“Papa, a monument, look!”
Zhmyhov burst out laughing, lurched forward, and, looking tenderly at the child, gave him a warm kiss on the cheek.
“There, you rogue, go and show mamma; let mamma look too.”
“HERE goes, I’ve done with drinking! Nothing. . . n-o-thing shall tempt me to it. It’s time to take myself in hand; I must buck up and work. . . You’re glad to get your salary, so you must do your work honestly, heartily, conscientiously, regardless of sleep and comfort. Chuck taking it easy. You’ve got into the way of taking a salary for nothing, my boy—that’s not the right thing . . . not the right thing at all. . . .”
After administering to himself several such lectures Podtyagin, the head ticket collector, begins to feel an irresistible impulse to get to work. It is past one o’clock at night, but in spite of that he wakes the ticket collectors and with them goes up and down the railway carriages, inspecting the tickets.
“T-t-t-ickets . . . P-p-p-please!” he keeps shouting, briskly snapping the clippers.
Sleepy figures, shrouded in the twilight of the railway carriages, start, shake their heads, and produce their tickets.
“T-t-t-tickets, please!” Podtyagin addresses a second-class passenger, a lean, scraggy-looking man, wrapped up in a fur coat and a rug and surrounded with pillows. “Tickets, please!”
The scraggy-looking man makes no reply. He is buried in sleep. The head ticket-collector touches him on the shoulder and repeats impatiently: “T-t-tickets, p-p-please!”
The passenger starts, opens his eyes, and gazes in alarm at Podtyagin.
“What? . . . Who? . . . Eh?”
“You’re asked in plain language: t-t-tickets, p-p-please! If you please!”
“My God!” moans the scraggy-looking man, pulling a woebegone face. “Good Heavens! I’m suffering from rheumatism. . . . I haven’t slept for three nights! I’ve just taken morphia on purpose to get to sleep, and you . . . with your tickets! It’s merciless, it’s inhuman! If you knew how hard it is for me to sleep you wouldn’t disturb me for such nonsense. . . . It’s cruel, it’s absurd! And what do you want with my ticket! It’s positively stupid!”
Podtyagin considers whether to take offence or not—and decides to take offence.
“Don’t shout here! This is not a tavern!”
“No, in a tavern people are more humane. . .” coughs the passenger. “Perhaps you’ll let me go to sleep another time! It’s extraordinary: I’ve travelled abroad, all over the place, and no one asked for my ticket there, but here you’re at it again and again, as though the devil were after you. . . .”
“Well, you’d better go abroad again since you like it so much.”
“It’s stupid, sir! Yes! As though it’s not enough killing the passengers with fumes and stuffiness and draughts, they want to strangle us with red tape, too, damn it all! He must have the ticket! My goodness, what zeal! If it were of any use to the company—but half the passengers are travelling without a ticket!”