It was not especially far from his street to the Yamskaya, not more than two-thirds of a mile. In general, he was not infrequently in those parts, but he had never had occasion to go there in the daytime; and on the way it seemed to him all the time that every one he met, every cabby and policeman, was looking at him with curiosity, with reproach, or with disdain, as though surmising the destination of his journey. As always on a nasty and muggy morning, all the faces that met his eyes seemed pale, ugly, with monstrously underlined defects. Scores of times he imagined all that he would say in the beginning at the house; and later at the station house; and every time the outcome was different. Angry at himself for this premature rehearsal, he would at times stop himself:
“Ah! You mustn’t think, you mustn’t presuppose what you’re going to say. It always turns out far better when it’s done right off...”
And then again imaginary dialogues would run through his head:
“You have no right to hold this girl against her wish.”
“Yes, but let her herself give notice about going away.”
“I act at her instruction.”
“All right; but how can you prove this?” and again he would mentally cut himself short.
The city common began, on which cows were browsing; a board sidewalk along a fence; shaky little bridges over little brooklets and ditches. Then he turned into the Yamskaya. In the house of Anna Markovna all the windows were closed with shutters, with openings, in the form of hearts, cut out in the middle. And all of the remaining houses on the deserted street, desolated as though after a pestilence, were closed as well. With a contracting heart Lichonin pulled the bell-handle.
A maid, barefooted, with skirt caught up, with a wet rag in her hand, with face striped from dirt, answered the bell—she had just been washing the floor.
“I’d like to see Jennka,” timidly requested Lichonin.
“Well, now, the young lady is busy with a guest. They haven’t waked up yet.”
“Well, Tamara then.”
The maid looked at him mistrustfully.
“Miss Tamara—I don’t know... I think she’s busy too. But what you want—to pay a visit, or what?”
“Ah, isn’t it all the same! A visit, let’s say.”
“I don’t know. I’ll go and look. Wait a while.”
She went away, leaving Lichonin in the half-dark drawing room. The blue pillars of dust, coming from the openings in the shutters, pierced the heavy obscurity in all directions. Like hideous spots stood out of the gray murkiness the bepainted furniture and the sweetish oleographs on the walls. It smelt of yesterday’s tobacco, of dampness, sourness; and of something else peculiar, indeterminate, uninhabited, of which places that are lived in only temporarily always smell in the morning—such as empty theatres, dance-halls, auditoriums. Far off in the city a droshky rumbled intermittently. The wall-clock monotonously ticked behind the wall. In a strange agitation Lichonin walked back and forth through the drawing room and rubbed and kneaded his trembling hands, and for some reason was stooping and felt cold.