest appearance of sympathy, had been stroking her, now on the shoulder, now on the hair at the nape of the neck, while she was smiling at him with her shyly shameless and senselessly passionate smile through half-closed and trembling eyelashes. “What? What’s it all about? Oh yes,—is it all right to let the actor in? I’ve nothing against it. Please do …”

Yarchenko sent an invitation through Simeon, and the actor came and immediately commenced the usual actor’s play. In the door he paused, in his long frock coat, shining with its silk lapels, with a glistening opera hat, which he held with his arm in the middle of his chest, like an actor portraying in the theatre an elderly worldly lion or a bank director. And approximately these persons he was inwardly picturing to himself.

“May I be permitted, gentlemen, to intrude into your intimate company?” he asked in an unctuous, kindly voice, with a half-bow done somewhat to one side.

They asked him in, and he began to introduce himself. Shaking hands, he stuck out his elbow forward and raised it so high that the hand proved to be far lower. Now it was no longer a bank director, but such a clever, splendid fellow, a sportsman and a rake of the golden youths. But his face—with rumpled, wild eyebrows and with denuded lids without lashes—was the vulgar, harsh and low face of a typical alcoholic, libertine, and pettily cruel man. Together with him came two of his ladies: Henrietta the eldest girl in years in the establishment of Anna Markovna, experienced, who had seen everything and had grown accustomed to everything, like an old horse on the tether of a threshing machine, the possessor of a thick bass, but still a handsome woman; and Big Manka, or Manka the Crocodile. Henrietta since still the preceding night had not parted from the actor, who had taken her from the house to a hotel.

Having seated himself alongside of Yarchenko, he straight off began to play a new role—he became something on the order of an old good soul of a landed proprietor, who had at one time been at a university himself, and now can not look upon the students without a quiet, fatherly emotion.

“Believe me, gentlemen, that one’s soul rests from all these worldly squabbles in the midst of youth,” he was saying, imparting to his depraved and harsh face an actor-like, exaggerated and improbable expression of being moved. “This faith in a high ideal, these honest impulses! … What can be loftier and purer than our Russian students as a body? … KELLNER! Chompa-a-agne!” he yelled deafeningly all of a sudden, and dealt a heavy blow on the table with his fist.

Lichonin and Yarchenka did not wish to remain in debt to him. A spree began. God knows in what manner Mishka the Singer and Nicky the Book-keeper soon found themselves in the cabinet, and at once began singing in their galloping voices:

“They fe-e-e-el the tru-u-u-uth,
Come thou daw-aw-aw-awning quicker …”

There also appeared Roly-Poly, who had awakened. Letting his head drop touchingly to one side and having made little narrowed, lachrymose, sweet eyes in his wrinkled old face of a Don Quixote, he was speaking in a persuasively begging tone:

“Gentlemen students … you ought to treat a little old man. I love education, by God! … Allow me!”

Lichonin was glad to see everybody, but Yarchenko in the beginning—until the champagne had mounted to his head—only raised high his small, short eyebrows with a timorous, wondering and naive air. It suddenly became crowded, smoky, noisy and close in the cabinet. Simeon, with rattling, closed the blinds with bolts on the outside. The women, just having gotten done with a visit or in the interim between dances, walked into the room, sat on somebody’s knees, smoked, sang disjointedly, drank wine, kissed and again went away, and again came. The clerks of Kereshkovsky, offended because the damsels bestowed more attention upon the cabinet than the drawing room, did start a row and tried to enter into a provoking explanation with the students, but Simeon in a moment quelled them with two or three authoritative words, thrown out as though in passing.

Niura came back from her room and a little later Petrovsky followed her. Petrovsky with an extremely serious air declared that he had been walking on the street all this time, thinking over the incident which had taken place and in the end had come to the conclusion that comrade Boris was in reality not in the right, but that there also was a circumstance in extenuation of his fault—intoxication. Also, Jennie came later, but alone—Sobashnikov had fallen asleep in her room. The actor proved to have no end of talents. He very faithfully imitated the buzzing of a fly which an intoxicated man is catching on a window-pane, and the sounds of a saw; drolly performed, standing with his face in the corner, the conversation of a nervous lady over the telephone; imitated the singing of a phonograph record, and in the end, with exceeding likeness to life, showed a little Persian lad with a little trained monkey. Holding on with his hand to an imaginary small chain and at the same time baring his teeth, squatting like a monkey, winking his eyelids often, and scratching now his posteriors, now the hair on his head, he sang through his nose, in a monotonous and sad voice, distorting the words:

“The i-young cissack to the war has went,
The i-young ladee underneath the fence lies spraw-aw-ling.

