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Yama (The Pit)
by Alexandra Kuprin
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"I thank you ..."

"No, wait a while, don't interrupt me. I will have my say to the end, and then you will express your pros and cons. But will you explain to me, please, when yesterday you were aiming at me out of a revolver, what did you want? Can it possibly be, to kill me?"

"On the contrary, Emma Edwardovna," retorted Tamara respectfully, "on the contrary; it seemed to me that you wanted to strike me."

"PJUI! What do you mean, Tamarochka! ... Have you paid no attention to the fact that during all the time of our acquaintance I never permitted myself, not only to hit you, but even to address you with a rude word? ... What do you mean, what do you mean? ... I don't confuse you with this poor Russian trash ... Glory be to God, I am an experienced person and one who knows people well. I can very well see that you are a genuinely cultured young lady; far more educated, for example, than I myself. You are refined, elegant, smart. I am convinced of the fact that you even know music not at all badly. Finally, if I were to confess, I was a little ... how shall I put it to you? ... I always was a little in love with you. And now you wanted to shoot me! Me, a person who could be a very good friend to you! Well, what will you say to that?"

"Well ... nothing at all, Emma Edwardovna," retorted Tamara in the meekest and most plausible tone. "Everything was very simple. Even before that I found the revolver under Jennka's pillow and brought it, in order to give it over to you. I did not want to interfere, when you were reading the letter; but then you turned around to me—I stretched the revolver out to you and wanted to say: 'See, Emma Edwardovna, what I found'—for, don't you see, it surprised me awfully how the late Jennie, having a revolver at her disposal, preferred such a horrible death as hanging? And that's all."

The bushy, frightful eyebrows of Emma Edwardovna rose upward; the eyes widened joyously; and a real, uncounterfeited smile spread over her cheeks of a behemoth. She quickly extended both hands to Tamara.

"And is this all? O, MEIN KIND? And I thought ... God knows what I imagined! Give me your hands, Tamara, your little charming white hands, and allow me to press them auf mein Herz, upon my heart, and to kiss you."

The kiss was so long, that Tamara with great difficulty and with aversion barely freed herself from the embraces of Emma Edwardovna.

"Well, and now to business. And so, here are my terms: you will be housekeeper, I give you fifteen percent, out of the clear gain. Mind you, Tamara, fifteen percent. And, besides that, a small salary—thirty, forty, well, if you like, fifty roubles a month. Splendid terms—isn't that the truth? I am deeply convinced, that none other than just you will help me to raise the house to a real height, and make it the swellest not only in our city, but in all the south of Russia as well. You have taste, and an understanding of things! ... Besides that, you will always be able to entertain, and to stir up the most exacting, the most unyielding guests. In rare instances, when a very rich and distinguished gentleman—in Russian they call it one "sun-fish," while with us, ein Freier,[26]—when he becomes infatuated with you—for you are so handsome, Tamarochka," (the proprietress looked at her with misty, humid eyes), "then I do not at all forbid you to pass the time with him gaily; only to bear down always upon the fact that you have no right, owing to your duty, your position, Und so weiter, und so weiter ... aber sagen sie bitte, do you easily make yourself understood in German?"

[26] In English, a "toff"; in American, a "swell."—trans.

"Die Deutsche Sprache beherrsche ich in geringerem Grade als die franzosische; indes kann ich stets in einer Salon-Plauderei mitmachen."[27]

[27] "My mastery of the German language is a trifle worse than that of the French, but I can always keep up my end in parlor small talk."

"O, wunderbar! sie haben eine entzuckende Rigaer Aussprache, die beste alter deutschen Aussprachen. Und also—fahren wir in unserer Sprache fort. Sie klingt viel susser meinem Ohr, die Muttersprache. Schon?"[28]

[28] O, splendid! ... You have a bewitching Riga enunciation, the most correct of all the German ones. And so, let us continue in my tongue. That is far sweeter to my ear—my mother tongue. All right?"

"SCHON."[29]

[29] "All right."

"Zuletzt werden Sie nachgeben, dem Anschein nach ungern, unwillkurlich, van der Laune des Augenblicks hingerissen—und, was die Hauptsache ist, lautlos, heimlich vor mir. Sie verstehen? Dafur zahlen Narren ein schweres Geld. Ubrigens brauche ich Sie wohl nicht zu lernen."[30]

[30] "In the very end you will give in, as though unwillingly, as though against your will, as though from infatuation, a momentary caprice, and—which is the main thing—as though on the sly from me. You understand? For this the fools pay enormous money. However, it seems I will not have to teach you."

"Ja, gnadige Frau. Sie sprechen gar kluge Dinge. Doch das ist schon keine Plauderei mehr, sondern eine ernste unterhaltung. Yes, my dear madam. You say very wise things. But this is no longer small talk; it is, rather, serious conversation ... And for that reason it is more convenient for me, if you will revert to the Russian language ... I am ready to obey you."

"Furthermore! ... I was just now talking about a lover. I dare not forbid you this pleasure, but let us be prudent: let him not appear here, or appear as rarely as possible. I will give you days for going out, when you will be perfectly free. But it's best if you would get along without him entirely. It will serve your benefit too. This is only a drag and a yoke. I am telling you this from my own personal experience. Wait a while; after three or four years we will expand this business so, that you will have substantial money already, and then I vill take you into the business as a partner with full rights. After ten years you will still be young and handsome, and then take and buy men as much as you want to. By that time romantic follies will go out of your head entirely, and it will not be you who will be chosen already, but you who will be choosing with sense and with feeling, as a connoisseur picks out precious stones. Do you agree with me?"

Tamara cast down her eyes, and smiled just the least trifle.

"You speak golden truths, Emma Edwardovna. I will drop mine, but not at once. For that I will need some two weeks. I will try not to have him appear here. I accept your proposition."

"And that's splendid!" said Emma Edwardovna, get ting up. "Now let us conclude our agreement with one good, sweet kiss."

And she again embraced and took to kissing Tamara hard; who, with her downcast eyes and naive, tender face, seemed now altogether a little girl. But, having freed herself, finally, from the proprietress, she asked in Russian:

"You see, Emma Edwardovna, that I agree in everything with you, but for that I beg you to fulfill one request of mine. It will not cost you anything. Namely, I hope that you will allow me and the other girls to escort the late Jennie to the cemetery."

Emma Edwardovna made a wry face.

"Oh, if you want to, my darling Tamara, I have nothing against your whim. Only what for? This will not help the dead person and will not make her alive. Only sentimentalism alone will come out of it ... But very well! Only, however, you know yourself that in accordance with your law suicides are not buried, or—I don't know with certainty—it seems they throw them into some dirty hole beyond the cemetery."

"No, do allow me to do as I want to myself. Let it be my whim, but concede it to me, my darling, dear, bewitching Emma Edwardovna! But then, I promise you that this will be my last whim. After this I will be like a wise and obedient soldier at the disposal of a talented general."

"IS' GUT!" Emma Edwardovna gave in with a sigh. "I can not deny you in anything, my child. Let me press your hand. Let us toil and labour together for the common good."

