“We must think about it,” he said in a hollow voice, standing with his back to me. “I shall go to Pekarsky’s to-day and will ask him to go to Krasnovsky’s. I don’t think he will make much ado about consenting to take the child.”
“But, excuse me, I don’t see what Krasnovsky has got to do with it,” I said, also getting up and walking to a picture at the other end of the room.
“But she bears his name, of course!” said Orlov.
“Yes, he may be legally obliged to accept the child—I don’t know; but I came to you, Georgy Ivanitch, not to discuss the legal aspect.”
“Yes, yes, you are right,” he agreed briskly. “I believe I am talking nonsense. But don’t excite yourself. We will decide the matter to our mutual satisfaction. If one thing won’t do, we’ll try another; and if that won’t do, we’ll try a third—one way or another this delicate question shall be settled. Pekarsky will arrange it all. Be so good as to leave me your address and I will let you know at once what we decide. Where are you living?”
Orlov wrote down my address, sighed, and said with a smile:
“Oh, Lord, what a job it is to be the father of a little daughter! But Pekarsky will arrange it all. He is a sensible man. Did you stay long in Paris?”
We were silent. Orlov was evidently afraid I should begin talking of the child again, and to turn my attention in another direction, said:
“You have probably forgotten your letter by now. But I have kept it. I understand your mood at the time, and, I must own, I respect that letter. ‘Damnable cold blood,’ ‘Asiatic,’ ’coarse laugh’— that was charming and characteristic,” he went on with an ironical smile. “And the fundamental thought is perhaps near the truth, though one might dispute the question endlessly. That is,” he hesitated, “not dispute the thought itself, but your attitude to the question—your temperament, so to say. Yes, my life is abnormal, corrupted, of no use to any one, and what prevents me from beginning a new life is cowardice—there you are quite right. But that you take it so much to heart, are troubled, and reduced to despair by it—that’s irrational; there you are quite wrong.”
“A living man cannot help being troubled and reduced to despair when he sees that he himself is going to ruin and others are going to ruin round him.”
“Who doubts it! I am not advocating indifference; all I ask for is an objective attitude to life. The more objective, the less danger of falling into error. One must look into the root of things, and try to see in every phenomenon a cause of all the other causes. We have grown feeble, slack—degraded, in fact. Our generation is entirely composed of neurasthenics and whimperers; we do nothing but talk of fatigue and exhaustion. But the fault is neither yours nor mine; we are of too little consequence to affect the destiny of a whole generation.