Petersburg He Has Stopped Playing Vint

Apollon Apollonovich is lonely.

He is not getting there. And the arrow of his circulars does not penetrate the districts: it breaks. Only here and there, pierced by an arrow, does an Ivanchevsky fly down; and the Kozlorodovs organize a round-up of the Sverchkovs. From Saint Petersburg, the Palmyra of the North, Apollon Apollonovich bursts out with a paper cannonade, – and (of late) misses.

Ordinary men in the street long ago christened these arrows with a name: soap bubbles.

The hurler of arrows, – in vain did he send down the toothed lightning of Apollo; history has changed; no one believes in the ancient myths any more; Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov is not the god Apollo: he is Apollon Apollonovich, a Petersburg civil servant. And in vain did he shoot at the Ivanchevskys.

The circulation of papers has been diminishing these past few days; a countervailing wind has blown: paper that smells of typographic print has begun to undermine the Institution – in the form of petitions, accusations, unlawful threats, and complaints; and so on, and so forth: with that kind of treachery.

Well, and what kind of loathsome behaviour towards the authorities was circulating among the ordinary men in the street? A proclamatory tone had appeared.

And – what did this mean?

A very great deal: the impenetrable, unreachable Kozlorodov, the assessor, had, somewhere out there, turned insolent; and had set out from the provinces against the Ivanchi-Ivanchevskys: at one point in space the crowd had torn a wooden palisade into its separate stakes, and … Kozlorodov was absent; at another point the windows of the Tax Institution proved to have been smashed out, and Kozlorodov – was absent again.

From Apollon Apollonovich came projects, came counsels, came orders: the orders were showered in salvos; Apollon Apollonovich had sat in his study with a swollen temporal vein all these past weeks, dictating order after order; and order after order went rushing off like arrow-shaped lightning into the provincial darkness; but the darkness was advancing; before it had only threatened from the horizons; now it was flooding the districts and had surged into Pupinsk, in order thence, from Pupinsk, to threaten the provincial centre, from where, flooded in darkness, Ivanchevsky had flown down into darkness.

Just then, in Petersburg itself, on the Nevsky, the provincial darkness had appeared in the form of a dark Manchurian hat; that hat had swarmed together and was amicably strolling through the prospects; on the prospects it excited itself with a red calico rag (that was the kind of day it had turned out to be): on this day the ring of many-chimneyed factories ceased to belch out smoke.

Apollon Apollonovich was turning the enormous wheel of a mechanism, like Sisyphus; up the steep slope of history he had rolled the wheel ceaselessly for five years; the powerful muscles were bursting; but ever more frequently from under the muscles there stuck out a skeleton that was not involved in any of it, or rather, what stuck out was – Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov, who lived on the English Embankment.

Because he really did feel like a bare, picked skeleton from which Russia had fallen away.

To tell the truth: even before this fateful night, Apollon Apollonovich had seemed to some of the high officials who had observed him somehow ragged, consumed by a secret illness, skewered through (only on the last night did he swell up); every day he threw himself with his heaps into a carriage the colour of a raven’s wing, wearing a coat the colour of a raven’s wing and a top hat – the colour of a raven’s wing; two black-maned steeds bore Pluto away.

Over the waves of Phlegethon they bore him to Tartarus: here, in the waves, he floundered.

At last, – with many dozens of catastrophes (alternations, for example, of Ivanchevskys and events in Pupinsk) the Phlegethontic waves of paper struck against the wheel of the enormous machine which the senator was turning; in the Institution a breach opened up – the Institution of which in Russia there are so few.

And when there occurred a scandal without like – as people said later on – the Genius winged its way out of the mortal body of the wearer of diamond insignia within twenty-four hours; many were even afraid that he had gone off his rocker. Within twenty-four hours – no, within some twelve hours, no more (from midnight to midday) – Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov swiftly flew down the rungs of his civil service career.

He fell in the opinion of many.

People said later that the cause of it was the scandal with his son: yes, he arrived at the Tsukatovs’ soirée a statesman of national importance; but when it was discovered that it was his son who had fled from the soirée, all the senator’s shortcomings were also discovered, starting with his cast of thought and ending with his diminutive stature; and when in the early morning the damp newspapers appeared and the newspaper boys went running along the streets with cries of ‘Secret of the Red Domino’, there could be no doubt whatsoever.

Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov was in no uncertain terms struck off the list of candidates for a government post of exceptional importance.

As for the ill-famed newspaper report – well, here it is: ‘It has been established by officials of the criminal investigation department that the rumours about the appearance on the streets of Petersburg of an unknown domino are based on incontrovertible facts; the hoaxer’s trail has been found: suspicion has fallen on the son of a highly placed official who occupies an administrative post; measures have been taken by the police.’

From this day began the twilight of Ableukhov.

Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov was born in 1837 (the year of Pushkin’s death); his childhood was spent on an old aristocratic estate in the province of Nizhny --gorod; in 1858 he graduated from the School of Law; in 1870 he was appointed Professor of P– L– at the University of St Petersburg; in 1885 he became deputy director of the Ministerial Department of X, and in 1890 became its director; in the following year he was appointed by the highest decree to the Governmental Senate; in 1900 he became head of an Institution.

That is his curriculum vitae.