He went stumbling away towards his bedroom.
Vera said nothing to any of us. She got up slowly, looked about her for a moment as though she were bewildered by the light and then went after Nicholas. I turned to Semyonov.
“You’d better go back to your own place,” I said.
“Not yet, thank you,” he answered, smiling.
On the afternoon of Easter Monday I was reminded by Bohun of an engagement that I had made some weeks before to go that evening to a party at the house of a rich merchant, Rozanov by name. I have, I think, mentioned him earlier in this book. I cannot conceive why I had ever made the promise, and in the afternoon, meeting Bohun at Watkins’ bookshop in the Morskaia, I told him that I couldn’t go.
“Oh, come along!” he said. “It’s your duty.”
“Why my duty?”
“They’re all talking as hard as they can about saving the world by turning the other cheek, and so on; and a few practical facts about Germany from you will do a world of good.”
“Oh, your propaganda!” I said.
“No, it isn’t my propaganda,” he answered. “It’s a matter of life and death to get these people to go on with the war, and every little helps.”
“Well, I’ll come,” I said, shaking my head at the book-seller, who was anxious that I should buy the latest works of Mrs. Elinor Glyn and Miss Ethel Dell. I had in fact reflected that a short excursion into other worlds would be good for me. During these weeks I had been living in the very heart of the Markovitches, and it would be healthy to escape for a moment.
But I was not to escape.
I met Bohun at the top of the English Prospect, and we decided to walk. Rozanov lived in the street behind the Kazan Cathedral. I did not know very much about him except that he was a very wealthy merchant, who had made his money by selling cheap sweets to the peasant. He lived, I knew, an immoral and self-indulgent life, and his hobby was the quite indiscriminate collection of modern Russian paintings, his walls being plastered with innumerable works by Benois, Somoff, Dobeijinsky, Yakofflyeff, and Lanceray. He had also two Serovs, a fine Vrubel, and several Ryepins. He had also a fine private collection of indecent drawings.
“I really don’t know what on earth we’re going to this man for,” I said discontentedly. “I was weak this afternoon.”
“No, you weren’t,” said Bohun. “And I’ll tell you frankly that I’m jolly glad not to be having a meal at home to-night. Do you know, I don’t believe I can stick that flat much longer!”
“Why, are things worse?” I asked.
“It’s getting so jolly creepy,” Bohun said. “Everything goes on normally enough outwardly, but I suppose there’s been some tremendous row. Of course I don’t knew any-thing about that. After what you told me the other night though, I seem to see everything twice its natural size.”