And, having opened the door, she called out across the drawing room into the entrance-hall: "Simeon!" And when Simeon appeared in the room, she ordered him weightily and triumphantly:

"Bring us a bottle of champagne here, but the real thing—Rederer demi sec, and as cool as possible. Step lively!" she ordered the porter, who was gaping at her with popping eyes. "We will drink with you, Tamara, to the new business, to our brilliant and beautiful future."

They say that dead people bring luck. If there is any foundation at all in this superstition, then on this Saturday it could not have told plainer: the influx of visitors was out of the ordinary, even for a Saturday night. True, the girls, passing through the corridor or past the room that had been Jennka's increased their steps; timorously glanced at it sidelong, out of the corner of the eye; while others even crossed themselves. But late in the night the fear of death somehow subsided, grew bearable. All the rooms were occupied, while in the drawing room a new violinist was trilling without cease—a free-and-easy, clean-shaven young man, whom the pianist with the cataract had searched out somewhere and brought with him.

The appointment of Tamara as housekeeper was received with cold perplexity, with taciturn dryness. But, having bided her time, Tamara managed to whisper to Little White Manka:

"Listen, Manya! You tell them all that they shouldn't pay any attention to the fact that I've been chosen housekeeper. It's got to be so. But let them do as they wish, only don't let them trip me up. I am as before—their friend and intercessor ... And further on we'll see."



CHAPTER VII.

On the next day, on Sunday, Tamara had a multitude of cares. She had become possessed by a firm and undeviating thought to bury her friend despite all circumstances, in the way that nearest friends are buried—in a Christian manner, with all the sad solemnity of the burial of secular persons.

She belonged to the number of those strange persons who underneath an external indolent calmness, careless taciturnity, egotistical withdrawal into one's self, conceal within them unusual energy; always as though slumbering with half an eye, guarding itself from unnecessary expenditure; but ready in one moment to become animated and to rush forward without reckoning the obstacles.

At twelve o'clock she descended in a cab into the old town; rode through it into a little narrow street giving out upon a square where fairs were held; and stopped near a rather dirty tea-room, having ordered the cabby to wait. In the room she made inquiries of a boy, red-haired, with a badger hair-cut and the parting slicked down with butter, if Senka the Depot had not come here? The serving lad, who, judging by his refined and gallant readiness, had already known Tamara for a long time, answered that "Nohow, ma'am; they—Semen Ignatich—had not been in yet, and probably would not be here soon seein' as how yesterday they had the pleasure of going on a spree at the Transvaal, and had played at billiards until six in the morning; and that now they, in all probabilities, are at home, in the Half Way House rooms, and if the young lady will give the word, then it's possible to hop over to them this here minute."

Tamara asked for paper and pencil, and wrote a few words right on the spot. Then she gave the note to the waiter, together with a half-rouble piece for a tip, and rode away.

The following visit was to the artiste Rovinskaya, living, as Tamara had known even before, in the city's most aristocratic hotel—Europe—where she occupied several rooms in a consecutive suite. To obtain an interview with the singer was not very easy: the doorman below said that it looked as if Ellena Victorovna was not at home; while her own personal maid, who came out in answer to Tamara's knocking, declared that madam had a headache, and that she was not receiving any one. Again Tamara was compelled to write on a piece of paper:

"I come to you from her who once, in a house which is not spoken of loudly, cried, standing before you on her knees, after you had sung the ballad of Dargomyzhsky. Your kind treatment of her was so splendid. Do you remember? Do not fear—she has no need of any one's help now: yesterday she died. But you can do one very important deed in her memory, which will be almost no trouble to you at all. While I—am that very person who permitted herself to say a few bitter truths to the baroness T—, who was then with you; for which truths I am remorseful and apologize even now."

"Hand this over!" she ordered the chambermaid.

She returned after two minutes.

"The madam requests you. They apologize very much that they will receive you not fully dressed."

She escorted Tamara, opened a door before her and quietly shut it.

The great artiste was lying upon an enormous ottoman, covered with a beautiful Tekin rug and a multitude of little silk pillows, and soft cylindrical bolsters of tapestry. Her feet were wrapped up in silvery, soft fur. Her fingers, as usual, were adorned by a multiplicity of rings with emeralds, attracting the eyes by their deep and tender green.

The artiste was having one of her evil, black days to-day. Yesterday morning some misunderstandings with the management had arisen; while in the evening the public had received her not as triumphantly as she would have desired, or, perhaps, this had simply appeared so to her; while to-day in the newspaper the fool of a reviewer, who understood just as much of art as a cow does of astronomy, had praised up her rival, Titanova, in a big article. And so Ellena Victorovna had persuaded herself that her head was aching; that there was a nervous tic in her temples; and that her heart, time and again, seemed suddenly to fall through somewheres.

"How do you do, my dear!" she said, a trifle nasally, in a weak, wan voice, with pauses, as heroines on the stage speak when dying from love and from consumption. "Sit down here ... I am glad to see you ... Only don't be angry—I am almost dying from migraine, and from my miserable heart. Pardon my speaking with difficulty. I think I sang too much and tired my voice ..."

Rovinskaya, of course, had recalled both the mad escapade of that evening; and the striking, unforgettable face of Tamara; but now, in a bad mood, in the wearisome, prosaic light of an autumn day, this adventure appeared to her as unnecessary bravado; something artificial, imagined, and poignantly shameful. But she was equally sincere on that strange, night-marish evening when she, through the might of talent, had prostrated the proud Jennka at her feet, as well as now, when she recalled it with fatigue, indolence, and artistic disdain. She, as well as many distinguished artists, was always playing a role; was always not her own self, and always regarded her words, movements, actions, as though looking at herself from a distance with the eyes and feelings of the spectators.

She languidly raised from the pillow her narrow, slender, beautiful hand, and applied it to her forehead; and the mysterious, deep emeralds stirred as though alive and began to flash with a warm, deep sparkle.

"I just read in your note that this poor ... pardon me, her name has vanished out of my head..."

"Jennie."

"Yes, yes, thank you! I recall it now. She died? But from what?"

"She hanged herself ... yesterday morning, during the doctor's inspection..."

The eyes of the artiste, so listless, seemingly faded, suddenly opened, and, as through a miracle, grew animated and became shining and green, just like her emeralds; and in them were reflected curiosity, fear and aversion.

"Oh, my God! Such a dear, so original, handsome, so fiery ... Oh, the poor, poor soul! ... And the reason for this was? ..."

"You know ... the disease. She told you."

"Yes, yes ... I remember, I remember ... But to hang one's self! ... What horror! ... Why, I advised her to treat herself then. Medicine works miracles now. I myself know several people who absolutely ... well, absolutely cured themselves. Everybody in society knows this and receives them ... Ah, the poor little thing, the poor little thing! ..."

"And so I've come to you, Ellena Victorovna. I wouldn't have dared to disturb you, but I seem to be in a forest, and have no one to turn to. You were so kind then, so touchingly attentive, so tender to us ... I need only your advice and, perhaps, a little of your influence, your protection..."

"Oh, please, my dear! ... All I can do, I will ... Oh, my poor head! And then this horrible news. Tell me, in what way can I be of assistance to you?"

"To confess, I don't know even myself yet," answered Tamara. "You see, they carried her away to an anatomical theatre ... But until they had made the protocol, until they made the journey—then the time for receiving had gone by also—in general I think that they have not had a chance to dissect her yet ... I'd like, if it's only possible, that she should not be touched. To-day is Sunday; perhaps they'll postpone it until to-morrow, and in the meanwhile something may be done for her..."

