“Precisely! I love you very much, Ryazanov, because you are a clever child. You will always catch a thought in its flight; although, I must say, that this isn’t an especially high property of the mind. And really, two beings come together, the friends of yesterday, who had conversed with each other and eaten at the same table, and this day one of them must perish. You understand depart from life forever. But they have neither malice nor fear. There is the most real, magnificent spectacle, which I can only picture to myself!”
“How much cruelty there is in you,” said the baroness meditatively.
“Well, nothing can be done about it now! My ancestors were cavaliers and robbers. However, shan’t we go away now?”
They all went out of the garden. Volodya Chaplinsky ordered his automobile called. Ellena Victorovna was leaning upon his arm. And suddenly she asked:
“Tell me, Volodya, where do you usually go when you take leave of so-called decent women?”
Volodya hemmed and hawed. However, he knew positively that he could not lie to Rovinskaya.
“M-m-m ... I’m afraid of offending your hearing. To the Tzigani, for instance ... to night cabarets ...”
“And somewhere else? Worse?”
“Really, you put me in an awkward position. From the time that I’ve become so madly in love with you ...”
“Leave out the romancingl”
“Well, how shall I say it?” murmured Volodya, feeling that he was turning red, not only in the face, but with his body, his back. “Well, of course, to the women. Now, of course, this does not occur with me personally ...”
Rovinskaya maliciously pressed Chaplinsky’s elbow to her side.
“To a brothel?”
Volodya did not answer anything. Then she said:
“And so, you’ll carry us at once over there in the automobile and acquaint us with this existence, which is foreign to me. But remember, that I rely upon your protection.”
The remaining two agreed to this, unwillingly, in all probability; but there was no possibility of opposing Ellena Victorovna. She always did everything that she wanted to. And then they had all heard and knew that in Petersburg carousing worldly ladies, and even girls, permit themselves, out of a modish snobbism, pranks far worse than the one which Rovinskaya had proposed.
On the way to Yamskaya Street Rovinskaya said to Chaplinsky:
“You’ll bring me at first into the most luxurious place, then into a medium one, and then into the filthiest.”
“My dear Ellena Victorovna,” warmly retorted Chaplinsky, “I’m ready to do everything for you. It is without false boasting when I say that I would give my life away at your order, ruin my career and position at a mere sign of yours ... But I dare not bring you to these houses. Russian manners are coarse, and often simply inhuman manners. I’m afraid that you will be insulted by some pungent, unseemly word, or that a chance visitor will play some senseless prank before you ...”