Mister Gray was traveling in a carriage coach, his face strained to the limit, his thin lips tightly pursed; between his eyebrows, knitted from anger, anxiety, and uneasiness, ran a deep wrinkle. With sweaty hands, he nervously pulled on a pair of white gloves. The windows of the carriage were open, and the view of them was a usual one: city passers-by, boys waving newly-printed newspapers, ladies with charming umbrellas, and street merchants. Mr. Gray remained in such anger and disappointment that nothing besides the pictures of today's humiliation scrolled through his head again and again like a slide show. In himself, Mr. Gray was melancholy, a young man prone to lingering sufferings and depression. Today at noon, all his hopes had crumbled. The pharmacist's daughter, Liz, had harshly rejected his courtship, and well, in fact, his proposal of hand and heart. Ah, what plans Peter Gray had, having been not of any noble birth, and sick to boot thanks to his father, who after losing massively at cards, had eventually dragged the family into humiliating misery. Peter now rented two rooms in the city tavern and had to support his old mother, who had spent almost her entire life with his money-wasting, alcoholism-inclined and abusive father, and had lost her mind. Courting the pharmacist's daughter inspired high hopes in Peter. Since his work brought him a pittance, which was sufficient for the rent of his rooms, buying provisions, and providing heart medicine for his mother, then one way or another Liz's dowry would necessarily correct his financial situation. Furthermore, Liz wasn't bad herself. Spending a lot of her time helping her father in the pharmacy, she always smelled of drops of anise and valerian, probably, and therefore when he was near her; he also felt calm thought Peter Gray with malice. Plus, connected to the pharmacy on the other side of the building, she even had her three rooms. Remembering this, he reminded about his dreams, how he would enter into these spacious rooms with his mother, whose face would shine with happiness. She would finally be able to be proud of her son, who had so successfully married.
Disgrace! What a shame! Whatever would he tell his mother, who had just that morning seen his cleaned frock-coat and admiringly declared, 'What a fiance! Petey, the real lovely fiance!'
And what would his colleagues say at work? At the office? Yes, they would say nothing! Peter Gray barely socialized with anyone; he didn't even have any friends. Reserved, quiet, he was like a gray mouse that would slip the past, greeting everyone, of course, and work. He would sort the new post, listen to whatever his colleagues were talking about, sometimes secretly smile, if someone discussed something cheerful, but the conversation no, he would never take part, as he was very timid. As luck would have it, when visiting the pharmacy to purchase medicine for his mother, he had drawn the attention of the pharmacist's daughter, Liz. 'Wouldn't you like to invite me for a walk, Mister?' She said, smiling and prettily puckering her face, strewn with joyful freckles. On Liz's paseo she spoke a lot about everything, as she loved to talk a lot in general, but especially enjoyed posing questions to Peter, and, seeing his embarrassment and shyness, she also answered the questions herself. Peter would just timidly nod his head in answer. He was very reserved on these walks, slightly smiling; he listened and listened to Liz's constant chatter. But when, having taken Liz home, he returned home by himself, he could talk for hours about these walks, retelling all that he had heard from Liz to his old mother, who would sit, smiling, in her rocking chair. His mother looked at her Petey with her button-eyes, and would be delighted; she would be pleased by his happiness, so it seemed at least to Peter himself. But then, what confusion! No! Certainly, there were many girls all around him, and if not for this vast abyss his excessive shyness and discomfort itself then the likelihood would be that he would meet his love, or rather settle down with that girl's dowry. But I am such a worthless man! Not gifted with any talents! With a squandered inheritance! Even for these white gloves, he had saved for three months, putting aside with great care what remained after paying the rent of the rooms, provisions, and medicine for his mother. But this carriage trip! To Liz he had gone, full of hope! Embarrassed after his failure, he could have dismissed the carriage, and traveling by foot saved some ducats. But no, he walked out into the courtyard and proudly raised his head in the hope that Liz would look out the window, and, opening the door of the carriage with a call, he climbed into it, and as loudly as possible he shouted to the coachman: 'Go forward!' But this luck left him, and after screaming and with pathos, he heard his voice begin to tremble and break into falsetto. All these absurd thoughts and memories swarmed in his angry consciousness.
At the same time. Literary department of the Lyceum.
The room was quiet, except for his proclaiming his creativity, namely, reading out loud his essay on the different human senses. Hushed students listened to Alexander, whose theme was very fun and exciting. The overweight, middle-aged professor listened intently, fiddling with his glasses, and sometimes, having brought them to his mouth slightly nibbled their temples' points. When Alexander finished reading, there was silence, followed by thunderous applause.
