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Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/The Tiny Man

< Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse

FYODOR SOLOGUB: THE TINY MAN.

 

I.

 

Yakov Alexeyevitch Saranin scarcely reached medium size; his wife, Aglaya Nikiforovna, who came of tradesfolk, was tall and capacious. Even now, in the first year after their marriage, the twenty-year-old woman was so corpulent that beside her tiny and lean husband, she seemed a very giantess.

"What if she gets still bigger?" thought Yakov Alexeyevitch. He thought this, although he had married for love—of her and of the dowry.

The difference in the size of husband and wife not seldom evoked derisive remarks from their acquaintances. These frivolous jests poisoned Saranin's peace of mind and embarrassed Aglaya Nikiforovna.

Once, after an evening spent with his colleagues, when he had to bear no small amount of banter, Saranin returned home thoroughly out of temper.

Lying in bed beside Aglaya, he growled and began wrangling with his wife. Aglaya lazily and unwillingly replied in a drowsy voice: "What am I to do? It's not my fault."

She was of a very placid and peaceful temper.

Saranin growled: "Don't gorge yourself with meat, and don't gobble up so much floury food; the whole day you're stuffing yourself with sweets."

"Then I can't eat anything, if I've got a good appetite," said Aglaya. "When I was single, I had a better appetite still!"

"So I should think! Why, you ate up an ox at one go, didn't you?"

"It's impossible to eat up an ox at one go," replied Aglaya, placidly.

She quickly fell asleep, but Saranin could not get to sleep in this strange autumn night.

For a long time he tossed about from side to side.

When a Russian cannot eleep, he thinks about things. Saranin, too, devoted himself to that activity, which was so little peculiar to him at any other time. For he was an official,—and so had little reason to think about this and that.

"There must be some means or other," pondered Saranin. "Science makes marvellous discoveries every day; in America they make people noses of any shape they like, and put a new skin on their faces. That's the kind of operations they perform,—they bore holes in the skull, they cut into the bowels and the heart, and sew them up again. Can't there be a way of making me grow, or else of reducing Aglaya's size? Some secret way or other? But how to find it? How? You won't find it by lying here. Even water won't flow under a stone at rest. But to look for this secret remedy. . . . It may be that the inventor is actually walking the streets and looking for a purchaser. Yes, of course. He can't advertise in the papers. . . . But in the streets hawking things round, selling what he likes from under his coat,—that's quite possible. He goes round and offers it on the quiet. If anyone wants a secret remedy, he doesn't stay tossing about in bed."

Having arrived at this conclusion, Saranin began to dress quickly, mumbling to himself:

"Twelve o'clock at night. . ."

He was not afraid that he would wake his wife. He knew that Aglaya slept soundly.

"Just like a buxter," he said aloud.—"Just like a clod-hopper," he thought to himself.

He finished dressing and went into the street. He had not the slightest wish for slumber. His spirits were light, and he was in the mood peculiar to a seeker of adventure when he has Some new and interesting experience before him.

The law-abiding official, who had lived quietly and colourlessly for the third of a century, suddenly felt within him the spirit of a venturesome and untrammelled hunter in wild deserts,—a hero of Cooper or Mayne-Reid.

But when he had gone a few steps along his accustomed road,—towards his office, he stopped and reflected. Wherever was he to go? All was still and peaceful, so peaceful that the street seemed to be the corridor of a huge building, ordinary, free from danger, shut off from all that was external and abrupt. The house-porters were dozing by the doors. At the cross-roads, a constable made his appearance. The street lamps glimmered. The paving-stones and the cobbles in the road shone faintly with the dampness of rain that had recently fallen.

Saranin considered, and in his unruffled hesitance he turned to the right and walked straight ahead.

 

II.

 

At a point where two streets crossed, in the lamp-light, he saw a man walking towards him, and his heart throbbed with a joyful foreboding.

It was an odd figure. A gown of bright colours, with a broad girdle. A large speckled cap, with a pointed tip. A saffron-coloured tuft of beard, long and narrow. White, glittering teeth. Dark, piercing eyes. Slippered feet.

