Petersburg And a Roulade Thundered

Nikolai Apollonovich went into his room; stared at the upturned Arabian stool: followed with his eyes the incrustation of ivory and mother-of-pearl. Slowly he went over to the window: there the river flowed; and a boat rocked on it; and the tide splashed; from the drawing-room, somewhere in the distance, peals of roulades filled the silence of the room; thus had she played in the old days: and to these sounds, once upon a time, had he fallen asleep over his books.

Nikolai Apollonovich stood over the heap of objects, thinking in agony:

‘But where is it … How can it be … Where on earth did I put it?’

And – could not remember.

Shadows, shadows and shadows: the armchairs showed green from the shadows; a bust emerged from the shadows over there: of Kant, of course.

At this point he noticed on the table a sheet of paper that had been folded in four: people who do not find the master of the house at home generally leave sheets of paper folded in four on the table; mechanically he took the piece of paper; mechanically he saw the handwriting – it was familiar, Likhutin’s. Yes – that was it: he had completely forgotten that in his absence, this morning, Likhutin had been here: had dug and rummaged (he himself had spoken of it during the unpleasant meeting) …

Yes, yes, yes – he had ransacked the room.

A sigh of relief escaped from Nikolai Apollonovich’s breast. All was instantly explained: Likhutin! Well – of course, of course; he had quite certainly rummaged around here; had sought and found; and, having found, taken away; had seen the open desk; and had glanced into it; the sardine tin had caught his attention with its weight, its appearance, and its clock mechanism; the second lieutenant had taken the sardine tin away. There was no doubt.

With relief, he lowered himself into an armchair; just then the silence was filled again by peals of roulades; thus it had been in the old days: roulades had come from there; nine years ago; and ten years ago: Anna Petrovna had played Chopin (not Schumann). And it seemed to him now that there had not been any events, since it had all been explained so simply: the sardine tin had been taken away by second lieutenant Likhutin (who else could it have been, unless one assumed, but … – why assume it?); Aleksandr Ivanovich would do his best about all the rest (during these hours, let us remember, Aleksandr Ivanovich Dudkin was having his explanation with Lippanchenko, now lately deceased); no, there had been no events.

There, outside the windows, Petersburg pursued and chased with its cerebral play and tearful spaciousness; there rushed onslaughts of wet, cold wind; enormous clusters of diamonds showed mistily there – beneath the bridge. No one – nothing.

And the river flowed; and the tide splashed; and the boat rocked; and a roulade thundered.

On the other side of the Neva’s waters colossi arose – in the outlines of islands and houses; and cast amber eyes into the mists; and they seemed to be weeping. A row of shore lamps dropped fiery tears into the Neva: the surface burned with seething flashes of radiance.