[Pause. Lightning flashes. The thunder has ceased. Somewhere outside a watchman can be heard striking his iron rod.
And there’ll be no drinkshops either?
They’ll start drinkshops again all right. Can’t get along without them, you know. (A prolonged pause) Ye-es. What are you thinking about, Savva Yegorovich?
Nothing. (Draws a light breath, cheerfully) Well, Kondraty, shall we begin?
KONDRATY (swaying his head to and fro)
It’s a mighty hard problem you have put up to me. It’s a poser.
Never mind, don’t get shaky now. You are a sensible man; you know it can’t be helped; there is nothing else to do. Would I be doing it myself, if it were not necessary? You can see that, can’t you?
KONDRATY (heaving a sigh)
Ye-es, hm! Why, Mr. Tropinin—why, my dear fellow—don’t I know, don’t I understand it all? It’s a rotten, cursed life! Ah, Mr. Savva, Mr. Savva—look here. If I were to tell anyone that I am a good man, they’d laugh and say: “What are you lying for, you drunkard?” Kondraty a good man! It sounds like a joke even to myself. And yet I swear to you, by God, I am a good man! I don’t know how it happened the way it did, why I am what I am now. I lived and lived, and suddenly! How it came about, what the reason of it is, I don’t know.
And you are still afraid?
What am I now? I am neither a candle for God nor a poker for the devil. Sometimes when I think matters over—ah, Mr. Savva, do you think I have no conscience? Don’t I understand? I understand everything but—I am not really afraid of the devil either. I am just playing the fool. The devil—nonsense! If you were in the place of us in there, you would understand. Not long ago, when I was drunk, I cried: “Get out, devil—out of my way—am a desperate man!” I don’t care for anything. I don’t care if I die. I am ready. You have worked at me, Mr. Savva, until I have grown quite soft. (Wipes his eyes with his sleeves)
Why should you die? I don’t want to die either. We are going to live for some time to come, we are. How old are you?
Just the right age.