“Tha-ank you. I can’t. Full to the gills. Honoured, I’m sure! ...”
“Thanks for your company. Drop in some time.”
“Always glad to be your guest, sir. Au revoir!”
But in the doorway he stops for a minute and says significantly:
“But still, my advice to you is—you’d better pass this girl on to some place or other in good time. Of course, it’s your affair, but as a good friend of yours I give you warning.”
He goes away. When his steps are abating on the stairs and the front door bangs to behind him, Emma Edwardovna snorts through her nose and says contemptuously:
“Stool-pigeon! He wants to take money both here and there...”
Little by little they all crawl apart out of the room. It is dark in the house. It smells sweetly of the half-withered sedge. Quiet reigns.
Until dinner, which is served at six in the evening, the time drags endlessly long and with intolerable monotony. And, in general, this daily interval is the heaviest and emptiest in the life of the house. It remotely resembles in its moods those slothful, empty hours which are lived through during the great holidays in scholastic institutes and other private institutions for females, when all the friends have dispersed, when there is much leisure and much indolence, and a radiant, agreeable tedium reigns the whole day. In only their petticoats and white shifts, with bare arms, sometimes barefooted, the women aimlessly ramble from room to room, all of them unwashed, uncombed; lazily strike the keys of the old pianoforte with the index finger, lazily lay out cards to tell their fortune, lazily exchange curses, and with a languishing irritation await the evening.
Liubka, after breakfast, had carried out the leavings of bread and the cuttings of ham to Amour, but the dog had soon palled upon her. Together with Niura she had bought some barberry bon-bons and sunflower seeds, and now both are standing behind the fence separating the house from the street, gnawing the seeds, the shells of which remain on their chins and bosoms, and speculate indifferently about those who pass on the street: about the lamp-lighter, pouring kerosene into the street lamps, about the policeman with the daily registry book under his arm, about the housekeeper from somebody else’s establishment, running across the road to the general store.
Niura is a small girl, with goggle-eyes of blue; she has white, flaxen hair and little blue veins on her temples. In her face there is something stolid and innocent, reminiscent of a white sugar lamb on a Paschal cake. She is lively, bustling, curious, puts her nose into everything, agrees with everybody, is the first to know the news, and, when she speaks, she speaks so much and so rapidly that spray flies out of her mouth and bubbles effervescence on the red lips, as in children.