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Chapter 16

  • ON awakening the following morning, Nejdanov did not feel the slightes_mbarrassment at what had taken place the previous night, but was, on th_ontrary, filled with a sort of quiet joy, as if he had fulfilled somethin_hich ought to have been done long ago. Asking for two days' leave fro_ipiagin, who consented readily, though with a certain amount of severity, Nejdanov set out for Markelov's. Before his departure he managed to se_ariana. She was also not in the least abashed, looked at him calmly an_esolutely, and called him "dear" quite naturally. She was very much concerne_bout what he might hear at Markelov's, and begged him to tell her everything.
  • "Of course!" he replied. "After all," he thought, "why should we be disturbed?
  • In our friendship personal feeling played only … a secondary part, and we ar_nited forever. In the name of the cause? Yes, in the name of the cause!"
  • Thus Nejdanov thought, and he did not himself suspect how much truth and ho_uch falsehood there lay in his reflections.
  • He found Markelov in the same weary, sullen frame of mind. After a ver_mpromptu dinner they set out in the well-known carriage to the merchan_alyeva's cotton factory where Solomin lived. (The second side horse harnesse_o the carriage was a young colt that had never been in harness before.
  • Markelov's own horse was still a little lame.)
  • Nejdanov's curiosity had been aroused. He very much wanted to become close_cquainted with a man about whom he had heard so much of late. Solomin ha_een informed of their coming, so that as soon as the two travellers stoppe_t the gates of the factory and announced who they were, they were immediatel_onducted into the hideous little wing occupied by the "engineering manager."
  • He was at that time in the main body of the building, and while one of th_orkmen ran to fetch him, Nejdanov and Markelov managed to go up to the windo_nd look around. The factory was apparently in a very flourishing conditio_nd over-loaded with work. From every corner came the quick buzzing sound o_nceasing activity; the puffing and rattling of machines, the creaking o_ooms, the humming of wheels, the whirling of straps, while trolleys, barrels, and loaded carts were rolling in and out. Orders were shouted out at the to_f the voice amidst the sound of bells and whistles; workmen in blouses wit_irdles round their waists, their hair fastened with straps, work girls i_rint dresses, hurried quickly to and fro, harnessed horses were led about.
  • It represented the hum of a thousand human beings working with all thei_ight. Everything went at full speed in fairly regular order, but not only wa_here an absence of smartness and neatness, but there was not the smalles_race or cleanliness to be seen anywhere. On the contrary, in every corner on_as struck by neglect, dirt, grime; here a pane of glass was broken, there th_laster was coming off; in another place the boards were loose; in a third, _oor gaped wide open. A large filthy puddle covered with a coating of rainbow- coloured slime stood in the middle of the main yard; farther on lay a heap o_iscarded bricks; scraps of mats and matting, boxes, and pieces of rope la_cattered here and there; shaggy, hungry-looking dogs wandered to and fro, to_istless to bark; in a corner, under the fence, sat a grimy little boy o_bout four, with an enormous belly and dishevelled head, crying hopelessly, a_f he had been forsaken by the whole world; close by a sow likewise besmeare_n soot and surrounded by a medley of little suckling-pigs was devouring som_abbage stalks; some ragged clothes were stretched on a line— and suc_tuffiness and stench! In a word, just like a Russian factory— not like _rench or a German one.
  • Nejdanov looked at Markelov.
  • "I have heard so much about Solomin's superior capabilities," he began, "tha_ confess all this disorder surprises me. I did not expect it."
  • "This is not disorder, but the usual Russian slovenliness," Markelov replie_loomily. "But all the same, they are turning over millions. Solomin has t_djust himself to the old ways, to practical things, and to the owner himself.
  • Have you any idea what Falyeva is like?"
  • "Not in the least."
  • "He is the biggest skinflint in Moscow. A regular bourgeois."
  • At this moment Solomin entered the room. Nejdanov was just as disillusione_bout him as he had been about the factory. At the first glance he gave on_he impression of being a Finn or a Swede. He was tall, lean, broad- shouldered, with colourless eyebrows and eyelashes; had a long sallow face, _hort, rather broad nose, small greenish eyes, a placid expression, coars_hick lips, large teeth, and a divided chin covered with a suggestion of down.
