We had never had cooking done at home nor kept horses, because, as he said, “he did not like disorder about him,” and only put up with having Polya and me in his flat from necessity. The so-called domestic hearth with its everyday joys and its petty cares offended his taste as vulgarity; to be with child, or to have children and talk about them, was bad form, like a petty bourgeois. And I began to feel very curious to see how these two creatures would get on together in one flat—she, domestic and home-loving with her copper saucepans and her dreams of a good cook and horses; and he, fond of saying to his friends that a decent and orderly man’s flat ought, like a warship, to have nothing in it superfluous—no women, no children, no rags, no kitchen utensils.
Then I will tell you what happened the following Thursday. That day Zinaida Fyodorovna dined at Content’s or Donon’s. Orlov returned home alone, and Zinaida Fyodorovna, as I learnt afterwards, went to the Petersburg Side to spend with her old governess the time visitors were with us. Orlov did not care to show her to his friends. I realised that at breakfast, when he began assuring her that for the sake of her peace of mind it was essential to give up his Thursday evenings.
As usual the visitors arrived at almost the same time.
“Is your mistress at home, too?” Kukushkin asked me in a whisper.
“No, sir,” I answered.
He went in with a sly, oily look in his eyes, smiling mysteriously, rubbing his hands, which were cold from the frost.
“I have the honour to congratulate you,” he said to Orlov, shaking all over with ingratiating, obsequious laughter. “May you increase and multiply like the cedars of Lebanon.”
The visitors went into the bedroom, and were extremely jocose on the subject of a pair of feminine slippers, the rug that had been put down between the two beds, and a grey dressing-jacket that hung at the foot of the bedstead. They were amused that the obstinate man who despised all the common place details of love had been caught in feminine snares in such a simple and ordinary way.
“He who pointed the finger of scorn is bowing the knee in homage,” Kukushkin repeated several times. He had, I may say in parenthesis, an unpleasant habit of adorning his conversation with texts in Church Slavonic. “Sh-sh!” he said as they went from the bedroom into the room next to the study. “Sh-sh! Here Gretchen is dreaming of her Faust.”
He went off into a peal of laughter as though he had said something very amusing. I watched Gruzin, expecting that his musical soul would not endure this laughter, but I was mistaken. His thin, good-natured face beamed with pleasure. When they sat down to play cards, he, lisping and choking with laughter, said that all that “dear George” wanted to complete his domestic felicity was a cherry-wood pipe and a guitar. Pekarsky laughed sedately, but from his serious expression one could see that Orlov’s new love affair was distasteful to him. He did not understand what had happened exactly.