Chapter 20

Stepan Arkadyevich, as usual, did not waste his time in Peterburg. In Peterburg, besides business, his sister's divorce, and his coveted appointment, he wanted, as he always did, to freshen himself up, as he said, after the mustiness of Moscow.

In spite of its cafés chantants and its omnibuses, Moscow was yet a stagnant bog. Stepan Arkadyevich always felt it. After living for some time in Moscow, especially in close relations with his family, he was conscious of a depression of spirits. After being a long time in Moscow without a change, he reached a point when he positively began to be worrying himself over his wife's ill-humor and reproaches, over his children's health and education, and the petty details of his official work; even the fact of being in debt worried him. But he had only to go and stay a little while in Peterburg, in the circle in which he moved there, where people lived - really lived - instead of vegetating as in Moscow, and all such ideas vanished and melted away at once, like wax before the fire.

A wife?... Only that day he had been talking to Prince Chechensky. Prince Chechensky had a wife and family, grown-up children in the Corps of Pages.... And he had another illegitimate family of children also. Though the first family was very fine too, Prince Chechensky felt happier in his second family; and he used to take his eldest son with him to his second family, and told Stepan Arkadyevich that he thought it good for his son, enlarging his ideas. What would have been said to that in Moscow?

Children?... In Peterburg children did not prevent their parents from enjoying life. The children were brought up in schools, and there was no trace of the wild idea that prevailed in Moscow, in Lvov's household, for instance, that all the luxuries of life were for the children, while the parents have nothing but work and anxiety. Here people understood that a man is in duty bound to live for himself, as every man of culture should live.

Official duties?... Official work here was not the stiff, hopeless drudgery that it was in Moscow. Here there was some interest in official life. A chance meeting, a service rendered, a happy phrase, a knack of facetious mimicry, and a man's career might be made in a trice. So it had been with Briantsev, whom Stepan Arkadyevich had met the previous day, and who was one of the highest functionaries in government now. There was some interest in official work like that.

The Peterburg attitude on pecuniary matters had an especially soothing effect on Stepan Arkadyevich. Bartniansky, who must spend at least fifty thousand to judge by the style he lived in, had made a remarkable comment the day before on that subject.

As they were talking before dinner, Stepan Arkadyevich said to Bartniansky:

`You're friendly, I fancy, with Mordvinsky; you might do me a favor: say a word to him, please, for me. There's an appointment I should like to get - member of the agency...'

`Oh, I shan't remember all that, if you tell it to me.... But what possesses you to have to do with railways and Yids?... Take it as you will, it's a low business.'

Stepan Arkadyevich did not say to Bartniansky that it was a `growing thing' - Bartniansky would not have understood that.

`I want the money - I've nothing to live on.'

`You're living, aren't you?'

`Yes, but in debt.'

`Are you, though? Heavily?' said Bartniansky sympathetically.

`Very heavily: twenty thousand.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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