“In Ostrovsky’s’ Grunya’ I believe. But I repeat to thee: she had no love-affairs! Judge for thyself by one thing: she lived in her mother’s house.... Thou knowest what some of those merchants’ houses are like; a glass case filled with holy images in every corner and a shrine lamp in front of the case; deadly, stifling heat; a sour odour; in the drawing-room nothing but chairs ranged along the wall, and geraniums in the windows;—and when a visitor arrives, the hostess begins to groan as though an enemy were approaching. What chance is there for love-making, and amours in such a place? Sometimes it happened that they would not even admit me. Their maid-servant, a robust peasant-woman, in a Turkey red cotton sarafan, and pendulous breasts, would place herself across the path in the anteroom and roar: ‘Whither away?’ No, I positively cannot understand what made her poison herself. She must have grown tired of life,” Kupfer philosophically wound up his remarks.
Aratoff sat with drooping head.—“Canst thou give me the address of that house in Kazan?” he said at last.
“I can; but what dost thou want of it?—Dost thou wish to send a letter thither?”
“Well, as thou wilt. Only the old woman will not answer thee. Her sister might ... the clever sister!—But again, brother, I marvel at thee! Such indifference formerly ... and now so much attention! All that comes of living a solitary life, my dear fellow!”
Aratoff made no reply to this remark and went away, after having procured the address in Kazan.
Agitation, surprise, expectation had been depicted on his face when he went to Kupfer.... Now he advanced with an even gait, downcast eyes, and hat pulled low down over his brows; almost every one he met followed him with a searching gaze ... but he paid no heed to the passers-by ... it was quite different from what it had been on the boulevard!...
“Unhappy Clara! Foolish Clara!” resounded in his soul.
Nevertheless, Aratoff passed the following day in a fairly tranquil manner. He was even able to devote himself to his customary occupations. There was only one thing: both during his busy time and in his leisure moments he thought incessantly of Clara, of what Kupfer had told him the day before. Truth to tell, his thoughts were also of a decidedly pacific nature. It seemed to him that that strange young girl interested him from a psychological point of view, as something in the nature of a puzzle, over whose solution it was worth while to cudgel one’s brains,—“She ran away from home with a kept actress,” he thought, “she placed herself under the protection of that Princess, in whose house she lived,—and had no love-affairs? It is improbable!... Kupfer says it was pride! But, in the first place, we know” (Aratoff should have said: “we have read in books”) ... “that pride is compatible with light-minded