In conclusion he took Little White Manka in his arms, wrapped her up in the skirts of his frock and, stretching out his hand and making a tearful face, began to nod his head, bent to one side, as is done by little swarthy, dirty, oriental lads who roam over all Russia in long, old, soldiers’ overcoats, with bared chest of a bronze colour, holding a coughing, moth-eaten little monkey in their bosom.

“And who may you be?” severely asked fat Kate, who knew and loved this joke.

“Me Serbian, lady-y-y,” piteously moaned the actor through his nose. “Give me somethin’, lady-y-y.”

“And what do they call your little monkey?”

“Matreshka-a-a … Him ‘ungry-y-y, lady … him want eat…”

“And have you got a passport?”

“We Serbia-a-an. Gimme something lady-y-y…”

The actor proved not superfluous on the whole. He created at once a great deal of noise and raised the spirits of the company, which were beginning to be depressing. And every minute he cried out in a stentorian voice:

“KELLNER! Chompa-a-agne!”—although Simeon, who was accustomed to his manner paid very little attention to these cries.

There began a truly Russian hubbub, noisy and senseless. The rosy, flaxen-haired, pleasing Tolpygin was playing LA SEGUIDILLE from CARMEN on the piano, while Roly-Poly was dancing a Kamarinsky peasant dance to its tune. His narrow shoulders hunched up, twisted all to one side, the fingers of his hanging hands widely spread, he intricately hopped on one spot from one long, thin leg to the other, then suddenly letting out a piercing grunt, would throw himself upward and shout out in time to his wild dance:

“Ugh! Dance on, Matthew,
Don’t spare your boots, you! …”

“Eh, for one stunt like that a quartern of brandy isn’t enough!” he would add, shaking his long, graying hair.

“They fee-ee-eel! the tru-u-u-uth!” roared the two friends, raising with difficulty their underlids, grown heavy, beneath dull, bleary eyes.

The actor commenced to tell obscene anecdotes, pouring them out as from a bag, and the women squealed from delight, bent in two from laughter and threw themselves against the backs of their chairs. Veltman, who had long been whispering with Pasha, inconspicuously, in the hubbub, slipped out of the cabinet, while a few minutes after him Pasha also went away, smiling with her quiet, insane and bashful smile.

But all of the remaining students as well, save Lichonin, one after the other, some on the quiet, some under one pretext or another, vanished from the cabinet and did not return for long periods. Volodya Pavlov experienced a desire to look at the dancing; Tolpygin’s head began to ache badly, and he asked Tamara to lead him somewhere where he might wash up; Petrovski, having “touched” Lichonin for three roubles on the quiet, went out into the corridor and only from there despatched the housekeeper Zociya for Little White Manka. Even the prudent and fastidious Ramses could not cope with that spicy feeling which to-day’s strange, vivid and unwholesome beauty of Jennie excited in him. It proved that he had some important, undeferrable business this morning; it was necessary to go home and snatch a bit of sleep if only for a couple of hours. But, having told good-bye to his companions, he, before going out of the cabinet, rapidly and with deep significance pointed the door out to Jennie with his eyes. She understood, slowly, scarcely perceptibly, lowered her eyelashes as a sign of consent, and, when she again raised them, Platonov, who almost without looking had seen this silent dialogue, was struck by that expression of malice and menace in her eyes which she sped the back of the departing Ramses. Having waited for five minutes she got up, said “Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” and went out, swinging her short orange skirt.

“Well, now? Is it your turn, Lichonin?” asked the reporter banteringly.

“No, brother, you’re mistaken!” said Lichonin and clacked his tongue. “And I’m not doing it out of conviction or on principle, either … No! I, as an anarchist, proclaim the gospel that the worse things are, the better … But, fortunately, I am a gambler and spend all my temperament on gaming; on that account simple squeamishness speaks louder within me than this same unearthly feeling. But it’s amazing our thoughts coincided. I just wanted to ask you about the same thing.”

“I—no. Sometimes, if I become very much tired out, I sleep here over night. I take from Isaiah Savvich the key to his little room and sleep on the divan. But all the girls here are already used to the fact that I am a being of the third sex.”

