THE dawn was already approaching on the night after Golushkin's dinner whe_olomin, after a brisk walk of about five miles, knocked at the gate in th_igh wall surrounding the factory. The watchman let him in at once and, followed by three house-dogs wagging their tails with great delight, accompanied him respectfully to his own dwelling. He seemed to be very please_hat the chief had got back safely.
"How did you manage to get here at night, Vassily Fedotitch? We didn't expec_ou until tomorrow."
"Oh, that's all right, Gavrilla. It's much nicer walking at night."
The most unusually friendly relations existed between Solomin and hi_orkpeople. They respected him as a superior, treated him as one o_hemselves, and considered him to be very learned. "Whatever Vassily Fedotitc_ays," they declared, "is sacred! Because he has learned everything there i_o be learned, and there isn't an Englishman who can get around him!" And i_act, a certain well-known English manufacturer had once visited the factory, but whether it was that Solomin could speak to him in his own tongue or tha_e was really impressed by his knowledge is uncertain; he had laughed, slappe_im on the shoulder, and invited him to come to Liverpool with him, saying t_he workmen, in his broken Russian, "Oh, he's all right, your man here!" A_hich the men laughed a great deal, not without a touch of pride. "So that'_hat he is! Our man!"
And he really was theirs and one of them. Early the next morning his favourit_avel woke him, prepared his things for washing, told him various news, an_sked him various questions. They partook of some tea together hastily, afte_hich Solomin put on his grey, greasy working-jacket and set out for th_actory; and his life began to go round again like some huge flywheel.
But the thread had to be broken again. Five days after Solomin's return hom_here drove into the courtyard a smart little phaeton, harnessed to fou_plendid horses and a footman in pale green livery, whom Pavel conducted t_he little wing, where he solemnly handed Solomin a letter sealed with a_rmorial crest, from "His Excellency Boris Andraevitch Sipiagin." In thi_etter, which exhaled an odour, not of perfume, but of some extraordinaril_espectable English smell and was written in the third person, not by _ecretary, but by the gentleman himself, the cultured owner of the villag_rjanov, he begged to be excused for addressing himself to a man with whom h_ad not the honour of being personally acquainted, but of whom he, Sipiagin, had heard so many flattering accounts, and ventured to invite Mr. Solomin t_ome and see him at his house, as he very much wanted to ask his valuabl_dvice about a manufacturing enterprise of some importance he had embarke_pon. In the hope that Mr. Solomin would be kind enough to come, he, Sipiagin, had sent him his carriage, but in the event of his being unable to do so o_hat day, would he be kind enough to choose any other day that might b_onvenient for him and the same carriage would be gladly put at his disposal.
Then followed the usual polite signature and a postscript written in the firs_erson:
"I hope that you will not refuse to take dinner with us quite simply. No dres_lothes." (The words "quite simply" were underlined.) Together with thi_etter the footman (not without a certain amount of embarrassment) gav_olomin another letter from Nejdanov. It was just a simple note, not seale_ith wax but merely stuck down, containing the following lines: "Do pleas_ome. You're wanted badly and may be extremely useful. I need hardly say no_o Mr. Sipiagin."
On finishing Sipiagin's letter Solomin thought, "How else can I go if no_imply? I haven't any dress clothes at the factory… And what the devil shoul_ drag myself over there for? It's just a waste of time!" But after readin_ejdanov's note, he scratched the back of his neck and walked over to th_indow, irresolute.
"What answer am I to take back, sir?" the footman in green livery aske_lowly.
Solomin stood for some seconds longer at the window.
"I am coming with you," he announced, shaking back his hair and passing hi_and over his forehead— "just let me get dressed."
The footman left the room respectfully and Solomin sent for Pavel, had a tal_ith him, ran across to the factory once more, then putting on a black coa_ith a very long waist, which had been made by a provincial tailor, and _habby top-hat which instantly gave his face a wooden expression, took hi_eat in the phaeton. He suddenly remembered that he had forgotten his gloves, and called out to the "never-failing" Pavel, who brought him a pair of newly- washed white kid ones, the fingers of which were so stretched at the tips tha_hey looked like long biscuits. Solomin thrust the gloves into his pocket an_ave the order to start. Then the footman jumped onto the box with a_nnecessary amount of alacrity, the well-bred coachman sang out in a falsett_oice, and the horses started off at a gallop.
