The doctor said that Fyodor’s mind was affected. Laptev did not know what to do in his father’s house, while the dark warehouse in which neither his father nor Fyodor ever appeared now seemed to him like a sepulchre. When his wife told him that he absolutely must go every day to the warehouse and also to his father’s, he either said nothing, or began talking irritably of his childhood, saying that it was beyond his power to forgive his father for his past, that the warehouse and the house in Pyatnitsky Street were hateful to him, and so on.
One Sunday morning Yulia went herself to Pyatnitsky Street. She found old Fyodor Stepanovitch in the same big drawing-room in which the service had been held on her first arrival. Wearing slippers, and without a cravat, he was sitting motionless in his arm-chair, blinking with his sightless eyes.
“It’s I—your daughter-in-law,” she said, going up to him. “I’ve come to see how you are.”
He began breathing heavily with excitement.
Touched by his affliction and his loneliness, she kissed his hand; and he passed his hand over her face and head, and having satisfied himself that it was she, made the sign of the cross over her.
“Thank you, thank you,” he said. “You know I’ve lost my eyes and can see nothing. . . . I can dimly see the window and the fire, but people and things I cannot see at all. Yes, I’m going blind, and Fyodor has fallen ill, and without the master’s eye things are in a bad way now. If there is any irregularity there’s no one to look into it; and folks soon get spoiled. And why is it Fyodor has fallen ill? Did he catch cold? Here I have never ailed in my life and never taken medicine. I never saw anything of doctors.”
And, as he always did, the old man began boasting. Meanwhile the servants hurriedly laid the table and brought in lunch and bottles of wine.
Ten bottles were put on the table; one of them was in the shape of the Eiffel Tower. There was a whole dish of hot pies smelling of jam, rice, and fish.
“I beg my dear guest to have lunch,” said the old man.
She took him by the arm, led him to the table, and poured him out a glass of vodka.
“I will come to you again to-morrow,” she said, “and I’ll bring your grandchildren, Sasha and Lida. They will be sorry for you, and fondle you.”
“There’s no need. Don’t bring them. They are illegitimate.”
“Why are they illegitimate? Why, their father and mother were married.”
“Without my permission. I do not bless them, and I don’t want to know them. Let them be.”
“You speak strangely, Fyodor Stepanovitch,” said Yulia, with a sigh.
“It is written in the Gospel: children must fear and honour their parents.”
“Nothing of the sort. The Gospel tells us that we must forgive even our enemies.”