“Don’t say anything to her,” said Pekarsky, “but simply take a separate flat for her, that’s all.”
“That’s easy to say.”
There was a brief silence.
“But she is charming,” said Kukushkin. “She is exquisite. Such women imagine that they will be in love for ever, and abandon themselves with tragic intensity.”
“But one must keep a head on one’s shoulders,” said Orlov; “one must be reasonable. All experience gained from everyday life and handed down in innumerable novels and plays, uniformly confirms the fact that adultery and cohabitation of any sort between decent people never lasts longer than two or at most three years, however great the love may have been at the beginning. That she ought to know. And so all this business of moving, of saucepans, hopes of eternal love and harmony, are nothing but a desire to delude herself and me. She is charming and exquisite—who denies it? But she has turned my life upside down; what I have regarded as trivial and nonsensical till now she has forced me to raise to the level of a serious problem; I serve an idol whom I have never looked upon as God. She is charming—exquisite, but for some reason now when I am going home, I feel uneasy, as though I expected to meet with something inconvenient at home, such as workmen pulling the stove to pieces and blocking up the place with heaps of bricks. In fact, I am no longer giving up to love a sous, but part of my peace of mind and my nerves. And that’s bad.”
“And she doesn’t hear this villain!” sighed Kukushkin. “My dear sir,” he said theatrically, “I will relieve you from the burdensome obligation to love that adorable creature! I will wrest Zinaida Fyodorovna from you!”
“You may . . .” said Orlov carelessly.
For half a minute Kukushkin laughed a shrill little laugh, shaking all over, then he said:
“Look out; I am in earnest! Don’t you play the Othello afterwards!”
They all began talking of Kukushkin’s indefatigable energy in love affairs, how irresistible he was to women, and what a danger he was to husbands; and how the devil would roast him in the other world for his immorality in this. He screwed up his eyes and remained silent, and when the names of ladies of their acquaintance were mentioned, he held up his little finger—as though to say they mustn’t give away other people’s secrets.
Orlov suddenly looked at his watch.
His friends understood, and began to take their leave. I remember that Gruzin, who was a little drunk, was wearisomely long in getting off. He put on his coat, which was cut like children’s coats in poor families, pulled up the collar, and began telling some long-winded story; then, seeing he was not listened to, he flung the rug that smelt of the nursery over one shoulder, and with a guilty and imploring face begged me to find his hat.
“George, my angel,” he said tenderly. “Do as I ask you, dear boy; come out of town with us!”