“Now,” said Soloviev, coming back into the room and sitting down cautiously upon an ancient chair, “now let’s come to the order of the day. Can I be of service to you in any way? If you’ll give me half an hour’s time, I’ll run down to the coffee house for a minute and lick the guts out of the very best chess player there. In a word—I’m at your disposal!”
“What a funny fellow you are!” said Liubka, ill at ease and laughing. She did not understand the jocose and unusual style of speech of the student, but something drew her simple heart to him.
“Well, that’s not at all necessary,” Lichonin put in. “I am as yet beastly rich. I think we’ll all go together to some little tavern somewhere. I must have your advice about some things. After all, you’re the people closest to me; and of course not as stupid and inexperienced as you seem at first glance. After that, I’ll go and try to arrange about her ... about Liuba’s passport. You wait for me. That won’t take long ... In a word, you understand what this whole business consists of, and won’t be lavish of any superfluous jokes. I,”—his voice quivered sentimentally and falsely—“I desire that you take upon yourselves a part of my care. Is that a go?”
“Va! It’s a go!” exclaimed the prince (it sounded like “idiot,” when he said it [Footnote: The Russian phrase is “Eedet!”— Trans.]), and for some reason looked significantly at Liubka and twirled his moustache. Lichonin gave him a sidelong look. As for Soloviev, he said simple-heartedly:
“That’s the way. You’ve begun something big and splendid, Lichonin. The prince told me about it during the night. Well, what of it, that’s what youth is for—to commit sacred follies. Give me the bottle, Alexandra, I’ll open it myself, or else you’ll rupture yourself and burst a vein. To a new life, Liubochka, pardon me ... Liubov ... Liubov ...”
“Nikonovna. But call me just as it comes ... Liuba.”
“Well, yes, Liuba. Prince, ALLAHVERDI!”
“YAKSHI-OL,” answered Nijeradze and clinked his glass of beer with him.
“And I’ll also say, that I rejoice over you, friend Lichonin,” continued Soloviev, setting down his glass and licking his moustache. “Rejoice, and bow before you. It’s precisely you, only, who are capable of such a genuinely Russian heroism, expressed simply, modestly, without superfluous words.”
“Drop it ... Well, where’s the heroism?” Lichonin made a wry face.
“That’s true, too,” confirmed Nijeradze. “You’re reproaching me all the time that I chatter a lot, but see what nonsense you’re spouting yourself.”
“That makes no difference!” retorted Soloviev. “It may be even grandiloquent, but still that makes no difference! As an elder of our garret commune, I declare Liuba an honourable member with full rights!” He got up, made a sweeping gesture with his hand, and uttered with pathos:
“And into our house,
free and fearless,
Its charming mistress walk thou in!”