He sleeps till twelve or one o’clock in the day, sleeps a sound, healthy sleep. . . . Ah! how he would sleep, what dreams he would have, how he would spread himself if he were to become a well-known writer, an editor, or even a sub-editor!
“He has been writing all night,” whispers his wife with a scared expression on her face. “Sh!”
No one dares to speak or move or make a sound. His sleep is something sacred, and the culprit who offends against it will pay dearly for his fault.
“Hush!” floats over the flat. “Hush!”
“LET me tell you, my good man,” began Madame Nashatyrin, the colonel’s lady at No. 47, crimson and spluttering, as she pounced on the hotel-keeper. “Either give me other apartments, or I shall leave your confounded hotel altogether! It’s a sink of iniquity! Mercy on us, I have grown-up daughters and one hears nothing but abominations day and night! It’s beyond everything! Day and night! Sometimes he fires off such things that it simply makes one’s ears blush! Positively like a cabman. It’s a good thing that my poor girls don’t understand or I should have to fly out into the street with them. . . He’s saying something now! You listen!”
“I know a thing better than that, my boy,” a husky bass floated in from the next room. “Do you remember Lieutenant Druzhkov? Well, that same Druzhkov was one day making a drive with the yellow into the pocket and as he usually did, you know, flung up his leg. . . . All at once something went crrr-ack! At first they thought he had torn the cloth of the billiard table, but when they looked, my dear fellow, his United States had split at every seam! He had made such a high kick, the beast, that not a seam was left. . . . Ha-ha-ha, and there were ladies present, too . . . among others the wife of that drivelling Lieutenant Okurin. . . . Okurin was furious. . . . ‘How dare the fellow,’ said he, ’behave with impropriety in the presence of my wife?’ One thing led to another . . . you know our fellows! . . . Okurin sent seconds to Druzhkov, and Druzhkov said ‘don’t be a fool’ . . . ha-ha-ha, ’but tell him he had better send seconds not to me but to the tailor who made me those breeches; it is his fault, you know.’ Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha. . . .”
Lilya and Mila, the colonel’s daughters, who were sitting in the window with their round cheeks propped on their fists, flushed crimson and dropped their eyes that looked buried in their plump faces.
“Now you have heard him, haven’t you?” Madame Nashatyrin went on, addressing the hotel-keeper. “And that, you consider, of no consequence, I suppose? I am the wife of a colonel, sir! My husband is a commanding officer. I will not permit some cabman to utter such infamies almost in my presence!”
“He is not a cabman, madam, but the staff-captain Kikin. . . . A gentleman born.”
“If he has so far forgotten his station as to express himself like a cabman, then he is even more deserving of contempt! In short, don’t answer me, but kindly take steps!”