"An Armenian?" thought Saranin at once.

The Armenian came up to him and said:

"My dear man, what are you looking for at this hour of the night? You should go and sleep, or else visit the fair ladies. If you like, I will guide you there."

"No, my own fair lady is ample enough for me," said Saranin.

And confidingly he acquainted the Armenian with his trouble.

The Armenian showed his teeth and made a neighing sound.

"Big wife, tiny husband,—to kiss, put up a ladder. Phew, not good!"

"What would be good for it, then?"

"Come with me. I will help a good man."

For a long time they went through the quiet, corridor-like streets, the Armenian in front, Saranin behind.

From lamp to lamp the Armenian underwent an odd change. In the darkness he grew, and the farther he went from the lamp, the hugher did he become. Sometimes it seemed aa if the sharp tip of his cap rose up higher than the houses into the cloudy sky. Then, as he approached the light, he became smaller, and by the lamp he assumed his former dimensions, and seemed a simple and ordinary hawker of gowns. And, strange to say, Saranin felt no astonishment at this phenomenon. He was in such a trustful mood that the gaudy wonders of the Arabian Nights themselves would have seemed ordinary to him, even as the tedious passage of workaday drabness.

At the door of a house, quite an ordinary fivestoried yellow building, they stopped. The lamp at the door clearly outlined its unpretentious sign. Saranin noticed:

"No. 41."

They entered the courtyard. To the staircase of the back wing. The staircase was in semidarkness. But on the door before which the Armenian stopped, fell the light of a small dim lamp, and Saranin distinguished the figures:

"No. 43."

The Armenian thrust his hand into his pocket, drew from thence tiny bell, of the kind that is used in country-houses to summon the servants, and rang it. Clear and silvery was the sound of the little bell.

The door opened immediately. Behind the door stood a bare-footed lad, well-favoured, brown-skinned, with very full-coloured lips. His white teeth glistened because he kept smiling, now joyfully, now mockingly. And it seemed that he was smiling the whole time. The comely lad's eyes gleamed with a greeny lustre. He was all lithe as a cat and blurred as the phantom of a peaceful nightmare. He looked at Saranin and smiled. Saranin felt uneasy.

They entered. The lad closed the door, bending forward lithely and adroitly, and went before them into the passage, bearing a lamp in his hand. He opened a door, and again that blurred movement and mirth.

An uncanny, dark narrow room, Along the walls of which were arranged cupboards with certain alembics and phials. There was a strangely irritating and perplexing odour.

The Armenian lit the lamp, opened a cupboard, fumbled about there and fetched down an alembic with a greenish liquid.

"Good droplets," he said ; "you give one drop in a glass of water, go to sleep quietly, and not wake up."

"No, I don't want that," said Saranin, vexedly. "You don't think I've come for that!"

"My dear man," said the Armenian in a wheedling voice, "you will take another wife, after your own size, very simple matter."

"I don't want to," cried Saranin.

"Well, don't shout," the Armenian cut him short. "Why are you getting angry, dear man? You are spoiling your temper for nothing. You don't want it, then don't take it. I'll give you other things. But they are dear, ah, ah, dear."

The Armenian, squatting down on his haunches, which gave his long figure a comical appearance, fetched out a square-shaped bottle. In it glittered a transparent liquid. The Armenian said softly, with a mysterious look:

"You drink one drop, you lose a pound; you drink forty drops, you lose forty pounds' weight. A drop, a pound. A drop, a rouble. Count the drops, give the roubles."

Saranin was inflamed with joy.

"How much shall I want, now?" pondered Saranin. "She must be about two hundred pounds, for certain. If she loses a hundred and twenty pounds, she'll be quite a tiny little woman. That will be fine!"

"Give me a hundred and twenty drops."

The Armenian shook his head.

"You want a lot, that will be bad!"

Saranin flared up.

"Well, that's my business."

The Armenian looked at him searchingly.

"Count out the money."

Saranin took out his pocket-book.

