Mihail Vassilievitch Sludin, the chief secretary, was a
straightforward, intelligent, good-hearted, and conscientious
man, and Alexey Alexandrovitch was aware of his personal
goodwill. But their five years of official work together seemed
to have put a barrier between them that cut off warmer relations.
After signing the papers brought him, Alexey Alexandrovitch had
sat for a long while in silence, glancing at Mihail
Vassilievitch, and several times he attempted to speak, but could
not. He had already prepared the phrase: "You have heard of my
trouble?" But he ended by saying, as usual: "So you'll get this
ready for me?" and with that dismissed him.
The other person was the doctor, who had also a kindly feeling
for him; but there had long existed a taciturn understanding
between them that both were weighed down by work, and always in a
Of his women friends, foremost amongst them Countess Lidia
Ivanovna, Alexey Alexandrovitch never thought. All women, simply
as women, were terrible and distasteful to him.