Opposite, out of the dram-shop, a servant pops out for a minute—a curly, besotted young fellow with a cast in his eye—and runs into the neighbouring public house.
“Prokhor Ivanovich, oh Prokhor Ivanovich,” shouts Niura, “don’t you want some?—I’ll treat you to some sunflower seeds!”
“Come on in and pay us a visit,” Liubka chimes in.
Niura snorts and adds through the laughter which suffocates her:
“Warm your feet for a while!”
But the front door opens; in it appears the formidable and stern figure of the senior housekeeper.
“Pfui! [Footnote: A German exclamation of disgust or contempt, corresponding to the English fie.—Trans.] What sort of indecency is this!” she cries commandingly. “How many times must it be repeated to you, that you must not jump out on the street during the day, and also—pfui!—only in your underwear. I can’t understand how you have no conscience yourselves. Decent girls, who respect themselves, must not demean themselves that way in public. It seems, thank God, that you are not in an establishment catering to soldiers, but in a respectable house. Not in Little Yamskaya.”
The girls return into the house, get into the kitchen, and for a long time sit there on tabourets, contemplating the angry cook Prascoviya, swinging their legs and silently gnawing the sunflower seeds.
In the room of Little Manka, who is also called Manka the Scandaliste and Little White Manka, a whole party has gathered. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she and another girl—Zoe, a tall handsome girl, with arched eyebrows, with grey, somewhat bulging eyes, with the most typical, white, kind face of the Russian prostitute—are playing at cards, playing at “sixty-six.” Little Manka’s closest friend, Jennie, is lying behind their backs on the bed, prone on her back, reading a tattered book, The Queen’s Necklace, the work of Monsieur Dumas, and smoking. In the entire establishment she is the only lover of reading and reads intoxicatingly and without discrimination. But, contrary to expectation, the forced reading of novels of adventure has not at all made her sentimental and has not vitiated her imagination. Above all, she likes in novels a long intrigue, cunningly thought out and deftly disentangled; magnificent duels, before which the viscount unties the laces of his shoes to signify that he does not intend to retreat even a step from his position,[Footnote: Probably a sly dig at Gautier’s Captain Fracasse.-Trans.] and after which the marquis, having spitted the count through, apologizes for having made an opening in his splendid new waistcoat; purses, filled to the full with gold, carelessly strewn to the left and right by the chief heroes; the love adventures and witticisms of Henry IV—in a word, all this spiced heroism, in gold and lace, of the past centuries of French history. In everyday life, on the contrary, she is sober of mind, jeering, practical