Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Wife, et al by Anton Chekhov

Part 5 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

develop in a Russian the most insolent self-conceit. Nikolay
Ivanovitch, who at one time in the government office was afraid
to have any views of his own, now could say nothing that was not
gospel truth, and uttered such truths in the tone of a prime
minister. 'Education is essential, but for the peasants it is
premature.' 'Corporal punishment is harmful as a rule, but in
some cases it is necessary and there is nothing to take its

" 'I know the peasants and understand how to treat them,' he
would say. 'The peasants like me. I need only to hold up my
little finger and the peasants will do anything I like.'

"And all this, observe, was uttered with a wise, benevolent
smile. He repeated twenty times over 'We noblemen,' 'I as a
noble'; obviously he did not remember that our grandfather was a
peasant, and our father a soldier. Even our surname
Tchimsha-Himalaisky, in reality so incongruous, seemed to him now
melodious, distinguished, and very agreeable.

"But the point just now is not he, but myself. I want to tell you
about the change that took place in me during the brief hours I
spent at his country place. In the evening, when we were drinking
tea, the cook put on the table a plateful of gooseberries. They
were not bought, but his own gooseberries, gathered for the first
time since the bushes were planted. Nikolay Ivanovitch laughed
and looked for a minute in silence at the gooseberries, with
tears in his eyes; he could not speak for excitement. Then he put
one gooseberry in his mouth, looked at me with the triumph of a
child who has at last received his favourite toy, and said:

" 'How delicious!'

"And he ate them greedily, continually repeating, 'Ah, how
delicious! Do taste them!'

"They were sour and unripe, but, as Pushkin says:

" 'Dearer to us the falsehood that exalts
Than hosts of baser truths.'

"I saw a happy man whose cherished dream was so obviously
fulfilled, who had attained his object in life, who had gained
what he wanted, who was satisfied with his fate and himself.
There is always, for some reason, an element of sadness mingled
with my thoughts of human happiness, and, on this occasion, at
the sight of a happy man I was overcome by an oppressive feeling
that was close upon despair. It was particularly oppressive at
night. A bed was made up for me in the room next to my brother's
bedroom, and I could hear that he was awake, and that he kept
getting up and going to the plate of gooseberries and taking one.
I reflected how many satisfied, happy people there really are!
'What a suffocating force it is! You look at life: the insolence
and idleness of the strong, the ignorance and brutishness of the
weak, incredible poverty all about us, overcrowding,
degeneration, drunkenness, hypocrisy, lying. . . . Yet all is
calm and stillness in the houses and in the streets; of the fifty
thousand living in a town, there is not one who would cry out,
who would give vent to his indignation aloud. We see the people
going to market for provisions, eating by day, sleeping by night,
talking their silly nonse nse, getting married, growing old,
serenely escorting their dead to the cemetery; but we do not see
and we do not hear those who suffer, and what is terrible in life
goes on somewhere behind the scenes. . . . Everything is quiet
and peaceful, and nothing protests but mute statistics: so many
people gone out of their minds, so many gallons of vodka drunk,
so many children dead from malnutrition. . . . And this order of
things is evidently necessary; evidently the happy man only feels
at ease because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and
without that silence happiness would be impossible. It's a case
of general hypnotism. There ought to be behind the door of every
happy, contented man some one standing with a hammer continually
reminding him with a tap that there are unhappy people; that
however happy he may be, life will show him her laws sooner or
later, trouble will come for him -- disease, poverty, losses, and
no one will see or hear, just as now he neither sees nor hears
others. But there is no man with a hammer; the happy man lives at
his ease, and trivial daily cares faintly agitate him like the
wind in the aspen-tree -- and all goes well.

