She became silent. And Platonov did not know what to say. It became oppressive and awkward for both. Finally, Jennka got up, and, without looking at Platonov, extended her cold, feeble hand to him.
“Good-bye, Sergei Ivanovich! Excuse me, that I took up your time ... Oh, well, I can see myself that you’d help me, if you only could ... But, evidently, there’s nothing to be done here ... Good-bye!”
“Only don’t do anything foolish, Jennechka! I implore you! ...”
“Oh, that’s all right!” said she and made a tired gesture with her hand.
Having come out of the square, they parted; but, having gone a few steps, Jennka suddenly called after him:
“Sergei Ivanovich, oh Sergei Ivanovich! ...”
He stopped, turned around, walked back to her.
“Roly-Poly croaked last evening in our drawing room. He jumped and he jumped, and then suddenly plumped down ... Oh, well, it’s an easy death at least! And also I forgot to ask you, Sergei Ivanovich ... This is the last, now ... Is there a God or no?”
Platonov knit his eyebrows.
“What answer can I make? I don’t know. I think that there is, but not such as we imagine Him. He is more wise, more just...”
“And future life? There, after death? Is there, now, as they tell us, a paradise or hell? Is that the truth? Or is there just nothing at all? A barren void? A sleep without a dream? A dark basement?”
Platonov kept silent, trying not to look at Jennka. He felt oppressed and frightened.
“I don’t know,” said he, finally, with an effort. “I don’t want to lie to you.”
Jennka sighed, and smiled with a pitiful, twisted smile.
“Well, thanks, my dear. And thanks for even that much ... I wish you happiness. With all my soul. Well, good-bye...”
She turned away from him and began slowly, with a wavering walk, to climb up the hill.
Platonov returned to work just in the nick of time. The gathering of tramps, scratching, yawning, working out their accustomed dislocations, were getting into their places. Zavorotny, at a distance, with his keen eyes caught sight of Platonov and began to yell over the whole port:
“You did manage to get here in time, you round-shouldered devil ... But I was already wanting to take you by the tail and chase you out of the gang ... Well, get in your place! ...”
“Well, but I did get a he-dog in you, Serejka! ...” he added, in a kindly manner. “If only it was night; but no,—look you, he starts in playing ring-around-a-rosie in broad daylight...”
Saturday was the customary day of the doctor’s inspection, for which they prepared very carefully and with quaking in all the houses; as, however, even society ladies prepare themselves, when getting ready for a visit to a physician-specialist; they diligently made their intimate toilet and inevitably put on clean underthings, even as dressy as possible. The windows toward the street were closed with shutters, while at one of those windows, which gave out upon the yard, was put a table with a hard bolster to put under the back.