“Bring us a bottle of champagne here, but the real thing—Rederer demi sec, and as cool as possible. Step lively!” she ordered the porter, who was gaping at her with popping eyes. “We will drink with you, Tamara, to the new business, to our brilliant and beautiful future.”
They say that dead people bring luck. If there is any foundation at all in this superstition, then on this Saturday it could not have told plainer: the influx of visitors was out of the ordinary, even for a Saturday night. True, the girls, passing through the corridor or past the room that had been Jennka’s increased their steps; timorously glanced at it sidelong, out of the corner of the eye; while others even crossed themselves. But late in the night the fear of death somehow subsided, grew bearable. All the rooms were occupied, while in the drawing room a new violinist was trilling without cease—a free-and-easy, clean-shaven young man, whom the pianist with the cataract had searched out somewhere and brought with him.
The appointment of Tamara as housekeeper was received with cold perplexity, with taciturn dryness. But, having bided her time, Tamara managed to whisper to Little White Manka:
“Listen, Manya! You tell them all that they shouldn’t pay any attention to the fact that I’ve been chosen housekeeper. It’s got to be so. But let them do as they wish, only don’t let them trip me up. I am as before—their friend and intercessor ... And further on we’ll see.”
On the next day, on Sunday, Tamara had a multitude of cares. She had become possessed by a firm and undeviating thought to bury her friend despite all circumstances, in the way that nearest friends are buried—in a Christian manner, with all the sad solemnity of the burial of secular persons.
She belonged to the number of those strange persons who underneath an external indolent calmness, careless taciturnity, egotistical withdrawal into one’s self, conceal within them unusual energy; always as though slumbering with half an eye, guarding itself from unnecessary expenditure; but ready in one moment to become animated and to rush forward without reckoning the obstacles.
At twelve o’clock she descended in a cab into the old town; rode through it into a little narrow street giving out upon a square where fairs were held; and stopped near a rather dirty tea-room, having ordered the cabby to wait. In the room she made inquiries of a boy, red-haired, with a badger hair-cut and the parting slicked down with butter, if Senka the Depot had not come here? The serving lad, who, judging by his refined and gallant readiness, had already known Tamara for a long time, answered that “Nohow, ma’am; they—Semen Ignatich—had not been in yet, and probably would not be here soon seein’ as how yesterday they had the pleasure of going on a spree at the Transvaal, and had played at billiards until six in the morning; and that now they, in all probabilities, are at home, in the Half Way House rooms, and if the young lady will give the word, then it’s possible to hop over to them this here minute.”