“Don’t get angry, my sweetie. I’ll never exchange you for another. Here’s my word of honour, honest to God! My word of honour, that I never will! Don’t you think I feel you’re wanting to take care of me? Do you think I don’t understand? Why, you’re such an attractive, nice little young fellow. There, now, if you were an old man and homely...”
“Ah! You haven’t got the right idea!” shouted Lichonin, and again in high-flown style began to tell her about the equal rights of women, about the sacredness of toil, about human justice, about freedom, about the struggle against reigning evil.
Of all his words Liubka understood exactly not a one. She still felt herself guilty of something and somehow shrank all up, grew sad, bowed her head and became quiet. A little more and she, in all probability, would have burst out crying in the middle of the street; but fortunately, they by this time had driven up to the house where Lichonin was staying.
“Well, here we are at home,” said the student. “Stop, driver!”
And when he had paid him, he could not refrain from declaiming with pathos, his hand extended theatrically straight before him:
“And into my house,
calm and fearless,
As its full mistress walk thou in!”
And again the unfathomable, prophetic smile wrinkled the aged brown face of the cabby.
The room in which Lichonin lived was situated on the fifth story and a half. And a half, because there are such five, six, and seven-story profitable houses, packed to overflowing and cheap, on top of which are erected still other sorry bug-breeders of roof iron, something in the nature of mansards; or more exactly, bird-houses, in which it is fearfully cold in winter, while in the summer time it is just as torrid as in the tropics. Liubka with difficulty clambered upward. It seemed to her that now, now, two steps more, and she would drop straight down on the steps and fall into a sleep from which nothing would be able to wake her. But Lichonin was saying all the time:
“My dear! I can see you are tired. But that’s nothing. Lean upon me. We are going upwards all the time! Always higher and higher! Is this not a symbol of all human aspirations? My comrade, my sister, lean upon my arm!”
Here it became still worse for poor Liubka. As it was, she could barely go up alone, but here she also had to drag in tow Lichonin, who had grown extremely heavy. And his weight would not really have mattered; his wordiness, however, was beginning to irritate her little by little. So irritates at times the ceaseless, wearisome crying, like a toothache, of an infant at breast; the piercing whimpering of a canary; or someone whistling without pause and out of tune in an adjoining room.
Finally, they reached Lichonin’s room. There was no key in the door. And, as a rule, it was never even locked with a key. Lichonin pushed the door and they entered. It was dark in the room, because the window curtains were lowered. It smelt of mice, kerosene, yesterday’s vegetable soup, long-.used bed linen, stale tobacco smoke. In the half-dusk some one who could not be seen was snoring deafeningly and with variations.