I wanted very much to introduce some of my Moscow friends to G.,
but from among all those whom I met during these days only one, my
old newspaper friend V. A. produced the impression of being
sufficiently alive, although he was as usual overloaded with work
and rushing from one place to another. But he was very interested
when I told him about G. and with G.′s permission I invited him to
have lunch at G.′s place.
G. summoned about fifteen of his people and arranged a lunch which, at that time, was luxurious, with zakuski, pies, shashlik, Khaghetia wine, and so on, in a word it was one of those Caucasian lunches that begin at midday and last until the evening. He seated A. near him, was very kind to him, entertained him all the time, and poured out wine for him. My heart suddenly fell when I realized to what a test I had brought my old friend. The fact was that everyone kept silence. A. held out for five minutes. Then he began to talk. He spoke of the war, of all our allies and enemies together and separately; he communicated the opinions of all the public men of Moscow and St. Petersburg upon all possible subjects; then he talked about the desiccation of vegetables for the army (with which he was then occupied in addition to his journalistic work), particularly the desiccation of onions, then about artificial manures, agricultural chemistry, and chemistry in general; about "melioration"; about spiritism, the "materialization of hands," and about what else I do not remember now. Neither G. nor anyone else spoke a single word.
I was on the point of speaking fearing that A. would be offended, but G. looked at me so fiercely that I stopped short. Besides, my fears were in vain. Poor A. noticed nothing, he was so carried away by his own talk and his own eloquence that he sat on happily at the table and talked without stopping for a moment until four o′clock. Then with great feeling he shook hands with G. and thanked him for his "very interesting conversation." G., looking at me, laughed slyly.
I felt very ashamed. They had made a fool of poor A. He certainly could not have expected anything of the kind, so he was caught. I realized that G. had given a demonstration to his people.
"There, you see," he said, when A. had gone. "He is called a clever man. But he would not have noticed it even if I had taken his trousers off him. Only let him talk. He wants nothing else. And everybody is like that.
This one was much better than many others. He told no lies. And he really knew what he talked about, in his own way of course. But think, what use is he? He is no longer young. And perhaps this was the one time in his life when there was an opportunity of hearing the truth. And he talked himself all the time."