He clasped Liubka around the waist, and looked at her with kindly, almost loving, eyes; although, the very same minute, he himself thought that he was regarding her as a father or a brother.
Sleep was fearfully besetting Liubka; her eyes would close, and she with an effort would open them wide, so as not to fall asleep again; while on her lips lay the same naive, childish, tired smile, which Lichonin had noticed still there, in the cabinet. And out of one corner of her mouth ran a thin trickle of saliva.
“Liubka, my dear! My darling, much-suffering woman! Behold how fine it is all around! Lord! Here it’s five years that I haven’t seen the sunrise. Now play at cards, now drinking, now I had to hurry to the university. Behold, my dearest, over there the dawn has burst into bloom. The sun is near! This is your dawn, Liubochka! This is your new life beginning. You will fearlessly lean upon my strong arm. I shall lead you out upon the road of honest toil, on the way to a brave combat with life, face to face with it!”
Liubka eyed him askance. “There, the fumes are still playing in his head,” she thought kindly. “But that’s nothing—he’s kind and a good sort. Only a trifle homely.” And, having smiled with a half-sleepy smile, she said in a tone of capricious reproach:
“Ye—es! You’ll fool me, never fear. All of you men are like that. You just gain yours at first, to get your pleasure, and then—no attention whatsoever!”
“I? Oh? That I should do this!” Lichonin exclaimed warmly and even smote himself on the chest with his free hand. “Then you know me very badly! I’m too honest a man to be deceiving a defenseless girl. No! I’ll exert all my powers and all my soul to educate your mind, to widen your outlook, to compel your poor heart, which has suffered so, to forget all the wounds and wrongs which life has inflicted upon it. I will be a father and a brother to you! I shall safeguard your every step! And if you will come to love somebody with a truly pure, holy love, then I shall bless that day and hour when I had snatched you out of this Dantean hell!”
During the continuation of this flaming tirade the old cabby with great significance, although silently, began laughing, and from this inaudible laughter his back shook. Old cabbies hear very many things, because to the cabby, sitting in front, everything is readily audible, which is not at all suspected by the conversing fares; and many things do the old cabbies know of that which takes place among people. Who knows, perhaps he had heard more than once even more disordered, more lofty speeches?
It seemed to Liubka for some reason that Lichonin had grown angry at her, or that he was growing jealous beforehand of some imaginary rival. He was declaiming with entirely too much noise and agitation. She became perfectly awake, turned her face to Lichonin with wide open, uncomprehending, and at the same time submissive eyes, and slightly touched his right hand, lying on her waist, with her fingers.