He was born in Turkey in the region of Van, either in the town of Bitlis itself or its environs, and from there his family, four or five years before we met, had moved to Russia. When they arrived in Tiflis, he was sent to the first gymnasium, as it was called, but soon, in spite of the fact that the customs there were very simple and unceremonious, Yelov, for some prank or mischief, made himself unbearable even for this institution and was expelled by order of the teachers’ council. A short time afterwards his father turned him out and from then on he began to live as the spirit moved him. In short, as he himself expressed it, he was the black sheep of his family. His mother, however, unknown to his father, often sent him money.
Yelov cherished very tender feelings for his mother, which manifested themselves even in little things; for instance, he always had a photograph of his mother hanging over his bed and never went out without kissing this photograph, and when he returned, he would always call from the doorway, ‘Good day, Mother’, or ‘Good evening, Mother’. It now seems to me that I grew to like him all the more for this feature.
His father he also loved, but in his own way, and he considered him a petty, vain and wilful man.
His father was a contractor and was considered very rich. Among the Aïsors, moreover, he was very important, apparently because he was a descendant, though only through the female line, of the family of the Marshimoun, to which formerly the Aïsors kings belonged, and from which, ever since the end of the kingdom, the patriarchs have come.
Abram also had a brother, who was then studying in America, in Philadelphia, I believe; but his brother he did not like at all, holding the firm opinion that he was a double-faced egoist and an animal without a heart.
Yelov had many peculiarities; among others, he had the habit of always hitching up his trousers, and later it cost us, his comrades, many and persistent labours to break him of this habit.
Pogossian often poked fun at him for it, saying: ‘Hah!—and you wanted to be an officer! At the very first meeting with a general, off you’d go, you poor fool, to the guardhouse, for instead of saluting you’d hitch up your trousers . . .’ and so on. (Pogossian expressed himself still less delicately.)
Pogossian and Yelov were forever teasing each other, and even when talking amicably, Yelov would never call Pogossian anything else but ‘salted Armenian’ and Pogossian would call Yelov ‘khachagokh’.