Author : Leo Tolstoy
Translator : Nathan Haskell Dole
The rain continued to fall. In the paddock it was gloomy, but at the manor-house it was quite the reverse. The luxurious evening meal was spread in the luxurious dining-room. At the table sat master, mistress, and the guest who had just arrived.
The master held in his hand a box of specially fine ten-year-old cigars, such as no one else had, according to his story, and proceeded to offer them to the guest. The master was a handsome young man of twenty-five, fresh, neatly dressed, smoothly brushed. He was dressed in a fresh, loosely-fitting suit of clothes, made in London. On his watch-chain were big expensive charms. His cuff-buttons were of gold, large, even massive, set with turquoises. His beard was à la Napoleon III.; and his mustaches were waxed, and stood out as though he had got them nowhere else than in Paris.
The lady wore a silk-muslin dress, brocaded with large variegated flowers; on her head, large gold hair-pins in her thick auburn hair, which was beautiful, though not entirely her own. Her hands were adorned with bracelets and rings, all expensive.
The samovar was silver, the service exquisite. The lackey, magnificent in his dress-coat and white vest and necktie, stood like a statue at the door, awaiti* ng orders. The furniture was of bent wood, and bright; the wall-papers dark, with large flowers. Around the table tinkled a cunning little dog, with a silver collar bearing an extremely hard English name, which neither of them could pronounce because they knew not English.
In the corner, among the flowers, stood the pianoforte, inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Every thing breathed of newness, luxury, and rareness. Every thing was extremely good; but it all bore a peculiar impress of profusion, wealth, and an absence of intellectual interests.
The master was a great lover of racing, strong and hot-headed; one of those whom one meets everywhere, who drive out in sable furs, send costly bouquets to actresses, drink the most expensive wine, of the very latest brand, at the most expensive restaurant, offer prizes in their own names, and entertain the most expensive....
The new-comer, Nikíta Sierpukhovskoï, was a man of forty years, tall, stout, bald, with huge mustaches and side-whiskers. He ought to have been very handsome; but it was evident that he had wasted his forces—physical and moral and pecuniary.
He was so deeply in debt that he was obliged to go into the service so as to escape the sponging-house. He had now come to the government city as chief of the imperial stud. His influential relations had obtained this for him.
He was dressed in an army kittel and blue trousers. His kittel and trousers were such as only those who are rich can afford to wear; so with his linen also. His watch was English. His boots had peculiar soles, as thick as a finger.
Nikíta Sierpukhovskoï had squandered a fortune of two millions, and was still in debt to the amount of one hundred and twenty thousand rubles. From such a course there always remains a certain momentum of life, giving credit, and the possibility of living almost luxuriously for another ten years.
The ten years had already passed, and the momentum was finished; and it had become hard for him to live. He had already begun to drink too much; that is, to get fuddled with wine, which had never been the case with him before. Properly speaking, he had never begun and never finished drinking.
More noticeable in him than all else was the restlessness of his eyes (they had begun to wander), and the uncertainty of his intonations and motions. This restlessness was surprising, from the fact that it was evidently a new thing in him, because it could be seen that he had been accustomed, all his life long, to fear nothing and nobody, and that now he endured severe sufferings from some dread that was thoroughly alien to his nature.
The host and hostess remarked this, exchanged glances, showing that they understood each other, postponed until they should get to bed the consideration of this subject; and, evidently, merely endured poor Sierpukhovskoï.
The sight of the young master's happiness humiliated Nikíta, and compelled him to painful envy, as he remembered his own irrevocable past.
"You don't object to cigars, Marie?" he asked, addressing the lady in that peculiar tone, acquired only by practice, full of urbanity and friendliness, but not wholly satisfactory,—such as men use who are familiar with the society of women not enjoying t* he dignity of wifehood. Not that he could have wished to insult her: on the contrary, he was much more anxious to gain her good-will and that of the host, though he would not for any thing have acknowledged it to himself. But he was already used to talking thus with such women. He knew that she would have been astonished, even affronted, if he had behaved to her as toward a lady. Moreover, it was necessary for him to preserve that peculiar shade of deference for the acknowledged wife of his friend. He treated such women always with consideration, not because he shared those so-called convictions that are promulgated in newspapers (he never read such trash), about esteem as the prerogative of every man, about the absurdity of marriage, etc., because all well-bred men act thus, and he was a well-bred man, though inclined to drink.
He took a cigar. But his host awkwardly seized a handful of cigars, and placed them before the guest.
"No, just see how good these are! try them."
Nikíta pushed away the cigars with his hand, and in his eyes flashed something like injury and shame.
"Thanks,"—he took out his cigar-case,—"try mine."
The lady was on the watch. She perceived how it affected him. She began hastily to talk with him.
"I am very fond of cigars. I should smoke myself if everybody about did not smoke."
And she gave him one of her bright, kindly smiles. He half-smiled in reply. Two of his teeth were gone.
"No, take this," continued the host, not heeding. "Those others are not so strong. Fritz, bringen Sie noch eine Kasten," he said, "dort zwei."
The German lackey brought another box.
"Do you like these larger ones? They are stronger. This is a very good kind. Take them all," he added, continuing to force them upon his guest.
He was evidently glad that there was some one on whom he could lavish his rarities, and he saw nothing out of the way in it. Sierpukhovskoï began to smoke, and hastened to take up the subject that had been dropped.
"How much did you have to go on Atlásnui?" he asked.
"He cost me dear,—not less than five thousand, but at all events I am secured. Plenty of colts, I tell you!"
"Do they trot?" inquired Sierpukhovskoï.
"First-rate. To-day Atlásnui's colt took three prizes: one at Tula, one at Moscow, and one at Petersburg. He raced with Voyéïkof's Vorónui. The rascally jockey made four abatements, and almost put him out of the race."
"He was rather raw; too much Dutch stock in him, I should say," said Sierpukhovskoï.
"Well, but the mares are finer ones. I will show you to-morrow. I paid three thousand for Dobruina, two thousand for Laskovaya."
And again the host began to enumerate his wealth. The mistress saw that this was hard for Sierpukhovskoï, and that he only pretended to listen.
"Won't you have some more tea?" asked the hostess.
"I don't care for any more," said the host, and he went on with his story. She got up; the host detained her, took her in his arms, and kissed her.
Sierpukhovskoï smiled at first, as he looked at them; but his smile seemed to them unnatural. When his host got up, and took her in his arms, and went * out with her as far as the portière, his face suddenly changed; he sighed deeply, and an expression of despair took possession of his wrinkled face. There was also wrath in it.
"Yes, you said that you bought him of Voyéïkof," said Sierpukhovskoï, with assumed indifference.
 barski dom.
 khozyáïn and khozyáïka.
(Source: Published by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 13 Astor Place, 1887.)
From : Gutenberg.org.
November 30, 1886 : Part 4, Chapter 11 -- Publication.
June 09, 2021 : Part 4, Chapter 11 -- Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.
June 09, 2021 : Part 4, Chapter 11 -- Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.
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