Roly-Poly at once commenced to move his eye-brows and the skin of his scalp and began to speak in verse:
“Dear cigarette, my
How can I help loving thee?
Not through mere whim, prompted by fate,
All have started smoking thee.”
“Why, Roly-Poly, but you are going to croak soon,” said Kitty indifferently.
“And a very simple matter, that.”
“Roly-Poly, say something still funnier, in verse,” begged Verka.
And at once, obediently, having placed himself in a funny pose, he began to declaim:
“Many stars are in the
But to count them there’s no way.
Yes, the wind whispers there can be,
But there really is no way.
Blossoming now are burdocks,
Now sing out the birds called cocks.”
Playing the tom-fool in this manner, Roly-Poly would sit whole evenings and nights through in the drawing rooms of the establishments. And through some strange psychic fellow feeling the girls counted him almost as one of their own; occasionally rendered him little temporary services and even bought him beer and vodka at their expense.
Some time after Roly-Poly a large company of hairdressers, who were that day free from work, tumbled in. They were noisy, gay, but even here, in a brothel, did not cease their petty reckonings and conversations about closed and open theatrical benefits, about the bosses, about the wives of the bosses. All these were people corrupt to a sufficient degree, liars, with great hopes for the future—such as, for example, entering the service of some countess as a kept lover. They wanted to utilize to the widest possible extent their rather hard-earned money, and on that account decided to make a review of absolutely all the houses of Yama; only Treppel’s they could not resolve to enter, as that was too swell for them. But at Anna Markovna’s they at once ordered a quadrille and danced it, especially the fifth figure, where the gents execute a solo, perfectly, like real Parisians, even putting their thumbs in the arm holes of their vests. But they did not want to remain with the girls; instead, they promised to come later, when they had wound up the complete review of the brothels.
And there also came and went government clerks of some sort; crisp young people in patent leather boots; several students; several officers, who were horribly afraid of losing their dignity in the eyes of the proprietress and the guests of the brothel. Little by little in the drawing room was created such a noisy, fumy setting that no one there any longer felt ill at ease. There came a steady visitor, the lover of Sonka the Rudder, who came almost every day and sat whole hours through near his beloved, gazed upon her with languishing oriental eyes, sighed, grew faint and created scenes for her because she lives in a brothel, because she sins against the Sabbath, because she eats meat not prepared in the orthodox Hebrew manner, and because she has strayed from the family and the great Hebrew church.