1. CHAPTER I
"I haven't fascinated her; perhaps I was fascinated myself in my
folly. But she won't care a straw whether it's you or I, so long as
somebody sits beside her, sighing. . . . I can't explain the position,
brother . . . look here, you are good at mathematics, and working at
it now . . . begin teaching her the integral calculus; upon my soul,
I'm not joking, I'm in earnest, it'll be just the same to her. She
will gaze at you and sigh for a whole year together. I talked to her
once for two days at a time about the Prussian House of Lords (for one
must talk of something)--she just sighed and perspired! And you
mustn't talk of love--she's bashful to hysterics--but just let her see
you can't tear yourself away--that's enough. It's fearfully
comfortable; you're quite at home, you can read, sit, lie about,
write. You may even venture on a kiss, if you're careful."
"But what do I want with her?"
"Ach, I can't make you understand! You see, you are made for each
other! I have often been reminded of you! . . . You'll come to it in
the end! So does it matter whether it's sooner or later? There's the
feather-bed element here, brother--ach! and not only that! There's an
attraction here--here you have the end of the world, an anchorage, a
quiet haven, the navel of the earth, the three fishes that are the
foundation of the world, the essence of pancakes, of savoury fish-pies, of the evening samovar, of soft sighs and warm shawls, and hot
stoves to sleep on--as snug as though you were dead, and yet you're
alive--the advantages of both at once! Well, hang it, brother, what
stuff I'm talking, it's bedtime! Listen. I sometimes wake up at night;
so I'll go in and look at him. But there's no need, it's all right.
Don't you worry yourself, yet if you like, you might just look in
once, too. But if you notice anything--delirium or fever--wake me at
once. But there can't be. . . ."