The Schoolmaster and Other Stories
A MANUFACTURER called Frolov, a handsome dark man with a round beard, and a
soft, velvety expression in his eyes, and Almer, his lawyer, an elderly man with a big
rough head, were drinking in one of the public rooms of a restaurant on the outskirts of
the town. They had both come to the restaurant straight from a ball and so were wearing
dress coats and white ties. Except them and the waiters at the door there was not a soul in
the room; by Frolov's orders no one else was admitted.
They began by drinking a big wine-glass of vodka and eating oysters.
"Good!" said Almer. "It was I brought oysters into fashion for the first course, my boy.
The vodka burns and stings your throat and you have a voluptuous sensation in your
throat when you swallow an oyster. Don't you?"
A dignified waiter with a shaven upper lip and grey whiskers put a sauceboat on the
"What's that you are serving?" asked Frolov.
"Sauce Provençale for the herring, sir. . . ."
"What! is that the way to serve it?" shouted Frolov, not looking into the sauceboat. "Do
you call that sauce? You don't know how to wait, you blockhead!"
Frolov's velvety eyes flashed. He twisted a corner of the table-cloth round his finger,
made a slight movement, and the dishes, the candlesticks, and the bottles, all jingling and
clattering, fell with a crash on the floor.
The waiters, long accustomed to pot-house catastrophes, ran up to the table and began
picking up the fragments with grave and unconcerned faces, like surgeons at an
"How well you know how to manage them!" said Almer, and he laughed. "But . . . move
a little away from the table or you will step in the caviare."
"Call the engineer here!" cried Frolov.
This was the name given to a decrepit, doleful old man who really had once been an
engineer and very well off; he had squandered all his property and towards the end of his
life had got into a restaurant where he looked after the waiters and singers and carried out
various commissions relating to the fair sex. Appearing at the summons, he put his head
on one side respectfully.