The Chorus Girl and Other Stories
A Gentleman Friend
THE charming Vanda, or, as she was described in her passport, the "Honourable Citizen
Nastasya Kanavkin," found herself, on leaving the hospital, in a position she had never
been in before: without a home to go to or a farthing in her pocket. What was she to do?
The first thing she did was to visit a pawn-broker's and pawn her turquoise ring, her one
piece of jewellery. They gave her a rouble for the ring . . . but what can you get for a
rouble? You can't buy for that sum a fashionable short jacket, nor a big hat, nor a pair of
bronze shoes, and without those things she had a feeling of being, as it were, undressed.
She felt as though the very horses and dogs were staring and laughing at the plainness of
her dress. And clothes were all she thought about: the question what she should eat and
where she should sleep did not trouble her in the least.
"If only I could meet a gentleman friend," she thought to herself, "I could get some
money. . . . There isn't one who would refuse me, I know. . ."
But no gentleman she knew came her way. It would be easy enough to meet them in the
evening at the "Renaissance," but they wouldn't let her in at the "Renaissance" in that
shabby dress and with no hat. What was she to do?
After long hesitation, when she was sick of walking and sitting and thinking, Vanda made
up her mind to fall back on her last resource: to go straight to the lodgings of some
gentleman friend and ask for money.
She pondered which to go to. "Misha is out of the question; he's a married man. . . . The
old chap with the red hair will be at his office at this time. . ."
Vanda remembered a dentist, called Finkel, a converted Jew, who six months ago had
given her a bracelet, and on whose head she had once emptied a glass of beer at the
supper at the German Club. She was awfully pleased at the thought of Finkel.
"He'll be sure to give it me, if only I find him at home," she thought, as she walked in his
direction. "If he doesn't, I'll smash all the lamps in the house."
Before she reached the dentist's door she thought out her plan of action: she would run
laughing up the stairs, dash into the dentist's room and demand twenty-five roubles. But
as she touched the bell, this plan seemed to vanish from her mind of itself. Vanda began
suddenly feeling frightened and nervous, which was not at all her way. She was bold and
saucy enough at drinking parties, but now, dressed in everyday clothes, feeling herself in
the position of an ordinary person asking a favour, who might be refused admittance, she
felt suddenly timid and humiliated. She was ashamed and frightened.
"Perhaps he has forgotten me by now," she thought, hardly daring to pull the bell. "And
how can I go up to him in such a dress, looking like a beggar or some working girl?"