“I serve in a farce!” he was saying, smiting himself on the breast with his fist. “I disport myself in striped trunks for the sport of the sated mob! I have put out my torch, have hid my talent in the earth, like the slothful servant! But fo-ormerly!” he began to bray tragically, “Fo-ormerly-y-y! Ask in Novocherkassk, ask in Tvier, in Ustejne, in Zvenigorodok, in Krijopole. [Footnote: All provincial towns.—Trans.] What a Zhadov and Belugin I was! How I played Max! What a figure I created of Veltishchev—that was my crowning ro-ole ... Nadin-Perekopski was beginning with me at Sumbekov’s! With Nikiphorov-Pavlenko did I serve. Who made the name for Legunov-Pochainin? I! But no-ow ...”
He sniveled, and sought to kiss the sub-professor.
“Yes! Despise me, brand me, ye honest folk. I play the tom-fool. I drink ... I have sold and spilt the sacred ointment! I sit in a dive with vendable merchandise. While my wife ... she is a saint, and pure, my little dove! ... Oh, if she knew, if she only knew! she works hard, she runs a modiste’s shop; her fingers—the fingers of an angel—are pricked with the needle, but I! Oh, sainted woman! And I—the scoundrel!—whom do I exchange thee for! Oh, horror!” The actor seized his hair. “Professor, let me, I’ll kiss your scholarly hand. You alone understand me. Let us go, I’ll introduce you, you’ll see what an angel this is! ... She awaits me, she does not sleep nights, she folds the tiny hands of my little ones and together with them whispers: ’Lord, save and preserve papa.’”
“You’re lying about it all, you ham!” said the drunken Little White Manka suddenly, looking with hatred upon Egmont-Lavretzki. “She isn’t whispering anything, but most peacefully sleeping with a man in your bed.”
“Be still, you w—!” vociferated the actor beside himself; and seizing a bottle by the neck raised it high over his head. “Hold me, or else I’ll brain this carrion. Don’t you dare besmirch with your foul tongue...”
“My tongue isn’t foul—I take communion,” impudently replied the woman. “But you, you fool, wear horns. You go traipsing around with prostitutes yourself, and yet want your wife not to play you false. And look where the dummy’s found a place to slaver, till he looks like he had reins in his mouth. And what did you mix the children in for, you miserable papa you! Don’t you roll your eyes and gnash your teeth at me. You won’t frighten me! W—yourself!”
It required many efforts and much eloquence on the part of Yarchenko in order to quiet the actor and Little White Manka, who always after Benedictine ached for a row. The actor in the end burst into copious and unbecoming tears and blew his nose, like an old man; he grew weak, and Henrietta led him away to her room.