His children? In Petersburg children did not prevent their parents from enjoying life. The children were brought up in schools, and there was no trace of the wild idea that prevailed in Moscow, in Lvov’s household, for instance, that all the luxuries of life were for the children, while the parents have nothing but work and anxiety. Here people understood that a man is in duty bound to live for himself, as every man of culture should live.
His official duties? Official work here was not the stiff, hopeless drudgery that it was in Moscow. Here there was some interest in official life. A chance meeting, a service rendered, a happy phrase, a knack of facetious mimicry, and a man’s career might be made in a trice. So it had been with Bryantsev, whom Stepan Arkadyevitch had met the previous day, and who was one of the highest functionaries in government now. There was some interest in official work like that.
The Petersburg attitude on pecuniary matters had an especially soothing effect on Stepan Arkadyevitch. Bartnyansky, who must spend at least fifty thousand to judge by the style he lived in, had made an interesting comment the day before on that subject.
As they were talking before dinner, Stepan Arkadyevitch said to Bartnyansky:
“You’re friendly, I fancy, with Mordvinsky; you might do me a favor: say a word to him, please, for me. There’s an appointment I should like to get—secretary of the agency...”
“Oh, I shan’t remember all that, if you tell it to me.... But what possesses you to have to do with railways and Jews?... Take it as you will, it’s a low business.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch did not say to Bartnyansky that it was a “growing thing”—Bartnyansky would not have understood that.
“I want the money, I’ve nothing to live on.”
“You’re living, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but in debt.”
“Are you, though? Heavily?” said Bartnyansky sympathetically.
“Very heavily: twenty thousand.”
Bartnyansky broke into good-humored laughter.
“Oh, lucky fellow!” said he. “My debts mount up to a million and a half, and I’ve nothing, and still I can live, as you see!”
And Stepan Arkadyevitch saw the correctness of this view not in words only but in actual fact. Zhivahov owed three hundred thousand, and hadn’t a farthing to bless himself with, and he lived, and in style too! Count Krivtsov was considered a hopeless case by everyone, and yet he kept two mistresses. Petrovsky had run through five millions, and still lived in just the same style, and was even a manager in the financial department with a salary of twenty thousand. But besides this, Petersburg had physically an agreeable effect on Stepan Arkadyevitch. It made him younger. In Moscow he sometimes found a gray hair in his head, dropped asleep after dinner, stretched, walked slowly upstairs, breathing heavily, was bored by the society of young women, and did not dance at balls. In Petersburg he always felt ten years younger.