"All to-day's winnings, and you've got to add some of your own as well," he reflected.

The Armenian in the meantime took out a cut-glass phial, and began to count out the drops.

A sudden doubt was enkindled in Saranin's mind.

A hundred and twenty roubles, a tidy sum of money. And supposing he cheats.

"They really will work?" he asked, undecidedly.

"We don't sell a pig in a poke," said the master of the house. "I'll show you now how it works. Gaspar—" he shouted.

The same bare-footed lad entered. He had on a red jacket and short blue trousers. His brown legs were bare to above the knees. They were shapely, handsome, and moved adroitly and swiftly.

The Armenian beckoned with his hand. Gaspar speedily threw aside his garments. He went up to the table.

The lights dimly shone upon his yellow body, shapely, powerful, beautiful. His smile was subservient, depraved. His eyes were dark, with blue marks under them.

The Armenian said:

"Drink the pure drops, and it will work at once. Mix with water or wine, and then slowly, you will not notice it with your eyes. Mix it badly, and it will act in jerks, not nicely."

He took a narrow glass with indentations, poured out some of the liquid and gave it to Gaspar. Gaspar, with the gesture of a spoilt child who is being given sweets, drank the liquid to the dregs, threw his head backwards, licked out the last sweet drops with his long, pointed tongue which was like a serpent's fangs, and immediately, before Saranin's eyes, he began to get smaller. He stood erect, looked at Saranin, laughed, and changed in size like a puppet bought at a fair, which shrivels up when they remove the wind from it.

The Armenian took him by the elbow and placed him on the table. The lad was about the size of a candle. He danced and performed antics.

"What will happen to him now?" asked Saranin.

"My dear man, we will make him grow again," replied the Armenian.

He opened a cupboard and from the top shelf he took another vessel likewise of strange shape. The liquid in it was green. Into a tiny goblet, the size of a thimble, the Armenian poured a little of the liquid. He gave it to Gaspar.

Again Gaspar drank it, just as the first time.

With the unwavering slowness of water filling a bath, the naked lad became bigger and bigger. Finally, he reached his previous dimensions.

The Armenian said:

"Drink with wine, with water, with milk, drink it with whatever you please, only do not drink it with Russian kvas, or you will begin to moult badly."

 

III.

 

A few days elapsed.

Saranin beamed with joy. He smiled mysteriously.

He was waiting for an opportunity.

He was biding his time.

Aglaya complained of a headache.

"I have a remedy," said Saranin. "It acts wonderfully."

"No remedies are any good," said Aglaya, with a sour grimace.

"No, but this one will be. I got it from an Armenian."

He spoke go confidently that Aglaya had faith in the efficacy of the Armenian's medicine.

"Oh, all right then; give it me."

He produced the phial.

"Is it nasty?" asked Aglaya.

"it's delightful stuff to taste, and it acts wonderfully. Only it will cause you a little inconvenience."

Aglaya made a wry face.

"Drink, drink."

"Can it be taken in Madeira?"

"Yes."

"Then you drink the Madeira with me," said Aglaya, prompted by caprice.

Saranin poured out two glasses of Madeira, and into his wife's glass he poured the admixture.

"I feel a bit cold," said Aglaya softly and sluggishly. "I should like my wrap."

Saranin ran to fetch the wrap. When he returned, the glasses stood as before. Aglaya sat down and smiled.

He laid the wrap round her.

"I feel as if I were better," said she. "Am I to drink?"

"Drink, drink," cried Saranin. "Your health!"

He seized his glass. They drank.

She burst out laughing.

"What is it?" asked Saranin.

"I changed the glasses. You'll have the inconvenience, not me."

He shuddered. He grew pale.

"What have you done?" he shouted in desperation.

Aglaya laughed. To Saranin her laughter seemed loathsome and cruel.

Suddenly he remembered that the Armenian had an antidote.

He ran to find the Armenian.

"He'll make me pay dearly for it," he thought, gingerly. "But what of the money! Let him take all, if only he saves me from the horrible effects of this nostrum."

