Petersburg The Officer: Sergei Sergeich Likhutin

Among the rest of the studying youth there was a certain respected, radiant person in that circle who was a regular visitor to the Likhutins: the coursiste Varvara Yevgrafovna (here Varvara Yevgrafovna might from time to time encounter Nicolas Ableukhov himself).

One day, under the radiant person’s influence, the Angel Peri illumined with her presence – well, imagine it: a political rally! Under the radiant person’s influence, the Angel Peri placed on the table her very own copper collection box with the nebulous inscription: ‘Charitable Collection’. This box was, of course, intended for the guests; while all the persons who belonged to the guests-so-to-speak had been once and for all exempted by Sofya Petrovna Likhutina from the requisitions; but requisitions were imposed on Count Aven, and Baron Ommau-Ommergau, and Shporyshev, and Verhefden. Under the radiant person’s influence Angel Peri began to go to the municipal school of O.O. in the mornings and repeated Karl Marx’s Manifesto over and over again to no purpose whatever. The point was that at this time she received daily visits from a student, Nikolenka Ableukhov, whom she could without risk introduce both to Varvara Yevgrafovna (who was in love with Nikolenka) and to Her Majesty’s Yellow Cuirassier. Being Ableukhov’s son, Ableukhov was, of course, received everywhere.

As a matter of fact, ever since the time that Nikolenka had suddenly stopped going to visit Angel Peri, that angel had suddenly, in secret from the guests-so-to-speak, gone fluttering off to the spiritualists and to the baroness (oh, what is her name?) who was preparing to enter a nunnery. Ever since, on the table before Sofya Petrovna lay in splendour a magnificently bound little book, Man and His Bodies by some Madame Henri Besançon or other (Sofya Petrovna was again confused: it was not Henri Besançon,9 but Annie Besant).

Sofya Petrovna assiduously concealed her new passion from both Baron Ommau-Ommergau and Varvara Yevgrafovna; in spite of her infectious laughter and her tiny little forehead, the Angel Peri’s secretiveness attained improbable proportions: thus, not once did Varvara Yevgrafovna meet Count Aven, nor even Baron Ommau-Ommergau. On one occasion only did she accidentally catch sight in the hallway of a Leib Hussar’s fur hat with a plume. But to this Leib Hussar’s hat with a plume no reference was thereafter made.

There was something behind all this. God knows!

Sofya Petrovna Likhutina had yet one more visitor; an officer: Sergei Sergeyevich Likhutin; as a matter of fact, he was her husband; he was in charge of provisions somewhere out there; early in the morning he left the house; reappeared no earlier than midnight; equally meekly greeted the ordinary guests and the guests-so-to-speak, with equal meekness said a ‘fifi’ for the sake of propriety, dropping a twenty-copeck piece into the collection box (if Count Aven or Baron Ommau-Ommergau were present at the time), or modestly nodded his head at the words ‘revolution-evolution’, drank a cup of tea and went to his little room; the young men of polite society privately called him ‘the little army fellow’, while the studying youth called him ‘the Bourbon officer’ (in 1905 Sergei Sergeyevich had had the misfortune to defend the Nikolayevsky Bridge from the workers with his half-company). As a matter of fact, Sergei Sergeich Likhutin would have been best pleased to abstain both from ‘fifis’ and from the words ‘revolution-evolution’. As a matter of fact, he would not have been averse to going to the baroness’s for a little spiritualist seance; but he made absolutely no attempt to insist on his modest wish by using his rights as a husband, for in absolutely no way was he a despot in relation to Sofya Petrovna; he loved Sofya Petrovna with all the strength of his soul; moreover: two and a half years earlier he had married her against the wishes of his parents, very rich landowners in Simbirsk; after that, he had been cursed by his father and deprived of his fortune; after that, to everyone’s surprise, he had entered the Gregorian Regiment.10

There was yet another visitor: the crafty khokhol-Little Russian,11 Lippanchenko;12 this was an individual of thoroughly voluptuary temperament who called Sofya Petrovna not an angel but … dushkan;13 to himself, however, the crafty khokhol-Little Russian Lippanchenko called her quite plainly and simply: brankukan, brankukashka or brankukanchik14 (there are some words, for you, then!) But Lippanchenko kept within the bounds of propriety: and so he was received in that house.

Sofya Petrovna’s most good-natured husband, Sergei Sergeyevich Likhutin, a second lieutenant in the Gregorian Regiment of His Majesty the King of Siam, took a meek attitude towards the revolutionary circle of his better half’s acquaintances; the representatives of the polite society circle he regarded merely with emphasized good humour; while the khokhol-Little Russian he only barely tolerated: this crafty khokhol did not at all, incidentally, resemble a khokhol: he sooner resembled a cross between a Semite and a Mongol; he was both tall and fat; this gentleman’s yellowish face floated unpleasantly in its own chin, which was pushed out by a starched collar; and Lippanchenko wore a yellow and red satin tie, fastened with a paste jewel, sporting a striped dark yellow suit and a pair of shoes the same colour; but on top of this, Lippanchenko shamelessly dyed his hair brown. Of himself Lippanchenko said that he exported Russian pigs and was preparing to get rich once and for all on this swinishness.

Be that as it may, it was Lippanchenko, he alone, for whom second lieutenant Likhutin had no especial liking. But why ask whom second lieutenant Likhutin did not like: second lieutenant Likhutin liked everyone, of course: but if there was one person he had liked especially at one time, that person was Nikolai Apollonovich Ableukhov: after all, they had known each other since the earliest years of their adolescence. In the first place, Nikolai Apollonovich had been best man at Likhutin’s wedding, in the second, a daily visitor to the flat on the Moika for a period of almost one and a half years. But then he had disappeared without trace.

It was not Sergei Sergeyevich, of course, who was to blame for the disappearance of the senator’s son, but the senator’s son, or even Angel Peri herself.

Ah, Sofya Petrovna, Sofya Petrovna! In one word: a lady … And from a lady what may one ask?