While the horses were bearing Solomin along to Sipiagin's, that gentleman wa_itting in his drawing-room with a halfcut political pamphlet on his knee, discussing him with his wife. He confided to her that he had written to hi_ith the express purpose of trying to get him away from the merchant's factor_o his own, which was in a very bad way and needed reorganising. Sipiagi_ould not for a moment entertain the idea that Solomin would refuse to come, or even so much as appoint another day, though he had himself suggested it.
"But ours is a paper-mill, not a spinning-mill," Valentina Mihailovn_emarked.
"It's all the same, my dear, machines are used in both, and he's a mechanic."
"But supposing he turns out to be a specialist!"
"My dear! In the first place there are no such things as specialists i_ussia; in the second, I've told you that he's a mechanic!"
Valentina Mihailovna smiled.
"Do be careful, my dear. You've been unfortunate once already with young men; mind you don't make a second mistake."
"Are you referring to Nejdanov? I don't think I've been altogether mistake_ith regard to him. He has been a good tutor to Kolia. And then you know "no_is in idem"! Excuse my being pedantic… . It means, things don't repea_hemselves!
"Don't you think so? Well, I think that everything in the world repeats itself … especially what's in the nature of things… and particularly among youn_eople."
"Que voulez-vous dire?" asked Sipiagin, flinging the pamphlet on the tabl_ith a graceful gesture of the hand.
"Ouvrez les yeux, et vous verrez!" Madame Sipiagina replied. They always spok_o one another in French.
"H'm!" Sipiagin grunted. "Are you referring to that student?"
"Yes, I'm referring to him."
"H'm! Has he got anything on here, eh?" (He passed his hand over hi_orehead.)
"Open your eyes!"
"Is it Mariana, eh?" (The second" eh" was pronounced more through the nos_han the first one.)
"Open your eyes, I tell you!"
"We must talk about this later on. I should just like to say now that thi_olomin may feel rather uncomfortable… You see, he is not used to society. W_ust be nice to him so as to make him feel at his ease. Of course, I don'_ean this for you, you're such a dear, that I think you could fascinate anyon_f you chose. J'en sais quelque chose, madame! I mean this for the others, i_nly for—"
He pointed to a fashionable grey hat lying on a shelf. It belonged to Mr.
Kollomietzev, who had been in Arjanov since the morning.
"Il est tres cassant you know. He has far too great a contempt for the peopl_or my liking. And he has been so frightfully quarrelsome and irritable o_ate. Is his little affair there not getting on well?"
Sipiagin nodded his head in some indefinite direction, but his wife understoo_im.
"Open your eyes, I tell you again!"
Sipiagin stood up.
"Eh?" (This "eh" was pronounced in a quite different tone, much lower.) "I_hat how the land lies? They had better take care I don't open them too wide!"
"That is your own affair, my dear. But as for that new young man of yours, yo_ay be quite easy about him. I will see that everything is all right. Ever_recaution will be taken."
It turned out that no precautions were necessary, however. Solomin was not i_he least alarmed or embarrassed.
As soon as he was announced Sipiagin jumped up, exclaiming in a voice lou_nough to be heard in the hall, "Show him in, of course show him in!" He the_ent up to the drawing-room door and stood waiting. No sooner had Solomi_rossed the threshold, almost knocking against Sipiagin, when the latte_xtended both his hands, saying with an amiable smile and a friendly shake o_he head, "How very nice of you to come… . I can hardly thank you enough."
Then he led him up to Valentina Mihailovna.
"Allow me to introduce you to my wife," he said, gently pressing his han_gainst Solomin's back, pushing him towards her as it were. "My dear, here i_ur best local engineer and manufacturer, Vassily… Fedosaitch Solomin."
Madame Sipiagina stood up, raised her wonderful eyelashes, smiled sweetly a_o an acquaintance, extended her hand with the palm upwards, her elbow presse_gainst her waist, her head bent a little to the right, in the attitude of _uppliant. Solomin let the husband and wife go through their little comedy, shook hands with them both, and sat down at the first invitation to do so.
Sipiagin began to fuss about him, asking if he would like anything, bu_olomin assured him that he wanted nothing and was not in the least bit tire_rom the journey.
"Then may we go to the factory?" Sipiagin asked, a little shame- faced, no_aring to believe in so much condescension on the part of his guest.
"As soon as you like, I'm quite ready," Solomin replied. "How awfully good o_ou! Shall we drive or would you like to walk?"
"Is it a long way?"
"About half a mile."
"It's hardly worthwhile bringing out the carriage."
"Very well. Ivan! my hat and stick! Make haste! And you'll see about som_inner, little one, won't you? My hat, quick!"
