The artist drank a glass of vodka, and the dark cloud in his soul gradually disappeared, and he felt as though all his inside was smiling within him. He began dreaming. . . . His fancy pictured how he would become great. He could not imagine his future works but he could see distinctly how the papers would talk of him, how the shops would sell his photographs, with what envy his friends would look after him. He tried to picture himself in a magnificent drawing-room surrounded by pretty and adoring women; but the picture was misty, vague, as he had never in his life seen a drawing-room. The pretty and adoring women were not a success either, for, except Katya, he knew no adoring woman, not even one respectable girl. People who know nothing about life usually picture life from books, but Yegor Savvitch knew no books either. He had tried to read Gogol, but had fallen asleep on the second page.
“It won’t burn, drat the thing!” the widow bawled down below, as she set the samovar. “Katya, give me some charcoal!”
The dreamy artist felt a longing to share his hopes and dreams with some one. He went downstairs into the kitchen, where the stout widow and Katya were busy about a dirty stove in the midst of charcoal fumes from the samovar. There he sat down on a bench close to a big pot and began:
“It’s a fine thing to be an artist! I can go just where I like, do what I like. One has not to work in an office or in the fields. I’ve no superiors or officers over me. . . . I’m my own superior. And with all that I’m doing good to humanity!”
And after dinner he composed himself for a “rest.” He usually slept till the twilight of evening. But this time soon after dinner he felt that some one was pulling at his leg. Some one kept laughing and shouting his name. He opened his eyes and saw his friend Ukleikin, the landscape painter, who had been away all the summer in the Kostroma district.
“Bah!” he cried, delighted. “What do I see?”
There followed handshakes, questions.
“Well, have you brought anything? I suppose you’ve knocked off hundreds of sketches?” said Yegor Savvitch, watching Ukleikin taking his belongings out of his trunk.
“H’m! . . . Yes. I have done something. And how are you getting on? Have you been painting anything?”
Yegor Savvitch dived behind the bed, and crimson in the face, extracted a canvas in a frame covered with dust and spider webs.
“See here. . . . A girl at the window after parting from her betrothed. In three sittings. Not nearly finished yet.”
The picture represented Katya faintly outlined sitting at an open window, from which could be seen a garden and lilac distance. Ukleikin did not like the picture.
“H’m! . . . There is air and . . . and there is expression,” he said. “There’s a feeling of distance, but . . . but that bush is screaming . . . screaming horribly!”