After filling for three years the post of president of one of the
government boards at Moscow, Stepan Arkadyevitch had won the
respect, as well as the liking, of his fellow officials,
subordinates, and superiors, and all who had had business with
him. The principal qualities in Stepan Arkadyevitch which had
gained him this universal respect in the service consisted, in
the first place, of his extreme indulgence for others, founded on
a consciousness of his own shortcomings; secondly, of his perfect
liberalism--not the liberalism he read of in the papers, but the
liberalism that was in his blood, in virtue of which he treated
all men perfectly equally and exactly the same, whatever their
fortune or calling might be; and thirdly--the most important
point--his complete indifference to the business in which he was
engaged, in consequence of which he was never carried away, and
never made mistakes.
On reaching the offices of the board, Stepan Arkadyevitch,
escorted by a deferential porter with a portfolio, went into his
little private room, put on his uniform, and went into the
boardroom. The clerks and copyists all rose, greeting him with
good-humored deference. Stepan Arkadyevitch moved quickly, as
ever, to his place, shook hands with his colleagues, and sat
down. He made a joke or two, and talked just as much as was
consistent with due decorum, and began work. No one knew better
than Stepan Arkadyevitch how to hit on the exact line between
freedom, simplicity, and official stiffness necessary for the
agreeable conduct of business. A secretary, with the
good-humored deference common to every one in Stepan
Arkadyevitch's office, came up with papers, and began to speak in
the familiar and easy tone which had been introduced by Stepan
"We have succeeded in getting the information from the government
department of Penza. Here, would you care?...."
"You've got them at last?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laying his
finger on the paper. "Now, gentlemen...."
And the sitting of the board began.
"If they knew," he thought, bending his head with a significant
air as he listened to the report, "what a guilty little boy their
president was half an hour ago." And his eyes were laughing
during the reading of the report. Till two o'clock the sitting
would go on without a break, and at two o'clock there would be an
interval and luncheon.