“Jennechka, your lover has come!”
It was pleasant, in relating this to his comrades, to be plucking at an imaginary moustache.
It was still early—about nine—of a rainy August evening. The illuminated drawing room in the house of Anna Markovna was almost empty. Only near the very doors a young telegraph clerk was sitting, his legs shyly and awkwardly squeezed under his chair, and was trying to start with the thick-fleshed Katie that worldly, unconstrained conversation which is laid down as the proper thing in polite society at quadrille, during the intermissions between the figures of the dance. And, also, the long-legged, aged Roly-Poly wandered over the room, sitting down now next one girl, now another, and entertaining them all with his fluent chatter.
When Kolya Gladishev walked into the front hall, the first to recognize him was the round-eyed Verka, dressed in her usual jockey costume. She began to twirl round and round, to clap her palms, and called out:
“Jennka, Jennka, come quicker, your little lover has come to you ... The little cadet ... And what a handsome little fellow!”
But Jennka was not in the drawing room at this time; a stout head-conductor had already managed to get hold of her.
This elderly, sedate, and majestic man was a very convenient guest, because he never lingered in the house for more than twenty minutes, fearing to let his train go by; and, even so, glanced at his watch all the while. During this time he regularly drank down four bottles of beer, and, going away, infallibly gave the girl half a rouble for candy and Simeon twenty kopecks for drink-money.
Kolya Gladishev was not alone, but with a comrade of the same school, Petrov, who was stepping over the threshold of a brothel for the first time, having given in to the tempting persuasions of Gladishev. Probably, during these minutes, he found himself in the same wild, absurd, feverish state which Kolya himself had gone through a year and a half ago, when his legs had shook, his mouth had grown dry, and the lights of the lamps had danced before him in revolving wheels.
Simeon took their great-coats from them and hid them separately, on the side, that the shoulder straps and the buttons might not be seen.
It must be said, that this stern man, who did not approve of students because of their free-and-easy facetiousness and incomprehensible style in conversation, also did not like when just such boys in uniform appeared in the establishment.
“Well, what’s the good of it?” he would at times say sombrely to his colleagues by profession. “What if a whippersnapper like that comes, and runs right up nose to nose against his superiors? Smash, and they’ve closed up the establishment! There, like Lupendikha’s three years back. Of course, it’s nothing that they closed it up—she transferred it in another name right