 

IV.

 

But obviously an evil destiny was flinging itself upon Saranin.

On the door of the lodging where the Armenian lived, there hung a lock. In desperation Saranin seized the bell. A wild hope inspirited him. He rang desperately.

Behind the door the bell tinkled loudly, distinctly, clearly, with that inexorable clearness peculiar to the ringing of bells in empty lodgings.

Saranin ran to the house-porter. He was pallid. Smail drops of sweat, exceedingly small, like dew on a cold stone, broke out on his face and specially on his nose.

He dashed hastily into the porter's lodge and cried:

"Where is Khalatyantz?"

The porter in charge, a listless, black-bearded bumpkin, was drinking tea from a saucer. He eyed Saranin askance. He asked with unruffled calm:

"And what do you want of him?"

Saranin looked blankly at the porter and did not know what to say.

"If you've got any business with him," said the porter, looking at Saranin suspiciously, "then, sir, you had better go away. For as he's an Armenian, keep out of the way of the police."

"Yes, but where iS the cursed Armenian?" cried Saranin, in desperation. "From number 43?"

VThere is no Armenian," replied the porter. "There was, it's true, I won't deny it, but there isn't now."

"Where is he, then?"

"He's gone away."

"Where to?" shouted Saranin.

"Who can say?" replied the porter, placidly. "He got a foreign passport and went abroad."

Saranin turned pale.

"Understand," he said in a trembling voice, "I must get hold of him, come what may."

He burst out crying.

The porter looked at him sympathetically. He said:

"Why, don't upset yourself, sir. If you do want the cursed Armenian so badly, why then, take a trip abroad yourself, go to the registration office there, and you'll find him by the address."

Saranin did not consider the absurdity of what the porter said. He became cheerful.

He at once rushed home, flew like a hurricane into the local office, and requested the man in charge to make him out a foreign passport without delay. But suddenly he remembered:

"But where am I to go?"

 

V.

 

The cursed nostrum did its evil work with fateful slowness, but inexorably. Saranin became smaller and smaller every day. His clothes dangled round him like a sack.

His acquaintances marvelled. They said: "How is it that you seem a bit smaller. Have you stopped wearing heels?"

"Yes, and a bit thinner."

"You're working too hard."

"Fancy taking it out of yourself like that!"

Finally, on meeting him, they would sigh:

"Whatever is the matter with you?"

Behind his back, Saranin's acquaintances began to make fun of him.

"He's growing downwards."

"He's trying to break the record for smallness."

His wife noticed it somewhat later. Being always in her sight, he grew smaller too gradually for her to see anything. She noticed it by the baggy look of his clothes.

At first she laughed at the queer diminution in size of her husband. Then she began to lose her temper.

"This is going from bad to worse," she said. "And to think that I actually married such a midget."

Soon all his clothes had to be re-made,—all the old ones were dropping off him; his trousers reached his ears, and his hat fell on to his shoulder.

The head porter happened to go into the kitchen.

"What's up here?" he asked the cook, sternly.

"Is that any business of mine?" the plump and comely Matrena was on the point of shouting irascibly, but she remembered just in time and said:


Gougle "There's nothing up here at all. Everything's ag usual."

"Why, your master's beginning to carry on like anything. By rights he ought to report himself to the police," said the porter very sternly.

The watch-chain on his paunch heaved indignantly.

Matrena suddenly sat down on a box and burst out crying.

"Don't talk about it, Sidor Pavlovitch," she began. "We've really been wondering what's the matter with him,—we can't make it out."

"What's the reason? What's the cause?" exclaimed the porter, indignantly. "Can such things be?"

"The only comfort about it," said the cook, sobbing, "is, that he eats less."

The longer he lived, the smaller he got.

And the servants, and the tailors, and all with whom Saranin had to come in contact, treated him with unconcealed contempt. He would race along to business, tiny, hardly managing to lug his huge portfolio with both hands, and behind him he heard the malicious laughter of the hall-porter, the door-keeper, cabmen, urchins.