"I can't tell you, dear ... Wait! ... Haven't I some friend among the professors, in the medical world? ... I will look later in my memo-books. Perhaps we will succeed in doing something."

"Besides that," continued Tamara, "I want to bury her ... At my expense ... I was attached to her with all my heart during her life."

"I will help you with pleasure in this, materially..."

"No, no! ... A thousand thanks! ... I'll do everything myself. I would not hesitate to have recourse to your kind heart, but this ... —you will understand me— ... this is something in the nature of a vow, that a person gives to one's self and to the memory of a friend. The main difficulty is in how we may manage to bury her with Christian rites. She was, it seems, an unbeliever, or believed altogether poorly. And it's only by chance that I, also, will cross my forehead. But I don't want them to bury her just like a dog, somewhere beyond the enclosure of the cemetery; in silence, without words, without singing ... I don't know, will they permit burying her properly—with choristers, with priests? For that reason I'm asking you to assist me with your advice. Or, perhaps, you will direct me somewhere? ..."

Now the artiste had little by little become interested and was already beginning to forget about her fatigue, and migraine, and the consumptive heroine dying in the fourth act. She was already picturing the role of an intercessor, the beautiful figure of genius merciful to a fallen woman. This was original, extravagant, and at the same time so theatrically touching! Rovinskaya, like many of her confreres, did not let one day pass by—and, if it were possible, she would not have let pass even one hour—without standing out from the crowd, without compelling people to talk about her: to-day she would participate in a pseudo-patriotic manifestation, while to-morrow she would read from a platform, for the benefit of revolutionaries exiled to Siberia, inciting verses, full of fire and vengeance. She loved to sell flowers at carnivals, in riding academies; and to sell champagne at large balls. She would think up her little bon mots beforehand, which on the morrow would be caught up by the whole town. She desired that everywhere and always the crowd should look only at her, repeat her name, love her Egyptian, green eyes, her rapacious and sensuous mouth; her emeralds on the slender and nervous hands.

"I can't grasp it all properly at once," said she after a silence. "But if a person wants anything hard, he will attain it, and I want to fulfill your wish with all my soul. Stay, stay! ... I think a glorious thought is coming into my head ... For then, on that evening, if I mistake not, there was with us, beside the baroness and me..."

"I don't know them ... One of them walked out of the cabinet later than all of you. He kissed Jennie's hand and said, that if she should ever need him, he was always at her service; and gave her his card, but asked her not to show it to any strangers. But later all this passed off somehow and was forgotten. In some way I never found the time to ask Jennie who this man was; while yesterday I searched for the card but couldn't find it..."

"Allow me, allow me! ... I have recalled it!" the artiste suddenly became animated. "Aha!" exclaimed she, rapidly getting off the ottoman. "It was Ryazanov... Yes, yes, yes... The advocate Ernst Andreievich Ryazanov. We will arrange everything right away. That's a splendid thought!"

She turned to the little table upon which the telephone apparatus was standing, and rang:

"Central—18-35 please ... Thank you ... Hello! ... Ask Ernst Andreievich to the telephone ... The artiste Rovinskaya ... Thank you ... Hello! ... Is this you, Ernst Andreievich? Very well, very well, but now it isn't a matter of little hands. Are you free? ... Drop the nonsense! ... The matter is serious. Couldn't you come up to me for a quarter of an hour? ...No, no ... Yes ... Only as a kind and a clever man. You slander yourself ... Well, that's splendid, really ... Well, I am not especially well-dressed, but I have a justification—a fearful headache. No, a lady, a girl ... You will see for yourself, come as soon as possible ... Thanks! Au revior! ..."

"He will come right away," said Rovinskaya, hanging up the receiver. "He is a charming and awfully clever man. Everything is possible to him, even the almost impossible to man ... But in the meantime ... pardon me—your name?"

Tamara was abashed, but then smiled at herself:

"Oh, it isn't worth your disturbing yourself, Ellena Victorovna! Mon nomme de guerre is Tamara but just so—Anastasia Nikolaevna. It's all the same—call me even Tamara ... I am more used to it..."

"Tamara! ... That is so beautiful! ... So now, Mile. Tamara, perhaps you will not refuse to breakfast with me? Perhaps Ryazanov will also do so with us..."

"I have no time, forgive me."

"That's a great pity! ... I hope, some other time ... But, perhaps you smoke," and she moved toward her a gold case, adorned with an enormous letter E out of the same emeralds she adored.

Ryazanov came very soon.

Tamara, who had not examined him properly on that evening, was struck by his appearance. Tall of stature, almost of an athletic build, with a broad brow, like Beethoven's, tangled with artistically negligent black, grizzled hair; with the large fleshy mouth of the passionate orator; with clear, expressive, clever, mocking eyes—he had such an appearance as catches one's eyes among thousands—the appearance of a vanquisher of souls and a conqueror of hearts; deeply ambitious, not yet oversated with life; still fiery in love and never retreating before a beautiful indiscretion ... "If fate had not broken me up so," reflected Tamara, watching his movements with enjoyment, "then here's a man to whom I'd throw my life; jestingly, with delight, with a smile, as a plucked rose is thrown to the beloved..."

Ryazanov kissed Rovinskaya's hand, then with unconstrained simplicity exchanged greetings with Tamara and said:

"We are acquainted even from that mad evening, when you dumbfounded all of us with your knowledge of the French language, and when you spoke. That which you said was, between us, paradoxical; but then, how it was said! ... To this day I remember the tone of your voice, so warm, expressive ... And so, Ellena Victorovna," he turned to Rovinskaya again, sitting down on a small, low chair without a back, "in what can I be of use to you? I am at your disposal."

Rovinskaya, with a languid air, again applied the tips of her fingers to her temples.

"Ah, really, I am so upset, my dear Ryazanov," said she, intentionally extinguishing the sparkle of her magnificent eyes, "and then, my miserable head ... May I trouble you to pass me the pyramidon what-not from that table ... Let Mile. Tamara tell you everything ... I can not, I am not able to ... This is so horrible! ..."

Tamara briefly, lucidly, narrated to Ryazanov all the sad history of Jennka's death; recalled also about the card left with Jennie; and also how the deceased had reverently preserved this card; and—in passing—about his promise to help in case of need.

"Of course, of course!" exclaimed Ryanzanov, when she had finished; and at once began pacing the room back and forth with big steps, ruffling and tossing back his picturesque hair through habit. "You are performing a magnificent, sincere, comradely action! That is good! ... That is very good! ... I am yours ... You say—a permit for the funeral ... Hm ... God grant me memory!..."

He rubbed his forehead with his palm.

"Hm ... hm ... If I'm not mistaken—Monocanon, rule one hundred seventy ... one hundred seventy ... eight ... Pardon me, I think I remember it by heart ... Pardon me! ... Yes, so! 'If a man slayeth himself, he shall not be chanted over, nor shall a mass be said for him, unless he were greatly astonied, that is, to wit, out of his mind'... Hm ... See St. Timothy Alexandrine ... And so, my dear miss, the first thing ... You say, that she was taken down from the noose by your doctor—i.e., the official city doctor ... His name? ..."