  • He was dressed like a mechanic or a stoker in an old pea-jacket with bagg_ockets, with an oil-skin cap on his head, a woollen scarf round his neck, an_arred boots on his feet. He was accompanied by a man of about forty in _easant coat, who had an extraordinarily lively gipsy-like face, coal- blac_iercing eyes, with which he scanned Nejdanov as soon as he entered the room.
  • Markelov was already known to him. This was Pavel, Solomin's factotum.
  • Solomin approached the two visitors slowly and without a word, pressed th_and of each in turn in his own hard bony one. He opened a drawer, pulled ou_ sealed letter, which he handed to Pavel, also without a word, and the latte_mmediately left the room. Then he stretched himself, threw away his cap wit_ne wave of the hand, sat down on a painted wooden stool and, pointing to _ouch, begged Nejdanov and Markelov to be seated.
  • Markelov first introduced Nejdanov, whom Solomin again shook by the hand, the_e went on to "business," mentioning Vassily Nikolaevitch's letter, whic_ejdanov handed to Solomin. And while the latter was reading it carefully, hi_yes moving from line to line, Nejdanov sat watching him. Solomin was near th_indow and the sun, already low in the horizon, was shining full on his tanne_ace covered with perspiration, on his fair hair covered with dust, making i_parkle like a mass of gold. His nostrils quivered and distended as he read, and his lips moved as though he were forming every word. He held the lette_aised tightly in both hands, and when he had finished returned it to Nejdano_nd began listening to Markelov again. The latter talked until he ha_xhausted himself.
  • "I am afraid," Solomin began (his hoarse voice, full of youth and strength, was pleasing to Nejdanov's ear), "it will be rather inconvenient to talk here.
  • Why not go to your place? It is only a question of seven miles. You came i_our carriage, did you not?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Well, I suppose you can make room for me. I shall have finished my work i_bout an hour, and will be quite free. We can talk things over thoroughly. Yo_re also free, are you not?" he asked, turning to Nejdanov.
  • "Until the day after tomorrow."
  • "That's all right. We can stay the night at your place, Sergai Mihailovitch, _uppose?
  • "Of course you may!"
  • "Good. I shall be ready in a minute. I'll just make myself a little mor_resentable."
  • "And how are things at your factory?" Nejdanov asked significantly.
  • Solomin looked away.
  • "We can talk things over thoroughly," he remarked a second time. " Pleas_xcuse me a moment… I'll be back directly… . I've forgotten something."
  • He went out. Had he not already produced a good impression on Nejdanov, th_atter would have thought that he was backing out, but such an idea did no_ccur to him.
  • An hour later, when from every story, every staircase and door of the enormou_uilding, a noisy crowd of workpeople came streaming out, the carriag_ontaining Markelov, Nejdanov, and Solomin drove out of the gates on to th_oad.
  • "Vassily Fedotitch! Is it to be done?" Pavel shouted after Solomin, whom h_ad accompanied to the gate.
  • "No, not now," Solomin replied. "He wanted to know about some night work," h_xplained, turning to his companions.
  • When they reached Borsionkov they had some supper, merely for the sake o_oliteness, and afterwards lighted cigars and began a discussion, one of thos_nterminable, midnight Russian discussions which in degree and length are onl_eculiar to Russians and unequalled by people of any other nationality. Durin_he discussion, too, Solomin did not come up to Nejdanov's expectation. H_poke little—so little that one might almost have said that he was quit_ilent. But he listened attentively, and whenever he made any remark or gav_n opinion, did so briefly, seriously, showing a considerable amount o_ommon- sense. Solomin did not believe that the Russian revolution was so nea_t hand, but not wishing to act as a wet blanket on others, he did not intrud_is opinions or hinder others from making attempts. He looked on from _istance as it were, but was still a comrade by their side. He knew the St.
  • Petersburg revolutionists and agreed with their ideas up to a certain point.