"Little shrimp," the head porter would remark.

Saranin had to swallow many a bitter draught. He lost his wedding ring. His wife made a fuss about it. She wrote to her parents in Moscow. "Curse that Armenian!" thought Saranin.

Often he called to mind the Armenian counting the drops, pouring them out.

"Whew!"? exclaimed Saranin.

"Never mind, my dear, it was my mistake, I won't do anything for it."

Saranin also went to the doctor, who examined him with jocular remarks. He found nothing wrong.

Saranin would go to visit somebody or other,—the porter did not let him in at once.

"Who may you be?"

Saranin told him.

"I don't know,” said the porter. "Mr. So-and-so don't receive such people."

 

VI.

 

At business, in his department, they began by eyeing him askance and jeering. Especially the younger men.

Then they started murmuring, expressing disapproval.

The hall-porter began to remove Saranin's overcoat with open repugnance.

"There's a weedy little official for you," he muttered. "What sort of Christmas box are you likely to get from him?"

And to keep up his prestige, Saranin was compelled to give bigger and more frequent tips than before. But that availed little. The porters took the money, but they looked at Saranin suspiciously.

Saranin explained to someone among his colleagues that an Armenian had landed him in this mess. The rumour of the Armenian affair rapidly spread throughout the department. It found its way into other departments as well. . .

On one occasion the manager of the department ran up against the tiny official in the passage. He looked at him in amazement. He said nothing. He went into his room.

Then they considered that they had better inform him. The manager asked:

"Has this been going on long?"

The assistant manager wavered.

"It's a pity you didn't draw attention to it at the time," said the manager, sourly, without waiting for an answer. "Strange that I knew nothing about it. I'm greatly put out."

He sent for Saranin.

When Saranin reached the manager's room, all the officials looked at him in severe condemnation.

With a beating heart Saranin entered the superintendent's room. He still clung to a faint hope, the hope that His Excellence intended to give him a particularly flattering order, availing himself of his small size. He might detail him for the Universal Exhibition, or some secret duty or other. But at the very first sound of the departmental manager's voice, this hope dispersed like smoke.

"Sit down here," said His Excellency, pointing to a chair.

Saranin clambered up as best he could. The manager irately gazed at the official's legs dangling in the air. He asked:

"Mr. Saranin, are you acquainted with the Civil Service regulations as defined by the Government?"

"Your Excellency," stammered Saranin, laying, as in prayer, his little hands upon his breast.

"Why have you done this?" asked the manager.

"Believe me, Your Excellency. . ."

"Why have you done this?" repeated the Manager.

But Saranin could not say another word. He burst into tears. He had become very lachrymose latterly.

The manager looked at him. He shook his head. He began very sternly:

"Mr. Saranin, I have summoned you in order to inform you that your inexplicable conduct is to be regarded as thoroughly insufferable."

"But, Your Excellency, I think I've always properly. . . stammered Saranin, "and as for my stature. . ."

"Yes, that's just it."

"But I am not responsible for this misfortune."

"I cannot judge to what extent this strange and unseemly occurrence has come upon you through misfortune, and to what extent you are not responsible for it, but I am bound to tell you, that as far as the department in my charge is concerned, your extraordinary diminution in size bas become positively scandalous. The most equivocal rumours are already circulating in the town. I cannot judge of their accuracy, but I know that these rumours explain your conduct by associating it with agitations for Armenian independence. You will admit that the department cannot be turned into a headquarters for developing Armenian intrigues, directed towards the diminution of the Russian Empire. We cannot keep officials who conduct themselves so strangely."

Saranin leaped up from his chair, and tremblingly whimpered:

"A freak of nature, Your Excellency."

"It is peculiar, but the interests of the service. . ."

And again he repeated the same question:

"Why have you done this?"

"Your Excellency, I myself do not know how it has come to pass."

"What instincts! You are flaunting the smallness of your stature, when you could easily hide it under any lady's skirt, if I may be allowed to say so. This cannot be tolerated."

"I never did this," wailed Saranin.