"Klimenko."

"It seems I've met him somewheres ... All right ... Who is the district inspector in your precinct station?"

"Kerbesh."

"Aha, I know ... Such a strong, virile fellow, with a red beard in a fan ... Yes?"

"Yes, that is he."

"I know him very well! There, now, is somebody that a sentence to hard labour is hankering after ... Some ten times he fell into my hands; and always, the skunk, gave me the slip somehow. Slippery, just like an eel-pout ... We will have to slip him a little present. Well, now! And then the anatomical theatre ... When do you want to bury her?"

"Really, I don't know ... I would like to do it as soon as possible ... if possible, to-day."

"Hm ... To-day ... I don't vouch for it—we will hardly manage it ... But here is my memorandum book. Well, take even this page, where are my friends under the letter T—just write the very same way: Tamara, and your address. In two hours I will give you an answer. Does that suit you? But I repeat again, that probably you will have to postpone the burial till to-morrow ... Then—pardon my unceremoniousness—is money needed, perhaps?"

"No, thank you!" refused Tamara. "I have money. Thanks for your interest! ... It's time for me to be going. I thank you with all my heart, Ellen Victorovna! ..."

"Then expect it in two hours," repeated Ryazanov, escorting her to the door.

Tamara did not at once ride away to the house. She turned into a little coffee-house on Catholicheskaya Street on the way. There Senka the Depot was waiting for her—a gay fellow with the appearance of a handsome Tzigan; not black—but blue-haired; black-eyed, with yellow whites; resolute and daring in his work; the pride of local thieves—a great celebrity in their world, the first leader of experience, and a constant, all-night gamester.

He stretched out his hand to her, without getting up. But in the way in which he so carefully, with a certain force, seated her in her place could be seen a broad, good-natured endearment.

"How do you do, Tamarochka! Haven't seen you in a long time—I grew weary ... Do you want coffee?"

"No! Business first ... To-morrow we bury Jennka ... She hanged herself..." "Yes, I read it in a newspaper," carelessly drawled out Senka through his teeth. "What's the odds? ..."

"Get fifty roubles for me at once."

"Tamarochka, my sweetheart—I haven't a kopeck! ..."

"I'm telling you—get them!" ordered Tamara, imperiously, but without getting angry.

"Oh, my Lord! ... Yours, now, I didn't touch, like I promised; but then, it's Sunday ... The savings banks are closed..."

"Let them! ... Hock the savings book! In general, it's up to you!"

"Why do you need this, my dearie?"

"Isn't it all the same to you, you fool? ... For the funeral."

"Oh! Well, all right then!" sighed Senka. "Then I'd best bring it to you myself in the evening ... Right, Tamarochka? ... It's so very hard for me to stand it without you! Oh, my dearie, how I'd kiss and kiss you; I wouldn't let you close your eyes! ... Shan't I come? ..."

"No, no! ... You do as I ask you, Senechka ... Give in to me. But you mustn't come—I'm housekeeper now."

"Well, what d'you know about that! ..." drawled out the astonished Senka and even whistled.

"Yes. And don't you come to me in the meantime. But afterwards, afterwards, sweetheart, whatever you desire ... There will be an end to everything soon!"

"Oh, if you wouldn't make me suffer so! Wind things up as soon as you can!"

"And I will wind 'em up! Wait one little week more, dearie! Did you get the powders?"

"The powders are a trifle!" discontentedly answered Senka. "And it isn't powders at all, but pills."

"And you're sure when you say that they'll dissolve at once in water?"

"Sure, I saw it myself."

"But he won't die? Listen, Senya: he won't die? Is that right?..."

"Nothing will happen to him ... He'll only snooze for a while ... Oh, Tamara!" exclaimed he in a passionate whisper; and even suddenly stretched himself hard from an unbearable emotion, so that his joints cracked. "Finish it, for God's sake, as soon as possible! ... Let's do the trick and—bye-bye! Wherever you want to go to, sweet-heart! I am all at your will: if you want to, we start off for Odessa; if you want to—abroad. Finish it up as soon as possible! ..."

"Soon, soon..."

"You just wink at me, and I'm all ready ... with powders, with instruments, with passports ... And then—choo-choo! The machine is off! Tamarochka! My angel! ... My precious, my sparkler! ..."

And he, always restrained, having forgotten that he could be seen by strangers, already wanted to embrace and hug Tamara to himself.

"Now, now!" ... rapidly and deftly, like a cat, Tamara jumped off the chair. "Afterwards ... afterwards, Senechka, afterwards, little dearie! ... I'll be all yours—there won't be any denial, nor forbiddance. I'll myself make you weary of me ... Good-bye, my little silly!"

And with a quick movement of her hand having rumpled up his black curls, she hastily went out of the coffee-house.



CHAPTER VIII.

On the next day, on Monday, toward ten o'clock in the morning, almost all the inmates of the house—formerly Madam Shaibes', but now Emma Edwardovna Titzner's—rode off in cabs to the centre of the city, to the anatomical theatre—all, except the far-sighted, much-experienced Henrietta; the cowardly and insensible Ninka; and the feeble-minded Pashka, who for two days now had not gotten up from her bed, kept silent, and to questions directed at her answered by a beatific, idiotical smile and with some sort of inarticulate animal lowing. If she were not given to eat, she would not even ask; but if food were brought, she would eat with greediness, right with her hands. She became so slovenly and forgetful, that it was necessary to remind her of certain necessary functions in order to avoid unpleasantness. Emma Edwardovna did not send out Pashka to her steady guests, who asked for Pashka every day. Even before, she had had such periods of a detriment of consciousness; however, they had not lasted long, and Emma Edwardovna in any case determined to tide it over: Pashka was a veritable treasure for the establishment, and its truly horrible victim.

The anatomical theatre represented a long, one-storied, dark-gray building, with white frames around the windows and doors. There was in its very exterior something low, pressed down, receding into the ground, almost weird. The girls one after the other stopped near the gates and timidly passed through the yard into the chapel; nestled down at the other end of the yard, in a corner, painted over in the same dark gray colour, with white frame-work.

The door was locked. It was necessary to go after the watchman. Tamara with difficulty sought out a bald, ancient old man, grown over as though with bog moss by entangled gray bristles; with little rheumy eyes and an enormous, reddish, dark-blue granulous nose, on the manner of a cookie.

He unlocked the enormous hanging lock, pushed away the bolt and opened the rusty, singing door. The cold, damp air together with the mixed smell of the dampness of stones, frankincense, and dead flesh breathed upon the girls. They fell back, huddling closely into a timorous flock. Tamara alone went after the watchman without wavering.

It was almost dark in the chapel. The autumn light penetrated scantily through the little, narrow prison-like window, barred with an iron grating. Two or three images without chasubles, dark and without visages, hung upon the walls. Several common board coffins were standing right on the floor, upon wooden carrying shafts. One in the middle was empty, and the taken-off lid was lying alongside.

"What sort is yours, now?" asked the watchman hoarsely and took some snuff. "Do you know her face or not?"

"I know her."

"Well, then, look! I'll show them all to you. Maybe this one? ..."

