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Chapter 23

  • 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!"
  • Sipiagin frowned.
  • "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.
  • Kollomietzev giggled.
  • "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."
  • "Sir!
  • "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!"
  • "But why?"
  • "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!"