“But still, the worst of all,” Jennie continues to discourse, “worse than your director, Zoinka, worse than my cadet, the worst of all—are your lovers. What can there be joyous in this: he comes drunk, poses, makes sport of you, wants to pretend there’s something in him—only nothing comes of it all. Wha-at a lad-die, to be sure! The scummiest of the scum, dirty, beaten-up, stinking, his whole body in scars, there’s only one glory about him: the silk shirt which Tamarka will embroider for him. He curses one’s mother, the son of a bitch, always aching for a fight. Ugh! No!” she suddenly exclaimed in a merry provoking voice, “The one I love truly and surely, for ever and ever, is my Mannechka, Manka the white, little Manka, my Manka-Scandalistochka.”
And unexpectedly, having embraced Manya by the shoulders and bosom, she drew her toward herself, threw her down on the bed, and began to kiss deeply and vigorously her hair, eyes, lips. Manka with difficulty tore herself away from her, with dishevelled, bright, fine, downy hair, all rosy from the resistance, and with eyes downcast and moist from shame and laughter.
“Leave off, Jennechka, leave off. Well, now, what are you doing? Let me go!”
Little Manya is the meekest and quietest girl in the entire establishment. She is kind, yielding, can never refuse anybody’s request, and involuntarily everybody treats her with great gentleness. She blushes over every trifle, and at such time becomes especially attractive, as only very tender blondes with a sensitive skin can be attractive. But it is sufficient for her to drink three or four glasses of Liqueur Benedictine, of which she is very fond, for her to become unrecognizable and to create brawls, such, that there is always required the intervention of the housekeepers, the porter, at times even the police. It is nothing for her to hit a guest in the face or to throw in his face a glass filled with wine, to overturn the lamp, to curse out the proprietress, Jennie treats her with some strange, tender patronage and rough adoration.
“Ladies, to dinner! To dinner, ladies!” calls Zociya the housekeeper, running along the corridor. On the run she opens the door into Manya’s room and drops hurriedly:
“To dinner, to dinner, ladies!”
They go again to the kitchen, all still in their underwear, all unwashed, in slippers and barefoot. A tasty vegetable soup of pork rinds and tomatoes, cutlets, and pastry-cream rolls are served. But no one has any appetite, thanks to the sedentary life and irregular sleep, and also because the majority of the girls, just like school-girls on a holiday, had already managed during the day to send to the store for halvah, nuts, rakkat loukoum (Turkish Delight), dill-pickles and molasses candy, and had through this spoiled their appetites. Only Nina alone—a small, pug-nosed, snuffling country girl, seduced only two months ago by a travelling salesman, and (also by him) sold into a brothel—eats for four. The inordinate, provident appetite of a woman of the common people has not yet disappeared in her.