'What a strange man!' I said, turning to Fustov, who had already set to work at his turning-lathe. 'Can he be a foreigner? He speaks Russian so fluently.'
'He is a foreigner; only he's been thirty years in Russia. As long ago as 1802, some prince or other brought him from abroad... in the capacity of secretary... more likely, valet, one would suppose. He does speak Russian fluently, certainly.'
'With such go, such far-fetched turns and phrases,' I put in.
'Well, yes. Only very unnaturally too. They're all like that, these Russianised Germans.'
'But he's a Czech, isn't he?'
'I don't know; may be. He talks German with his wife.'
'And why does he call himself a veteran of the year twelve? Was he in the militia, or what?'
'In the militia! indeed! At the time of the fire he remained in Moscow and lost all his property.... That was all he did.'
'But what did he stay in Moscow for?'
Fustov still went on with his turning.
'The Lord knows. I have heard that he was a spy on our side; but that must be nonsense. But it's a fact that he received compensation from the treasury for his losses.'
'He wears some sort of uniform.... I suppose he's in government service then?'
'Yes. Professor in the cadet's corps. He has the rank of a petty councillor.'
'What's his wife like?'
'A German settled here, daughter of a sausagemaker... or butcher....'
'And do you often go to see him?'
'What, is it pleasant there?'
'Has he any children?'
'Yes. Three by the German, and a son and daughter by his first wife.'
'And how old is the eldest daughter?'
I fancied Fustov bent lower over his lathe, and the wheel turned more rapidly, and hummed under the even strokes of his feet.
'Is she good-looking?'
'That's a matter of taste. She has a remarkable face, and she's altogether... a remarkable person.'
'Aha!' thought I. Fustov continued his work with special earnestness, and to my next question he only responded by a grunt.
'I must make her acquaintance,' I decided.