She inspected the boys’ quarters, and then the kitchen, made acquaintance with the housekeeper, and was thoroughly dissatisfied.
When she got home she said to her husband:
“We ought to move into your father’s house and settle there for good as soon as possible. And you will go every day to the warehouse.”
Then they both sat side by side in the study without speaking. His heart was heavy, and he did not want to move into Pyatnitsky Street or to go into the warehouse; but he guessed what his wife was thinking, and could not oppose her. He stroked her cheek and said:
“I feel as though our life is already over, and that a grey half-life is beginning for us. When I knew that my brother Fyodor was hopelessly ill, I shed tears; we spent our childhood and youth together, when I loved him with my whole soul. And now this catastrophe has come, and it seems, too, as though, losing him, I am finally cut away from my past. And when you said just now that we must move into the house in Pyatnitsky Street, to that prison, it began to seem to me that there was no future for me either.”
He got up and walked to the window.
“However that may be, one has to give up all thoughts of happiness,” he said, looking out into the street. “There is none. I never have had any, and I suppose it doesn’t exist at all. I was happy once in my life, though, when I sat at night under your parasol. Do you remember how you left your parasol at Nina’s?” he asked, turning to his wife. “I was in love with you then, and I remember I spent all night sitting under your parasol, and was perfectly blissful.”
Near the book-case in the study stood a mahogany chest with bronze fittings where Laptev kept various useless things, including the parasol. He took it out and handed it to his wife.
“Here it is.”
Yulia looked for a minute at the parasol, recognised it, and smiled mournfully.
“I remember,” she said. “When you proposed to me you held it in your hand.” And seeing that he was preparing to go out, she said: “Please come back early if you can. I am dull without you.”
And then she went into her own room, and gazed for a long time at the parasol.
In spite of the complexity of the business and the immense turnover, there were no bookkeepers in the warehouse, and it was impossible to make anything out of the books kept by the cashier in the office. Every day the warehouse was visited by agents, German and English, with whom the clerks talked politics and religion. A man of noble birth, ruined by drink, an ailing, pitiable creature, used to come to translate the foreign correspondence in the office; the clerks used to call him a midge, and put salt in his tea. And altogether the whole concern struck Laptev as a very queer business.