Samoylenko blinked and turned crimson; he mechanically drew towards him the book with the spider on it and looked at it, then he got up and took his hat.
Von Koren felt sorry for him.
“What it is to have to live and do with people like this,” said the zoologist, and he kicked a paper into the corner with indignation. “You must understand that this is not kindness, it is not love, but cowardice, slackness, poison! What’s gained by reason is lost by your flabby good-for-nothing hearts! When I was ill with typhoid as a schoolboy, my aunt in her sympathy gave me pickled mushrooms to eat, and I very nearly died. You, and my aunt too, must understand that love for man is not to be found in the heart or the stomach or the bowels, but here!”
Von Koren slapped himself on the forehead.
“Take it,” he said, and thrust a hundred-rouble note into his hand.
“You’ve no need to be angry, Kolya,” said Samoylenko mildly, folding up the note. “I quite understand you, but . . . you must put yourself in my place.”
“You are an old woman, that’s what you are.”
The deacon burst out laughing.
“Hear my last request, Alexandr Daviditch,” said Von Koren hotly. “When you give that scoundrel the money, make it a condition that he takes his lady with him, or sends her on ahead, and don’t give it him without. There’s no need to stand on ceremony with him. Tell him so, or, if you don’t, I give you my word I’ll go to his office and kick him downstairs, and I’ll break off all acquaintance with you. So you’d better know it.”
“Well! To go with her or send her on beforehand will be more convenient for him,” said Samoylenko. “He’ll be delighted indeed. Well, goodbye.”
He said good-bye affectionately and went out, but before shutting the door after him, he looked round at Von Koren and, with a ferocious face, said:
“It’s the Germans who have ruined you, brother! Yes! The Germans!”
Next day, Thursday, Marya Konstantinovna was celebrating the birthday of her Kostya. All were invited to come at midday and eat pies, and in the evening to drink chocolate. When Laevsky and Nadyezhda Fyodorovna arrived in the evening, the zoologist, who was already sitting in the drawing-room, drinking chocolate, asked Samoylenko:
“Have you talked to him?”
“Mind now, don’t stand on ceremony. I can’t understand the insolence of these people! Why, they know perfectly well the view taken by this family of their cohabitation, and yet they force themselves in here.”
“If one is to pay attention to every prejudice,” said Samoylenko, “one could go nowhere.”
“Do you mean to say that the repugnance felt by the masses for illicit love and moral laxity is a prejudice?”
“Of course it is. It’s prejudice and hate. When the soldiers see a girl of light behaviour, they laugh and whistle; but just ask them what they are themselves.”