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Part 9

 Chapter XXXII




   Misha Kotikov raised an armchair with a patient. An electric machine started humming, and a needle in a little rubber tube with a cogged rotor started spinning. Electric light flooded the ceiling and fell softly below. The patient's face was piercingly lit by an adjustable lamp. A half hour later, the root had been cleaned out and the crown could be put on.

   Misha Kotikov took out a flask, ladled out a small amount of liquid with a steel instrument, poured two little heaps out of two flasks into a thick frosted glass.

   Just as he was preparing the paste, the rhymes came up.

   But the quickly drying paste didn't allow him to concentrate on them, and it demanded his attention.

   Mikhail Petrovich filled the patient's tooth with a protective substance, filled the gold crown with the paste and, with a deft movement, put it on the barely visible wall of the tooth.

   He started holding with two fingers and looking out the window.

   Now, he was free for a while.

   Kotikov had been searching for a theme for a long time. "Nothing for an external stimulus," he sighed. "Now," he said and pulled out his hand. He peered into the mouth. The crown was gleaming like a plateau of pure gold.

   Misha Kotikov rejoiced and lowered the armchair with the patient.

   In rapture, Misha Kotikov went up to the window.

   "Just what I needed: a golden plateau. One element for a poem."

   "Next," he said, opening the door a bit.

   A housewife walked in and started groaning.

   "Which one of your teeth hurts?"

   "The front, dear," rang out from the depths of the armchair.

   "You let it go," Misha Kotikov suddenly grumbled. "It'll have to come out. Why on earth didn't you come sooner?"

   "There wasn't any money. My nephew just got back from China yesterday."

   "From China?" Misha Kotikov marveled.



   Misha Kotikov washed his hands. A young man with a silver filling had just left, unable to close his mouth. Misha Kotikov took out a flyer from his pocket: "Tonight, 8 o'clock, at the Academy of Sciences, there will be a lecture by Professor Schmidt: 'In the Liu-Qiu Islands.'"

   "The devil knows what an amazing combination that is," marveled Misha Kotikov. "This is just what I'm looking for. Some kind of song of the nightingale and the cat's meow. Now that would be something to stick into a poem."

   He rubbed down his instruments, put them into a glass case on a little glass shelf and headed home to change.

   He put on his one and only pair of pink silk drawers and striped socks, thumped himself on his young chest, and stepped up to the mirror.

   "I'm a gentleman," he looked himself over. "I'm called, I'm wanted, I have to go."

   He read over the letter from Ekaterina Ivanovna.

   "Well, I certainly know something about women," he condescendingly smiled.

   Along the way a spring downpour broke out. Misha Kotikov was forced to take cover in the first front door he came across. There he bumped into Troitsyn.

   Troitsyn, beaming, was reading over a soggy note.

   Misha Kotikov slapped him on the shoulder.

   "The women are after me," said Troitsyn, turning to Misha Kotikov, "They just can't get enough of me."

   "It must be on account of the war," Misha Kotikov explained. "We men are in demand now."

   Taking each other by the arm, they leaned against the wall.

   "That's right, not too many of us men now," said Troitsyn, deeply moved. "And it's too bad so many handsome ones were killed!"

   "But, you know, Alexander Petrovich considered women the lowest creatures," said Troitsyn, his head sticking out into the street.

   "And don't I know that!" said Misha Kotikov, jumping out into the street. "Thank God, I've been studying the life of Alexander Petrovich in detail."

   Troitsyn's head took cover.

   Kotikov stuck his hand out in the rain.

   Troitsyn's head popped outside once again.

   And suddenly, without any more ado, the young people started complimenting each other's poetry. Moreover, Troitsyn complimented excessively, Misha Kotikov--in moderation.

   "In your poetry  there's a breath of Africa," the invisible Troitsyn would say.

   "Well, your poetry's delightful, too," Kotikov would observe condescendingly. "It's beautiful," he'd continue, as if reflecting.

   It was raining, but lightly. Once again Misha Kotikov ducked inside the front entrance. Even though Troitsyn's head and the figure of Misha Kotikov had been out in the rain only a little while, they were spotted by a member of the college of legal defenders standing in the front entrance across the way who had once learned Petiscus by heart and who, up to now, had been writing mythological poetry. He straightened his collar and his tie, took his walking stick under his arm and ran across to the front entrance where the real poets were taking cover. He approached them slavishly.

   "My," he said, "I haven't seen you in ages! I've been totally wrapped up in matters of no importance. Today, I was defending my building superintendent. Let's recite poetry while it's raining."

   All three, stepping up onto the landing, began to take turns reciting poetry.

   Troitsyn enthusiastically spouted a bit.

   Mikhail Petrovich recited in the voice of Alexander Petrovich.

   The defense attorney--with oratorical gestures.

   The rain stopped. The sun peeped out. The poets headed for the nearest tavern. There, a heated conversation broke out.

   "If I'm not mistaken, you were reading your old poetry, weren't you?" the member of the college of legal defenders remarked to Troitsyn.

   "I'm not reading my new poetry to anybody," said Troitsyn, taking offense. "The present day won't understand my new poetry. I write poetry now only for myself. Some poetry for myself and for posterity, real, romantic poetry, the other for contemporaries."

   "I see," Misha Kotikov proudly observed, "that I'm the only one who writes new poetry and reads it to everyone and anyone."

   He gloated over the balding heads of his friends. Then he said he was in a hurry, excused himself, paid for the beer and went out.

   Troitsyn took the defense attorney by the arm. Deciding to continue their conversation in a more romantic setting, they took a trolley.

   On the Islands, snowdrops and coltsfoot were now in bloom.

   "Then again," Troitsyn was saying, walking a path along the sea. "In your poetry there's an unevenness characteristic of youth."

   "I beg your pardon," the lawyer interrupted, "I'm not young at all, I started out on a literary career the same time you did."

   "I didn't mean it in that sense," Troitsyn corrected himself. "I meant to say you don't have much technique."

   "And I disagree with that," the lawyer objected.

   But, at this point, Troitsyn spotted young ladies sitting on a green bench. The young ladies were nudging each other's shoulders and sharing a laugh.

   "Splendid girls," said the lawyer, coming to a stop.

   "I've been thinking the very same thing myself," said Troitsyn, with a bow.

   They sat next to them, on either side. The lawyer took a black glove and dusted off his boot.

   Troitsyn asked, "And how are you getting along with the Meyerhold Theater?"

   The balding young people nudged in closer and closer to the young ladies. The girls were engulfed with laughter.

   Troitsyn, as if by accident, kissed his neighbor's shoulder.

   The attorney, as if by chance, wedged his boot under a young lady's shoe.  

   And now, shaking his legs and warming to an anecdote, the legal defender was on his way. And now, having stretched himself, Troitsyn was on his way. In pairs, the young people walked off across the grass. On the spit, Teptyolkin and Marya Petrovna appeared, walking slowly and solemnly.

   Teptyolkin sat on a bench. Marya Petrovna went up to the sea, started singing an aria from the opera Ruslan and Lyudmila.

   Teptyolkin was sitting in reverie and counting sparrows.

   "Marya Petrovna," he turned to her when she had finished singing, "where did we put the sandwiches?"



Chapter XXXIII




   For a long time now, Misha Kotikov had thought about sending the materials he gathered to the Quiet Refuge. But, today, after coming back from Ekaterina Ivanovna, he finally made up his mind.

   Deep into the night he stacked pictures in chronological order and tied them together with string. On the reverse sides of the pictures were landscapes with huts and accordion players and girls and parts of geographic maps. The front sides of the pictures were ruled and filled up with the handwriting of Zaevphratsky, imitated by Mikhail Petrovich.  

   When everything had been tied up, there remained the duplicates. Mikhail Petrovich drew up a lamp and, against a background of packets, he read:


   Wednesday, May 15, 1908, 3 p.m. Alexander Petrovich dining at Grand Hotel Europe. 5 p.m., Alexander Petrovich headed from Grand Hotel Europe to Visitors Court with Evgenya Semyonovna Sleptsova (ballerina). Bought her kid gloves, ring with sapphire.

   Now (January 5, 1925, 6 p.m.) Sleptsova well-preserved brunette. Breasts not large, shoulders broader than hips, legs, as with all ballet-dancers, muscular. According to information gathered, in her day she was stunning. From her words, was able to conclude A.P. distinguished by exceptional virility. From her words, was also able to conclude that, from Visitors Court, A.P. went to her place.


   Friday, April 12, 1912, 8 to 10 p.m. A.P. giving lecture in his Private Residence. Didn't manage to establish theme of lecture, not the one about Leconte de Lisle nor the one about the Abbé of Lille. After lecture, servant approached A.P. Gunther and announced that A.P. bids her welcome to his study, in connection with her poetry about India.

   Managed to establish small redwood table was set, that they were drinking champagne, that A.P. was telling how he traveled around India.

   P.S. Gunther cute little blonde. Now (February 15, 1926) prematurely aged. Doesn't write any poetry now. Gratefully recalls A.P. as her first mentor. Says he was a most interesting man.


   Winter, 1917. Evening, before departure (where--unknown), hour unknown. Liaison with manicurist, Alexandra Leontyevna Ptichkina. Ptichkina says she doesn't remember any details at all. Stupid, uneducated type. Says A.P. was like all men.


   But it was here that Mikhail Petrovich looked at his watch: "What a spring morning. Just think, I've been conjuring the life of Alexander Petrovich out of non-existence."

   In the morning, before going off to the clinic, still not fully dressed, Mikhail Petrovich sat down. In Zaevphratsky's handwriting, he started composing verses about India. There was impeccable Parnassian rhyme in them, and there were exotic words (Liu-Qiu), and multi-sparkling geographic names and the jungle, and golden, sun-reflecting plateaus, and a spring festival in Benares, and leopards, and the Knight Templars of Asia, and famine, and plague.

   The verses were metallic.

   The voice was metallic.

   Not a single assonance, no trace of metaphysics, no trace of symbolism.

   They had everything in them, except there was no trace of Mikhail Petrovich.

   If Alexander Petrovich had written them in his day, some would have found these were remarkable verses, that they displayed the striving of a cultured person into exotic lands, away from everyday drabness, away from mills, factories, libraries, into a mysterious, diversified life; others, that the spirit of the explorers was alive in Alexander Petrovich, that in olden times he would have been a great traveler and, who knows, maybe a second Columbus. But others yet might have said his verses finally displayed with utmost clarity Alexander Petrovich's complete extraneousness to the traditions of Russian literature and that, strictly speaking, these weren't Russian verses, but French, that they were a far cry from Russian poetry.

   Having finished the poem, Misha Kotikov fixed his eyes on the portrait of Zaevphratsky.  

   The renowned artist was depicted against the background of a palace among cactuses.

   "A stout old fellow," he thought.

   Mikhail Petrovich remembered it was time for him to go, that they were waiting for him, that a lot of people in pain had probably accumulated, that he had to thrust his fingers into open mouths again and feel his way around gums.

   Mikhail Petrovich took his walking stick, snapped an American clasp on it.

   A girl came up the stairway, stopped on the landing, read on the metal nameplate, "Dentist Mikhail Petrovich Kotikov. Open 3-6." She rang.

   A spring evening. Not even the slightest breeze. Chimney smoke goes up toward heavenly reddish, fleecy clouds and, before reaching them, unnoticeably dissolves.

   Below, Mikhail Petrovich comes out of his private clinic and, stopping, admires the sky.

   He feels like taking a stroll.

   Then he remembers that today he has agreed to meet Ekaterina Ivanovna. He takes a trolley. At Theater Square he gets off and makes for New Holland.

   Going up to the tail end of the embankment, he sits on a bench and looks at a little corner of the sea.

   From there, the College of Mines building can be seen.

   He chose this place today for their meeting.

   The young dentist had often dreamed here of distant seas, of boundless oceans. Over the past six years a ship would appear to him, an enormous European ship. He saw himself sailing away on it.

   But now, when the materials have been gathered and handed over, when he feels like an ordinary doctor, he remembers he will never sail away, that he will never walk the path of Alexander Petrovich, that exotica await him only in a zoo: a mangy lion going back and forth behind bars.

   Or a circus, where toothless beasts jump the way they never jump in their native land.

   The dream of travels tapered off and went dark.

   The day before he received a bronze desk medal from the Quiet Refuge. That's all the reward for the labors of six years! But they're printing his poetry, aren't they? They all just laugh. True, he's a member of the Union of Poets, but what kind of poets do they have there! As soon as you start reading poetry, they say, "It's not you, but Alexander Petrovich."

   But he's going to marry Ekaterina Ivanovna. True, she's stupid, but, after all, Alexander Petrovich married her in his day, so he, too, Mikhail Petrovich has to marry her.

   Ekaterina Ivanovna had already been standing a few minutes and looking at the youthful back of Mikhail Petrovich's head. He was holding a hat on his knees. Then she came running up, covered his eyes with her hands and sat next to him.

   "What are you dreaming about here, Mikhail Petrovich?" she asked, taking her hands off. "I got the letter. I agree."

   Misha Kotikov was looking at the sea.

   "I've loved you for a long time," Ekaterina Ivanovna continued, "but you've only started showing up again the last two months."

   "Dear Ekaterina Ivanovna." Misha Kotikov stood up, as if coming to. "You agree?" he asked, pronouncing his r's like the French. "Now my provincial days will begin!" he sighed. "But you'll keep me in touch with my past, with the romantic period of my life."

   Ekaterina Ivanovna was sitting beside Misha Kotikov and fumbling in her bag. In the bag were a cambric handkerchief, a little mirror and powder in a little cardboard box and a pocket lipstick pencil. She took out the mirror, put the pencil up to her unevenly colored lips.

   "She's over thirty years old." Misha Kotikov turned. "I used to think you were stupid," he said, smiling. "But, over the past few years, I'd known so many women."

   "There's childishness in me." Ekaterina Ivanovna's nice little face started laughing. "And men are attracted by childishness. I'm not stupid at all. I'm glad you realized that."

   Misha Kotikov, bending over, kissed her on the forehead.

   "So, then," asked Misha Kotikov, "it's decided?"

   "It's decided," answered Ekaterina Ivanovna.

   An hour later, in another part of town, they were going up the marble stairway of the Quiet Refuge.

   "This," said Misha Kotikov, turning, "is where my collected materials

on the life of Alexander Petrovich, my notes and journals are being preserved."


   From above, a wiry old fellow, catching sight of them coming up the stairway, started coming down.

   "Ah, how much pleasure you've given to us all!" He said hello to Ekaterina Ivanovna, held out his hand to Mikhail Petrovich. "Your materials on the life of Alexander Petrovich are marvelous. However, there's something funny about them, but it's nothing--it's youthfulness. Too bad that, in our heyday, there hadn't been a young man like you. How interesting it would have been, day after day, to retrace the life of a genius."

   The old fellow looked rapturously at the portrait.

   The old fellow called out. He disappeared into the chambers.

   The meeting hadn't begun yet. And Misha Kotikov and Ekaterina Ivanovna stopped in the room where the library of a great writer was preserved.


   In the square in front of the building it was quiet. To the right it smelled of young buds. To the left--limestone busts, hauled off from their surrounding institutions, were rotting away.

   The wind from the Neva exhaled like a man. People were strolling there. They were strolling near the university, near the Toma Exchange, near the Ethnographic Museum, near the Admiralty screened by buildings, near the Horseman erected by Catherine II.

   Ekaterina Ivanovna and Misha Kotikov went up to the window.

   "I'm so happy. Now we shall always talk about Alexander Petrovich," said Ekaterina Ivanovna, waking up, leaning her elbows against the back of an armchair. "Isn't it true this outfit goes with me?" she said, sniffing a bouquet of violets.

   The bearded colleagues of the Quiet Refuge were bustling. Like ants, they protected the Quiet Refuge, kept it replenished, wiped the dust, showed it off with dignity to visitors, displayed reverence for everyone who provided the Quiet Refuge some kind of patronage or service. Here, praises rose up to the pinnacle of poetry, unattainable in times to come.


   Behind Agathonov, pairs of lovers walked in different directions, and smiled, and turned back, and stood over the Neva, and walked again, and turned back again. They smiled at the sun burning out on the water, and at the last sparrows hopping along the pavement, pecking oats and raising them triumphantly.

   Without feeling, Agathonov sat down on a granite bench, took out a piece of paper and a pencil and, as before, started combining the first words that came into his head. The first line came out. He was poring over it and interpreting it, then he started to disentangle the collision of sounds, then to put it in order syntactically and add a second line. Once again,  words were opening up for him, like little boxes. He went inside each little box, which was bottomless, and came out into a space and ended up in a temple sitting on a tripod, simultaneously and from time to time writing down and arranging his writings in verse.

   Proud as a demon, he returned to the embankment. He went to the Summer Garden.

   "I'm endowed with knowledge," he was thinking once again. "I'm in touch with Rome. I know the future."

   Proudly, and even a little boldly, he strutted along the main alley of the Summer Garden. The statues looked at him from all sides. To him they seemed pink with green eyes, with slightly tinted hair.

   The flowers on the slopes of the pond, the granite vases, the Engineer's Castle attracted his attention for the moment, but he turned back and noticed the philosopher sitting on a bench with a half-Chinese child. The little girl wore a nice bright, half-short overcoat and a straw hat. On her feet were little socks with little colored borders. On the philosopher was an inexpensive overcoat and an inexpensive felt hat. The little girl was sucking chocolate. The philosopher was reading some kind of book.

   Agathonov slowly passed by. He was afraid someone might disturb him, that something would disrupt his state of mind.

   Where there once had been gardens and walkways, he felt as if they were there even now.

   He walked about all day long.

   The white night that set in, tremulous, like an evaporation of ether, intoxicated him all the more. Figures, fairly distinct, made their way along the sidewalk. Now and then cars raced by with smartly dressed creatures. Then all was quiet. In the windows of some jewelry stores, watches showed the exact time. Haughty inscriptions proclaimed that it was  the exact time.

   He went into a hotel, holding the piece of paper, like a pass:


War and famine, just like a dream,

Left only a foul aftertaste.

We carried on the lofty note,

After all, but a feeble challenge.


And his dear friends glance

At the movements of his mouth,

At the deep blue sag of the eye-sockets,

At the numbness of his eyes.


Along the streets, a people goes its way,

To the beat of different generation,

For him, our proud step and the heartbeat

Of our souls are a joke.


Chapter XXXIV




   Troitsyn walked and shed some tears. He loved Petersburg very much. For him, once upon a time, the city was Sirin the Bird of Paradise. The city beckoned to him with its lights.

   Before, Troitsyn felt Petersburg was a fairy-tale city, a Russian city. Even though it was built by a foreigner, wasn't it as Russian as the Uspensky Cathedral in Moscow? Or St. Sophia in Kiev? In Petersburg, Russian Manon Lescauts, ladies with camellias, came out to feast their eyes upon the Neva, on the pearls floating in the springtime.

   Here there were the tales of Perrault and the bohemian life with guitars and balalaikas. Here there were the masked balls with candle lights like rubies. Let Troitsyn go on dancing now at the balls, let him go on reading his old poetry at dawn to girls and ladies with trimmed hair, let him, stepping up to a mirror and grazing his r's like the French, go on smiling complacently. But, imperceptibly, for everyone and for him, the Sirin Bird inside him has died.

   Troitsyn was going to see Ekaterina Ivanovna and he was thinking, "Look at me, such a reckless type, and I feel sorry for her, but I can't marry her--it doesn't befit a poet to get married. To sit with a girl by the stove, read his poetry, and then, in the morning, get ready to be on the way or on the road, and in the evening to get together at a concert or a dance, do the foxtrot, read her his poetry on the couch. To captivate. And, back home, to sleep all day long. Now that's the life of a poet." And, going up to a druggist's mirror and grazing his r's like the French, Troitsyn smiled complacently.



   Electric chandeliers are shining under ceilings with clouds and cupids. There's a jazz-band. In a small room they're doing the foxtrot, but the next morning--there's a meeting of the editorial staff, searching for reviews, searching for money, standing in lines at the cashier. And, leading a girl up to the fireplace, he tries to read her his poetry, but the journalists, editors, and prose writers are in a semicircle eating supper, and he's looking at the girl he's led out from the dance floor.

   "Shall I read you my poetry?" he asks.

   "Give it a rest," says the young lady. "I've known all your poetry now for ages."

   "What a nice little knee you have," Troitsyn enthuses.

   "But no peeking!" the young lady laughs. "Why, you seem to be going bald," she bursts out, pulling around Troitsyn's head.

   "Well, I'll be damned, I am going bald," Troitsyn laughs.

   Indeed, how did it come about that he started going bald at a young age?

   But isn't it the mark of a poet to go bald and sigh over himself and try to captivate with his dead dreams some young lady with lips like cherries, with drops of perspiration on her forehead after a foxtrot?

   Although the young lady was making fun of Troitsyn at the dance, outside she still consented and went along with him. Not because he's a poet, not because someone had left her, but because--why in the world not?

   She was tow-haired, with cherry lips and blue eyes. Dangling on her scrawny figure was a short little dress with brocade around the chest, and stranded on her little finger was a chrysolite made of bottle glass.

   Troitsyn didn't treat the young ladies to wine. He didn't ply them with drink. He would lead them up to his room, take out a box, and start showing all sorts of poetic objects. And so it was this time, but, just the same, it was cozy in the room. Outside there was a white night, quiet as quiet can be. On the walls were photographs from the Kremlin and Manon Lescaut, and an etching of the Prodigal Son. And, sitting on the bed, Troitsyn is kissing the young lady and, standing by a chair, his boots, next to the young lady's shoes.

   And the dawn will shine upon their heads side by side on the pillow, with opened mouths softly snoring to either side and holding each other's hands. And, perhaps, she'll dream of life with her family, and he--of fields, a little river and himself as a high school student.



   That night, feeling he was now only Agathonov, the former poet spent a long time gazing out a hotel window at the spacious avenue, at the white Petersburg night. He sat down at a little table, finished his beer, laid down a piece of paper and started to read his last verses:


                              For us did Florence shine in our youth
                                        For us revealed gentle Philostratus in the streets--
                                        We didn't conjure him with philtres--

                                        Not past the outskirts, overgrown with dust.

                                        On a vague street was he conjured,

                                        By poetry, with a voice sweet as the morning.


And when he had read them aloud, he clearly saw his verses were bad, that the prime of his youth had come to an end, that the dream had come to an end, together with his talent. For some unknown reason, he sucked on the barrel of a revolver a while, withdrew into a corner of the room and fired into his temple.



   Troitsyn was asleep in bed with the young lady when Misha Kotikov, breaking off all his appointments, came running up to knock. In hastily pulled-on trousers, Troitsyn came out the entrance hall.

   "My, what a shocking occurrence! Last night, in the Hotel 'Bristol,' the last lyricist shot himself."

   And suddenly Troitsyn broke down and cried.

   "The same fate awaits every one of us. After all, I, too, am a last lyricist."

   Forgetting about the young lady, he headed for the hotel with Misha Kotikov.

   They kissed the deceased on the forehead and started crying, and, while blowing his nose, Troitsyn inconspicuously pulled off the tie and put it into his pocket, and Misha Kotikov took the deceased's nice blue enameled cuff-links out of the cuffs and stashed them in a cigar case and, once he'd stashed them, they glanced at one another and felt somewhat contented and relieved.

   And then Troitsyn remembered his young lady and went running home and started excusing himself.

   "What kind of respect is this," said the young lady, getting upset, "leaving a woman by herself?"

   But, when she found out and saw Troitsyn crying and looking over the tie, she, too, broke down and cried.


   Sunday. Morning.

   "I have an exotic profession," says Misha Kotikov, walking beside Ekaterina Ivanovna around a noisy park. "I have to fuss around all the time with gold and silver and even with quicksilver. You stand and see below a ring on a finger--some kind of emerald--and you picture some sort of country where everything's decked out with emeralds--a belly dance starts up. Or a young man will come with a turquoise on his little finger, and you pick teeth for him to go with the color, but you yourself are thinking about Persia, about sultry movements. With my daydreams, I create exotica here. Isn't it true I'm a powerful man, Ekaterina Ivanovna?"

   "Only why on earth did you choose this profession?"

   "I didn't choose it. It chose me," said Misha Kotikov, shaking his head. "At first, I thought that's all it was--tooling around, temporary earnings, night courses--but then I ended up as a dentist."

   "Look at my brother the cobbler, and what a cobbler he was, when he was a horse-guardsman."

   And, quiet as quiet can be, Misha Kotikov and Ekaterina Ivanovna walk around the park.

   The pathways of Pavlovsk Park are quiet and without a soul. It was here that, once upon a time, Misha Kotikov rode a high three-wheeled bicycle.

   "Of course, we were the oppressors," he says and feels as if he's being propagandized.

   And they walk, quiet as quiet can be.



   In a revived center of the city, gazing at springtime arrived in the courtyard, Troitsyn sighs over the great love of Don Juan. Jubilant with spring, children are jumping.

   He sees window-hatches opening and damp children's heads with limp hair lean out, then duck inside. Door handles start to move, children appear, on wobbly legs.



   Above a canal, across from the House of Instruction, Kostya Rotikov walks up and down the auction room and reads a book of dreams. Two or three figures take their time pacing back and forth and looking over the items on display.

   Outside the window glass, a clamor of leaves. A whitish sky, little by little, grows dark.

   Kostya Rotikov looks at his watch--it's time to close.

   People who stayed late go down the stairway.

   He goes down.

   He says something to the door-keeper woman.

   He rides a trolley and thinks about the fact that life is beautiful, that, all in all, his work isn't hard, that, all in all, it's even interesting to buy china and paintings cheap, and then display them in an auction hall, and that a teacup he had the luck to buy and resell will provide something to live on.

   He goes into a building and looks over some items. The landlady, who once appropriated the china from a gentleman who had disappeared, is getting married and going off. She's selling everything.

   "Well, there's nothing to be ashamed of with this," Kostya Rotikov thinks and buys some knick-knacks for a pittance.

   He feels like examining his purchase. He has a keen nose for value. He knows he's bought items respected by everybody. A little ways off is a cemetery. There he arranges the teacups and little figures on a bench and squats down.

   "Expensive Saxon," he mutters.

   The trees are spilling over with birds.

   He packs up. He starts reading the book of dreams.

   He lays the little book on his knees and looks up at the birds. "It's marvelous. The little petty bourgeois are singing with fervor."

   Then he begins strolling around, examining gravestones, and reads the epitaphs.

   In front of one he starts jumping and laughing out loud.


Your love for me was immense,

I enjoyed it like a husband.


   He takes out his notebook and writes it down.



   Kovalyov goes to a musical with his young wife.

   The day before, he bumped into Natasha. Natasha was going abroad in two months.  

   "Yes indeed," he thought, "she's done all right for herself."


   In the evenings Misha Kotikov was drawing--of course, he was drawing Alexander Petrovich in his day. Misha Kotikov tried to get the very same colors, to paint with the very same tones, as much as possible, with the same brushes. They were found in Ekaterina Ivanovna's chest of drawers. In addition, he got hold of imported paints from ex-lovers, the children of rich families. In the evenings, he sat before an easel with brush in hand, and when he got tired of drawing, he read books that Zaevphratsky liked to read. All life for him was confined within the likeness of Zaevphratsky.


   A wondrous evening.

   The sun's going down.

   In a nice little hut, Marya Petrovna boils milk on a primus stove.

   Grasshoppers are chirping. The lake is overflowing.

   "No, in the summer it's nice in the country."

   With his collar open, a broadchested Teptyolkin sits in front of the nice little hut in his slippers and, using the stick with monkeys decorating the handle, draws some sort of figures in the sand.


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