“And really … never? …”


“Well, what’s right is right!” exclaimed Nhira. “Sergei Ivanich is like a holy hermit.”

“Previously, some five years ago, I experienced this also,” continued Platonov. “But, do you know, it’s really too tedious and disgusting. Something on the nature of these flies which the actor gentleman just represented. They’re stuck together on the window sill, and then in some sort of fool wonder scratch their backs with their little hind legs and fly apart forever. And to play at love here? … Well, for that I’m no hero out of their sort of novel. I’m not handsome, am shy with women, uneasy, and polite. While here they thirst for savage passions, bloody jealousy, tears, poisonings, beatings, sacrifices,—in a word, hysterical romanticism. And it’s easy to understand why. The heart of woman always wants love, while they are told of love every day with various sour, drooling words. Involuntarily one wants pepper in one’s love. One no longer wants words of passion, but tragically-passionate deeds. And for that reason thieves, murderers, souteners and other riff-raff will always be their lovers.”

“And most important of all,” added Platonov, “that would at once spoil for me all the friendly relations which have been so well built up.”

“Enough of joking!” incredulously retorted Lichonin. “Then what compels you to pass days and nights here? Were you a writer—it would be a different matter. It’s easy to find an explanation; well, you’re gathering types or something … observing life … After the manner of that German professor who lived for three years with monkeys, in order to study closely their language and manners. But you yourself said that you don’t indulge in writing?”

“It isn’t that I don’t indulge, but I simply don’t know how—I can’t.”

“We’ll write that down. Now let’s suppose another thing—that you come here as an apostle of a better, honest life, in the nature of a, now, saviour of perishing souls. You know, as in the dawn of Christianity certain holy fathers instead of standing on a column for thirty years or living in a cave in the woods, went to the market places, into houses of mirth, to the harlots and scaramuchios. But you aren’t inclined that way.”

“I’m not.”

“Then why, the devil take it, do you hang around here? I can see very well that a great deal here is revolting and oppressive and painful to your own self. For example, this fool quarrel with Boris or this flunky who beats a woman, and—, in general, the constant contemplation of every kind of filth, lust, bestiality, vulgarity, drunkenness. Well, now, since you say so—I believe that you don’t give yourself up to lechery. But then, still more incomprehensible to me is your MODUS VIVENDI, to express myself in the style of leading articles.”

The reporter did not answer at once:

“You see,” he began speaking slowly, with pauses, as though for the first time lending ear to his thoughts and weighing them. “You see, I’m attracted and interested in this life by its … how shall I express it? … its fearful, stark truth. Do you understand, it’s as though all the conventional coverings were ripped off it. There is no falsehood, no hypocrisy, no sanctimoniousness, there are no compromises of any sort, neither with public opinion, nor with the importunate authority of our forefathers, nor with one’s own conscience. No illusions of any kind, nor any kind of embellishments! Here she is—’I! A public woman, a common vessel, a cloaca for the drainage of the city’s surplus lust. Come to me any one who wills—thou shalt meet no denial, therein is my service. But for a second of this sensuality in haste—thou shalt pay in money, revulsion, disease and ignominy.’ And that is all. There is not a single phase of human life where the basic main truth should shine with such a monstrous, hideous, stark clearness, without any shade of human prevarication or self-whitewashing.”

“Oh, I don’t know! These women lie like the very devil. You just go and talk with her a bit about her first fall. She’ll spin you such a yarn!”

“Well, don’t you ask then. What business is that of yours? But even if they do lie, they lie altogether like children. But then, you know yourself that children are the foremost, the most charming fibsters, and at the same time the sincerest people on earth. And it’s remarkable, that both they and the others—that is, both prostitutes and children—lie only to us—men—and grown-ups. Among themselves they don’t lie—they only inspiredly improvise. But they lie to us because we ourselves demand this of them, because we clamber into their souls, altogether foreign to us, with our stupid tactics and questionings, because they regard us in secret as great fools and senseless dissemblers. But if you like, I shall right now count off on my fingers all the occasions when a prostitute is sure to lie, and you yourself will be convinced that man incites her to lying.”