And he took the lid off one of the coffins, not yet fastened down with nails. A wrinkled old woman, dressed any old way in her tatters, with a swollen blue face, was lying there. Her left eye was closed; while the right was staring and gazing immovably and frightfully, having already lost its sparkle and resembling mica that had lain for a long time.

"Not this one, you say? Well, look ... Here's more for you!" said the watchman; and one after the other, opening the lids, exhibited the decedents—all, probably, the poorest of the poor: picked up on the streets, intoxicated, crushed, maimed and mutilated, beginning to decompose. Certain ones had already begun to show on their hands and faces bluish-green spots, resembling mould—signs of putrefaction. One man, without a nose, with an upper hare-lip cloven in two, had worms, like little white dots, swarming upon his sore-eaten face. A woman who had died from hydropsy, reared like a whole mountain from her board couch, bulging out the lid.

All of them had been hastily sewn up after autopsy, repaired, and washed by the moss-covered watchman and his mates. What affair was it of theirs if, at times, the brain got into the stomach; while the skull was stuffed with the liver and rudely joined with the help of sticking plaster to the head? The watchmen had grown used to everything during their night-marish, unlikely, drunken life; and, by the bye, almost never did their voiceless clients prove to have either relatives or acquaintances...

A heavy odour of carrion—thick, cloying, and so viscid that to Tamara it seemed as though it was covering all the living pores of her body just like glue—stood in the chapel.

"Listen, watchman," asked Tamara, "what's this crackling under my feet all the time?"

"Crack-ling?" the watchman questioned her over again, and scratched himself, "why, lice, it must be," he said indifferently. "It's fierce how these beasties do multiply on the corpseses! ... But who you lookin' for—man or woman?"

"A woman," answered Tamara.

"And that means that all these ain't yours?"

"No, they're all strangers."

"There, now! ... That means I have to go to the morgue. When did they bring her, now?"

"On Saturday, grandpa," and Tamara at this got out her purse. "Saturday, in the daytime. There's something for tobacco for you, my dear sir!"

"That's the way! Saturday, you say in the daytime? And what did she have on?"

"Well, almost nothing; a little night blouse, an underskirt ... both the one and the other white."

"So-o! That must be number two hundred and seventeen ... How is she called, now? ..."

"Susannah Raitzina."

"I'll go and see—maybe she's there. Well, now, mam'selles," he turned to the young ladies, who were dully huddling in the doorway, obstructing the light. "Which of you are the braver? If your friend came the day before yesterday, then that means that she's now lying in the manner that the Lord God has created all mankind—that is, without anything ... Well, who of you will be the bolder? Which two of you will come? She's got to be dressed..."

"Well, now, you go, Manka," Tamara ordered her mate, who, grown chill and pale from horror and aversion, was staring at the dead with widely open, limpid eyes. "Don't be afraid, you fool—I'll go with you! Who's to go, if not you?

"Well, am I ... well, am I? ..." babbled Little White Manka with barely moving lips. "Let's go. It's all the same to me..."

The morgue was right here, behind the chapel—a low, already entirely dark basement, into which one had to descend by six steps.

The watchman ran off somewhere, and returned with a candle-end and a tattered book. When he had lit the candle, the girls saw a score of corpses that were lying directly on the stone floor in regular rows—extended, yellow, with faces distorted by pre-mortal convulsions, with skulls split open, with clots of blood on their faces, with grinning teeth.

"Right away ... right away..." the watchman was saying, guiding his finger over the headings. "The day before yesterday ... that means, on Saturday ... on Saturday ... What did you say her name was, now?"

"Raitzina, Susannah," answered Tamara.

"Rai-tzina Susannah ..." said the watchman, just as though he were singing, "Raitzina, Susannah. Just as I said. Two hundred seventeen." Bending over the dead and illuminating them with the guttered and dripping candle-end, he passed from one to another. Finally he stopped before a corpse, upon whose foot was written in ink, in large black figures: 217.

"Here's the very same one! Let me, I'll carry her out into the little corridor and run after her stuff ... Wait a while! ..."

Grunting, but still with an ease amazing in one of his age, he lifted up the corpse of Jennka by the feet, and threw it upon his back with the head down, as though it were a carcass of meat, or a bag of potatoes.

It was a trifle lighter in the corridor; and, when the watchman had lowered his horrible burden to the floor, Tamara for a moment covered her face with her hands, while Manka turned away and began to cry.

"If you need anything, say so," the watchman was instructing them. "If you want to dress the deceased as is fitting, then we can get everything that's required—cloth of gold, a little wreath, a little image, a shroud, gauze—we keep everything ... You can buy a thing or two in, clothing ... Slippers, too, now..."

Tamara gave him money and went out into the air, letting Manka go in front of her.

After some time two wreaths were brought; one from Tamara, of asters and georginas with an inscription in black letters upon a white ribbon: "To Jennie from a friend;" the other was from Ryazanov, all of red flowers; upon its red ribbon stood in gold characters: "Through suffering shall we be purified." He also sent a short little note, expressing commiseration and apologizing for not being able to come, as he was occupied with an undeferrable business meeting.

Then came the singers who had been invited by Tamara—fifteen men from the very best choir in the city.

The precentor, in a gray overcoat and a gray hat, all gray, somehow, as though covered with dust, but with long, straight moustaches, like a military person's, recognized Verka; opened his eyes wide in astonishment, smiled slightly and winked at her. Two or three times a month, and sometimes even oftener, he visited Yamskaya Street with ecclesiastical academicians of his acquaintance, just the same precentors as he, and some psalmists; and having usually made a full review of all the establishments, always wound up with the house of Anna Markovna, where he invariably chose Verka.

He was a merry and sprightly man; danced in a lively manner, in a frenzy; and executed such figures during the dances that all those present just melted from laughter.

Following the singers came the two-horsed catafalque, that Tamara had hired; black, with white plumes, and seven torch-bearers along with it. They also brought a white, glazed brocade coffin; and a pedestal for it, stretched over with black calico. Without hurrying, with habitually deft movements, they put away the deceased into the coffin; covered her face with gauze; curtained off the corpse with cloth of gold, and lit the candles—one at the head and two at the feet.

Now, in the yellow, trembling light of the candles, the face of Jennka became more clearly visible. The lividness had almost gone off it, remaining only here and there on the temples, on the nose, and between the eyes, in party-coloured, uneven, serpentine spots. Between the parted dark lips slightly glimmered the whiteness of the teeth, and the tip of the bitten tongue was still visible. Out of the open collar of the neck, which had taken on the colour of old parchment, showed two stripes: one dark—the mark of the rope; another red—the sign of the scratch, inflicted by Simeon during the encounter—just like two fearful necklaces. Tamara approached and with a safety pin pinned together the lace on the collar, at the very chin.

The clergy came: a little gray priest in gold spectacles, in a skull-cap; a lanky, tall, thin-haired deacon with a sickly, strangely dark and yellow face, as though of terra-cotta; and a sprightly, long-skirted psalmist, animatedly exchanging on his way some gay, mysterious signs with his friends among the singers.

Tamara walked up to the priest:

"Father," she asked, "how will you perform the funeral service; all together or each one separate?"

