“I can vouch for myself,” said Ramses.
“And I! And I! By God, gentlemen, let’s pledge our words ... Yarchenko is right,” others took up.
They seated themselves in twos and threes in the cabs—the drivers of which had been long since following them in a file, grinning and cursing each other—and rode off. Lichonin, for the sake of assurance, sat down beside the sub-professor, having embraced him around the waist and seated him on his knees and those of his neighbour, the little Tolpygin, a rosy, pleasant-faced boy on whose face, despite his twenty-three years, the childish white down—soft and light—still showed.
“The station is at Doroshenko’s!” called out Lichonin after the cabbies driving off. “The stop is at Doroshenko’s,” he repeated, turning around.
They all stopped at Doroshenko’s restaurant, entered the general room, and crowded about the bar. All were satiated and no one wanted either to drink or to have a bite. But in the soul of each one still remained a dark trace of the consciousness that right now they were getting ready to commit something needlessly shameful, getting ready to take part in some convulsive, artificial, and not at all a merry merriment. And in each one was the yearning to bring himself through intoxication to that misty and rainbow condition when nothing makes any difference, and when the head does not know what the arms and legs are doing, and what the tongue is babbling. And, probably, not the students alone, but all the casual and constant visitors of Yama experienced in greater or lesser degree the friction of this inner psychic heart-sore, because Doroshenko did business only late in the evening and night, and no one lingered long in his place but only turned in in passing, half-way on the journey.
While the students were drinking cognac, beer and vodka, Ramses was constantly and intently looking into the farthest corner of the restaurant hall, where two men were sitting—a tattered, gray, big old man, and, opposite him, his back to the bar, with his elbows spread out upon the table and his chin resting on the fists folded upon each other, some hunched up, stout, closely-propped gentleman in a gray suit. The old man was picking upon a dulcimer lying before him and quietly singing, in a hoarse but pleasing voice:
“Oh my valley,
my little valley,
Bro-o-o-o-o-oad land of plenty.”
“Excuse me, but that is a co-worker of ours,” said Ramses, and went to greet the gentleman in the gray suit. After a minute he led him up to the bar and introduced him to his comrades.
“Gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you my companion in arms in the newspaper game, Sergei Ivanovich Platonov. The laziest and most talented of newspaper workers.”
They all introduced themselves, indistinctly muttering out their names.
“And therefore, let’s have a drink,” said Uchonin, while Yarchenko asked with the refined amiability which never forsook him: