Petersburg Madame Farnois

And indeed, it was somewhat late when Angel Peri deigned to open her innocent little eyes from the pillows that day; but the eyes had stuck together; and the little head was quite manifestly developing a dull and hollow ache; Angel Peri managed to remain in a state of somnolence for a long time yet; beneath her curls some kind of inarticulacies, anxieties, half-hints kept swarming: her first complete thought was a thought about the soirée: something was going to happen! But when she tried to develop this thought, her little eyes stuck together properly and again moved off into some kind of inarticulacies, anxieties, half-hints; and from these indistinct phenomena there again rose only: Pompadour, Pompadour, Pompadour – and why Pompadour? But her soul radiantly illumined that word: the costume in the spirit of Madame Pompadour – azure, with flowerlets, Valenciennes lace, silvery slippers, pompons! She had had such a long argument with her dressmaker the other day about the costume in the style of Madame Pompadour; Madame Farnois had on no account been willing to cede to her on the matter of blonde lace; had kept saying: ‘And why do you want blonde lace?’ But how could she do without blonde lace? In the opinion of Madame Farnois, blonde lace must look so, be included on such-and-such occasions; and in Sofya Petrovna’s opinion, blonde lace must not look like that at all. At first Madame Farnois said to her: ‘With my taste, and your taste – how can it fail to be in the style of Madame Pompadour?’ But Sofya Petrovna had been unwilling to cede, and Madame Farnois offendedly proposed to take the material back from her. ‘Take it to Maison Tricotons:3 There, madame, they won’t contradict you …’ But to give it to Maison Tricotons: fi, fi, fi! And the blonde lace was abandoned, as were the other controversial points of the Madame Pompadour style: the light chapeau Bergère for the hands, for example, though a panniered skirt could on no account be dispensed with.

Thus did they reach an agreement.

As she immersed herself in thoughts about Madame Farnois, Pompadour and Maison Tricotons, Angel Peri felt tormentingly that again everything was all wrong, that something had happened that would make both Madame Farnois and Maison Tricotons vanish into thin air; but taking advantage of her state of semi-sleep, she was consciously unwilling to try to catch the elusive impression of the real events of the day before; at last she remembered – only two words: domino and letter; and she leapt out of bed, wringing her hands in aimless languor; there had been some third word, and with it she had fallen asleep last night.

But Angel Peri could not remember the third word; the third word might have been some quite unprepossessing sounds: husband, officer, second lieutenant.

As far as the first two words were concerned, Angel Peri firmly resolved not to think about them until the evening; while the third, unprepossessing word did not merit attention. But it was precisely this unprepossessing word that she ran up against; for no sooner, no sooner had she fluttered through to the drawing-room from her stuffy little bedroom and dashed, with perfect innocence, into her husband’s room, in the supposition that her husband, the officer, the second lieutenant Likhutin, had as always gone off to take charge of provisions, than suddenly: to her very great surprise that second lieutenant’s room proved to be locked and inaccessible to her: second lieutenant Likhutin, in spite of all his habits, in spite of the cramped quarters, the loss of comfort, common sense and honest decency – had evidently ensconced himself in there.

Only now did she remember yesterday’s outrageous scene; and with pouting lips slammed the bedroom door (he had locked himself in, and so would she). But, having locked herself in, she saw the broken dressing table.

‘Barynya, will you have coffee in your room?’

‘No, I don’t want any …’

‘Barin, will you have coffee in your room?’

‘No, I don’t want any.’

‘Barin, the coffee is cold.’


‘Barynya, someone is here, barynya!’

‘From Madame Farnois?’

‘No, from the laundress!’


In an hour there are sixty minutes; while a minute entirely consists of seconds; the seconds ran away, forming minutes; heavy, the minutes began to throng; and the hours dragged themselves along.


In the middle of the day Her Majesty’s Yellow Cuirassier Baron Ommergau rang at the door with a two-pound bonbonnière of chocolates from Krafft’s.4 The two-pound bonbonnière was not refused admittance; but he was.

At about two o’clock in the afternoon His Majesty’s Blue Cuirassier Count Aven rang at the door with a bonbonnière from Ballet’s;5 the bonbonnière was received, but he was refused admittance.

A Leib Hussar in a tall fur hat was also refused; the Hussar shook his plumed hat and stood with a double bunch of brilliant lemon-coloured chrysanthemums; he called after Aven, shortly after four o’clock.

Verhefden also came flying with a box for the Mariinsky Theatre. Only Lippanchenko did not call: of Lippanchenko there was no sign.

At last, late in the evening, towards ten o’clock, a girl appeared from Madame Farnois with an enormous cardboard box; she was received at once; but as she was being received and there was tittering in the hallway apropos of this, the door of the bedroom clicked, and from there a tearful little face pushed inquisitively forth; an angry, hurried cry was heard:

‘Bring it quickly.’

But at the same time the lock of the study door also gave a click; from the study a shaggy head pushed forth: looked and disappeared. Was this really the second lieutenant?