'Good!' exclaimed the professor. Sit back on the chair, Alexander did not hide his joy, looking at his friends among the students, and when the applause ceased, and the professor was about to comment on the work of Alexander, the student seated at the last table, Gregory Stupinin, continued clapping slowly, mocking and defiant. Wearing his glasses and assuming a serious look, the professor approached him.
'Gregory Stupinin! Of course, I am glad to see your admiration of Alexander's writing. I hope you're not going to surprise us!'
Students burst out laughing, turned, and stared at Stupinin.
The rosy-cheeked student Nicholas, unable to resist, said, 'I have no doubt, gentlemen! Gregory will delight us with another tragedy occurring in the family of some lord, and tell us about the cheating of his wife, with the servants!' the students continued to laugh.
With ostentatious pugnacity, Stupinin responded, 'Well, for pity's sake, my friends! The local press should begin to fear me!'
'That's it!' said the professor. 'You, my dear, can expect only a shoddy newspaper!' professor continued, totally frustrated. Students rolled with laughter. 'And so,' announced the teacher, loudly knocking his wooden pointer on the table, 'All free!'
With some commotion, students noisily rose from their seats, hastily grabbing books, records, notebooks. Alexander and Nicolas collected their books and notes and went to Gregory, who was slowly gathering his manuscripts and books at the back of the room. Sharply leaping up to sit on his desk, ruddy Nicolas said solemnly, 'Well, Mr. Gregory! As always, tonight will reveal sparkling champagne? And yes! You're going to recoup poker with ... what's his name ...??'
'My dear friends!' said Gregory, mimicking the voice of the professor. 'Well, of course! I might not be able to write an essay on the topic of deep feelings, but I can brilliantly play poker with this official ... what is his name...???' The friends burst into wild laughter. Almost running out of the building of the Lyceum, they disappeared into the crowd of urban traffic.
Jumping to the lower-level entrance of the tavern where he lived, Gregory stopped when he noticed the crew gathered around his neighbor Mr. Gray, whose rooms were adjacent to his own. Seeing how he scrupulously groped for coins in all his pockets, Gregory smiled. Finally having paid off the carriage attendants, Mr. Gray turned, only to confront the sugary-sweet smile of Gregory. Seeing the sour face of Mr. Gray, Stupinin could not resist saying, 'Mr. Grey! My compliments to you! I think you got a raise in your salary? Or, you acquired an inheritance? Using the carriages!
Mr. Gray, taken aback, mumbled something sheepishly, not even intelligible, and shouldered past him. Stupinin burst out in laughter and followed him. Upstairs in the dimly lit corridor, cobwebs festooned the corners, as the tavern was rarely cleaned. Stupinin, opening the door of his room, watched as Mr. Gray nervously tried to insert his key and pull the door handle. Finally, his door opened. He turned, met Stupinin's eyes, and paused for a moment. Stupinin still lusciously smiled. Mr. Gray gently opened his door and quickly disappeared behind it. Gregory smirks again, shaking his head at the same time, dramatically opened his door, and disappeared into the darkness of the corridor. Once in his room, he removed his coat, carefully hung it on a hook in the wall, and, coming to a small sideboard, opened a previously uncorked bottle of champagne and solemnly poured himself a glass. After a couple of sips, he went to his desk, on which lay sheets of paper covered with scribbled words. Taking one of them, he briefly glanced at the text, and then, laughing nervously, he crumpled it and threw it on the floor. Looking at the rest of the records, he balled up each page and threw it on the floor, until the desk's surface was clean. Rising from his chair, he wound up a music box with a solemn melody, sat down at the desk and rested his hand on his chin, forgotten in a grand march.
And at the same time, in adjacent rooms.
Crossing the threshold of the hall, Mr. Gray, nervously tearing off his glossy coat, threw it and his gloves on a chair. Catching his reflection in the mirror hanging on the wall, he stood, looking haggard and exhausted a tormented, unhappy man. He felt very sorry for himself, and, pursing his lips, he nervously wiped away a tear. After a pause, he finally walked into the room. Near the window, with her back to him, his mother sat in a rocking chair. Peter wanted to refer to her, but decided not to, recalling the morning when he had announced that he intended to make an offer to Liz, and his mother had tearfully blessed him. Grabbing his hair, he pulled it with force, and sharply went into another room, on the way bumping a small table of which stay many glass vials containing his mother's medicine. At the sound of the falling bottles, his mother, breaking away from the landscape in the window, immediately turned her head and smiled.
'Pete's back! Pete the most beautiful groom!' she exclaimed happily, clapping her hands.
Mothers words enraged the already irritated Peter. 'The hell I'm the groom!' Peter shouted furiously. 'I'm a worthless man! Henchman! I'm an abomination! And you're my mother, who married a drunkard and a spendthrift! Did you think about me?? Yes, it would have been better if I had never been born! Thank you!'
