"Oh, by the way," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, "I wanted to ask
you, some time when you see Pomorsky, to drop him a hint that I
should be very glad to get that new appointment of secretary of
the committee of the amalgamated agency of the southern railways
and banking companies." Stepan Arkadyevitch was familiar by now
with the title of the post he coveted, and he brought it out
rapidly without mistake.
Alexey Alexandrovitch questioned him as to the duties of this new
committee, and pondered. He was considering whether the new
committee would not be acting in some way contrary to the views
he had been advocating. But as the influence of the new
committee was of a very complex nature, and his views were of
very wide application, he could not decide this straight off, and
taking off his pince-nez, he said:
"Of course, I can mention it to him; but what is your reason
precisely for wishing to obtain the appointment?"
"It's a good salary, rising to nine thousand, and my means..."
"Nine thousand!" repeated Alexey Alexandrovitch, and he frowned.
The high figure of the salary made him reflect that on that side
Stepan Arkadyevitch's proposed position ran counter to the main
tendency of his own projects of reform, which always leaned
"I consider, and I have embodied my views in a note on the
subject, that in our day these immense salaries are evidence of
the unsound economic assiette of our finances."
"But what's to be done?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch. "Suppose a
bank director gets ten thousand--well, he's worth it; or an
engineer gets twenty thousand--after all, it's a growing thing,
"I assume that a salary is the price paid for a commodity, and it
ought to conform with the law of supply and demand. If the
salary is fixed without any regard for that law, as, for
instance, when I see two engineers leaving college together, both
equally well trained and efficient, and one getting forty
thousand while the other is satisfied with two; or when I see
lawyers and hussars, having no special qualifications, appointed
directors of banking companies with immense salaries, I conclude
that the salary is not fixed in accordance with the law of supply
and demand, but simply through personal interest. And this is an
abuse of great gravity in itself, and one that reacts injuriously
on the government service. I consider..."