“No, not nonsense, me soul. It’s one of two things here, and it’ll all end in one and the same result. Either you’ll get together with her and after five months chuck her out on the street; and she’ll return to the brothel or take to walking the street. That’s a fact! Or else you won’t get together with her, but will begin to load her up with manual or mental labours and will try to develop her ignorant, dark mind; and she from tedium will run away from you, and will again find herself either walking the street, or in a brothel. That’s a fact, too! However, there is still a third combination. You’ll be vexing yourself about her like a brother, like the knight Lancelot, but she, secretly from you, will fall in love with another. Me soul, believe me, that wooman, when she is a wooman, is always—a wooman. And the other will play a bit with her body, and after three months chuck her out into the street or into a brothel.”
Lichonin sighed deeply. Somewhere deep—not in his mind, but in the hidden, almost unseizable secret recesses of his consciousness—something resembling the thought that Nijeradze was right flashed through him. But he quickly gained control of himself, shook his head, and, stretching out his hand to the prince, uttered triumphantly:
“I promise you, that after half a year you’ll take your words back, and as a mark of apology, you Erivanian billy goat, you Armavirian egg-plant, you’ll stand me to a dozen of Cakhetine wine.”
“Va! That’s a go!” the prince struck Lichonin’s hand with his palm with all his might. “With pleasure. But if it comes out as I say— then you do it.”
“Then I do it. However, au revoir, prince. Whom are you lodging with?”
“Right here, in this corridor, at Soloviev’s. But you, of course, like a mediaeval knight, will lay a two-edged sword between yourself and the beauteous Rosamond? Yes?”
“Nonsense! I did want to pass the night at Soloviev’s myself. But now I’ll go and wander about the streets a bit and turn in into somebody’s; to Zaitzevich or Strump. Farewell, prince!”
“Wait, wait!” Nijeradze called him, when he had gone a few steps. “I have forgotten to tell you the main thing: Partzan has tripped up!”
“So that’s how?” wondered Lichonin, and at once yawned long, deeply and with enjoyment.
“Yes. But there’s nothing dreadful; only the possession of some illegal brochures and stuff. He won’t have to sit for more than a year.”
“That’s nothing; he’s a husky lad, he can stand it.”
“He’s husky, all right” confirmed the prince.
“Au revoir, knight Grunwaldus!”
“Au revoir, you Carbidinian stallion.”
Lichonin was left alone. In the half-dark corridor it smelt of kerosene fumes from the guttering little tin lamp, and of the odour of stagnant bad tobacco. The daylight dully penetrated only near the top, from two small glass frames, let in the roof at both ends of the corridor.