"That night I realized that I, too, was happy and contented,"
Ivan Ivanovitch went on, getting up. "I, too, at dinner and at
the hunt liked to lay down the law on life and religion, and the
way to manage the peasantry. I, too, used to say that science was
light, that culture was essential, but for the simple people
reading and writing was enough for the time. Freedom is a
blessing, I used to say; we can no more do without it than
without air, but we must wait a little. Yes, I used to talk like
that, and now I ask, 'For what reason are we to wait?' " asked
Ivan Ivanovitch, looking angrily at Burkin. "Why wait, I ask you?
What grounds have we for waiting? I shall be told, it can't be
done all at once; every idea takes shape in life gradually, in
its due time. But who is it says that? Where is the proof that
it's right? You will fall back upon the natural order of things,
the uniformity of phenomena; but is there order and uniformity in
the fact that I, a living, thinking man, stand over a chasm and
wait for it to close of itself, or to fill up with mud at the
very time when perhaps I might leap over it or build a bridge
across it? And again, wait for the sake of what? Wait till
there's no strength to live? And meanwhile one must live, and one
wants to live!

"I went away from my brother's early in the morning, and ever
since then it has been unbearable for me to be in town. I am
oppressed by its peace and quiet; I am afraid to look at the
windows, for there is no spectacle more painful to me now than
the sight of a happy family sitting round the table drinking tea.
I am old and am not fit for the struggle; I am not even capable
of hatred; I can only grieve inwardly, feel irritated and vexed;
but at night my head is hot from the rush of ideas, and I cannot
sleep. . . . Ah, if I were young!"

Ivan Ivanovitch walked backwards and forwards in excitement, and
repeated: "If I were young!"

He suddenly went up to Alehin and began pressing first one of his
hands and then the other.

"Pavel Konstantinovitch," he said in an imploring voice, "don't
be calm and contented, don't let yourself be put to sleep! While
you are young, strong, confident, be not weary in well-doing!
There is no happiness, and there ought not to be; but if there is
a meaning and an object in life, that meaning and object is not
our happiness, but something greater and more rational. Do good!"

And all this Ivan Ivanovitch said with a pitiful, imploring
smile, as though he were asking him a personal favour.

Then all three sat in arm-chairs at different ends of the
drawing-room and were silent. Ivan Ivanovitch's story had not
satisfied either Burkin or Alehin. When the generals and ladies
gazed down from their gilt frames, looking in the dusk as though
they were alive, it was dreary to listen to the story of the poor
clerk who ate gooseberries. They felt inclined, for some reason,
to talk about elegant people, about women. And their sitting in
the drawing-room where everything -- the chandeliers in their
covers, the arm-chairs, and the carpet under their feet --
reminded them that those very people who were now looking down
from their frames had once moved about, sat, drunk tea in this
room, and the fact that lovely Pelagea was moving noiselessly
about was better than any story.

Alehin was fearfully sleepy; he had got up early, before three
o'clock in the morning, to look after his work, and now his eyes
were closing; but he was afraid his visitors might tell some
interesting story after he had gone, and he lingered on. He did
not go into the question whether what Ivan Ivanovitch had just
said was right and true. His visitors did not talk of groats, nor
of hay, nor of tar, but of something that had no direct bearing
on his life, and he was glad and wanted them to go on.

"It's bed-time, though," said Burkin, getting up. "Allow me to
wish you good-night."

Alehin said good-night and went downstairs to his own domain,
while the visitors remained upstairs. They were both taken for
the night to a big room where there stood two old wooden beds
decorated with carvings, and in the corner was an ivory crucifix.
The big cool beds, which had been made by the lovely Pelagea,
smelt agreeably of clean linen.

Ivan Ivanovitch undressed in silence and got into bed.

"Lord forgive us sinners!" he said, and put his head under the

His pipe lying on the table smelt strongly of stale tobacco, and
Burkin could not sleep for a long while, and kept wondering where
the oppressive smell came from.

The rain was pattering on the window-panes all night.


