Petersburg Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov

Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov came of most respected stock: he had Adam as his ancestor. And this is not the main thing: incomparably more important here is the fact that one nobly-born ancestor was Shem, that is, the very progenitor of the Semitic, Hessitic and red-skinned peoples.2

Here let us pass to ancestors of a less distant era.

These ancestors (so it appears) lived in the Kirghiz – Kaisak Horde,3 from where in the reign of the Empress Anna Ioannovna4 the senator’s great-great-grandfather Mirza Ab-Lai,5 who received at his Christian baptism the name Andrei and the sobriquet Ukhov,6 valiantly entered the Russian service. Thus on this descendant from the depths of the Mongol race does the Heraldic Guide to the Russian Empire7 expatiate. For the sake of brevity, Ab-Lai-Ukhov was later turned into plain Ableukhov.

This great-great-grandfather, so it is said, was the originator of the stock.

A lackey in grey with gold braid was flicking the dust off the writing desk with a feather duster; through the open door peeped a cook’s cap.

‘Watch out, he’s up and about …’

‘He’s rubbing himself with eau-de-Cologne, he’ll be down for his coffee soon …’

‘This morning the postman said there was a little letter for the barin from Shpain: with a Shpanish stamp.’

‘I’ll tell you this: you’d do well to go sticking your nose into letters a bit less …’

‘So that must mean that Anna Petrovna …’

‘And that goes for “so that must mean”, too …’

‘Oh well, I was just … I was – oh, never mind …’

The cook’s head suddenly disappeared. Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov stalked into his study.

A pencil that was lying on the table struck Apollon Apollonovich’s attention. Apollon Apollonovich took a resolve: to impart to the pencil’s point a sharpness of form. Swiftly he approached the writing table and snatched up … a paperweight, which for a long time he twiddled in deep reflectiveness, before he realized that it was a paperweight he was holding, not a pencil.

The absent-mindedness proceeded from the fact that he was at this moment visited by a profound thought: and at once, at this inopportune time, it unfolded into a runaway sequence of thought (Apollon Apollonovich was in a hurry to get to the Institution). To the Diary, which was to appear in periodical publications in the year of his death, a page was added.

Apollon Apollonovich quickly noted down the sequence of thought that had unfolded: having noted down this sequence, he thought: ‘It’s time to go to work.’ And went into the dining-room to have his coffee.

As a preliminary he began to question the old valet with a kind of unpleasant insistency:

‘Is Nikolai Apollonovich up?’

‘On no account: his honour is not up yet, sir.’

Apollon Apollonovich gave the bridge of his nose a rub of displeasure:

‘Er … tell me, then: when does Nikolai Apollonovich, tell me, so to speak …’

‘Oh, his honour gets up rather latish, sir …’

‘What does that mean, rather latish?’

And at once, not waiting for an answer, stalked in to coffee, having glanced at the clock.

It was exactly half past nine.

At ten o’clock he, an old man, left for the Institution. Nikolai Apollonovich, a young man, rose from his bed – two hours later. Every morning the senator inquired about the hour of his awakening. And every morning he frowned.

Nikolai Apollonovich was the senator’s son.