“His words discouraged me and at the same time gave me wings. Since that time I believe, that now, not soon—after fifty years or so—but there will come a writer of genius, and precisely a Russian one, who will absorb within himself all the burdens and all the abominations of this life and will cast them forth to us in the form of simple, fine, and deathlessly-caustic images. And we shall all say: ’Why, now, we, ourselves, have seen and known all this, but we could not even suppose that this is so horrible!’ In this coming artist I believe with all my heart.”
“Amen!” said Lichonin seriously. “Let us drink to him.”
“But, honest to God,” suddenly declared Little Manka, “If some one would only write the truth about the way we live here, miserable w—that we are...”
There was a knock at the door, and at once Jennie entered in her resplendent orange dress.
She greeted all the men without embarrassment, with the independent bearing of the first personage in the house, and sat down near Sergei Ivanich, behind his chair. She had just gotten free from that same German in the uniform of the benevolent organization, who early in the evening had made Little White Manka his choice, but had afterwards changed her, at the recommendation of the housekeeper, for Pasha. But the provoking and self-assured beauty of Jennie must have smitten deeply his lecherous heart, for, having prowled some three hours through certain beer emporiums and restaurants, and having there gathered courage, he had again returned into the house of Anna Markovna, had waited until her time-guest—Karl Karlovich, from the optical store—had gone away from Jennie, and had taken her into a room.
To the silent question in Tamara’s eyes Jennie made a wry face of disgust, shivered with her back and nodded her head affirmatively.
“He’s gone... Brrr! ...”
Platonov was looking at Jennie with extraordinary attentiveness. He distinguished her from the rest of the girls and almost respected her for her abrupt, refractory, and impudently mocking character. And now, turning around occasionally, by her flaming, splendid eyes, by the vividly and unevenly glowing unhealthy red of her cheeks, by the much bitten parched lips, he felt that her great, long ripening rancour was heavily surging within the girl and suffocating her. And it was then that he thought (and subsequently often recalled this) that he had never yet seen Jennie so radiantly beautiful as on this night. He also noticed, that all the men present in the private cabinet, with the exception of Lichonin, were looking at her—some frankly, others by stealth and as though in passing—with curiosity and furtive desire. The beauty of this woman, together with the thought of her altogether easy accessibility, at any minute, agitated their imagination.
“There’s something working upon you, Jennie,” said Platonov quietly.