It must be said that he was inconsistent in his lessons. He dragged in all that came to his hand for the astonishment of Liubka. Once he brought along for her a large self-made serpent—a long cardboard hose, filled with gunpowder, bent in the form of a harmonica, and tied tightly across with a cord. He lit it, and the serpent for a long time with crackling jumped over the dining room and the bedroom, filling the place with smoke and stench. Liubka was scarcely amazed and said that this was simply fireworks, that she had already seen this, and that you couldn’t astonish her with that. She asked, however, permission to open the window. Then he brought a large phial, tinfoil, rosin and a cat’s tail, and in this manner contrived a Leyden jar. The discharge, although weak, was produced, however.
“Oh, the unclean one take you, Satan!” Liubka began to cry out, having felt the dry fillip in her little finger.
Then, out of heated peroxide of manganese, mixed with sand, with the help of a druggist’s vial, the gutta-percha end of a syringe, a basin filled with water, and a jam jar—oxygen was derived. The red-hot cork, coal and phosphorus burnt in the jar so blindingly that it pained the eyes. Liubka clapped her palms and squealed out in delight:
“Mister Professor, more! Please, more, more! ...”
But when, having united the oxygen with the hydrogen brought in an empty champagne bottle, and having wrapped up the bottle for precaution in a towel, Simanovsky ordered Liubka to direct its neck toward a burning candle, and when the explosion broke out, as though four cannons had been fired off at once—an explosion through which the plastering fell down from the ceiling—then Liubka grew timorous, and, only getting to rights with difficulty, pronounced with trembling lips, but with dignity: “You must excuse me now, but since I have a flat of my own, and I’m not at all a wench any longer, but a decent woman, I’d ask you therefore not to misbehave in my place. I thought you, like a smart and educated man, would do everything nice and genteel, but you busy yourself with silly things. They can even put one in jail for that.”
Subsequently, much, much later, she told how she had a student friend, who made dynamite before her.
It must have been, after all, that Simanovsky, this enigmatic man, so influential in his youthful society, where he had to deal with theory for the most part, and so incoherent when a practical experiment with a living soul had come into his hands—was just simply stupid, but could skillfully conceal this sole sincere quality of his.
Having suffered failure in applied sciences, he at once passed on to metaphysics. Once he very self-assuredly, and in a tone such that after it no refutation was possible, announced to Liubka that there is no God, and that he would undertake to prove this during five minutes. Whereupon Liubka jumped up from her place, and told him firmly that she, even though a quondam prostitute, still believed in God and would not allow Him to be offended in her presence; and if he would continue such nonsense, then she would complain to Vassil Vassilich.