“Well, well, we shall see.” “First: she paints herself mercilessly, at times even in detriment to herself. Why? Because every pimply military cadet, who is so distressed by his sexual maturity that he grows stupid in the spring, like a wood-cock on a drumming-log; or some sorry petty government clerk or other from the department of the parish, the husband of a pregnant woman and the father of nine infants—why, they both come here not at all with the prudent and simple purpose of leaving here the surplus of their passion. He, the good for nothing, has come to enjoy himself; he needs beauty, d’you see—aesthete that he is! But all these girls, these daughters of the simple, unpretentious, great Russian people—how do they regard aesthetics? ‘What’s sweet, that’s tasty; what’s red, that’s handsome.’ And so, there you are, receive, if you please, a beauty of antimony, white lead and rouge.

“That’s one. Secondly, his desire for beauty isn’t enough for this resplendent cavalier—no, he must in addition be served with a similitude of love, so that from his caresses there should kindle in the woman this same ‘fa-hire of in-sane pahass-ssion!’ which is sung about In idiotical ballads. Ah! Then THAT is what you want? There y’are! And the woman lies to him with countenance, voice, sighs, moans, movements of the body. And even he himself in the depths of his soul knows about this professional deception, but—go along with you!—still deceives himself: ‘Ah, what a handsome man I am! Ah, how the women love me! Ah, into what an ecstasy I bring them …’ You know, there are cases when a man with the most desperate brazenness, in the most unlikely manner, is flattered to his face, and he himself sees and knows it very plainly, but—the devil take it!—despite everything a delightful feeling of some sort lubricates his soul. And so here. Query: whose is the initiative in the lie?

“And here’s a third point for you, Lichonin. You prompted it yourself. They lie most of all when they are asked: ‘How did you come to such a life?’ But what right have you to ask her about that, may the devil take you! For she does not push her way into your intimate life? She doesn’t interest herself with your first, ‘holy’ love or the virtue of your sisters and your bride. Aha! You pay money? Splendid! The bawd and the bouncer, and the police, and medicine, and the city government, watch over your interests. Polite and seemly conduct on the part of the prostitute hired by you for love is guaranteed you, and your personality is immune … even though in the most direct sense, in the sense of a slap in the face, which you, of course, deserve through your aimless, and perhaps tormenting interrogations. But you desire truth as well for your money? Well, that you are never to discount and to control. They will tell you just such a conventionalized history as you—yourself a man of conventionality and a vulgarian—will digest easiest of all. Because by itself life is either exceedingly humdrum and tedious to you, or else as exceedingly improbable as only life can be improbable. And so you have the eternal mediocre history about an officer, about a shop clerk, about a baby and a superannuated father, who there, in the provinces, bewails his strayed daughter and implores her to return home. But mark you, Lichonin, all that I’m saying doesn’t apply to you; in you, upon my word of honour, I sense a sincere and great soul … Let’s drink to your health?”

They drank.

“Shall I speak on?” continued Platonov undecidedly.

“Are you bored?”

“No, no, I beg of you, speak on.”

“They also lie, and lie especially innocently, to those who preen themselves before them on political hobby horses. Here they agree with anything you want. I shall tell her to-day: Away with the modern bourgeois order! Let us destroy with bombs and daggers the capitalists, landed proprietors, and the bureaucracy! She’ll warmly agree with me. But to-morrow the hanger-on Nozdrunov will yell that it’s necessary to string up all the socialists, to beat up all the students and massacre all the sheenies, who partake of communion in Christian blood. And she’ll gleefully agree with him as well. But if in addition to that you’ll also inflame her imagination, make her fall in love with yourself, then she’ll go with you everywhere you may wish—on a pogrom, on a barricade, on a theft, on a murder. But then, children also are yielding. And they, by God, are children, my dear Lichonin…

