He now frequently, for several days, would not return home; and afterwards, having come, would undergo torturesome hours of feminine interrogations, scenes, tears, even hysterical fits. Liubka would at times watch him in secret, when he went out of the house; would stop opposite the entrance that he went into, and for hours would await his return in order to reproach him and to cry in the street. Not being able to read, she intercepted his letters and, not daring to turn to the aid of the prince or Soloviev, would save them up in her little cupboard together with sugar, tea, lemon and all sorts of other trash. She had even reached the stage when, in minutes of anger, she threatened him with sulphuric acid.
“May the devil take her,” Lichonin would ponder during the minutes of his crafty plans. “It’s all one, let there even be nothing between them. But I’ll take and make a fearful scene for him. and her.”
And he would declaim to himself:
“Ah, so! ... I have warmed you in my bosom, and what do I see now? You are paying me with black ingratitude. ... And you, my best comrade, you have attempted my sole happiness! ... O, no, no, remain together; I go hence with tears in my eyes. I see, that I am one too many! I do not wish to oppose your love, etc., etc.”
And precisely these dreams, these hidden plans, such momentary, chance, and, at bottom, vile ones—of those to which people later do not confess to themselves—were suddenly fulfilled. It was the turn of Soloviev’s lesson. To his great happiness, Liubka had at last read through almost without faltering: “A good plough has Mikhey, and a good one has Sisoi as well... a swallow... a swing ... the children love God...” And as a reward for this Soloviev read aloud to her Of the Merchant Kalashnikov and of Kiribeievich, Life-guardsman of Czar Ivan the Fourth. Liubka from delight bounced in her armchair, clapped her hands. The beauty of this monumental, heroic work had her in its grasp. But she did not have a chance to express her impressions in full. Soloviev was hurrying to a business appointment. And immediately, coming to meet Soloviev, having barely exchanged greetings with him in the doorway, came Simanovsky. Liubka’s face sadly lengthened and her lips pouted. For this pedantic teacher and coarse male had become very repugnant to her of late.
This time he began a lecture on the theme that for man there exist no laws, no rights, no duties, no honour, no vileness; and that man is a quantity self-sufficient, independent of anyone and anything.
“It’s possible to be a God, possible to be an intestinal worm, a tape worm—it’s all the same.”
He already wanted to pass on to the theory of amatory emotions; but, it is to be regretted, he hurried a trifle from impatience: he embraced Liubka, drew her to him and began to squeeze her roughly. “She’ll become intoxicated from caressing. She’ll give in!” thought the calculating Simanovsky. He sought to touch her mouth with his lips for a kiss, but she screamed and snorted spit at him. All the assumed delicacy had left her.