Sipiagin was far more excited than his visitor, and calling out once more, "
Why don't they give me my hat," he, the stately dignitary, rushed out like _rolicsome schoolboy. While her husband was talking to Solomin, Valentin_ihailovna looked at him stealthily, trying to make out this new "young man."
He was sitting in an armchair, quite at his ease, his bare hands laid on hi_nee (he had not put on the gloves after all), calmly, although not without _ertain amount of curiosity, looking around at the furniture and pictures. "_on't understand," she thought, "he's a plebeian—quite a plebeian—and ye_ehaves so naturally!" Solomin did indeed carry himself naturally, not wit_ny view to effect, as much as to say "Look what a splendid fellow I am!" bu_s a man whose thoughts and feelings are simple, direct, and strong at th_ame time. Madame Sipiagina wanted to say something to him, but was surprise_o find that she did not quite know how to begin.
"Heavens!" she thought. "This mechanic is making me quite nervous!"
"My husband must be very grateful to you," she remarked at last. "It was s_ood of you to sacrifice a few hours of your valuable time—"
"My time is not so very valuable, madame," he observed. "Besides, I've no_ome here for long."
"Voila ou l'ours a montre sa patte," she thought in French, but at this momen_er husband appeared in the doorway, his hat on his head and a walking stic_n his hand.
"Are you ready, Vassily Fedosaitch?" he asked in a free and easy tone, hal_urned towards him.
Solomin rose, bowed to Valentina Mihailovna, and walked out behind Sipiagin.
"This way, this way, Vassily Fedosaitch!" Sipiagin called out, just as if the_ere groping their way through a tangled forest and Solomin needed a guide.
"This way! Do be careful, there are some steps here, Vassily Fedosaitch!"
"If you want to call me by my father's Christian name," Solomin said slowly,
"then it isn't Fedosaitch, but Fedotitch."
Sipiagin was taken aback and looked at him over his shoulder.
"I'm so sorry, Vassily Fedotitch."
"Please don't mention it."
As soon as they got outside they ran against Kollomietzev.
"Where are you off to?" the latter asked, looking askance at Solomin. "Are yo_oing to the factory? C'est la l'individu en question?"
Sipiagin opened his eyes wide and shook his head slightly by way of warning.
"Yes, we're going to the factory. I want to show all my sins an_ransgressions to this gentleman, who is an engineer. Allow me to introduc_ou. Mr. Kollomietzev, a neighbouring landowner, Mr. Solomin.
Kollomietzev nodded his head twice in an off-hand manner without looking a_olomin, but the latter looked at him and there was a sinister gleam in hi_alf-closed eyes.
"May I come with you?" Kollomietzev asked. "You know I'm always ready t_earn."
"Certainly, if you like."
They went out of the courtyard into the road and had scarcely taken twent_teps when they ran across a priest in a woven cassock, who was wending hi_ay homeward. Kollomietzev left his two companions and, going up to him wit_ong, firm strides, asked for his blessing and gave him a sounding smack o_is moist, red hand, much to the discomfiture of the priest, who did not i_he least expect this sort of outburst. He then turned to Solomin and gave hi_ defiant look. He had evidently heard something about him and wanted to sho_ff and get some fun out of this learned scoundrel.
"C'est une manifestation, mon cher?" Sipiagin muttered through his teeth.
"Oui, mon cher, une manifestation necessaire par temps qui court!"
They got to the factory and were met by a Little Russian with an enormou_eard and false teeth, who had taken the place of the former manager, _erman, whom Sipiagin had dismissed. This man was there in a temporar_apacity and understood absolutely nothing; he merely kept on saying "Just so… yes… that's it," and sighing all the time. They began inspecting the place.
Several of the workmen knew Solomin by sight and bowed to him. He even calle_ut to one of them, "Hallo, Gregory! You here?" Solomin was soon convince_hat the place was going badly. Money was simply thrown away for no reaso_hatever. The machines turned out to be of a very poor kind; many of them wer_uite superfluous and a great many necessary ones were lacking. Sipiagin kep_ooking into Solomin's face, trying to guess his opinion, asked a few timi_uestions, wanted to know if he was at any rate satisfied with the order o_he place.
"Oh, the order is all right," Solomin replied, "but I doubt if you can ge_nything out of it."
Not only Sipiagin, but even Kollomietzev felt, that in the factory Solomin wa_uite at home, was familiar with every little detail, was master there i_act. He laid his hand on a machine as a rider on his horse's neck; he poked _heel with his finger and it either stood still or began whirling round; h_ook some paper pulp out of a vat and it instantly revealed all its defects.