“At fourteen years she was seduced, and at sixteen she became a patent prostitute, with a yellow ticket and a venereal disease. And here is all her life, surrounded and fenced off from the universe with a sort of a bizarre, impenetrable and dead wall. Turn your attention to her everyday vocabulary—thirty or forty words, no more—altogether as with a baby or a savage: to eat, to drink, to sleep, man, bed, the madam, rouble, lover, doctor, hospital, linen, policeman—and that’s all. And so her mental development, her experience, her interests, remain on an infantile plane until her very death, exactly as in the case of a gray and naive lady teacher who has not crossed over the threshold of a female institute since she was ten, as in the case of a nun given as a child into a convent. In a word, picture to yourself a tree of a genuinely great species, but raised in a glass bell, in a jar from jam. And precisely to this childish phase of their existence do I attribute their compulsory lying—so innocent, purposeless and habitual … But then, how fearful, stark, unadorned with anything the frank truth in this business-like dickering about the price of a night; in these ten men in an evening; in these printed rules, issued by the city fathers, about the use of a solution of boric acid and about maintaining one’s self in cleanliness; in the weekly doctors’ inspections; in the nasty diseases, which are looked upon as lightly and facetiously, just as simply and without suffering, as a cold would be; in the deep revulsion of these women to men—so deep, that they all, without conception, compensate for it in the Lesbian manner and do not even in the least conceal it. All their incongruous life is here, on the palm of my hand, with all its cynicism, monstrous and coarse injustice; but there is in it none of that falsehood and that hypocrisy before people and before one’s self, which enmesh all humanity from top to bottom. Consider, my dear Lichonin, how much nagging, drawn out, disgusting deception, how much hate, there is in any marital cohabitation in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. How much blind, merciless cruelty—precisely not animal, but human, reasoned, far-sighted, calculated cruelty—there is in the sacred maternal instinct—and behold, with what tender colours this instinct is adorned! Then what about all these unnecessary, tom-fool professions, invented by cultured man for the safeguarding of my nest, my bit of meat, my woman, my child, these different overseers, controllers, inspectors, judges, attorneys, jailers, advocates, chiefs, bureaucrats, generals, soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of titles more. They all subserve human greed, cowardice, viciousness, servility, legitimised sensuality, laziness-beggarliness!—yes, that is the real word!—human beggarliness. But what magnificent words we have! The altar of the fatherland, Christian compassion for our neighbor, progress, sacred duty, sacred property, holy love. Ugh! I do not believe in a single fine word now, and I am nauseated to infinity with these petty liars, these cowards and gluttons! Beggar women! … Man is born for great joy, for ceaseless creation, in which he is God; for a broad, free love, unhindered by anything,—love for everything: for a tree, for the sky, for man, for a dog, for the dear, benign, beautiful earth,—oh, especially for the earth with its beatific motherhood, with its mornings and nights, with its magnificent everyday miracles. But man has lied himself out so, has become such an importunate beggar, and has sunk so low! … Ah, Lichonin, but I am weary!”

“I, as an anarchist, partly understand you,” said Lichonin thoughtfully. It was as though he heard and yet did not hear the reporter. Some thought was with difficulty, for the first time, being born in his mind. “But one thing I can not comprehend. If humanity has become so malodorous to you, then how do you stand—and for so long, too,—all this,—” Lichonin took in the whole table with a circular motion of his hand,—”the basest thing that mankind could invent?”

“Well, I don’t even know myself,” said Platonov with artlessness. “You see, I am a vagabond, and am passionately in love with life. I have been a turner, a compositor; I have sown and sold tobacco—the cheap Silver Makhorka kind—have sailed as a stoker on the Azov Sea, have been a fisherman on the Black—on the Dubinin fisheries; I have loaded watermelons and bricks on the Dnieper, have ridden with a circus, have been an actor—I can’t even recall everything. And never did need drive me. No, only an immeasurable thirst for life and an insupportable curiosity. By God, I would like for a few days to become a horse, a plant, or a fish, or to be a woman and experience childbirth; I would like to live with the inner life, and to look upon the universe with the eyes of every human being I meet. And so I wander care-free over towns and hamlets, bound by nothing; know and love tens of trades and joyously float wherever it suits fate to set my sail… And so it was that I came upon the brothel, and the more I look at it, the more there grows within me alarm, incomprehension, and very great anger. But even this will soon be at an end. When things get well into autumn—away again! I’ll get into a rail-rolling mill. I’ve a certain friend, he’ll manage it … Wait, wait, Lichonin … Listen to the actor … That’s the third act.”

Egmont-Lavretzki, who until this had been very successfully imitating now a shoat which is being put into a bag, now the altercation of a cat with a dog, was beginning little by little to wilt and droop. Upon him was already advancing the stage of self-revelation, next in order, in the paroxysm of which he several times attempted to kiss Yarchenko’s hand. His lids had become red; around the shaven, prickly lips had deepened the tearful wrinkles that gave him an appearance of weeping; and it could be heard by his voice that his nose and throat were already overflowing with tears.

