Apollon Apollonovich was particularly efficient today: not once did his bare head nod at a report; Apollon Apollonovich was afraid to display weakness: in the discharging of his official duties!… To tower up into logical clarity he found particularly difficult today: God knew why, but Apollon Apollonovich had come to the conclusion that his own son, Nikolai Apollonovich, was an out-and-out scoundrel.
A window permitted one to see the lower part of the balcony.If one went over to the window one could see the caryatid at the entrance: a bearded man of stone.
Like Apollon Apollonovich, the bearded man of stone rose above the noise of the streets and above the season: the year eighteen twelve had freed him from his scaffolding.The year eighteen hundred and twenty-five had raged beneath him in crowds; the crowd was passing even now – in the year nineteen hundred and five.For five years now Apollon Apollonovich had seen daily from here the smile sculpted in stone; time’s tooth was gnawing it away.During five years events had flown past: Anna Petrovna was in Spain; Vyacheslav Konstantinovich was no more; the yellow heel had audaciously mounted the ridges of the Port Arthur heights; China had been in a state of ferment and Port Arthur had fallen.
As he prepared to go out to the crowd of waiting petitioners, Apollon Apollonovich smiled; but the smile proceeded from timidity: something was waiting for him outside the doors.
Apollon Apollonovich had spent his life between two writing desks: the desk of his study and the desk of the Institution.A third favourite place was the senatorial carriage.
And now: he – quailed.
But already the door had opened: the secretary, a young man, with a small medal liberally throbbing somewhere on the starch of his throat, flew up to the elevated personage, with a deferential click of the overstarched edge of his snow-white cuff.And to his timid question Apollon Apollonovich honked:
‘No, no!… Do as I said … And knowest thou,’ said Apollon Apollonovich, stopped, corrected himself:
He had meant to say ‘do you know’, but it had come out as: ‘knowest thou …’
About his absent-mindedness legends circulated; one day Apollon Apollonovich had appeared at a lofty reception, imagine – without a tie, and stopped by a palace lackey he had got into the greatest confusion, from which the lackey had extricated him by suggesting that he borrow a tie from him.
In a grey coat and a tall black top hat Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov, with a stony face that recalled a paperweight, quickly ran from the carriage and ran up the steps of the entrance, taking off a suede glove on his way.
Quickly he entered the vestibule.The top hat was with caution entrusted to the lackey.With the same caution were surrendered: coat, briefcase and muffler.
Apollon Apollonovich stood before the lackey in meditation; suddenly Apollon Apollonovich turned to him with the question:
‘Please be so kind as to tell me: does a young man often come here – yes: a young man?’
‘A young man, sir?’
An awkward silence ensued.Apollon Apollonovich was unable to formulate his thought differently.And the lackey could not, of course, guess what young man the barin was asking about.
‘Young men come seldom, your exc’cy, sir …’
‘Well, but what about … young men with small moustaches?’
‘Small moustaches, sir?’
‘Black ones, sir?’
‘Well yes, and … wearing a coat …’
‘They all arrive in coats, sir …’
‘Yes, but with a turned-up collar …’
Something suddenly dawned on the doorman.
‘Oh, you mean the one that …’
‘That’s right, yes: him …’
‘A man like that did come one day, sir … he was visiting the young barin : only it was quite a long time ago; you know how it is, sir … they come and pay a call …’
‘What did he look like?’
‘How do you mean, sir?’
‘Did he have a small
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