"We perform the funeral service for all of them conjointly," answered the priest, kissing the stole, and extricating his beard and hair out of its slits. "Usually, that is. But by special request, and by special agreement, it's also possible to do it separately. What death did the deceased undergo?"

"She's a suicide, father."

"Hm ... a suicide? ... But do you know, young person, that by the canons of the church there isn't supposed to be any funeral service ... there ought not to be any? Of course, there are exceptions—by special intercession..."

"Right here, father, I have certificates from the police and from the doctor ... She wasn't in her right mind ... in a fit of insanity..."

Tamara extended to the priest two papers, sent her the evening before by Ryazanov, and on top of them three bank-notes of ten roubles each. "I would beg of you, father, to do everything fitting—Christian like. She was a splendid being, and suffered a very great deal. And won't you be so kind—go along with her to the cemetery, and there hold one more little mass..."

"It's all right for me to go along with her to the cemetery, but in the cemetery itself I have no right to hold service—there is a clergy of their own ... And also here's how, young person; in view of the fact that I'll have to return once more after the rest, won't you, now ... add another little ten-spot."

And having taken the money from Tamara's hand, the priest blessed the thurible, which had been brought up by the psalmist, and began to walk around the body of the deceased with thurification. Then, having stopped at her head, he in a meek, wontedly sad voice, uttered:

"Blessed is our God. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end!"

The psalmist began pattering: Holy God, Most Holy Trinity and Our Father poured out like peas.

Quietly, as though confiding some deep, sad, occult mystery, the singers began in a rapid, sweet recitative: "With Thy blessed saints in glory everlasting, the soul of this Thy servant save, set at rest; preserving her in the blessed life, as Thou hast loving kindness for man."

The psalmist distributed the candles; and they with warm, soft, living little flames, one after the other, were lit in the heavy, murky air, tenderly and transparently illuminating the faces of the women.

Harmoniously the mournful melody flowed forth, and like the sighs of aggrieved angels sounded the great words:

"Rest, oh God, this Thy servant and establish her in Heaven, wherein the faces of the just and the saints of the Lord shine like unto lights; set at rest this Thy servant who hath fallen asleep, contemning all her trespasses."

Tamara was listening intently to the long familiar, but now long unheard words, and was smiling bitterly. The passionate, mad words of Jennka came back to her, full of such inescapable despair and unbelief ... Would the all-merciful, all-gracious Lord forgive or would He not forgive her foul, fumy, embittered, unclean life? All-Knowing—can it be that Thou wouldst repulse her—the pitiful rebel, the involuntary libertine; a child that had uttered blasphemies against Thy radiant, holy name? Thou—Benevolence, Thou—our Consolation!

A dull, restrained wailing, suddenly passing into a scream, resounded in the chapel. "Oh, Jennechka!" This was Little White Manka, standing on her knees and stuffing her mouth with her handkerchief, beating about in tears. And the remaining mates, following her, also got down upon their knees; and the chapel was filled with sighs, stifled lamentations and sobbings ...

"Thou alone art deathless, Who hast created and made man; out of the dust of the earth were we made, and unto the same dust shall we return; as Thou hast ordained me, creating me and saying unto me, dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return."

Tamara was standing motionless and with an austere face that seemed turned to stone. The light of the candle in thin gold spirals shone in her bronze-chestnut hair; while she could not tear her eyes away from the lines of Jennka's moist, yellow forehead and the tip of her nose, which were visible to Tamara from her place.

"Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return ..." she was mentally repeating the words of the canticles. "Could it be that that would be all; only earth alone and nothing more? And which is better: nothing, or even anything at all—even the most execrable—but merely to be existing?"

And the choir, as though affirming her thoughts, as though taking away from her the last consolation, was uttering forlornly:

"And all mankind may go..."

They sang Eternal Memory through, blew out the candles, and the little blue streams spread in the air, blue from frankincense. The priest read through the farewell prayer; and afterwards, in the general silence, scooped up some sand with the little shovel handed to him by the psalmist, and cast it cross-wise upon the corpse, on top of the gauze. And at this he was uttering great words, filled with the austere, sad inevitability of a mysterious universal law: "The world is the Lord's, and its fulfillment the universe, and all that dwelleth therein."

The girls escorted their dead mate to the very cemetery. The road thither intersected the very entrance to Yamskaya Street. It would have been possible to turn to the left through it, and that would have been almost half as short; but dead people were not usually carried through Yamskaya.

Nevertheless, out of almost all the doors their inmates poured out towards the cross roads, in whatever they had on: in slippers upon bare feet, in night gowns, with kerchiefs upon their heads; they crossed themselves, sighed, wiped their eyes with their handkerchiefs and the edges of their jackets.

The weather cleared up ... The cold sun shone brightly from a cold sky of radiant blue enamel; the last grass showed its green, the withered leaves on the trees glowed, showing their pink and gold ... And in the crystal clear, cold air solemnly, and mournfully reverberated the sonorous sounds: "Holy God, Holy Almighty, Holy Everliving, have mercy upon us!" And with what flaming thirst for life, not to be satiated by aught; with what longing for the momentary—transient like unto a dream—joy and beauty of being; with what horror before the eternal silence of death, sounded the ancient refrain of John Damascene!

Then a brief requiem at the grave, the dull thud of the earth against the lid of the coffin ... a small fresh hillock ...

"And here's the end!" said Tamara to her comrades, when they were left alone. "Oh, well, girls—an hour earlier, an hour later! ... I'm sorry for Jennka! ... Horribly sorry! ... We won't ever find such another. And yet, my children, it's far better for her in her pit than for us in ours ... Well, let's cross ourselves for the last time—and home! ..."

And when they all were already nearing their house, Tamara suddenly uttered pensively the strange, ominous words:

"And we won't be long together without her: soon we will be scattered, by the wind far and wide. Life is good! ... Look: there's the sun, the blue sky ... How pure the air is ... Cobwebs are floating—it's Indian summer ... How good it is in this world! ... Only we alone—we wenches—are wayside rubbish."

The girls started off on their journey. But suddenly from somewhere on the side, from behind a monument, a tall sturdy student detached himself. He caught up with Liubka and softly touched her sleeve. She turned around and beheld Soloviev. Her face instantaneously turned pale, her eyes opened wide and her lips began to tremble.

"Go away!" she said quietly, with infinite hatred.

"Liuba ... Liubochka ..." Soloviev began to mumble. "I searched ... searched for you ... I ... Honest to God, I'm not like that one ... like Lichonin ... I'm in earnest ... even right now, even to-day.

"Go away!" still more quietly pronounced Liubka.

"I'm serious ... I'm serious ... I'm not trifling, I want to marry..."

"Oh, you creature!" suddenly squealed out Liubka, and quickly, hard, peasant-like, hit Soloviev on the cheek with her palm.

Soloviev stood a little while, slightly swaying. His eyes were like those of a martyr ... The mouth half-open, with mournful creases at the sides.

"Go away! Go away! I can't bear to look at all of you!" Liubka was screaming with rage. "Hangmen, swine!"

Soloviev unexpectedly covered his face with his palms and went back, without knowing his way, with uncertain steps, like one drunk.



CHAPTER IX.

And in reality, the words of Tamara proved to be prophetic: since the funeral of Jennie not more than two weeks had passed, but during this brief space of time so many events burst over the house of Emma Edwardovna as do not befall sometimes even in half a decade.

