On the following day, sinful man that I am, I did go to Sokolniki, and actually did see the tent with the pennant and the inscription. The tent-flaps were raised; an uproar, crashing, squealing, proceeded thence. A crowd of people thronged around it. On the ground, on an outspread rug, sat the Gipsy men and Gipsy women, singing, and thumping tambourines; and in the middle of them, with a guitar in his hands, clad in a red-silk shirt and full trousers of velvet, Misha was gyrating like a whirligig.—“Gentlemen! Respected sirs! Pray enter! The performance is about to begin! Free!”—he was shouting in a cracked voice.—“Hey there! Champagne! Bang! In the forehead! On the ceiling! Akh, thou rascal, Paul de Kock!”—Luckily, he did not catch sight of me, and I hastily beat a retreat.
I shall not dilate, gentlemen, on my amazement at the sight of such a change. And, as a matter of fact, how could that peaceable, modest lad suddenly turn into a tipsy good-for-nothing? Was it possible that all this had been concealed within him since his childhood, and had immediately come to the surface as soon as the weight of parental authority had been removed from him?—And that he had kicked up a dust in Moscow, as he had expressed it, there could be no possible doubt, either. I had seen rakes in my day; but here something frantic, some frenzy of self-extermination, some sort of recklessness, had made itself manifest!
This diversion lasted for two months.... And lo! again I am standing at the window of the drawing-room and looking out into the courtyard.... Suddenly—what is this?... Through the gate with quiet step enters a novice.... His conical cap is pulled down on his brow, his hair is combed smoothly and flows from under it to right and left ... he wears a long cassock and a leather girdle.... Can it be Misha? It is!
I go out on the steps to meet him.... “What is the meaning of this masquerade?” I ask.
“It is not a masquerade, uncle,” Misha answers me, with a deep sigh;—“but as I have squandered all my property to the last kopek, and as a mighty repentance has seized upon me, I have made up my mind to betake myself to the Troitzko-Sergieva Lavra, to pray away my sins. For what asylum is now left to me?... And so I have come to bid you farewell, uncle, like the Prodigal Son....”
I gazed intently at Misha. His face was the same as ever, fresh and rosy (by the way, it never changed to the very end), and his eyes were humid and caressing and languishing, and his hands were small and white.... But he reeked of liquor.
“Very well!” I said at last: “It is a good move if there is no other issue. But why dost thou smell of liquor?”
“Old habit,” replied Misha, and suddenly burst out laughing, but immediately caught himself up, and making a straight, low, monastic obeisance, he added:—“Will not you contribute something for the journey? For I am going to the monastery on foot....”