“There really is a disagreeable smell,” she said, raising her eyebrows. “What can it be from? Stepan, open the pane in the drawing-room, and light the fire.”
With much bustle and many exclamations, she went through all the rooms, rustling her skirts and squeezing the sprayer with a hissing sound. And Orlov was still out of humour; he was obviously restraining himself not to vent his ill-temper aloud. He was sitting at the table and rapidly writing a letter. After writing a few lines he snorted angrily and tore it up, then he began writing again.
“Damn them all!” he muttered. “They expect me to have an abnormal memory!”
At last the letter was written; he got up from the table and said, turning to me:
“Go to Znamensky Street and deliver this letter to Zinaida Fyodorovna Krasnovsky in person. But first ask the porter whether her husband —that is, Mr. Krasnovsky—has returned yet. If he has returned, don’t deliver the letter, but come back. Wait a minute! . . . If she asks whether I have any one here, tell her that there have been two gentlemen here since eight o’clock, writing something.”
I drove to Znamensky Street. The porter told me that Mr. Krasnovsky had not yet come in, and I made my way up to the third storey. The door was opened by a tall, stout, drab-coloured flunkey with black whiskers, who in a sleepy, churlish, and apathetic voice, such as only flunkeys use in addressing other flunkeys, asked me what I wanted. Before I had time to answer, a lady dressed in black came hurriedly into the hall. She screwed up her eyes and looked at me.
“Is Zinaida Fyodorovna at home?” I asked.
“That is me,” said the lady.
“A letter from Georgy Ivanitch.”
She tore the letter open impatiently, and holding it in both hands, so that I saw her sparkling diamond rings, she began reading. I made out a pale face with soft lines, a prominent chin, and long dark lashes. From her appearance I should not have judged the lady to be more than five and twenty.
“Give him my thanks and my greetings,” she said when she had finished the letter. “Is there any one with Georgy Ivanitch?” she asked softly, joyfully, and as though ashamed of her mistrust.
“Two gentlemen,” I answered. “They’re writing something.”
“Give him my greetings and thanks,” she repeated, bending her head sideways, and, reading the letter as she walked, she went noiselessly out. I saw few women at that time, and this lady of whom I had a passing glimpse made an impression on me. As I walked home I recalled her face and the delicate fragrance about her, and fell to dreaming. By the time I got home Orlov had gone out.