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?"
"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.