And the Turkins? Ivan Petrovitch has grown no older; he is not changed in the least, and still makes jokes and tells anecdotes as of old. Vera Iosifovna still reads her novels aloud to her visitors with eagerness and touching simplicity. And Kitten plays the piano for four hours every day. She has grown visibly older, is constantly ailing, and every autumn goes to the Crimea with her mother. When Ivan Petrovitch sees them off at the station, he wipes his tears as the train starts, and shouts:
“Good-bye, if you please.”
And he waves his handkerchief.
THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY
IT is, as a rule, after losing heavily at cards or after a drinking-bout when an attack of dyspepsia is setting in that Stepan Stepanitch Zhilin wakes up in an exceptionally gloomy frame of mind. He looks sour, rumpled, and dishevelled; there is an expression of displeasure on his grey face, as though he were offended or disgusted by something. He dresses slowly, sips his Vichy water deliberately, and begins walking about the rooms.
“I should like to know what b-b-beast comes in here and does not shut the door!” he grumbles angrily, wrapping his dressing-gown about him and spitting loudly. “Take away that paper! Why is it lying about here? We keep twenty servants, and the place is more untidy than a pot-house. Who was that ringing? Who the devil is that?”
“That’s Anfissa, the midwife who brought our Fedya into the world,” answers his wife.
“Always hanging about . . . these cadging toadies!”
“There’s no making you out, Stepan Stepanitch. You asked her yourself, and now you scold.”
“I am not scolding; I am speaking. You might find something to do, my dear, instead of sitting with your hands in your lap trying to pick a quarrel. Upon my word, women are beyond my comprehension! Beyond my comprehension! How can they waste whole days doing nothing? A man works like an ox, like a b-beast, while his wife, the partner of his life, sits like a pretty doll, sits and does nothing but watch for an opportunity to quarrel with her husband by way of diversion. It’s time to drop these schoolgirlish ways, my dear. You are not a schoolgirl, not a young lady; you are a wife and mother! You turn away? Aha! It’s not agreeable to listen to the bitter truth!
“It’s strange that you only speak the bitter truth when your liver is out of order.”
“That’s right; get up a scene.”
“Have you been out late? Or playing cards?”
“What if I have? Is that anybody’s business? Am I obliged to give an account of my doings to any one? It’s my own money I lose, I suppose? What I spend as well as what is spent in this house belongs to me—me. Do you hear? To me!”
And so on, all in the same style. But at no other time is Stepan Stepanitch so reasonable, virtuous, stern or just as at dinner, when all his household are sitting about him. It usually begins with the soup. After swallowing the first spoonful Zhilin suddenly frowns and puts down his spoon.