Prince Yuri Lubovedsky
I did not find Soloviev in, and so, after washing and making myself tidy—I had no other clothes to change into—I went off alone to the evening service at the church. When I returned, I found Soloviev already asleep. As there was no table in my room, I quietly, so as not to disturb him, brought in from the court outside a large empty case, covered it with a clean sheet and placed on it all the things I had bought for the feast, and only then woke Soloviev.
He was very surprised at everything he saw, and gladly consented to participate in this solemn repast. He got up and we sat down together at the ‘table’, he on my books and I on a pail turned upside down.
First of all I poured out a glass of vodka for each of us, but to my astonishment he thanked me and refused to drink. I drank alone, and Soloviev began to eat. Philos, who was present at this celebration, received a double portion, two sheep’s heads. We sat in silence and ate. It was not a happy Easter either for me or for Soloviev. Picturing to myself the familiar scene of the family feast, I began to think of my family far away. Soloviev also was thinking about something, and we sat a rather long time without speaking.
All of a sudden, as if to himself, Soloviev exclaimed: ‘Help me, 0 Lord, in memory of this night, to be able never again to drink this poison which has brought me to such a life!’ He fell silent, and then with a disconsolate gesture murmured, ‘Ah… me!’ and began telling me about his life.
I do not know what had affected him. Was it because Easter recalled to him distant and dear memories of the time when he had been a man, or was it the sight of the carefully arranged table and the unexpected feast, or both together? Whatever it was, he poured his heart out to me.
It seemed that Soloviev had once been a postoffice employee, but had become so quite by chance. He came from a merchant family of Samara, where his father owned big flour mills. His mother came of an impoverished noble family. She had been educated at a finishing school for the aristocracy, and her upbringing of her children consisted exclusively in teaching them good manners and how to behave; this was all they had been stuffed with.