in the frosty air. Fine, everything's fine. The most important thing was to avoid anything that would mar the delicate fabric of a successful start to the day. And the beginning of a new life.

Yes, the tension had gone; he was breathing more easily. He had never allowed himself to be troubled by wandering gypsy women before, and as a result he'd got into a complete state for nothing. So much for pride — that besetting sin of the intelligentsia! Instead of falling prey to delusions, he should have taken to herbal remedies straightaway and got his nerves in order. It's your nerves, Lida had said over and over again, but he'd got on his high horse. Old prisoners don't have nerves, he'd say. So he'd gone and let his imagination run away with him instead of acknowledging his own mental state.

At this point, Pulin had the unpleasant feeling that he was talking himself into something, persuading himself that [continue]