A Gentleman Friend
The charming Vanda, or, as she was described in her passport, the Honourable Citizen Nastasya Kanavkin, found herself, on leaving the hospital, in a position she had never been in before: without a home to go to or a farthing in her pocket. What was she to do?
The first thing she did was to visit a pawn-brokers and pawn her turquoise ring, her one piece of jewellery. They gave her a rouble for the ring but what can you get for a rouble? You cant buy for that sum a fashionable short jacket, nor a big hat, nor a pair of bronze shoes, and without those things she had a feeling of being, as it were, undressed. She felt as though the very horses and dogs were staring and laughing at the plainness of her dress. And clothes were all she thought about: the question what she should eat and where she should sleep did not trouble her in the least.
If only I could meet a gentleman friend, she thought to herself, I could get some money. There isnt one who would refuse me, I know.
But no gentleman she knew came her way. It would be easy enough to meet them in the evening at the Renaissance, but they wouldnt let her in at the Renaissance in that shabby dress and with no hat. What was she to do?
After long hesitation, when she was sick of walking and sitting and thinking, Vanda made up her mind to fall back on her last resource: to go straight to the lodgings of some gentleman friend and ask for money.
She pondered which to go to. Misha is out of the question; hes a married man. The old chap with the red hair will be at his office at this time.
Vanda remembered a dentist, called Finkel, a converted Jew, who six months ago had given her a bracelet, and on whose head she had once emptied a glass of beer at the supper at the German Club. She was awfully pleased at the thought of Finkel.
Hell be sure to give it me, if only I find him at home, she thought, as she walked in his direction. If he doesnt, Ill smash all the lamps in the house.
Before she reached the dentists door she thought out her plan of action: she would run laughing up the stairs, dash into the dentists room and demand twenty-five roubles. But as she touched the bell, this plan seemed to vanish from her mind of itself. Vanda began suddenly feeling frightened and nervous, which was not at all her way. She was bold and saucy enough at drinking parties, but now, dressed in everyday clothes, feeling herself in the position of an ordinary person asking a favour, who might be refused admittance, she felt suddenly timid and humiliated. She was ashamed and frightened.
Perhaps he has forgotten me by now, she thought, hardly daring to pull the bell. And how can I go up to him in such a dress, looking like a beggar or some working girl?
And she rang the bell irresolutely.
She heard steps coming: it was the porter.
Is the doctor at home? she asked.
She would have been glad now if the porter had said No, but the latter, instead of answering ushered her into the hall, and helped her off with her coat. The staircase impressed her as luxurious, and magnificent, but of all its splendours what caught her eye most was an immense looking-glass, in which she saw a ragged figure without a fashionable jacket, without a big hat, and without bronze shoes. And it seemed strange to Vanda that, now that she was humbly dressed and looked like a laundress or sewing girl, she felt ashamed, and no trace of her usual boldness and sauciness remained, and in her own mind she no longer thought of herself as Vanda, but as the Nastasya Kanavkin she used to be in the old days.
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