AT lunch next day there were very nice pies, crayfish, and mutton
cutlets; and while we were eating, Nikanor, the cook, came up to
ask what the visitors would like for dinner. He was a man of
medium height, with a puffy face and little eyes; he was
close-shaven, and it looked as though his moustaches had not been
shaved, but had been pulled out by the roots. Alehin told us that
the beautiful Pelagea was in love with this cook. As he drank and
was of a violent character, she did not want to marry him, but
was willing to live with him without. He was very devout, and his
religious convictions would not allow him to "live in sin"; he
insisted on her marrying him, and would consent to nothing else,
and when he was drunk he used to abuse her and even beat her.
Whenever he got drunk she used to hide upstairs and sob, and on
such occasions Alehin and the servants stayed in the house to be
ready to defend her in case of necessity.

We began talking about love.

"How love is born," said Alehin, "why Pelagea does not love
somebody more like herself in her spiritual and external
qualities, and why she fell in love with Nikanor, that ugly snout
-- we all call him 'The Snout' -- how far questions of personal
happiness are of consequence in love -- all that is known; one
can take what view one likes of it. So far only one incontestable
truth has been uttered about love: 'This is a great mystery.'
Everything else that has been written or said about love is not a
conclusion, but only a statement of questions which have remained
unanswered. The explanation which would seem to fit one case does
not apply in a dozen others, and the very best thing, to my mind,
would be to explain every case individually without attempting to
generalize. We ought, as the doctors say, to individualize each

"Perfectly true," Burkin assented.

"We Russians of the educated class have a partiality for these
questions that remain unanswered. Love is usually poeticized,
decorated with roses, nightingales; we Russians decorate our
loves with these momentous questions, and select the most
uninteresting of them, too. In Moscow, when I was a student, I
had a friend who shared my life, a charming lady, and every time
I took her in my arms she was thinking what I would allow her a
month for housekeeping and what was the price of beef a pound. In
the same way, when we are in love we are never tired of asking
ourselves questi ons: whether it is honourable or dishonourable,
sensible or stupid, what this love is leading up to, and so on.
Whether it is a good thing or not I don't know, but that it is in
the way, unsatisfactory, and irritating, I do know."

It looked as though he wanted to tell some story. People who lead
a solitary existence always have something in their hearts which
they are eager to talk about. In town bachelors visit the baths
and the restaurants on purpose to talk, and sometimes tell the
most interesting things to bath attendants and waiters; in the
country, as a rule, they unbosom themselves to their guests. Now
from the window we could see a grey sky, trees drenched in the
rain; in such weather we could go nowhere, and there was nothing
for us to do but to tell stories and to listen.

"I have lived at Sofino and been farming for a long time," Alehin
began, "ever since I left the University. I am an idle gentleman
by education, a studious person by disposition; but there was a
big debt owing on the estate when I came here, and as my father
was in debt partly because he had spent so much on my education,
I resolved not to go away, but to work till I paid off the debt.
I made up my mind to this and set to work, not, I must confess,
without some repugnance. The land here does not yield much, and
if one is not to farm at a loss one must employ serf labour or
hired labourers, which is almost the same thing, or put it on a
peasant footing -- that is, work the fields oneself and with
one's family. There is no middle path. But in those days I did
not go into such subtleties. I did not leave a clod of earth
unturned; I gathered together all the peasants, men and women,
from the neighbouring villages; the work went on at a tremendous
pace. I myself ploughed and sowed and reaped, and was bored doing
it, and frowned with disgust, like a village cat driven by hunger
to eat cucumbers in the kitchen-garden. My body ached, and I
slept as I walked. At first it seemed to me that I could easily
reconcile this life of toil with my cultured habits; to do so, I
thought, all that is necessary is to maintain a certain external
order in life. I established myself upstairs here in the best
rooms, and ordered them to bring me there coffee and liquor after
lunch and dinner, and when I went to bed I read every night the
_Yyesnik Evropi_. But one day our priest, Father Ivan, came and
drank up all my liquor at one sitting; and the _Yyesnik Evropi_
went to the priest's daughters; as in the summer, especially at
the haymaking, I did not succeed in getting to my bed at all, and
slept in the sledge in the barn, or somewhere in the forester's
lodge, what chance was there of reading? Little by little I moved
downstairs, began dining in the servants' kitchen, and of my
former luxury nothing is left but the servants who were in my
father's service, and whom it would be painful to turn away.