Peter did not notice that he was on his knees in front of his mother, did not see that all the while he was screaming hysterically, shaking his mother's shoulders, and finally burying his face in her knees, he wept like a child. Having blubbered enough, he felt a great relief, and, rising from his knees, he covered his face with his hand, so as not to make eye contact with his mother, whom he had so deeply offended. Leaping to his feet, he ran to the front door, thinking that a walk alone would refresh his face, so reddened with tears.
Opening the door, Peter suddenly thought that he should apologize to his mother. Without closing the front door, he returned to the room. His mother's head slid to one side, her eyes were closed, and her small, shriveled hands hung loosely from the armrests. 'Mother!' Peter whispered, turning to her. 'Mother, what's wrong??' A cold chill ran through his body as he realized what had happened.
When the music box finally stopped playing, Gregory noticed a conversation being carried on in a very elevated tone:
'Why is this frail, timid, small man raising his voice?'
'I wonder whom he can afford to talk to like that? It seems that he only lives with his old mother?'
Curiosity prompted Gregory to leave the semi-gloomy corridor. Examining pocket watch, he notices how late he is already to be in the card salon. Tiptoeing silently up to the door of Mr. Gray, he found it unlocked and wide open. Craning his neck forward, he looked into the room. What he saw was very confused ...
Kneeling before the lifeless body of his mother, Mr. Gray reached out a trembling hand. Her flesh was still warm and soft to the touch. 'Mother! Forgive me, a sinner!' His lips quivered; tears overflowed his eyes and streamed down his cheeks. 'What have I done! Craven man that I am!'
Standing in the doorway, Stupinin gathered his courage to enter. Hesitantly, he approached Mr. Gray, who was still absorbed in self-recrimination. Staying behind Mr. Gray's back, he coughed and said cautiously, 'I'm sorry! I heard the screams, and it sounded.'
Peter abruptly jumped up and darted about like a hunted animal. Falling onto Stupinin's feet, he sobbed, begging him to hear his story. Surprised, Stupinin agreed, nodding his head. Peter spoke without stopping, in one breath, without allowing Stupinin to interject one word or ask a question. Listening to him go on interminably about his failed engagement, his self-worth, his remorse over the loss of his mother, and, finally, his deep sense of guilt, Stupinin thought, 'Feelings, emotions, feelings ....' Mr. Gray's voice receded into the background as an ingenious plan took shape in his mind.
'Feelings!' exclaimed Stupinin, tearing himself from the chair and making a couple of sharp steps toward the exit of the room. Looking back at the man sitting on the floor, he added excitedly, 'You stay here! One moment and I will be back!' Stupinin ran to his room, darting about in search of paper and pencil. Running up to the sideboard, his hands trembling with excitement, he grabbed a bottle of champagne and drained half the contents. He hurriedly took the paper and pencil and returned to the room of his neighbor a manslayer.
He found Mr. Gray still sitting on the floor, slowly rocking back and forth. Stupinin cautiously approached. 'Mr. Gray?' Without waiting for a reply, he crouched on the tile, to examine him. Mr. Gray was completely oblivious to the presence of Stupinin, his bloodshot eyes staring off into the distance. After enduring a short pause, Stupinin said carefully, 'Mr. Gray, after listening to all of your testimony, I became utterly indifferent to this challenging situation! Your situation! Perhaps I can help you deal with all your feelings, if I hear more about them, precisely! So, this is your Liz; she rejected your love! You have experienced a sense of frustration, pain, betrayal!' Mr. Gray remained silent and continued to rock. Stupinin looked at Mr. Gray and immediately made several entries in his notebook. Then he smoothly continued his harangue, like a snake crawling into the soul.
'Let's go back to your feelings!' Mr. Gray still sat, unresponsive. 'Well! Don't you want to talk? Then I'll continue with your permission! So, you're on your last ducats, and you hire a carriage!' After a pause, he continued. 'You certainly could spend them on medication for your mother! But you stole from an old lady some bottles with medication, to impress that ungrateful daughter of a pharmacist! Ahhh ... Wait! I do not say so! That ungrateful daughter of a pharmacist with a decent dowry! So you got greedy!' Enjoying his speech, Stupinin continued, inspired.
At the mention of his mother, Peter stopped his monotone wobble, and his inflamed eyes again filled with tears. Clutching his hair, he said with an absolute disdain, 'WhatI an abomination?!'
'You, an abomination?' Stupinin furiously took notes. 'No! No! Mr. Grey, you are not to blame! It's just that your feelings swallowed you whole! You weren't motivated to marry Liz just to get your hands on her dowry! You wanted a decent, quiet life! Yes, a decorous life!' repeated Stupinin, carefully recording it in his notebook.
