But that was not all. When the guests, replete and satisfied, trooped into the hall, looking for their coats and sticks, there bustled about them the footman Pavlusha, or, as he was called in the family, Pava—a lad of fourteen with shaven head and chubby cheeks.
“Come, Pava, perform!” Ivan Petrovitch said to him.
Pava struck an attitude, flung up his arm, and said in a tragic tone: “Unhappy woman, die!”
And every one roared with laughter.
“It’s entertaining,” thought Startsev, as he went out into the street.
He went to a restaurant and drank some beer, then set off to walk home to Dyalizh; he walked all the way singing:
“‘Thy voice to me so languid and caressing. . . .’”
On going to bed, he felt not the slightest fatigue after the six miles’ walk. On the contrary, he felt as though he could with pleasure have walked another twenty.
“Not badsome,” he thought, and laughed as he fell asleep.
Startsev kept meaning to go to the Turkins’ again, but there was a great deal of work in the hospital, and he was unable to find free time. In this way more than a year passed in work and solitude. But one day a letter in a light blue envelope was brought him from the town.
Vera Iosifovna had been suffering for some time from migraine, but now since Kitten frightened her every day by saying that she was going away to the Conservatoire, the attacks began to be more frequent. All the doctors of the town had been at the Turkins’; at last it was the district doctor’s turn. Vera Iosifovna wrote him a touching letter in which she begged him to come and relieve her sufferings. Startsev went, and after that he began to be often, very often at the Turkins’. . . . He really did something for Vera Iosifovna, and she was already telling all her visitors that he was a wonderful and exceptional doctor. But it was not for the sake of her migraine that he visited the Turkins’ now. . . .
It was a holiday. Ekaterina Ivanovna finished her long, wearisome exercises on the piano. Then they sat a long time in the dining-room, drinking tea, and Ivan Petrovitch told some amusing story. Then there was a ring and he had to go into the hall to welcome a guest; Startsev took advantage of the momentary commotion, and whispered to Ekaterina Ivanovna in great agitation:
“For God’s sake, I entreat you, don’t torment me; let us go into the garden!”
She shrugged her shoulders, as though perplexed and not knowing what he wanted of her, but she got up and went.
“You play the piano for three or four hours,” he said, following her; “then you sit with your mother, and there is no possibility of speaking to you. Give me a quarter of an hour at least, I beseech you.”
Autumn was approaching, and it was quiet and melancholy in the old garden; the dark leaves lay thick in the walks. It was already beginning to get dark early.