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Chapter 3

  • THE elegantly dressed man went up to Nejdanov with an amiable smile and began:
  • "I have already had the pleasure of meeting you and even speaking to you, Mr.
  • Nejdanov, the day before yesterday, if you remember, at the theatre." (Th_isitor paused, as though waiting for Nejdanov to make some remark, but th_atter merely bowed slightly and blushed.) "I have come to see you about you_dvertisement, which I noticed in the paper. I should like us to have a tal_f your visitors would not mind… " (He bowed to Mashurina, and waved a grey- gloved hand in the direction of Paklin and Ostrodumov.)
  • "Not at all," Nejdanov replied awkwardly. "Won't you sit down?"
  • The visitor bowed from the waist, drew a chair to himself, but did not si_own, as every oneelse was standing. He merely gazed around the room with hi_right though half-closed eyes.
  • "Goodbye, Alexai Dmitritch," Mashurina exclaimed suddenly. "I will come agai_resently."
  • "And I too," Ostrodumov added.
  • Mashurina did not take the slightest notice of the visitor as she passed him, but went straight up to Nejdanov, gave him a hearty shake of the hand, an_eft the room without bowing to anyone. Ostrodumov followed her, making a_nnecessary noise with his boots, and snorting out once or twic_ontemptuously, "There's a beaver collar for you!"
  • The visitor accompanied them with a polite though slightly inquisitive look, and then directed his gaze to Paklin, hoping the latter would follow thei_xample, but Paklin withdrew into a corner and settled down. A peculiarl_uppressed smile played on his lips ever since the appearance of the stranger.
  • The visitor and Nejdanov also sat down.
  • "My name is Sipiagin. You may perhaps have heard of me," the visitor bega_ith modest pride.
  • We must first relate how Nejdanov had met him at the theatre.
  • There had been a performance of Ostrovsky's play "Never Sit in Another Man'_ledge", on the occasion of the great actor Sadovsky's coming from Moscow.
  • Rusakov, one of the characters in the play, was known to be one of hi_avourite parts. Just before dinner on that day, Nejdanov went down to th_heatre to book a ticket, but found a large crowd already waiting there. H_alked up to the desk with the intention of getting a ticket for the pit, whe_n officer, who happened to be standing behind him, thrust a three-rouble not_ver Nejdanov's head and called out to the man inside: "He" (meaning Nejdanov)
  • "will probably want change. I don't. Give me a ticket for the stalls, please.
  • Make haste, I'm in a hurry!"
  • "Excuse me, sir, I want a ticket for the stalls myself!Nejdanov exclaimed, throwing down a three-rouble note, all the ready money he possessed. He go_is ticket, and in the evening appeared in the aristocratic part of th_lexandrinsky Theatre.
  • He was badly dressed, without gloves and in dirty boots. He was uncomfortabl_nd angry with himself for feeling uncomfortable. A general with numerou_rders glittering on his breast sat on his right, and on his left this sam_legant Sipiagin, whose appearance two days later at Nejdanov's so astonishe_ashurina and Ostrodumov. The general stared at Nejdanov every now and again, as though at something indecent, out of place, and offensive. Sipiagin looke_t him sideways, but did not seem unfriendly. All the people surrounding hi_ere evidently personages of some importance, and as they all knew on_nother, they kept exchanging remarks, exclamations, greetings, occasionall_ven over Nejdanov's head. He sat there motionless and ill at ease in hi_pacious armchair, feeling like an outcast. Ostrovsky's play and Sadovsky'_cting afforded him but little pleasure, and he felt bitter at heart. Whe_uddenly, Oh wonder! During one of the intervals, his neighbour on the left, not the glittering general, but the other with no marks of distinction on hi_reast, addressed him politely and kindly, but somewhat timidly. He asked hi_hat he thought of Ostrovsky's play, wanted to know his opinion of it as _epresentative of the new generation. Nejdanov, overwhelmed and hal_rightened, his heart beating fast, answered at first curtly, i_onosyllables, but soon began to be annoyed with his own excitement. "Afte_ll," he thought, " am I not a man like everybody else? "And began expressin_is opinions quite freely, without any restraint. He got so carried away b_is subject, and spoke so loudly, that he quite alarmed the order-bedecke_eneral. Nejdanov was a strong admirer of Ostrovsky, but could not hel_eeling, in spite of the author's great genius, his evident desire to throw _lur on modern civilisation in the burlesqued character of Veherov, in "Neve_it in Another Man's Sledge".
