M rs . Beecher Stowe.
'Come, I think that's exaggerated,' observed Bambaev. '"Go away" she certainly did say, that's a fact, but she didn't give him a smack!'
'She did, she did!' repeated Madam Suhantchikov with convulsive intensity: 'I am not talking idle gossip. And you are friends with men like that!'
'Excuse me, excuse me, Matrona Semyonovna, I never spoke of Tentelyev as a friend of mine; I was speaking of Pelikanov.'
'Well, if it's not Tentelyev, it's another. Mihnyov, for example.'
'What did he do then?' asked Bambaev, already showing signs of alarm.
'What? Is it possible you don't know? He exclaimed on the Poznesensky Prospect in the hearing of all the world that all the liberals ought to be in prison; and what's more, an old schoolfellow came to him, a poor man of course, and said, "Can I come to dinner with you?" And this was his answer. "No, impossible; I have two counts dining with me to-day ... get along with you!"'
'But that's slander, upon my word!' vociferated Bambaev.
'Slander? ... slander? In the first place, Prince Vahrushkin, who was also dining at your Mihnyov's--'
'Prince Vahrushkin,' Gubaryov interpolated severely, 'is my cousin; but I don't allow him to enter my house.... So there is no need to mention him even.'
'In the second place,' continued Madame Suhantchikov, with a submissive nod in Gubaryov's direction, 'Praskovya Yakovlovna told me so herself.'
'You have hit on a fine authority to quote! Why, she and Sarkizov are the greatest scandal-mongers going.'
'I beg your pardon, Sarkizov is a liar, certainly. He filched the very pall of brocade off his dead father's coffin. I will never dispute that; but Praskovya Yakovlovna-there's no comparison! Remember how magnanimously she parted from her husband! But you, I know, are always ready--'
'Come, enough, enough, Matrona Semyonovna,' said Bambaev, interrupting her, 'let us give up this tittle-tattle, and take a loftier flight. I am not new to the work, you know. Have you read Mlle. de la Quintinie? That's something charming now! And quite in accord with your principles at the same time!'
'I never read novels now,' was Madame Suhantchikov's dry and sharp reply.
'Because I have not the time now; I have no thoughts now but for one thing, sewing machines.'
'What machines?' inquired Litvinov.
'Sewing, sewing; all women ought to provide themselves with sewing-machines, and form societies; in that way they will all be enabled to earn their living, and will become independent at once. In no other way can they ever be emancipated. That is an important, most important social question. I had such an argument about it with Boleslav Stadnitsky. Boleslav Stadnitsky is a marvellous nature, but he looks at these things in an awfully frivolous spirit. He does nothing but laugh. Idiot!'
'All will in their due time be called to account, from all it will be exacted,' pronounced Gubaryov deliberately, in a tone half-professorial, half-prophetic.
'Yes, yes,' repeated Bambaev, 'it will be exacted, precisely so, it will be exacted. But, Stepan Nikolaitch,' he added, dropping his voice, 'how goes the great work?'
'I am collecting materials,' replied Gubaryov, knitting his brows; and, turning to Litvinov, whose head began to swim from the medley of unfamiliar names, and the frenzy of backbiting, he asked him what subjects he was interested in.
Litvinov satisfied his curiosity.
'Ah! to be sure, the natural sciences. That is useful, as training; as training, not as an end in itself. The end at present should be ... mm ... should be ... different. Allow me to ask what views do you hold?'
'Yes, that is, more accurately speaking, what are your political views?'
'Strictly speaking, I have no political views.'