“Is it you?” she said, clutching his hand. “What a surprise!”
“Here she is!” smiled Kryukov, putting his arm round her waist. “Well! Does the destiny of Europe still lie in the hands of the French and the Russians?”
“I’m so glad,” laughed the Jewess, cautiously removing his arm. “Come, go into the hall; they’re all friends there. . . . I’ll go and tell them to bring you some tea. Your name’s Alexey, isn’t it? Well, go in, I’ll come directly. . . .”
She blew him a kiss and ran out of the entry, leaving behind her the same sickly smell of jasmine. Kryukov raised his head and walked into the hall. He was on terms of friendly intimacy with all the men in the room, but scarcely nodded to them; they, too, scarcely responded, as though the places in which they met were not quite decent, and as though they were in tacit agreement with one another that it was more suitable for them not to recognise one another.
From the hall Kryukov walked into the drawing-room, and from it into a second drawing-room. On the way he met three or four other guests, also men whom he knew, though they barely recognised him. Their faces were flushed with drink and merriment. Alexey Ivanovitch glanced furtively at them and marvelled that these men, respectable heads of families, who had known sorrow and privation, could demean themselves to such pitiful, cheap gaiety! He shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and walked on.
“There are places,” he reflected, “where a sober man feels sick, and a drunken man rejoices. I remember I never could go to the operetta or the gipsies when I was sober: wine makes a man more good-natured and reconciles him with vice. . . .”
Suddenly he stood still, petrified, and caught hold of the door-post with both hands. At the writing-table in Susanna’s study was sitting Lieutenant Alexandr Grigoryevitch. He was discussing something in an undertone with a fat, flabby-looking Jew, and seeing his cousin, flushed crimson and looked down at an album.
The sense of decency was stirred in Kryukov and the blood rushed to his head. Overwhelmed with amazement, shame, and anger, he walked up to the table without a word. Sokolsky’s head sank lower than ever. His face worked with an expression of agonising shame.
“Ah, it’s you, Alyosha!” he articulated, making a desperate effort to raise his eyes and to smile. “I called here to say good-bye, and, as you see. . . . But to-morrow I am certainly going.”
“What can I say to him? What?” thought Alexey Ivanovitch. “How can I judge him since I’m here myself?”
And clearing his throat without uttering a word, he went out slowly.
“‘Call her not heavenly, and leave her on earth. . . .’”
The bass was singing in the hall. A little while after, Kryukov’s racing droshky was bumping along the dusty road.