Petersburg In a Word, He Was the Head of an Institution

Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov was notable for acts of valour; more than one were the stars that had fallen on his gold-embroidered chest: the star of Stanislav and Anna, and even: even the White Eagle.

The sash he wore was the blue sash.8

And recently from a small red lacquered box the beams of diamond insignia, or in other words, the decoration of the Order of Alexander Nevsky, had begun to shine on the abode of patriotic feelings.

What then was the social position of the person who had arisen here out of non-existence?

I think that the question is rather misplaced: Russia knew Ableukhov by the excellent expansiveness of the speeches he gave: these speeches did not explode, but flashing without thunder spurted a kind of poison on the opposing party, as a result of which the party’s proposal was rejected in the appropriate quarters.9 When Ableukhov was established in a senior post the Ninth Department10 became inactive. With this department Apollon Apollonovich waged a constant battle both in documents and, where necessary, speeches, in support of the importation of American sheafing machines into Russia (the Ninth Department was against their importation). The senator’s speeches flew around all the districts and provinces, some of which are not, in a spatial respect, the inferior of Germany.

Apollon Apollonovich was the head of an Institution: oh, that one … what is it called, again?

In a word, was the head of an Institution which is, of course, familiar to you.

If one were to compare the cachectic, utterly unprepossessing little figure of my respected man of state with the immeasurable vastness of the mechanisms he controlled, one might, perhaps, for a long time give oneself up to naïve astonishment; but after all, decidedly everyone was astonished at the explosion of intellectual energy shed by this cranium in defiance of all Russia, in defiance of the majority of departments, with the exception of one: but the head of that department11 had, for what would now soon be two years, fallen silent at the will of the Fates beneath a gravestone.

My senator12 had just passed his sixty-eighth birthday; and his face, a pale one, recalled both a grey paperweight (in solemn moments) and a piece of papier mâché (in hours of leisure); the senator’s stony eyes, each surrounded by a black-green concavity, seemed in moments of tiredness both more blue and more enormous.

For our own part, let us also say: Apollon Apollonovich was not in the slightest agitated upon surveying his completely green ears, enlarged to massive dimensions, against the blood-red background of a burning Russia. Thus had he recently been depicted: on the front page of a humorous little street journal,13 one of those little Yid journals, the blood-red covers of which multiplied in those days with shocking speed on the prospects that seethed with humanity …