Solomin said very little, took no notice of the Little Russian at all, an_ent out without saying anything. Sipiagin and Kollomietzev followed him.
Sipiagin was so upset that he did not let any one accompany him. He stampe_nd ground his teeth with rage.
"I can see by your face," he said turning to Solomin, "that you are no_leased with the place. Of course, I know that it's not in a very excellen_ondition and doesn't pay as yet. But please … give me your candid opinion a_o what you consider to be the principal failings and as to what one could d_o improve matters."
"Paper-manufacturing is not in my line," Solomin began, "but I can tell yo_ne thing. I doubt if the aristocracy is cut out for industrial enterprises."
"Do you consider it degrading for the aristocracy?" Kollomietzev asked.
Solomin smiled his habitual broad smile.
"Oh dear no! What is there degrading about it? And even if there were, I don'_hink the aristocracy would be overly particular."
"What do you mean?"
"I only meant," Solomin continued, calmly, "that the gentry are not used t_hat kind of business. A knowledge of commerce is needed for that; everythin_as to be put on a different footing, you want technical training for it. Th_entry don't understand this. We see them starting woollen, cotton, and othe_actories all over the place, but they nearly always fall into the hands o_he merchants in the end. It's a pity, because the merchants are even wors_weaters. But it can't be helped, I suppose."
"To listen to you one would think that all questions of finance were above ou_obility!" Kollomietzev exclaimed.
"Oh no! On the other hand the nobility are masters at it. For gettin_oncessions for railways, founding banks, exempting themselves from some tax, or anything like that, there is no one to beat them! They make huge fortunes.
I hinted at that just now, but it seemed to offend you. I had regula_ndustrial enterprises in my mind when I spoke; I say regular, becaus_ounding private public houses, petty little grocers' shops, or lending th_easants corn or money at a hundred or a hundred and fifty percent, as many o_ur landed gentry are now doing, I cannot consider as genuine financia_nterprises."
Kollomietzev did not say anything. He belonged to that new species of money- lending landlord whom Markelov had mentioned in his last talk with Nejdanov, and was the more inhuman in his demands that he had no personal dealings wit_he peasants themselves. He never allowed them into his perfumed Europea_tudy, and conducted all his business with them through his manager. He wa_oiling with rage while listening to Solomin's slow, impartial speech, but h_eld his peace; only the working of the muscles of his face betrayed what wa_assing within him.
"But allow me, Vassily Fedotitch," Sipiagin began; "what you have just sai_ay have been quite true in former days, when the nobility had quite differen_rivileges and were altogether in a different position; but now, after all th_eneficial reforms in our present industrial age, why should not the nobilit_urn their attention and bring their abilities into enterprises of thi_ature? Why shouldn't they be able to understand what is understood by _imple illiterate merchant? They are not suffering from lack of education an_ne might even claim, without any exaggeration, that they are, in a certai_ense, the representatives of enlightenment and progress."
Boris Andraevitch spoke very well; his eloquence would have made a great sti_n St. Petersburg, in his department, or maybe in higher quarters, but i_roduced no effect whatever on Solomin.
"The nobility cannot manage these things," Solomin repeated.
"But why, I should like to know? Why?" Kollomietzev almost shouted.
"Because there is too much of the bureaucrat about them."
"Bureaucrat?" Kollomietzev laughed maliciously. "I don't think you quit_ealise what you're saying, Mr. Solomin."
Solomin continued smiling.
"What makes you think so, Mr. Kolomentzev?" (Kollomietzev shuddered at hearin_is name thus mutilated.) "I assure you that I always realise what I a_aying."
"Then please explain what you meant just now!"
"With pleasure. I think that every bureaucrat is an outsider and was alway_uch. The nobility have now become 'outsiders.'"
Kollomietzev laughed louder than ever.
"But, my dear sir, I really don't understand what you mean!"
"So much the worse for you. Perhaps you will if you try hard enough."
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," Sipiagin interposed hastily, trying to catch someone'_ye, "please, please … Kallomeitzeff, je vous prie de vous calmer. I suppos_inner will soon be ready. Come along, gentlemen!"
"Valentina Mihailovna!" Kollomietzev cried out five minutes later, rushin_nto her boudoir. "I really don't know what your husband is doing! He ha_rought us one nihilist and now he's bringing us another! Only this one i_uch worse!"
"He is advocating the most awful things, and what do you think? He has bee_alking to your husband for a whole hour, and not once, not once, did h_ddress him as Your Excellency! Le vagabond!"