“Of course, I can mention it to him; but what is your reason precisely for wishing to obtain the appointment?”
“It’s a good salary, rising to nine thousand, and my means...”
“Nine thousand!” repeated Alexey Alexandrovitch, and he frowned. The high figure of the salary made him reflect that on that side Stepan Arkadyevitch’s proposed position ran counter to the main tendency of his own projects of reform, which always leaned towards economy.
“I consider, and I have embodied my views in a note on the subject, that in our day these immense salaries are evidence of the unsound economic assiette of our finances.”
“But what’s to be done?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Suppose a bank director gets ten thousand—well, he’s worth it; or an engineer gets twenty thousand—after all, it’s a growing thing, you know!”
“I assume that a salary is the price paid for a commodity, and it ought to conform with the law of supply and demand. If the salary is fixed without any regard for that law, as, for instance, when I see two engineers leaving college together, both equally well trained and efficient, and one getting forty thousand while the other is satisfied with two; or when I see lawyers and hussars, having no special qualifications, appointed directors of banking companies with immense salaries, I conclude that the salary is not fixed in accordance with the law of supply and demand, but simply through personal interest. And this is an abuse of great gravity in itself, and one that reacts injuriously on the government service. I consider...”
Stepan Arkadyevitch made haste to interrupt his brother-in-law.
“Yes; but you must agree that it’s a new institution of undoubted utility that’s being started. After all, you know, it’s a growing thing! What they lay particular stress on is the thing being carried on honestly,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with emphasis.
But the Moscow significance of the word “honest” was lost on Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“Honesty is only a negative qualification,” he said.
“Well, you’ll do me a great service, anyway,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “by putting in a word to Pomorsky—just in the way of conversation....”
“But I fancy it’s more in Volgarinov’s hands,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“Volgarinov has fully assented, as far as he’s concerned,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, turning red. Stepan Arkadyevitch reddened at the mention of that name, because he had been that morning at the Jew Volgarinov’s, and the visit had left an unpleasant recollection.
Stepan Arkadyevitch believed most positively that the committee in which he was trying to get an appointment was a new, genuine, and honest public body, but that morning when Volgarinov had— intentionally, beyond a doubt—kept him two hours waiting with other petitioners in his waiting room, he had suddenly felt uneasy.