Yama (The Pit) by Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin
With pain at soul, with malice and repulsion toward himself and Liubka, and, it would seem, toward all the world, Lichonin without undressing flung himself upon the wooden, lopsided, sagging divan and even gnashed his teeth from the smarting shame. Sleep would not come to him, while his thoughts revolved around this fool action--as he himself called the carrying off of Liubka,--in which an atrocious vaudeville had been so disgustingly intertwined with a deep drama. "It's all one," he stubbornly repeated to himself. "Once I have given my promise, I'll see the business through to the end. And, of course, that which has occurred just now will never, never be repeated! My God, who hasn't fallen, giving in to a momentary laxity of the nerves? Some philosopher or other has expressed a deep, remarkable truth, when he affirmed that the value of the human soul may be known by the depth of its fall and the height of its flight. But still, the devil take the whole of this idiotical day and that equivocal reasoner--the reporter Platonov, and his own--Lichonin's--absurd outburst of chivalry! Just as though, in reality, this had not taken place in real life, but in Chernishevski's novel, What's to be done? And how, devil take it, with what eyes will I look upon her tomorrow?"
His head was on fire; his eyelids were smarting, his lips dry. He was nervously smoking a cigarette and frequently got up from the divan to take the decanter of water off the table, and avidly, straight from its mouth, drink several big draughts. Then, by some accidental effort of the will, he succeeded in tearing his thoughts away from the past night, and at once a heavy sleep, without any visions and images, enveloped him as though in black cotton.
He awoke long past noon, at two or three o'clock; at first could not come to himself for a long while; smacked his lips and looked around the room with glazed, heavy eyes. All that had happened during the night seemed to have flown out of his memory. But when he saw Liubka, who was quietly and motionlessly sitting on the bed, with head lowered and hands crossed on her knees, he began to groan and grunt from vexation and confusion. Now he recalled everything. And at that minute he experienced in his own person how heavy it is to see in the morning, with one's own eyes, the results of folly committed the night before.
"Are you awake, sweetie?" asked Liubka kindly.
She got up from the bed, walked up to the divan, sat down at Lichonin's feet, and cautiously patted his blanket-covered leg.
"Why, I woke up long ago and was sitting all the while; I was afraid to wake you up. You were sleeping so very soundly!"
She stretched toward him and kissed him on the cheek. Lichonin made a wry face and gently pushed her away from him.
"Wait, Liubochka! Wait; that's not necessary. Do you understand-- absolutely, never necessary. That which took place yesterday--well, that's an accident. My weakness, let's say. Even more, a momentary baseness, perhaps. But, by God, believe me, I didn't at all want to make a mistress out of you. I want to see you my friend, my sister, my comrade ... Well, that's nothing, then; everything will adjust itself, grow customary. Only one mustn't fall in spirit. And in the meanwhile, my dear, go to the window and look out of it a bit; I just want to put myself in order."
Liubka slightly pouted her lips and walked off to the window, turning her back on Lichonin. All these words about friendship, brotherhood and comradeship she could not understand with her brain of a hen and her simple peasant soul. That a student--after all, not just anybody, but an educated man, who could learn to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a judge--had taken her for maintenance flattered her imagination far more ... And here, now, it turned out that he had just fulfilled his caprice, had gotten what he wanted, and was now trying to back out. They are all like that, the men!
Lichonin hastily got up, splashed a few handfuls of water in his face, and dried himself with an old napkin. Then he raised the blinds and threw open both window shutters. The golden sunlight, the azure sky, the rumble of the city, the foliage of the thick linden trees and the chestnuts, the bells of the horse trams, the dry smell of the hot, dusty street--all this at once burst into the tiny garret room. Lichonin walked up to Liubka and amicably patted her on the shoulder.
"Never mind, my joy ... What's done can't be undone, but it's a lesson for the future. You haven't yet asked tea for yourself, Liubochka?"
"No, I was waiting for you all the while. Besides, I didn't know who to ask. And you're all right, too. Why, I heard you, after you went off with your friend, come back and stand a while near the door. But you never even said good-bye to me. Is that right?"
"The first family quarrel," thought Lichonin, but thought it without malice, in jest.
The wash-up, the beauty of the gold and blue southern sky, and the naive, partly submissive, partly displeased face of Liubka, as well as the consciousness that after all he was a man, and that he and not she had to answer for the porridge he had cooked--all this together braced up his nerves and compelled him to take himself in hand. He opened the door and roared into the darkness of the stinking corridor:
"Al-lexa-andra! A samova-ar! Two lo-oaves, bu-utter, and sausage! And a small bottle of vo-odka!"
The patter of slippers was heard in the corridor, and an aged voice, even from afar, began to speak thickly:
"What are you bawling for? What are you bawling for, eh? Ho, ho, ho! Like a stallion in a stall. You ain't little, to look at you; you're grown up already, yet you carry on like a street boy! Well, what do you want?"
Into the room walked a little old woman, with red-lidded eyes, like little narrow cracks, and with a face amazingly like parchment, upon which a long, sharp nose stuck downward, morosely and ominously. This was Alexandra, the servant of old of the student bird-houses; the friend and creditor of all the students; a woman of sixty-five, argumentative, and a grumbler.
Lichonin repeated his order to her and gave her a rouble note. But the old woman would not go away; shuffled in one place, snorted, chewed with her lips and looked inimically at the girl sitting-- with her back to the light.
"What's the matter with you now, Alexandra, that you seem ossified?" asked Lichonin, laughing. "Or are you lost in admiration? Well, then, know: this is my cousin, my first cousin, that is--Liubov..."[Footnote: Love.--Trans.] he was confused for only a second, but immediately fired away: "Liubov Vasilievna, but for me--simply Liubochka. I've known her when she was only that high," he showed a quarter of a yard off the table. "And I pulled her ears and slapped her for her caprices over the place where the legs grow from. And then ... I caught all sorts of bugs for her ... But, however ... However, you go on, go on, you Egyptian mummy, you fragment of former ages! Let one leg be here and the other there!"
But the old woman lingered. Stamping all around herself, she barely, barely turned to the door and kept a keen, spiteful, sidelong glance on Liubka. And at the same time she muttered with her sunken mouth:
"First cousin! We know these first cousins! There's lots of them walking around Kashtanovaya Street. There, these he-dogs can never get enough!"
"Well, you old barque! Lively and don't growl!" Lichonin shouted after her. "Or else, like your friend, the student Triassov, I'll take and lock you up in the dressing room for twenty-four hours!"
Alexandra went away, and for a long time her aged, flapping steps and indistinct muttering could be heard in the corridor. She was inclined, in her austere, grumbling kindliness, to forgive a great deal to the studying youths, whom she had served for nigh unto forty years. She forgave drunkenness, card playing, scandals, loud singing, debts; but, alas! she was a virgin, and there was only one thing her continent soul could not abide--libertinage.