  • His polite neighbour listened to him attentively, evidently interested in wha_e said. He spoke to him again in the next interval, not about the play thi_ime, but about various matters of everyday life, about science, and eve_ouched upon political questions. He was decidedly interested in his eloquen_oung companion. Nejdanov did not feel in the least constrained as before, bu_ven began to assume airs, as if saying, "If you really want to know, I ca_atisfy your curiosity!" The general's annoyance grew to indignation and eve_uspicion.
  • After the play Sipiagin took leave of Nejdanov very courteously, but did no_sk his name, neither did he tell him his own. While waiting for his carriage, he ran against a friend, a certain Prince G., an aide-de-camp.
  • "I watched you from my box," the latter remarked, through a perfume_oustache. "Do you know whom you were speaking to?"
  • "No. Do you? A rather clever chap. Who is he?"
  • The prince whispered in his ear in French. "He is my brother … . illegitimate… . His name is Nejdanov. I will tell you all about it someday. My father di_ot in the least expect that sort of thing, that was why he called hi_ejdanov. [The unexpected.] But he looked after him all right. Il lui a fai_n sort. We make him an allowance to live on. He is not stupid. Had quite _ood education, thanks to my father. But he has gone quite off the track—_hink he's a republican. We refuse to have anything to do with him. Il es_mpossible. Goodbye, I see my carriage is waiting."
  • The prince separated.
  • The next day Sipiagin noticed Nejdanov's advertisement in the paper and wen_o see him.
  • "My name is Sipiagin," he repeated, as he sat in front of Nejdanov, surveyin_im with a dignified air. "I see by your advertisement that you are lookin_or a post, and I should like to know if you would be willing to come to me. _m married and have a boy of eight, a very intelligent child, I may say. W_sually spend the summer and autumn in the country, in the province of S., about five miles from the town of that name. I should like you to come to u_or the vacation to teach my boy Russian history and grammar. I think thos_ere the subjects you mentioned in your advertisement. I think you will get o_ith us all right, and I am sure you will like the neighbourhood. We have _arge house and garden, the air is excellent, and there is a river close by.
  • Well, would you like to come? We shall only have to come to terms, although _o not think," he added, with a slight grimace, "that there will be an_ifficulty on that point between us."
  • Nejdanov watched Sipiagin all the time he was speaking. He gazed at his smal_ead, bent a little to one side, his low, narrow, but intelligent forehead, his fine Roman nose, pleasant eyes, straight lips, out of which his word_lowed graciously; he gazed at his drooping whiskers, kept in the Englis_ashion, gazed and wondered. "What does it all mean?" he asked himself. "Wh_as this man come to seek me out? This aristocrat and I! What have we i_ommon? What does he see in me?"
  • He was so lost in thought that he did not open his lips when Sipiagin, havin_inished speaking, evidently awaited an answer. Sipiagin cast a look into th_orner where Paklin sat, also watching him. "Perhaps the presence of a thir_erson prevents him from saying what he would like," flashed across Sipiagin'_ind. He raised his eyebrows, as if in submission to the strangeness of th_urroundings he had come to of his own accord, and repeated his question _econd time.
  • Nejdanov started.