On the very next day they had to send off to a charitable institution—into a lunatic asylum—the unfortunate Pashka, who had fallen completely into feeble-mindedness. The doctors said that there was no hope of her ever improving. And in reality, as they had placed her in the hospital on the floor, upon a straw mattress, so did she remain upon it without getting up from it to her very death; submerging more and more into the black, bottomless abyss of quiet feeble-mindedness; but she died only half a year later, from bed-sores and infection of the blood.

The next turn was Tamara's.

For about half a month she fulfilled the duties of a housekeeper, was all the time unusually active, energetic; and somehow unwontedly wound up with that inner something of her own, which was so strongly fomenting within her. On a certain evening she vanished, and did not return at all to the establishment...

The matter of fact was, that in the city she had carried on a protracted romance with a certain notary—an elderly man, sufficiently rich, but exceedingly niggardly. Their acquaintance had been scraped up yet a year back, when they had been by chance travelling together on the same steamer to a suburban monastery, and had begun a conversation. The clever, handsome Tamara; her enigmatic, depraved smile; her entertaining conversation; her modest manner of deporting herself, had captivated the notary. She had even then marked down for herself this elderly man with picturesque gray hair, with seigniorial manners; an erstwhile jurisconsult and a man of good family. She did not tell him about her profession—it pleased her rather to mystify him. She only hazily, in a few words, hinted at the fact that she was a married lady of the middle class; that she was unfortunate in domestic life, since her husband was a gambler and a despot; and that even by fate she was denied such a consolation as children. At parting she refused to pass an evening with the notary, and did not want to meet him; but then she allowed him to write to her—general delivery, under a fictitious name. A correspondence commenced between them, in which the notary flaunted his style and the ardency of his feelings, worthy of the heroes of Paul Bourget. She maintained the same withdrawn, mysterious tone.

Then, being touched by the entreaties of the notary for a meeting, she made an appointment in Prince Park; was charming, witty, and languishing; but refused to go with him anywhere.

So she tortured her adorer and skillfully inflamed within him the last passion, which at times is stronger and more dangerous than first love. Finally, this summer, when the family of the notary had gone abroad, she decided to visit his rooms; and here for the first time gave herself up to him with tears, with twinges of her conscience, and at the same time with such ardour and tenderness, that the poor secretary lost his head completely—was plunged entirely into that senile love, which no longer knows either reason or retrospect; which compels a man to lose the last thing—the fear of appearing ridiculous.

Tamara was very sparing of her meetings. This inflamed her impatient friend still more. She consented to receiving from him bouquets of flowers, a modest breakfast in a suburban restaurant; but indignantly refused all expensive presents, and bore herself so skillfully and subtly, that the notary never got up the courage to offer her money. When he once stammered out something about a separate apartment and other conveniences, she looked him in the eyes so intently, haughtily, and sternly, that he, like a boy, turned red in his picturesque gray hairs, and kissed her hands, babbling incoherent apologies.

So did Tamara play with him, and feel the ground more and more under her. She already knew now on what days the notary kept in his fireproof iron safe especially large sums. However, she did not hurry, fearing to spoil the business through clumsiness or prematurity.

And so right now this long expected day arrived; a great contractors' fair had just ended, and all the notaries' offices were transacting deals for enormous suras every day. Tamara knew that the notary usually carried off the money to the bank on Saturdays, in order to be perfectly free on Sunday. And for that reason on Friday the notary received the following letter:

"My dear, my adored King Solomon! Thy Shoilamite, thy girl of the vineyard, greets thee with burning kisses ... Dear, to-day is a holiday for me, and I am infinitely happy. To-day I am free, as well as you. HE has gone away to Homel for twenty-four hours on business matters, and I want to pass all the evening and ALL the night in your place. Ah, my beloved! All my life I am ready to pass on my knees before thee. I do not want to go anywhere. The suburban road-houses and cabarets have bored me long ago. I want you, only you ... you ... you alone. Await me, then, in the evening, my joy, about ten-eleven-o'clock! Prepare a great quantity of cold white wine, a canteloupe, and sugared chestnuts. I am burning, I am dying from desire! It seems to me, I will tire you out! I can not wait! My head is spinning around, my face burning, and my hands as cold as ice. I embrace you. Thy Valentina."

That very same evening, about eleven o'clock, she artfully, through conversation, led the notary into showing her his fireproof safe; playing upon his odd, pecuniary vanity. Rapidly gliding with her glance over the shelves and the movable boxes, Tamara turned away with a skillfully executed yawn and said:

"Fie, what a bore!"

And, having embraced the notary's neck, she whispered with her lips at his very ears, burning him with her hot breath:

"Lock up this nastiness, my treasure! Let's go! .... Let's go! ..."

And she was the first to go out into the dining room.

"Come here, now, Volodya!" she cried out from there. "Come quicker! I want wine and after that love, love, love without end! ... No! Drink it all, to the very bottom! Just as we will drain our love to the very bottom today!"

The notary clinked glasses with her and at one gulp drank off his glass. Then he drew in his lips and remarked:

"Strange ... The wine seems to be sort of bitter to-day."

"Yes!" agreed Tamara and looked attentively at her lover. "This wine is always the least bit bitter. For such is the nature of Rhine wines..."

"But to-day it's especially strong," said the notary. "No, thanks, my dear—I don't want any more!"

After five minutes he fell asleep, sitting in his chair; his head thrown back against its back, and his lower jaw hanging down. Tamara waited for some time and started to awaken him. He was without motion. Then she took the lit candle, and, having placed it on the window sill giving out upon the street, went out into the entrance hall and began to listen, until she heard light steps on the stairs. Almost without a sound she opened the door and let in Senka, dressed like a real gentleman, with a brand new leather hand-bag in his hands.

"Ready?" asked the thief in a whisper.

"He's sleeping," answered Tamara, just as quietly. "Look and here are the keys."

They passed together into the study with the fireproof safe. Having looked over the lock with the aid of a flashlight, Senka swore in a low voice:

"The devil take him, the old animal! ... I just knew that it would be a lock with a combination. Here you've got to know the letters ... It's got to be melted with electricity, and the devil knows how much time it'll take."

"It's not necessary," retorted Tamara hurriedly. "I know the word ... Pick it out: m-o-r-t-g-a-g-. Without the e."

After ten minutes they descended the steps together; went in purposely broken lines through several streets, hiring a cab to the depot only in the old city; and rode out of the city with irreproachable passports of citizens and landed proprietors—the Stavnitzkys, man and wife. For a long time nothing was heard of them until, a year later, Senka was caught in Moscow in a large theft, and gave Tamara away during the interrogation. They were both tried and sentenced to imprisonment.

Following Tamara came the turn of the naive, trusting, and amorous Verka. For a long time already she had been in love with a semi-military man, who called himself a civic clerk in the military department. His name was Dilectorsky. In their relations Verka was the adoring party; while he, like an important idol, condescendingly received the worship and the proffered gifts. Even from the end of summer Verka noticed that her beloved was becoming more and more cold and negligent; and, talking with her, was dwelling in thought somewhere far, far away. She tortured herself, was jealous, questioned him, but always received in answer some indeterminate phrases, some ominous hints at a near misfortune, at a premature grave ...

