After ten minutes he pulled himself up slowly from his chair:
“Well, I must be going,” he said. “Tell young Bohun I shall be waiting for him to-night—7.30—Astoria—” He turned to Vera Michailovna to say good-bye, and then, suddenly, as she rose and their eyes met, they seemed to strike some unexpected chord of sympathy. It took both of them, I think, by surprise; for quite a moment they stared at one another.
“Please come whenever you want to see your friend,” she said, “we shall be delighted.”
“Thank you,” he answered simply, and went.
When he had gone she said to me:
“I like that man. One could trust him.”
“Yes, one could,” I answered her.
I must return now to young Henry Bohun. I would like to arouse your sympathy for him, but sympathy’s a dangerous medicine for the young, who are only too ready, so far as their self-confidence goes, to take a mile if you give them an inch. But with Bohun it was simply a case of re-delivering, piece by piece, the mile that he had had no possible right to imagine in his possession, and at the end of his relinquishment he was as naked and impoverished a soul as any life with youth and health on its side can manage to sustain. He was very miserable during these first weeks, and then it must be remembered that Petrograd was, at this time, no very happy place for anybody. Bohun was not a coward—he would have stood the worst things in France without flinching—but he was neither old enough nor young enough to face without a tremor the queer world of nerves and unfulfilled expectation in which he found himself. In the first place, Petrograd was so very different from anything that he had expected. Its size and space, its power of reducing the human figure to a sudden speck of insignificance, its strange lights and shadows, its waste spaces and cold, empty, moonlit squares, its jumble of modern and mediaeval civilisation, above all, its supreme indifference to all and sundry—these things cowed and humiliated him. He was sharp enough to realise that here he was nobody at all. Then he had not expected to be so absolutely cut off from all that he had known. The Western world simply did not seem to exist. The papers came so slowly that on their arrival they were not worth reading. He had not told his friends in England to send his letters through the Embassy bag, with the result that they would not, he was informed, reach him for months.
Of his work I do not intend here to speak,—it does not come into this story,—but he found that it was most complicated and difficult, and kicks rather than halfpence would be the certain reward. And Bohun hated kicks....
Finally, he could not be said to be happy in the Markovitch flat. He had, poor boy, heard so much about Russian hospitality, and had formed, from the reading of the books of Mr. Stephen Graham and others, delightful pictures of the warmest hearts in the world holding out the warmest hands before the warmest samovars. In its spirit that was true enough, but it was not true in the way that Bohun expected it.