  • "Of course," he began hurriedly, "I should like to… with pleasure … . only _ust confess … I am rather surprised … having no recommendations … and th_iews I expressed at the theatre were more calculated to prejudice you—"
  • "There you are quite mistaken Alexai—Alexai Dmitritch—have I got the nam_ight?" Sipiagin asked with a smile. "I may venture to say that I am wel_nown for my liberal and progressive opinions. On the contrary, what you sai_he other evening, with the exception perhaps of any youthful characteristics, which are always rather given to exaggeration, if you will excuse my sayin_o, I fully agreed with, and was even delighted with your enthusiasm."
  • Sipiagin spoke without the slightest hesitation, his words flowing from him a_ stream.
  • "My wife shares my way of thinking," he continued. "her views are, i_nything, more like yours than mine, which is not surprising, considering tha_he is younger than I am. When I read your name in the paper the day after ou_eeting—and by the way, you announced your name and address contrary to th_sual custom—I was rather struck by the coincidence, having already heard i_t the theatre. It seemed to me like the finger of fate. Excuse my being s_uperstitious. As for recommendations, I do not think they are necessary i_his case. I, like you, am accustomed to trusting my intuition. May I hop_hat you will come?"
  • "Yes, I will come," Nejdanov replied, "and will try to be worthy of you_onfidence. But there is one thing I should like to mention. I could undertak_o teach your boy, but am not prepared to look after him. I do not wish t_ndertake anything that would interfere with my freedom."
  • Sipiagin gave a slight wave of the hand, as if driving away a fly.
  • "You may be easy on that point. You are not made that way. I only wanted _utor, and I have found one. Well, now, how about terms? Financial terms, tha_s. Base metal!"
  • Nejdanov did not know what to say.
  • "I think," Sipiagin went on, bending forward and touching Nejdanov with th_ips of his fingers, "that decent people can settle such things in two words.
  • I will give you a hundred roubles a month and all travelling expenses. Wil_ou come?
  • Nejdanov blushed.
  • "That is more than I wanted to ask … because I—"
  • "Well," Sipiagin interrupted him, "I look upon the matter as settled, an_onsider you as a member of our household." He rose from his chair, and becam_uite gay and expansive, as if he had just received a present. A certai_miable familiarity, verging on the playful, began to show itself in all hi_estures. " We shall set out in a day or two," he went on, in an easy tone.
  • "There is nothing I love better than meeting spring in the country, although _m a busy, prosaic sort of person, tied to town… I want you to count you_irst month as beginning from today. My wife and boy have already started, an_re probably in Moscow by now. We shall find them in the lap of nature. W_ill go alone, like two bachelors, ha, ha!" Sipiagin laughed coquettishly, through his nose. "And now—"
  • He took a black and silver pocketbook out of his overcoat pocket and pulle_ut a card.
  • "This is my address. Come and see me tomorrow at about twelve o'clock. We ca_alk things over further. I should like to tell you a few of my views o_ducation. We can also decide when to start."
  • Sipiagin took Nejdanov's hand. "By the way," he said, lowering his voice an_ending his head a little to one side, "if you are in need of money, please d_ot stand on ceremony. I can let you have a month's pay in advance."
  • Nejdanov was at a loss to know what to say. He gazed, with the same puzzle_xpression, at the kind, bright face, which was so strange yet so close t_im, smiling encouragingly.
  • "You are not in need of any?" Sipiagin asked in a whisper.
  • "I will tell you tomorrow, if I may," Nejdanov said at last.
  • "Well, goodbye, then. Till tomorrow." Sipiagin dropped Nejdanov's hand an_urned to go out.
  • "I should like to know," Nejdanov asked suddenly, "who told you my name? Yo_aid you heard it at the theatre."
  • "Someone who is very well known to you. A relative of yours, I think. Princ_."
  • "The aide-de-camp?"
  • "Yes."
  • Nejdanov flushed even redder than before, but did not say anything. Sipiagi_hook his hand again, without a word this time, then bowing first to him an_hen to Paklin, put on his hat at the door, and went out with a self-satisfie_mile on his lips, denoting the deep impression the visit must have produce_pon him.