In the beginning of September he finally confessed to her, that he had embezzled official money, big money, something around three thousand; and that after five days he would be checked up, and that he, Dilectorsky, was threatened with disgrace, the court, and finally, hard labour ... Here the civic clerk of the military department burst into sobs, clasping his head, and exclaimed:

"My poor mother! ... What will become of her? She will not be able to sustain this degradation ... No! Death is a thousand times better than these hellish tortures of a being guilty of naught."

Although he was expressing himself, as always, in the style of the dime novels (in which way he had mainly enticed the trusting Verka), still, the theatrical thought of suicide, once arisen, no longer forsook him.

Somehow one day he was promenading for a long time with Verka in Prince Park. Already greatly devastated by autumn, this wonderful ancient park glistened and played with the magnificent tones of the foliage, blossoming out into colours: crimson, purple, lemon, orange and the deep cherry colour of old, settled wine; and it seemed that the cold air was diffusing sweet odours, like precious wine. And yet, a fine impress, a tender aroma of death, was wafted from the bushes, from the grass, from the trees.

Dilectorsky waxed tender; gave his feelings a free rein, was moved over himself, and began to weep. Verka wept a bit with him, too.

"To-day I will kill myself!" said Dilectorsky finally. "All is over! ..."

"My own, don't! ... My precious, don't! ..."

"It's impossible," answered Dilectorsky sombrely. "The cursed money! ... Which is dearer—honour or life?!"

"My dear..."

"Don't speak, don't speak, Annetta!" (He, for some reason, preferred to the common name of Verka the aristocratic Annetta, thought up by himself.) "Don't speak. This is decided!"

"Oh, if only I could help you!" exclaimed Verka woefully. "Why, I'd give my life away ... Every drop of blood! ..."

"What is life?" Dilectorsky shook his head with an actor's despondence. "Farewell, Annetta! ... Farewell! ..."

The girl desperately began to shake her head:

"I don't want it! ... I don't want it! ... I don't want it! ... Take me! ... I'll go with you too! ..."

Late in the evening Dilectorsky took a room in an expensive hotel. He knew, that within a few hours, perhaps minutes, he and Verka would be corpses; and for that reason, although he had in his pocket only eleven kopecks, all in all, he gave orders sweepingly, like a habitual, downright prodigal; he ordered sturgeon stew, double snipes, and fruits; and, in addition to all this, coffee, liqueurs and two bottles of frosted champagne. And he was in reality convinced that he would shoot himself; but thought of it somehow affectedly, as though admiring, a trifle from the side, his tragic role; and enjoying beforehand the despair of his relatives and the amazement of his fellow clerks. While Verka, when she had suddenly said that she would commit suicide with her beloved, had been immediately strengthened in this thought. And there was nothing fearful to Verka in this impending death. "Well, now, is it better to croak just so, under a fence? But here it's together with your dearie! At least a sweet death! ..." And she frantically kissed her clerk, laughed, and with dishevelled, curly hair, with sparkling eyes, was prettier than she had ever been.

The final triumphal moment arrived at last.

"You and I have both enjoyed ourselves, Annetta ... We have drained the cup to the bottom and now, to use an expression of Pushkin's, must shatter the goblet!" said Dilectorsky. "You do not repent, oh, my dear? ..."

"No, no! ..."

"Are you ready?"

"Yes!" whispered she and smiled.

"Then turn away to the wall and shut your eyes!"

"No, no, my dearest, I don't want it so! ... I don't want it! Come to me! There, so! Nearer, nearer.. Give me your eyes, I will be gazing into them. Give me your lips—I will be kissing you, while you... I am not afraid! ... Be braver! ... Kiss me harder! ..."

He killed her; and when he looked upon the horrible deed of his hands, he then suddenly felt a loathsome, abominable, abject fear. The half-naked body of Verka was still quivering on the bed. The legs of Dilectorsky gave in from horror; but the reason of a hypocrite, coward and blackguard kept vigil: he did still have spirit sufficient to stretch away at his side the skin over his ribs, and to shoot through it. And when he was falling, frantically crying out from pain, from fright, and from the thunder of the shot, the last convulsion was running through the body of Verka.

While two weeks after the death of Verka, the naive, sportful, meek, brawling Little White Manka perished as well. During one of the general, clamourous brawls, usual in the Yamkas, in an enormous affray, some one killed her, hitting her with a heavy empty bottle over the head. And the murderer remained undiscovered to the last.

So rapidly did events take place in the Yamkas, in the house of Emma Edwardovna; and well nigh not a one of its inmates escaped a bloody, foul or disgraceful doom.

The final, most grandiose, and at the same time most bloody calamity was the devastation committed on the Yamkas by soldiers.

Two dragoons had been short-changed in a rouble establishment, beaten up, and thrown out at night into the street. Tom to pieces, in blood, they returned to the barracks, where their comrades, having begun in the morning, were still finishing up their regimental holiday. And so, not half an hour passed, when a hundred soldiers burst into the Yamkas and began to wreck house after house. They were joined by an innumerable mob that gathered on the run—men of the golden squad[31], ragamuffins, tramps, crooks, souteneurs. The panes were broken in all the houses, and the grand pianos smashed to smithereens. The feather beds were ripped open and the down thrown out into the street; and yet for a long while after—for some two days—the countless bits of down flew and whirled over the Yamkas, like flakes of snow. The wenches, bare-headed, perfectly naked, were driven out into the street. Three porters were beaten to death. The rabble shattered, befouled, and rent into pieces all the silk and plush furniture of Treppel. They also smashed up all the neighbouring taverns and drink-shops, while they were at it.

[31] Zolotorotzi—a subtle euphemism for cleaners of cesspools and carters of the wealth contained therein.—trans.

The drunken, bloody, hideous slaughter continued for some three hours; until the arrayed military authorities, together with the fire company, finally succeeded in repulsing and scattering the infuriated mob. Two half-rouble establishments were set on fire, but the fire was soon put out. However, on the next day the tumult again flared up; this time already over the whole city and its environs. Altogether unexpectedly it took on the character of a Jewish pogrom, which lasted for three days, with all its horrors and miseries.

And a week after followed the order of the governor-general about the immediate shutting down of houses of prostitution, on the Yamkas as well as other streets of the city. The proprietresses were given only a week's time for the settlement of matters in connection with their property.

Annihilated, crushed, plundered; having lost all the glamour of their former grandeur; ludicrous and pitiful, the aged, faded proprietresses and fat-faced, hoarse housekeepers were hastily packing up their things. And a month after only the name reminded one of merry Yamskaya Street; of the riotous, scandalous, horrible Yamkas.

However, even the name of the street was soon replaced by another, more respectable one, in order to efface even the memory of the former unpardonable times.

And all these Henriettas-Horses, Fat Kitties, Lelkas-Polecats and other women—always naive and foolish, often touching and amusing, in the majority of cases deceived and perverted children,—spread through the big city, were dissolved within it. Out of them was born a new stratum of society—a stratum of the strolling, street prostitutes—solitaries. And about their life, just as pitiful and incongruous, but tinged by other interests and customs, the author of this novel—which he still dedicates to youths and mothers—will some time tell.



THE END

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