But the manager did not hear. He went on:

"I even heard that you are doing this out of sympathy for the Japanese. But a limit must be recognised in all things."

"How could I ever do that, Your Excellency?"

"I do not know. But I beg of you to desist. You can be retained in the service, but only in the provinces, and this will be immediately cancelled, if you do not resume your customary dimensions. For the purpose of recruiting your health, you are granted four months' leave. I must request you not to make your appearance in the department any more. Any papers that are indispensable to you will be sent to your house. Good morning."

"Your Excellency, I am capable of working. Why this leave?"

"You will take it because of illness."

"But, Your Excellency, I am quite well."

"No more, if you please."

They gave Saranin leave for four months.

 

VII.

 

Before long, Aglaya's parents arrived. It was after lunch. During luch, Aglaya had waxed very merry at her husband's expense. Then she went off to her room.

He went timidly into his study,—it seemed huge to him now,—scrambled up on to the ottoman, curled himself up in a corner and began crying. Burdensome perplexities tormented him.

Why should just he be overwhelmed bv such a misfortune? It was dreadful, unheard of.

What utter folly.

He sobbed and whispered despairingly:

"Why, oh, why did I do it?"

Suddenly he heard familiar voices in the front room. He shook with horror. On tiptoe he crept to the washing-atand,—they should not see his tear-stained eyes. Even to wash himself was difficult,—he had to stand on a chair.

The guests had already entered the drawing-room. Saranin received them. He bowed, and in a piping voice made some unintelligible remark. Aglaya's father looked at him blankly with wide-open eyes. He was big, stout, bull-necked and red-faced. Aglaya was at his heels.

He stood still before his son-in-law, and with legs wide apart, he eyed him attentively; he took Saranin's Hand cautiously, bent forward and said, lowering his voice:

"We have come to see you."

It was obvious that his intention was to behave himself tactfully. He fidgeted with his feet on the floor.

From behind his back, Aglaya's mother, a lean and malicious person, pushed forward. She exclaimed shrilly:

"Where is he, where? Show him to me, Aglaya, show me this Pygmalion."

She looked over Saranin's head. She purposely did not notice him. The flowers on her hat waggled strangely. She went straight up to Saranin. He squeaked and hopped on one side.

Aglaya began to cry and said:

"There he is, mama."

"I'm here, mama," squeaked Saranin, and shuffled his feet.

"You villain, what have you done to yourself? Why have you shrivelled up so?"

The servant-girl giggled.

"Don't you giggle at your master, my good girl."

Aglaya reddened.

"Mama, let's go into the drawing-room."

"No; tell me, you villain, for what purpose you've got so small?"

"Now then, mother, wait a bit," the father interrupted her.

She turned on her husband as well.

"Didn't I tell you not to let her marry a man without a beard. See, it's turned out just as I said."

The father looked cautiously at Saranin and did his utmost to change the conversation to politics.

"The Japanese," he said, "are of no great size to speak of, but to all appearance they are a brainy race, and even, you might almost say, enterprising."

 

VIII.

 

And Saranin grew tinier and tinier. He could now walk freely under the table. And each day he became smaller still. He had not yet taken complete advantage of his leave, but he did not go to the office. They had not yet made preparations to travel anywhere.

Aglaya sometimes made fun of him, sometimes she cried and said:

"Where shall I take you in that state? The shame and disgrace of it!"

To pass from the study to the dining-room had become a journey of quite respectable proportions. And to climb up on a chair in the bargain. . .

Still, weariness was in itself agreeable. It resulted in a good appetite and the hope of growing. Saranin now pinned all his faith upon food. The amount he consumed was out of all proportion to his diminutive dimensions. But he did not grow. On the contrary,—he decreased and decreased in size. The worst of it was that this decrease in size sometimes proceeded in jerks and at the most inopportune times. As if he were performing tricks.

Aglaya thought of passing him off as a boy, and entering him at a school. She made her way to the nearest one. But the conversation she had with the Headmaster discouraged her.

