“Unhappy Clara! foolish
Unhappy Clara Mowbray!”
Aratoff was acquainted with this poem also.... And now these words kept incessantly recurring to his memory.... “Unhappy Clara! foolish Clara!...” (That was why he had been so surprised when Kupfer mentioned Clara Militch to him.) Even Platosha noticed, not precisely a change in Yakoff’s frame of mind—as a matter of fact, no change had taken place—but something wrong about his looks, in his remarks. She cautiously interrogated him about the literary morning at which he had been present;—she whispered, sighed, scrutinised him from in front, scrutinised him from the side, from behind—and suddenly, slapping her hands on her thighs, she exclaimed:
“Well, Yashal—I see what the trouble is!”
“What dost thou mean?” queried Aratoff in his turn.
“Thou hast certainly met at that morning some one of those tail-draggers” (that was what Platonida Ivanovna called all ladies who wore fashionable gowns).... “She has a comely face—and she puts on airs like this,—and twists her face like this” (Platosha depicted all this in her face), “and she makes her eyes go round like this....” (she mimicked this also, describing huge circles in the air with her forefinger).... “And it made an impression on thee, because thou art not used to it.... But that does not signify anything, Yasha ... it does not signify anything! Drink a cup of herb-tea when thou goest to bed, and that will be the end of it!... Lord, help!”
Platosha ceased speaking and took herself off.... She probably had never made such a long and animated speech before since she was born ... but Aratoff thought:
“I do believe my aunt is right.... It is all because I am not used to such things....” (He really had attracted the attention of the female sex to himself for the first time ... at any rate, he had never noticed it before.) “I must not indulge myself.”
So he set to work at his books, and drank some linden-flower tea when he went to bed, and even slept well all that night, and had no dreams. On the following morning he busied himself with his photography, as though nothing had happened....
But toward evening his spiritual serenity was again disturbed.
To wit: a messenger brought him a note, written in a large, irregular feminine hand, which ran as follows:
“If you guess who is writing to you, and if it does not bore you, come to-morrow, after dinner, to the Tver boulevard—about five o’clock—and wait. You will not be detained long. But it is very important. Come.”
There was no signature. Aratoff instantly divined who his correspondent was, and that was precisely what disturbed him.—“What nonsense!” he said, almost aloud. “This is too much! Of course I shall not go.”—Nevertheless, he ordered the messenger to be summoned, and from him he learned merely that the letter had been handed to him on the street by a maid. Having dismissed him, Aratoff reread the letter, and flung it on the floor.... But after a while he picked it up and read it over again; a second time he cried: “Nonsense!” He did not throw the letter on the floor this time, however, but put it away in a drawer.