  • He himself belonged to the people, and fully realised that the great bulk o_hem, without whom one can do nothing, were still quite indifferent, that the_ust first be prepared, by quite different means and for entirely differen_nds than the upper classes. So he held aloof, not from a sense o_uperiority, but as an ordinary man with a few independent ideas, who did no_ish to ruin himself or others in vain. But as for listening, there was n_arm in that.
  • Solomin was the only son of a deacon and had five sisters, who were al_arried to priests or deacons. He was also destined for the church, but wit_is father's consent threw it up and began to study mathematics, as he ha_aken a special liking to mechanics. He entered a factory of which the owne_as an Englishman, who got to love him like his own son. This man supplied hi_ith the means of going to Manchester, where he stayed for two years, acquiring an excellent knowledge of the English language. With the Mosco_erchant he had fallen in but a short time ago. He was exacting with hi_ubordinates, a manner he had acquired in England, but they liked hi_evertheless, and treated him as one of themselves. His father was very prou_f him, and used to speak of him as a steady sort of man, but was very grieve_hat he did not marry and settle down.
  • During the discussion, as we have already said, Solomin sat silent the whol_ime; but when Markelov began enlarging upon the hopes they put on the factor_orkers, Solomin remarked, in his usual laconic way, that they must not depen_oo much on them, as factory workers in Russia were not what they were abroad.
  • "They are an extremely mild set of people here."
  • "And what about the peasants?"
  • "The peasants? There are a good many sweaters and money-lenders among the_ow, and there are likely to be more in time. This kind only look to their ow_nterests, and as for the others, they are as ignorant as sheep."
  • "Then where are we to turn to?" Solomin smiled.
  • "Seek and ye shall find."
  • There was a constant smile on his lips, but the smile was as full of meanin_s the man himself. With Nejdanov he behaved in a very peculiar manner. He wa_ttracted to the young student and felt an almost tender sympathy for him. A_ne part of the discussion, where Nejdanov broke out into a perfect torrent o_ords, Solomin got up quietly, moved across the room with long strides, an_hut a window that was standing open just above Nejdanov's head.
  • "You might catch cold," he observed, in answer to the orator's look o_mazement.
  • Nejdanov began to question him about his factory, asking if any cooperativ_xperiments had been made, if anything had been done so that the workers migh_ome in for a share of the profits.
  • "My dear fellow!" Solomin exclaimed, "I instituted a school and a tin_ospital, and even then the owner struggled like a bear!"
  • Solomin lost his temper once in real earnest on hearing of some lega_njustice about the suppression of a workman's association. He banged hi_owerful fist on the table so that everything on it trembled, including _orty-pound weight, which happened to be lying near the ink pot.
  • When Markelov and Nejdanov began discussing ways and means of executing thei_lans, Solomin listened with respectful curiosity, but did not pronounce _ingle word. Their talk lasted until four o'clock in the morning, when the_ad touched upon almost everything under the sun. Markelov again spok_ysteriously of Kisliakov's untiring journeys and his letters, which wer_ecoming more interesting than ever. He promised to show them to Nejdanov, saying that he would probably have to take them away with him, as they wer_ather lengthy and written in an illegible handwriting. He assured him tha_here was a great deal of learning in them and even poetry, not of th_rivolous kind, but poetry with a socialistic tendency!
  • From Kisliakov, Markelov went on to the military, to adjutants, Germans, eve_ot so far as his articles on the shortcomings of the artillery, whils_ejdanov spoke about the antagonism between Heine and Borne, Proudhon, an_ealism in art. Solomin alone sat listening and reflecting, the smile neve_eaving his lips. Without having uttered a single word, he seemed t_nderstand better than the others where the essential difficulty lay.
  • The hour struck four. Nejdanov and Markelov could scarcely stand on their leg_rom exhaustion, while Solomin was as fresh as could be. They parted for th_ight, having agreed to go to town the next day to see the merchant Golushkin, an Old Believer, who was said to be very zealous and promised proselytes.
  • Solomin doubted whether it was worth while going, but agreed to go in the end.