They demanded documents. It turned out that the plan was impracticable.

With an expression of extreme perplexity the Headmaster said to Aglaya:

"We cannot take a court councillor as pupil. What could we do with him? Suppose the teacher told him to stand in the corner, and he said: I am a Knight of St. Anne. It would be very awkward."

Aglaya assumed a pleading expression and began to implore.

The Headmaster remained inexorable.

"No," he said stubbornly, "we cannot take an official into the school. There is nowhere a single clause in which such a case is provided for. And it would be extremely awkward to approach the authorities with such a proposition. They wouldn't hear of it. It might lead to considerable unpleasantness. No, it can't be done at all. Apply to the controller, if you so desire."

But Aglaya could not make up her mind to go to the authorities.

 

IX.

 

One day Aglaya received a visit from a young man, whose hair was combed back with very shiny smoothness. He made an extremely galiant curtsey. He introduced himself thus:

"I represent the firm of Strigal and Co. A first-class store at the very smartest centre of aristocratic shopping in the West End. We have a huge quantity of clients in the best and highest society."

With a view to all emergencies, Aglaya made eyes at the representative of the illustrious firm. With a languid gesture of her plump arm she invited him to take a chair. She sat with her back to the light. Leaning her head on one side, she made ready to listen.

The young man with the shinily combed hair continued:

"We have been informed that your husband has vouchsafed to display originality in his choice of a diminutive size for himself. For this reason, the firm, anticipating the very latest movements in ladies' and gentlemen's fashions, has the honour, madam, of proposing, as an advertisement, to provide the gentleman free of charge with suits cut according to the very finest Parisian model."

"For nothing?" asked Aglaya, listlessly.

"Not only for nothing, madam, but even with payment to your own advantage, only under one trifling condition which can easily be fulfilled."

In the meantime, Saranin, hearing that he was the subject of the discussion, betook himself into the drawing-room. He strolled round the young man with the shinily arranged hair. He coughed and clattered with his heels. He was very annoyed that the representative of the firm of Strigal and Co. paid not the slightest attention to him.

At last he darted up to the young man and squeaked loudly:

"I suppose they didn't tell you I was at home?"

The representative of the illustrious firm stood up. He gave a gallant curtsey. He sat down again, and, turning to Aglaya, said:

"Only one trifling condition."

Saranin snorted contemptuously. Aglays burst out laughing. Her eyes sparkled inquisitively, and she said:

"Well, tell me, what is the condition?"

"Our condition is that the gentleman would consent to sit in the window of our store in the capacity of a living advertisement."

Aglaya gave a malicious laugh.

"Splendid! At any rate, he'll be out of my sight."

"I won't consent," squeaked Saranin, in a piercing voice. ‘"I cannot agree to such a thing. I,—a court councillor and a knight, sitting in a shop-window as an advertisement,—why, I think it's absolutely ridiculous."

"Be quiet," shouted Aglaya, "it's not you they're asking."

"What, not asking me?" wailed Saranin. "How much longer am I to put up with strangers?"

"Oh no, sir, you're making a mistake!" chimed in the young man amiably. "Our firm has no connection with aliens. Our employees are all either orthodox or Lutherans from Riga. And we have no Jews."

"I don't want to sit in the window" screamed Saranin.

He stamped his feet. Aglaya seized him by the arm. She pulled him towards the bed-room.

"Where are you dragging me?" screamed Saranin. "I don't want to, leave go."

"I'll quieten you," shouted Aglaya.

She locked the door.

"I'll give you a sound beating" she said through her teeth.

She started striking him. He wriggled powerlessly in her mighty arms.

"I've got you in my power, you pigmy. What I want I'll do. I can shove you into my pocket,—how dare you oppose me! I don't care for your rank, I'll thrash you within an inch of your life."

"I'll complain about it," squeaked Saranin.

But he soon realised the uselessness of resistance. He was so very small, and Aglaya had clearly resolved to put her whole strength into it.

"All right then, all right," he wailed, "I'll go into Strigal's window. I'll sit there,—and bring disgrace on you. I'll put on all my decorations."

