“But why are there so many people, dearie? For I’m so bashful. I can’t hold my own in company.”
“That’s nothing, that’s nothing, my dear Liubochka,” Lichonin whispered rapidly, tarrying at the door of the cabinet. “That’s nothing, my sister; these are all fine people, good comrades. They’ll help you, help us both. Don’t mind their having fun at times and their silly lying. But their hearts are of gold.”
“But it’s so very awkward for me; I’m ashamed. All of them already know where you took me from.”
“Well, that’s nothing, that’s nothing! Why, let ’em know!” warmly contradicted Lichonin. “Why be embarrassed with your past, why try to pass it by in silence? In a year you’ll look bravely and directly in the eyes of every man and you’ll say: ’He who has never fallen, has never gotten up.’ Come on, come on, Liubochka!”
While the inelaborate appetizers were being served, and each one was ordering the meal, everybody, save Simanovsky, felt ill at ease and somehow constrained. And Simanovsky himself was partly the reason for this; he was a clean-shaven man, with pince-nez and long hair, with head proudly thrown back and with a contemptuous expression on the tight lips, drooping at the corners. He had no intimate, hearty friends among his comrades; but his opinions and judgments had a considerable authoritativeness among them. It is doubtful whether any one of them could explain to himself whence this influence came; whether from his self-assured appearance, his ability to seize and express in general words the dismembered and indistinct things which are dimly sought and desired by the majority, or because he always saved his conclusions for the most appropriate moment. Among any society there are many of this sort of people: some of them act upon their circle through sophistries; others through adamant, unalterable stead-fastness of convictions; a third group with a loud mouth; a fourth, through a malicious sneer; a fifth, simply by silence, which compels the supposition of profound thought behind it; a sixth, through a chattering, outward erudition; others still through a slashing sneer at everything that is said ... many with the terrible Russian word YERUNDA: “Fiddlesticks!”—“Fiddlesticks!” they say contemptuously in reply to the warm, sincere, probably truthful but clumsily put word. “But why fiddlesticks?” “Because it’s twaddle, nonsense,” answer they, shrugging their shoulders; and it is as though they did for a man by hitting him with a stone over the head. There are many more sorts of such people, bearing the bell at the head of the meek, the shy, the nobly modest, and often even the big minds; and to their number did Simanovsky belong.