I agreed to this, and Zourine called for punch; then he advised me to taste it, always repeating that I must get accustomed to the service.
“And what,” said he, “would the service be without punch?”
I followed his advice. We continued playing, and the more I sipped my glass, the bolder I became. My balls flew beyond the cushions. I got angry; I was impertinent to the marker who scored for us. I raised the stake; in short, I behaved like a little boy just set free from school. Thus the time passed very quickly. At last Zourine glanced at the clock, put down his cue, and told me I had lost a hundred roubles. This disconcerted me very much; my money was in the hands of Saveliitch. I was beginning to mumble excuses, when Zourine said—
“But don’t trouble yourself; I can wait, and now let us go to Arinushka’s.”
What could you expect? I finished my day as foolishly as I had begun it. We supped with this Arinushka. Zourine always filled up my glass, repeating that I must get accustomed to the service.
Upon leaving the table I could scarcely stand. At midnight Zourine took me back to the inn.
Saveliitch came to meet us at the door.
“What has befallen you?” he said to me in a melancholy voice, when he saw the undoubted signs of my zeal for the service. “Where did you thus swill yourself? Oh! good heavens! such a misfortune never happened before.”
“Hold your tongue, old owl,” I replied, stammering; “I am sure you are drunk. Go to bed, ... but first help me to bed.”
The next day I awoke with a bad headache. I only remembered confusedly the occurrences of the past evening. My meditations were broken by Saveliitch, who came into my room with a cup of tea.
“You begin early making free, Petr’ Andrejitch,” he said to me, shaking his head. “Well, where do you get it from? It seems to me that neither your father nor your grandfather were drunkards. We needn’t talk of your mother; she has never touched a drop of anything since she was born, except ’kvass.’ So whose fault is it? Whose but the confounded ‘moussie;’ he taught you fine things, that son of a dog, and well worth the trouble of taking a Pagan for your servant, as if our master had not had enough servants of his own!”
I was ashamed. I turned round and said to him—
“Go away, Saveliitch; I don’t want any tea.”
But it was impossible to quiet Saveliitch when once he had begun to sermonize.
“Do you see now, Petr’ Andrejitch,” said he, “what it is to commit follies? You have a headache; you won’t take anything. A man who gets drunk is good for nothing. Do take a little pickled cucumber with honey or half a glass of brandy to sober you. What do you think?”
At this moment a little boy came in, who brought me a note from Zourine. I unfolded it and read as follows:—
“DEAR PETR’ ANDREJITCH,