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Notes from the Underground

III
I found two of my old schoolfellows with him. They seemed to be discussing an
important matter. All of them took scarcely any notice of my entrance, which was
strange, for I had not met them for years. Evidently they looked upon me as
something on the level of a common fly. I had not been treated like that even at
school, though they all hated me. I knew, of course, that they must despise me
now for my lack of success in the service, and for my having let myself sink so
low, going about badly dressed and so on--which seemed to them a sign of my
incapacity and insignificance. But I had not expected such contempt. Simonov
was positively surprised at my turning up. Even in old days he had always
seemed surprised at my coming. All this disconcerted me: I sat down, feeling
rather miserable, and began listening to what they were saying.
They were engaged in warm and earnest conversation about a farewell dinner
which they wanted to arrange for the next day to a comrade of theirs called
Zverkov, an officer in the army, who was going away to a distant province. This
Zverkov had been all the time at school with me too. I had begun to hate him
particularly in the upper forms. In the lower forms he had simply been a pretty,
playful boy whom everybody liked. I had hated him, however, even in the lower
forms, just because he was a pretty and playful boy. He was always bad at his
lessons and got worse and worse as he went on; however, he left with a good
certificate, as he had powerful interests. During his last year at school he came in
for an estate of two hundred serfs, and as almost all of us were poor he took up a
swaggering tone among us. He was vulgar in the extreme, but at the same time
he was a good-natured fellow, even in his swaggering. In spite of superficial,
fantastic and sham notions of honour and dignity, all but very few of us positively
grovelled before Zverkov, and the more so the more he swaggered. And it was
not from any interested motive that they grovelled, but simply because he had
been favoured by the gifts of nature. Moreover, it was, as it were, an accepted
idea among us that Zverkov was a specialist in regard to tact and the social
graces. This last fact particularly infuriated me. I hated the abrupt self-confident
tone of his voice, his admiration of his own witticisms, which were often frightfully
stupid, though he was bold in his language; I hated his handsome, but stupid
face (for which I would, however, have gladly exchanged my intelligent one), and
the free-and-easy military manners in fashion in the "'forties." I hated the way in
which he used to talk of his future conquests of women (he did not venture to
begin his attack upon women until he had the epaulettes of an officer, and was
looking forward to them with impatience), and boasted of the duels he would
constantly be fighting. I remember how I, invariably so taciturn, suddenly
fastened upon Zverkov, when one day talking at a leisure moment with his
schoolfellows of his future relations with the fair sex, and growing as sportive as
a puppy in the sun, he all at once declared that he would not leave a single
village girl on his estate unnoticed, that that was his droit de seigneur, and that if
the peasants dared to protest he would have them all flogged and double the tax
on them, the bearded rascals. Our servile rabble applauded, but I attacked him,
 
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