Opposite this infatuated couple were placed three passengers—a retired general, a spare, neat little old man, with pomade on his hair, with curls combed forward to the temples; a stout land-owner, who had taken off his starched collar, but was still gasping from the heat and mopping his face every minute with a wet handkerchief; and a young infantry officer. The endless talkativeness of Simon Yakovlevich (the young man had already managed to inform his neighbours that he was called Simon Yakovlevich Horizon) tired and irritated the passengers a trifle, just like the buzzing of a fly, that on a sultry summer day rhythmically beats against a window pane of a closed, stuffy room. But still, he knew how to raise their spirits: he showed tricks of magic; told Hebrew anecdotes, full of a fine humour of their own. When his wife would go out on the platform to refresh herself, he would tell such things that the general would melt into a beatific smile, the land-owner would neigh, rocking his black-loam stomach, while the sub-lieutenant, a smooth-faced boy, only a year out of school, scarcely controlling his laughter and curiosity, would turn away to one side, that his neighbours might not see him turning red.
His wife tended Horizon with a touching, naive attention; she wiped his face with a handkerchief, waved upon him with a fan, adjusted his cravat every minute. And his face at these times became laughably supercilious and stupidly self-conceited.
“But allow me to ask,” asked the spare little general, coughing politely, “allow me to ask, my dear sir, what occupation might you pursue?”
“Ah, my God!” with a charming frankness retorted Simon Yakovlevich. “Well, what can a poor Jew do in our time? It’s a bit of a travelling salesman and a commission broker by me. At the present time I’m far from business. You—he! he! he!—understand yourselves, gentlemen. A honeymoon—don’t turn red, Sarochka—it don’t repeat itself three times in a year. But afterwards I’ll have to travel and work a great deal. Here we’ll come with Sarochka to town, will pay the visits to her relatives, and then again on the road. On my first trip I’m thinking of taking my wife. You know, sort of a wedding journey. I’m a representative from Sidris and two English firms. Wouldn’t you like to have a look? Here are the samples with me ...”
He very rapidly took out of a small, elegant case of yellow leather a few long cardboard folding books, and with the dexterity of a tailor began to unfold them, holding one end, from which their folds fell downward with a light crackling.
“Look, what splendid samples: they don’t give in to foreign ones at all. Please notice. Here, for instance, is Russian and here English tricot, or here, cangan and cheviot. Compare, feel it, and you’ll be convinced that the Russian samples almost don’t give in to the foreign. Why, that speaks of progress, of the growth of culture. So it’s absolutely for nothing that Europe counts us Russians such barbarians.