Nijeradze was speaking with perfect seriousness, and for that reason Lichonin with Soloviev good-naturedly started laughing; but with entire unexpectedness, to the general amazement of all, Simanovsky sustained him.
“The prince speaks common sense. To have the mastery of an instrument elevates the aesthetic sense, in any case; and is even a help in life. And I, for my part, gentlemen ... I propose to read with the young person the capital of Marx, and the history of human culture. And to take up chemistry and physics with her, besides.”
If it were not for the customary authority of Simanovsky and the importance with which he spoke, the remaining three would have burst into laughter in his face. They only stared at him, with eyes popping out.
“Well, yes,” continued Simanovsky imperturbably, “I’ll show her a whole series of chemical and physical experiments, which it is possible to carry on at home; which are always amusing and beneficial to the mind; and which eradicate prejudices. Incidentally, I’ll explain something of the structure of the world, of the properties of matter. And as far as Karl Marx is concerned, just remember, that great books are equally accessible to the understanding both of a scholar and an unlettered peasant, if only comprehensibly presented. And every great thought is simple.”
Lichonin found Liubka at the place agreed upon, on a bench of the boulevard. She went home with him very unwillingly. Just as Lichonin had supposed, meeting the grumbling Alexandra was a fearful thing to her, who had long since grown unused to every-day actuality; harsh, and plentiful with all sorts of unpleasantnesses. And besides that, the fact that Lichonin did not want to conceal her past acted oppressively upon her. But she, who had long ago lost her will in the establishment of Anna Markovna, deprived of her personality, ready to follow after the call of every stranger, did not tell him a word and walked after him.
The crafty Alexandra had already managed during this time to run to the superintendent of the houses and to complain to him, that, now, Lichonin had come with some miss, had passed the night with her in the room; but who she is, that Alexandra don’t know; that Lichonin says she is his first cousin, like; but did not present a passport. It was necessary to explain things at great length, diffusedly and tiresomely, to the superintendent, a coarse and insolent man, who bore himself to all the tenants in the house as toward a conquered city; and feared only the students slightly, because they gave him a severe rebuff at times. Lichonin propitiated him only when he rented on the spot another room, several rooms away from his, for Liubka; under the very slope of the roof, so that it represented on the inside a sharply cut-off, low, four-sided pyramid, with one little window.
“But still, Mr. Lichonin, just you present the passport to-morrow without fail,” said the superintendent insistently at parting. “Since you’re a respectable man, hard-working, and you and I are long acquainted, also you pay punctually, I am willing to do it only for you. You know yourself what hard times these are. If some one tells on me, they’ll not only fire me, but they can put me out of town as well. They’re strict now.”