His landlady, the widow, was out. She had gone off somewhere to hire horses and carts to move next day to town. Profiting by the absence of her severe mamma, her daughter Katya, aged twenty, had for a long time been sitting in the young man’s room. Next day the painter was going away, and she had a great deal to say to him. She kept talking, talking, and yet she felt that she had not said a tenth of what she wanted to say. With her eyes full of tears, she gazed at his shaggy head, gazed at it with rapture and sadness. And Yegor Savvitch was shaggy to a hideous extent, so that he looked like a wild animal. His hair hung down to his shoulder-blades, his beard grew from his neck, from his nostrils, from his ears; his eyes were lost under his thick overhanging brows. It was all so thick, so matted, that if a fly or a beetle had been caught in his hair, it would never have found its way out of this enchanted thicket. Yegor Savvitch listened to Katya, yawning. He was tired. When Katya began whimpering, he looked severely at her from his overhanging eyebrows, frowned, and said in a heavy, deep bass:
“I cannot marry.”
“Why not?” Katya asked softly.
“Because for a painter, and in fact any man who lives for art, marriage is out of the question. An artist must be free.”
“But in what way should I hinder you, Yegor Savvitch?”
“I am not speaking of myself, I am speaking in general. . . . Famous authors and painters have never married.”
“And you, too, will be famous—I understand that perfectly. But put yourself in my place. I am afraid of my mother. She is stern and irritable. When she knows that you won’t marry me, and that it’s all nothing . . . she’ll begin to give it to me. Oh, how wretched I am! And you haven’t paid for your rooms, either! . . . .”
“Damn her! I’ll pay.”
Yegor Savvitch got up and began walking to and fro.
“I ought to be abroad!” he said. And the artist told her that nothing was easier than to go abroad. One need do nothing but paint a picture and sell it.
“Of course!” Katya assented. “Why haven’t you painted one in the summer?”
“Do you suppose I can work in a barn like this?” the artist said ill-humouredly. “And where should I get models?”
Some one banged the door viciously in the storey below. Katya, who was expecting her mother’s return from minute to minute, jumped up and ran away. The artist was left alone. For a long time he walked to and fro, threading his way between the chairs and the piles of untidy objects of all sorts. He heard the widow rattling the crockery and loudly abusing the peasants who had asked her two roubles for each cart. In his disgust Yegor Savvitch stopped before the cupboard and stared for a long while, frowning at the decanter of vodka.
“Ah, blast you!” he heard the widow railing at Katya. “Damnation take you!”