'To see the joy in the eyes of your mother! What we have '. There is a sense of pride in yourself!' said Stupinin. 'Oh, if only you were married, then none of this would have happened, and maybe your mother would be alive now!'
'Oh, no!' Mr. Gray exclaimed loudly. 'I got it! It's all a nightmare! I beg you, wake me up!'
Excited by this change of behavior, Stupinin said, 'Mr. Gray! What do you feel about yourself? Pity? Well, come on! I need your feelings!'
Confused, Mr. Gray said uncertainly, 'I'm a good worker and executive ... and responsible!'
An evil twinkle lit Stupinin's eyes. 'Oh, no! Mr. Grey, you poor, miserable man! You are full of fears about nothing! Yes, finally you are as hysterical as a girl in a cheap tavern who was cheated of her pay after giving herself for the money!'
Listening to Stupinin, Peter more and more realized how pathetic he was. He only wanted to escape from all this horror! Mother had long been deprived of reason, but still, even her presence could support him, soothe, and protect. He turned and looked at his mother, horrified. Stupinin tormented Peter, inspiring him to hope, and then ruthlessly trampled him, instilling sizzling guilt.
Finally, the first glimmers of dawn appeared, checking up his new work Stupinin been pleased and his bloodshot eyes scanned the room. Peter Gray sat on the floor at the feet of his dead mother. Holding her hand, he whispered something. Stupinin looked at his notebook, which was thickly inscribed with the pencil; rising, he wearily put his notebook under his arm and headed for the exit. Suddenly he stopped, as if remembering something, and turned to Peter, who now resembled a madman. 'Listen, Peter! Your mother was sick! Heart disease is a matter of luck, and that's all!' He headed toward the door, where he paused and smiled wearily, adding, 'But if it were not for your tantrums, she might be alive now!' Barely holding on from fatigue, he stumbled to his room, fell fully clothed onto the bed, and was immediately asleep.
Stupinin's parting words devastated Peter, and he decided on a monstrous act: he would hang himself. Suddenly his mother's body jerked, and she coughed hoarsely. At the same moment, a small vial of drugs slipped from the folds of her dress, and, falling on the floor, rolled over to Peter, who stared at it in shock. On the glass vial was the inscription, 'Strong sleeping pills.'
Mother cleared her throat and said, 'Pete, the groom!'
Peter began to kiss his mother's hands and sobbed happily, 'I don't need marriage or money! I am rich because I have you!'
The room remained silent as Gregory Stupinin read his essay. The overweight professor absently bit his glasses as he listened attentively. Finally, finished reading, Stupinin heard applause. The teacher, tapping the table with a wooden pointer, called for silence. 'Yes! You surprised us!' With undisguised interest, the professor looked at Stupinin. 'Tell us, Gregory! Not a dream? I must say, I was immensely intrigued by the flight of your thoughts! You made me empathize with your main character! You know, listening to you, I got tears in my eyes! Well done! Brilliant! Congratulations!' And so the professor officially ended his speech.
Students noisily rose from their tables. In front of the Lyceum, his friends Alexander and Nicholas waited for him.
'To say that I am delighted an understatement, Gregory!' Alexander said admiringly.
'Congratulations, Stupinin! Interesting essay! Professor rights! Sorry about your hero!' said Nicolas.
'Well, we have reason to celebrate!' said Stupinin, as his friends patted his shoulders. 'Champagne, gentlemen!' Noisy and joking, they went to the salon. Pouring the fourth bottle of champagne, Stupinin, already swaying, drunk, went on. 'And so! I mean it ... look, and this person is a whole receptacle, stuffed with different feelings, emotions! And then there's this! His mother gave her soul to God! She is dead!' Slurring his words, Stupinin continued. 'Well, so to speak, just pushing him ... God!!! I forgot his name! Mr. Gray!! And he in such emotions and feelings wholly revealed! I do not know! He remained on his knees in front of a dead old lady!'
All this time, Nicholas, also quite drunk, sat with his chin in hand. Neither he nor Alexander said a single word, listening to the testimony of Stupinin. Suddenly he swayed to his feet and uttered, 'An abomination!' Without a farewell, he went to the exit of the gambling house. Alexander rose silently, threw a look of complete disappointment at Gregory, and walked away.
'Writing about someone else's cowardice, he did not notice his own.'
Returning home in the morning, on the same steps of the tavern Stupinin encountered Mr. Gray. 'Wow! ... Mr. Gray! Have you already shaken off the demons of your feelings?' said Stupinin, smiling venomously. His answer was a pretty good punch in his face.
Author Notes: I am a first time writer. Will be happy any of critics. English is my second language.