Aglaya laughed.

"You'll put on what Strigal gives you," she shouted.

She lugged her husband into the drawing-room. She threw him before the young man and shouted:

"Take him! Carry him off this very moment. And the money in advance. Every month!"

Her words were hysterical outcries.

The young man produced a pocket-book. He counted out two hundred roubles.

"Not enough!" shouted Aglaya.

The young man smiled. He took out a hundred rouble note in addition.

"More than this I am not authorised to give," he remarked, amiably. ‘"At the end of a month, pray receive the next instalment."

Saranin ran about the room.

"In the window! In the window!" he kept screaming. "Cursed Armenian, what did you do to me?"

And suddenly at that very moment he shrank by about three inches.

 

X.

 

Useless were Saranin's tears and hig lamentations?—what did Strigal and his associates care about them?

They paid. They effectuated their rights. The ruthless rights of capital.

The power of capital provides even the court councillor and knight with a position completely in accordance with his precise dimensions, but not in the least harmonising with his pride. Dressed up in the latest fashion, the pigmy runs to and fro in the window of the fashion emporium,—now feasting his gaze on the fair ladies of such colossal size!—now spitefully threatening the gleeful children with his fists.

There was a mob round the windows of Strigal and Co.

The assistants in Strigal and Co.'s store trod on each other's toes.

Strigal and Co.'s workshop was flooded with orders.

Strigal and Co. attain renown.

Strigal and Co. extend their workshops.

Strigal and Co. are rich.

Strigal and Co. buy up houses.

Strigal and Co. are magnanimous; they feed Saranin right royally, they do not stint his wife for money.

Aglaya is already receiving a thousand a month.

More income still has fallen to Aglaya's share.

And acquaintances.

And lovers.

And brilliants.

And carriages.

And a mansion.

Aglaya is merry and contented. She has grown still larger. She wears high-heeled shoes. She selects hats of gigantic proportions.

When she visits her husband, she fondles him and feeds him from her hand like a bird. Saranin in a stumpy-tailed dress-suit trots about with tiny steps on the table in front of her and squeaks something. His voice is as penetrating as the squeak of a gnat. But the words are not audible.

Tiny little folk can speak, but their squeaking is not audible to people of large proportions,—neither to Aglaya, nor to Strigal, nor to any of the company. Aglaya, surrounded by shop-assistants, hears the mannikin's whining and squeaking. She laughs and goes away.

They carry Saranin into the window, where, in a nest of soft materials, a whole lodging is arranged for him, with the open side turned towards the public.

The street urchins see the mannikin sitting down at the table and preparing to write his petitions. His tiny little petitions for his rights, which have been violated by Aglaya, Strigal and Co.

He writes. He knocks against the envelope. The urchins laugh.

In the meanwhile, Aglaya is sitting in her splendid carriage. She is going for a jaunt before lunch.

 

XI.

 

Neither Aglaya, nor Strigal and Co. thought how it would all end. They were satisfied with the present. It seemed as if there would be no end to the golden shower which flowed down upon them. But the end came. Of the most ordinary kind. Such as might have been expected.

Saranin diminished continually. Every day they dressed him in new suits,—always smaller.

And suddenly, in the eyes of the marvelling shop-assistants, just as he was putting on some new trousers, he became excessively minute. He tumbled out of the trousers. And he had already become like a pin's head.

A slight draught was blowing. Saranin, minute as a grain of dust, was lifted up in the air. He was twirled round. He mingled with the cloudlets of dust gamboling in the sunbeams. He disappeared.

All search was in vain. Saranin could nowhere be found.

Aglaya, Strigal and Co., the police, the clergy, the authoritics,—all were in the greatest perplexity.

How was the disappearance of Saranin to be formulated?

At last, after communication with the Academy of Sciences, they decided to reckon him as dispatched on a special mission for scientific purposes.

Then they forgot about him.

Saranin was finished with.

 
Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.
Original:

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1941, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

 
Translation:

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1970, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 30 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.