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Notes from the Underground

I had been certain the day before that I should be the first to arrive. But it was not
a question of being the first to arrive. Not only were they not there, but I had
difficulty in finding our room. The table was not laid even. What did it mean? After
a good many questions I elicited from the waiters that the dinner had been
ordered not for five, but for six o'clock. This was confirmed at the buffet too. I felt
really ashamed to go on questioning them. It was only twenty-five minutes past
five. If they changed the dinner hour they ought at least to have let me know--that
is what the post is for, and not to have put me in an absurd position in my own
eyes and ... and even before the waiters. I sat down; the servant began laying
the table; I felt even more humiliated when he was present. Towards six o'clock
they brought in candles, though there were lamps burning in the room. It had not
occurred to the waiter, however, to bring them in at once when I arrived. In the
next room two gloomy, angry- looking persons were eating their dinners in
silence at two different tables. There was a great deal of noise, even shouting, in
a room further away; one could hear the laughter of a crowd of people, and nasty
little shrieks in French: there were ladies at the dinner. It was sickening, in fact. I
rarely passed more unpleasant moments, so much so that when they did arrive
all together punctually at six I was overjoyed to see them, as though they were
my deliverers, and even forgot that it was incumbent upon me to show
Zverkov walked in at the head of them; evidently he was the leading spirit. He
and all of them were laughing; but, seeing me, Zverkov drew himself up a little,
walked up to me deliberately with a slight, rather jaunty bend from the waist. He
shook hands with me in a friendly, but not over- friendly, fashion, with a sort of
circumspect courtesy like that of a General, as though in giving me his hand he
were warding off something. I had imagined, on the contrary, that on coming in
he would at once break into his habitual thin, shrill laugh and fall to making his
insipid jokes and witticisms. I had been preparing for them ever since the
previous day, but I had not expected such condescension, such high-official
courtesy. So, then, he felt himself ineffably superior to me in every respect! If he
only meant to insult me by that high-official tone, it would not matter, I thought--I
could pay him back for it one way or another. But what if, in reality, without the
least desire to be offensive, that sheepshead had a notion in earnest that he was
superior to me and could only look at me in a patronising way? The very
supposition made me gasp.
"I was surprised to hear of your desire to join us," he began, lisping and drawling,
which was something new. "You and I seem to have seen nothing of one
another. You fight shy of us. You shouldn't. We are not such terrible people as
you think. Well, anyway, I am glad to renew our acquaintance."
And he turned carelessly to put down his hat on the window.
"Have you been waiting long?" Trudolyubov inquired.
"I arrived at five o'clock as you told me yesterday," I answered aloud, with an
irritability that threatened an explosion.