On reaching home he lay down on his sofa and put the quilt over him to stop his shivering. The cardboard hat-boxes, the wicker baskets, and the other rubbish, reminded him that he had not a room of his own, that he had no refuge in which he could get away from his mother, from her visitors, and from the voices that were floating up from the “general room.” The satchel and the books lying about in the corners reminded him of the examination he had missed. . . . For some reason there came into his mind, quite inappropriately, Mentone, where he had lived with his father when he was seven years old; he thought of Biarritz and two little English girls with whom he ran about on the sand. . . . He tried to recall to his memory the colour of the sky, the sea, the height of the waves, and his mood at the time, but he could not succeed. The English girls flitted before his imagination as though they were living; all the rest was a medley of images that floated away in confusion. . . .
“No; it’s cold here,” thought Volodya. He got up, put on his overcoat, and went into the “general room.”
There they were drinking tea. There were three people at the samovar: maman; an old lady with tortoiseshell pince-nez, who gave music lessons; and Avgustin Mihalitch, an elderly and very stout Frenchman, who was employed at a perfumery factory.
“I have had no dinner to-day,” said maman. “I ought to send the maid to buy some bread.”
“Dunyasha!” shouted the Frenchman.
It appeared that the maid had been sent out somewhere by the lady of the house.
“Oh, that’s of no consequence,” said the Frenchman, with a broad smile. “I will go for some bread myself at once. Oh, it’s nothing.”
He laid his strong, pungent cigar in a conspicuous place, put on his hat and went out. After he had gone away maman began telling the music teacher how she had been staying at the Shumihins’, and how warmly they welcomed her.
“Lili Shumihin is a relation of mine, you know,” she said. “Her late husband, General Shumihin, was a cousin of my husband. And she was a Baroness Kolb by birth. . . .”
“Maman, that’s false!” said Volodya irritably. “Why tell lies?”
He knew perfectly well that what his mother said was true; in what she was saying about General Shumihin and about Baroness Kolb there was not a word of lying, but nevertheless he felt that she was lying. There was a suggestion of falsehood in her manner of speaking, in the expression of her face, in her eyes, in everything.
“You are lying,” repeated Volodya; and he brought his fist down on the table with such force that all the crockery shook and maman’s tea was spilt over. “Why do you talk about generals and baronesses? It’s all lies!”
The music teacher was disconcerted, and coughed into her handkerchief, affecting to sneeze, and maman began to cry.