“I serve in a farce!” he was saying, smiting himself on the breast with his fist. “I disport myself in striped trunks for the sport of the sated mob! I have put out my torch, have hid my talent in the earth, like the slothful servant! But fo-ormerly!” he began to bray tragically, “Fo-ormerly-y-y! Ask in Novocherkassk, ask in Tvier, in Ustejne, in Zvenigorodok, in Krijopole.[10] What a Zhadov and Belugin I was! How I played Max! What a figure I created of Veltishchev—that was my crowning ro-ole … Nadin-Perekopski was beginning with me at Sumbekov’s! With Nikiphorov-Pavlenko did I serve. Who made the name for Legunov-Pochainin? I! But no-ow …”

[10] All provincial towns.—Trans.

He sniveled, and sought to kiss the sub-professor.

“Yes! Despise me, brand me, ye honest folk. I play the tom-fool. I drink … I have sold and spilt the sacred ointment! I sit in a dive with vendable merchandise. While my wife … she is a saint, and pure, my little dove! … Oh, if she knew, if she only knew! she works hard, she runs a modiste’s shop; her fingers—the fingers of an angel—are pricked with the needle, but I! Oh, sainted woman! And I—the scoundrel!—whom do I exchange thee for! Oh, horror!” The actor seized his hair. “Professor, let me, I’ll kiss your scholarly hand. You alone understand me. Let us go, I’ll introduce you, you’ll see what an angel this is! … She awaits me, she does not sleep nights, she folds the tiny hands of my little ones and together with them whispers: ‘Lord, save and preserve papa.’”

“You’re lying about it all, you ham!” said the drunken Little White Manka suddenly, looking with hatred upon Egmont-Lavretzki. “She isn’t whispering anything, but most peacefully sleeping with a man in your bed.”

“Be still, you w—!” vociferated the actor beside himself; and seizing a bottle by the neck raised it high over his head. “Hold me, or else I’ll brain this carrion. Don’t you dare besmirch with your foul tongue…”

“My tongue isn’t foul—I take communion,” impudently replied the woman. “But you, you fool, wear horns. You go traipsing around with prostitutes yourself, and yet want your wife not to play you false. And look where the dummy’s found a place to slaver, till he looks like he had reins in his mouth. And what did you mix the children in for, you miserable papa you! Don’t you roll your eyes and gnash your teeth at me. You won’t frighten me! W—yourself!”

It required many efforts and much eloquence on the part of Yarchenko in order to quiet the actor and Little White Manka, who always after Benedictine ached for a row. The actor in the end burst into copious and unbecoming tears and blew his nose, like an old man; he grew weak, and Henrietta led him away to her room.

Fatigue had already overcome everybody. The students, one after another, returned from the bedrooms; and separately from them, with an indifferent air, came their chance mistresses. And truly, both these and the others resembled flies, males and females, just flown apart on the window pane. They yawned, stretched, and for a long time an involuntary expression of wearisomeness and aversion did not leave their faces, pale from sleeplessness, unwholesomely glossy. And when they, before going their ways, said good-bye to each other, in their eyes twinkled some kind of an inimical feeling, just as with the participants of one and the same filthy and unnecessary crime.

“Where are you going right now?” Lichonin asked the reporter in a low voice.

“Well, really, I don’t know myself. I did want to spend the night in the cabinet of Isaiah Savvich, but it’s a pity to lose such a splendid morning. I’m thinking of taking a bath, and then I’ll get on a steamer and ride to the Lipsky monastery to a certain tippling black friar I know. But why?”

“I would ask you to remain a little while and sit the others out. I must have a very important word or two with you.”

“It’s a go.”

Yarchenko was the last to go. He averred a headache and fatigue. But scarcely had he gone out of the house when the reporter seized Lichonin by the hand and quickly dragged him into the glass vestibule of the entrance.

“Look!” he said, pointing to the street.

And through the orange glass of the little coloured window Lichonin saw the sub-professor, who was ringing at Treppel’s. After a minute the door opened and Yarchenko disappeared through it.

“How did you find out?” asked Lichonin with astonishment.

“A mere trifle! I saw his face, and saw his hands smoothing Verka’s tights. The others were less restrained. But this fellow is bashful.”

“Well, now, let’s go,” said Lichonin. “I won’t detain you long.”

< < < Chapter X
Chapter XII > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – Yama (the Pit) – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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