Ramses, walking behind, burst into dry laughter.
“So, so, Gavrila Petrovich. Let us continue in the same spirit. Let us condemn the hungry, petty thief who has stolen a five-kopeck loaf out of a tray, but if the director of a bank has squandered somebody else’s million on race horses and cigars, let us mitigate his lot.”
“Pardon me, but I do not understand this comparison,” answered Yarchenko with restraint. “However, it’s all the same to me; let’s go.”
“And all the more so,” said Lichonin, letting the subprofessor pass ahead; “all the more so, since this house guards within it so many historical traditions. Comrades! Decades of student generations gaze upon us from the heights of the coat-hooks, and, besides that, through the power of the usual right, children and students pay half here, as in a panopticon. Isn’t that so, citizen Simeon?”
Simeon did not like to have people come in large parties—this always smacked of scandal in the not distant future; moreover, he despised students in general for their speech, but little comprehensible to him, for their propensity towards frivolous jokes, for their godlessness, and chiefly because they were in constant revolt against officialdom and order. It was not in vain that on the day when on the Bessarabian Square the cossacks, meat-sellers, flour dealers and fish mongers were massacring the students, Simeon having scarce found it out had jumped into a fine carriage passing by, and, standing just like a chief of police in the victoria, tore off to the scene of the fray in order to take part in it. He esteemed people who were sedate, stout and elderly, who came singly, in secret, peeped in cautiously from the ante-room into the drawing room, fearing to meet with acquaintances, and very soon and with great haste went away, tipping him generously. Such he always styled “Your Excellency.”
And so, while taking the light grey overcoat off Yarchenko, he sombrely and with much significance snarled back in answer to Lichonin’s banter:
“I am no citizen here, but the bouncer.”
“Upon which I have the honour to congratulate you,” answered Lichonin with a polite bow.
There were many people in the drawing room. The clerks, having danced their fill, were sitting, red and wet, near their ladies, rapidly fanning themselves with their handkerchiefs; they smelt strongly of old goats’ wool. Mishka the Singer and his friend the Book-keeper, both bald, with soft, downy hairs around the denuded skulls, both with turbid, nacreous, intoxicated eyes, were sitting opposite each other, leaning with their elbows on a little marble table, and were constantly trying to start singing in unison with such quavering and galloping voices as though some one was very, very often striking them in the cervical vertebrae:
“They fe-e-e-l the tru-u-u-u-uth!”
while Emma Edwardovna and Zociya with all their might were exhorting them not to behave indecently. Roly-Poly was peacefully slumbering on a chair, his head hanging down, having laid one long leg over the other and grasped the sharp knee with his clasped hands.