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|Page 129 of 132|
"I say, doctor," said the officer, stopping. "Let us go into the shop and buy something. Perhaps we shall see her."
"What an idea--in the night!"
"What of it? They are obliged to serve one even at night. My dear fellow, let us go in!"
"If you like. . . ."
The chemist's wife, hiding behind the curtain, heard a muffled ring. Looking round at her husband, who was smiling and snoring sweetly as before, she threw on her dress, slid her bare feet into her slippers, and ran to the shop.
On the other side of the glass door she could see two shadows. The chemist's wife turned up the lamp and hurried to the door to open it, and now she felt neither vexed nor bored nor inclined to cry, though her heart was thumping. The big doctor and the slender Obtyosov walked in. Now she could get a view of them. The doctor was corpulent and swarthy; he wore a beard and was slow in his movements. At the slightest motion his tunic seemed as though it would crack, and perspiration came on to his face. The officer was rosy, clean-shaven, feminine-looking, and as supple as an English whip.
"What may I give you? asked the chemist's wife, holding her dress across her bosom.
"Give us . . . er-er . . . four pennyworth of peppermint lozenges!"
Without haste the chemist's wife took down a jar from a shelf and began weighing out lozenges. The customers stared fixedly at her back; the doctor screwed up his eyes like a well-fed cat, while the lieutenant was very grave.
"It's the first time I've seen a lady serving in a chemist's shop," observed the doctor.
"There's nothing out of the way in it," replied the chemist's wife, looking out of the corner of her eye at the rosy-cheeked officer. "My husband has no assistant, and I always help him."
"To be sure. . . . You have a charming little shop! What a number of different . . . jars! And you are not afraid of moving about among the poisons? Brrr!"
The chemist's wife sealed up the parcel and handed it to the doctor. Obtyosov gave her the money. Half a minute of silence followed. . . . The men exchanged glances, took a step towards the door, then looked at one another again.
"Will you give me two pennyworth of soda?" said the doctor.
Again the chemist's wife slowly and languidly raised her hand to the shelf.
"Haven't you in the shop anything . . . such as . . ." muttered Obtyosov, moving his fingers, "something, so to say, allegorical . . . revivifying . . . seltzer-water, for instance. Have you any seltzer-water?"
"Yes," answered the chemist's wife.
"Bravo! You're a fairy, not a woman! Give us three bottles!"
The chemist's wife hurriedly sealed up the soda and vanished through the door into the darkness.
"A peach!" said the doctor, with a wink. "You wouldn't find a pineapple like that in the island of Madeira! Eh? What do you say? Do you hear the snoring, though? That's his worship the chemist enjoying sweet repose."