“How do you do, miss?” he said.
“How do you do?” answered Liuba abruptly.
“How are you getting along?”
“Thanks—thank you. Treat me to a smoke.”
“Pardon me—I don’t smoke.”
“So that’s how. A man—and he doesn’t smoke, just like that. Well, then, treat me to some Lafitte with lemonade. I am terribly fond of Lafitte with lemonade.”
He let that pass in silence.
“Ooh, what a stingy daddy! Where do you work, now? Are you one of the government clerks?”
“No, I’m a teacher. I teach the German language.”
“But I have seen you somewhere, daddy. Your physiognomy is familiar to me. Where have I met you before?”
“Well, now, I don’t know, really. Unless it was on the street.”
“It might have been on the street, likely as not... You ought to treat me to an orange, at least. May I ask for an orange?”
He again grew quiet, looking about him. His face began to glisten and the pimples on his forehead became red. He was mentally appraising all the women, choosing a likely one for himself, and was at the same time embarrassed by his silence. There was nothing at all to talk about; besides that the indifferent importunity of Liuba irritated him. Fat Katie pleased him with her large, bovine body, but she must be—he decided in his mind—very frigid in love, like all stout women, and in addition to that not handsome of face. Vera also excited him, with her appearance of a little boy, and her firm thighs, closely enveloped by the white tights; and Little White Manya, looking so like an innocent school-girl; and Jennie with her energetic, swarthy, handsome face. For one minute he was all ready to stop at Jennie, but only started in his chair and did not venture—by her easy, inaccessible and negligent air, and because she in all sincerity did not pay him the least attention, he surmised that she was the most spoilt of all the girls in the establishment, accustomed to having the visitors spend more money on her than on the others. But the pedagogue was a calculating man, burthened with a large family and an exhausted wife, destroyed by his masculine demands and suffering from a multiplicity of female ills. Teaching in a female high school and in an institute, he lived constantly in a sort of secret sensual delirium, and only his German training, stinginess and cowardice helped him to hold his constantly aroused desires in check. But two or three times a year, with incredible privations, he would cut five or ten roubles out of his beggarly budget, denying himself in his beloved evening mug of beer and contriving to save on the street cars, which necessitated his making enormous distances on foot through the town. This money he set aside for women and spent it slowly, with gusto, trying to prolong and cheapen down the enjoyment as much as possible. And for his money he wanted a very great deal, almost the impossible; his German sentimental soul dimly thirsted after innocence, timidity, poesy, in the flaxen image of Gretchen; but as a man he dreamt, desired, and demanded that his caresses should bring a woman into rapture and palpitation and into a sweet exhaustion.