“Well, then, let’s go, let’s go! ...” entreated Lichonin. “Surely, you know some manual work—well, now, sewing something, embroidering, cutting?”
“I don’t know anything!” answered Liuba bashfully and started laughing and turned red, covering her mouth with the elbow of her free arm. “What’s asked of us in the village, that I know, but anything more I don’t know. I can cook a little ... I lived at the priest’s—cooked for him.”
“That’s splendid! That’s excellent!” Lichonin grew joyous. “I will assist you, you’ll open a dining room ... A cheap dining room, you understand ... I’ll advertise it for you ... The students will come! That’s magnificent! ...”
“That’s enough of making fun of me!” retorted Liuba, a bit offended, and again looked askance and questioningly at Jennie.
“He’s not joking,” answered Jennie with a voice which quavered strangely. “He’s in earnest, seriously.”
“Here’s my word of honour that I’m serious! Honest to God, now!” the student caught her up with warmth and for some reason even made the sign of the cross in the direction of the empty corner.
“And really,” said Jennie, “take Liubka. That’s not the same thing as taking me. I’m like an old dragoon’s nag, and used to it. You can’t make me over, neither with hay nor a stick. But Liubka is a simple girl and a kind one. And she hasn’t grown used to our life yet. What are you popping your eyes out at me for, you ninny? Answer when you’re asked. Well? Do you want to or don’t you want to?”
“And why not? If they ain’t laughing, but for real ... And you, Jennechka, what would you advise me ...”
“Oh, you’re such wood!” Jennie grew angry. “What’s better according to you—to rot on straw with a nose fallen through? To croak under the fence like a dog? Or to turn honest? Fool! You ought to kiss his hands; but no, you’re getting particular.”
The naive Liuba did, in fact, extend her lips toward Lichonin’s hand, and this movement made everybody laugh, and touched them just the least trifle.
“And that’s very good! It’s like magic!” bustled the overjoyed Lichonin. “Go and notify the proprietress at once that you’re going away from here forever. And take the most necessary things; it isn’t as it used to be; now a girl can go away from a brothel whenever she wants to.”
“No, it can’t be done that way,” Jennie stopped him; “she can go away, that’s so, but you’ll have no end of unpleasantness and hullabaloo. Here’s what you do, student. You won’t regret ten roubles?”
“Of course, of course ... if you please.”