"In the first years I was elected here an honourary justice of
the peace. I used to have to go to the town and take part in the
sessions of the congress and of the circuit court, and this was a
pleasant change for me. When you live here for two or three
months without a break, especially in the winter, you begin at
last to pine for a black coat. And in the circuit court there
were frock-coats, and uniforms, and dress-coats, too, all
lawyers, men who have received a general education; I had some
one to talk to. After sleeping in the sledge and dining in the
kitchen, to sit in an arm-chair in clean linen, in thin boots,
with a chain on one's waistcoat, is such luxury!

"I received a warm welcome in the town. I made friends eagerly.
And of all my acquaintanceships the most intimate and, to tell
the truth, the most agreeable to me was my acquaintance with
Luganovitch, the vice-president of the circuit court. You both
know him: a most charming personality. It all happened just after
a celebrated case of incendiarism; the preliminary investigation
lasted two days; we were exhausted. Luganovitch looked at me and

" 'Look here, come round to dinner with me.'

"This was unexpected, as I knew Luganovitch very little, only
officially, and I had never been to his house. I only just went
to my hotel room to change and went off to dinner. And here it
was my lot to meet Anna Alexyevna, Luganovitch's wife. At that
time she was still very young, not more than twenty-two, and her
first baby had been born just six months before. It is all a
thing of the past; and now I should find it difficult to define
what there was so exceptional in her, what it was in her
attracted me so much; at the time, at dinner, it was all
perfectly clear to me. I saw a lovely young, good, intelligent,
fascinating woman, such as I had never met before; and I felt her
at once some one close and already familiar, as though that face,
those cordial, intelligent eyes, I had seen somewhere in my
childhood, in the album which lay on my mother's chest of

"Four Jews were charged with being incendiaries, were regarded as
a gang of robbers, and, to my mind, quite groundlessly. At dinner
I was very much excited, I was uncomfortable, and I don't know
what I said, but Anna Alexyevna kept shaking her head and saying
to her husband:

" 'Dmitry, how is this?'

"Luganovitch is a good-natured man, one of those simple-hearted
people who firmly maintain the opinion that once a man is charged
before a court he is guilty, and to express doubt of the
correctness of a sentence cannot be done except in legal form on
paper, and not at dinner and in private conversation.

" 'You and I did not set fire to the place,' he said softly, 'and
you see we are not condemned, and not in prison.'

"And both husband and wife tried to make me eat and drink as much
as possible. From some trifling details, from the way they made
the coffee together, for instance, and from the way they
understood each other at half a word, I could gather that they
lived in harmony and comfort, and that they were glad of a
visitor. After dinner they played a duet on the piano; then it
got dark, and I went home. That was at the beginning of spring.

"After that I spent the whole summer at Sofino without a break,
and I had no time to think of the town, either, but the memory of
the graceful fair-haired woman remained in my mind all those
days; I did not think of her, but it was as though her light
shadow were lying on my heart.

"In the late autumn there was a theatrical performance for some
charitable object in the town. I went into the governor's box (I
was invited to go there in the interval); I looked, and there was
Anna Alexyevna sitting beside the governor's wife; and again the
same irresistible, thrilling impression of beauty and sweet,
caressing eyes, and again the same feeling of nearness. We sat
side by side, then went to the foyer.

" 'You've grown thinner,' she said; 'have you been ill?'

" 'Yes, I've had rheumatism in my shoulder, and in rainy weather
I can't sleep.'

" 'You look dispirited. In the spring, when you came to dinner,
you were younger, more confident. You were full of eagerness, and
talked a great deal then; you were very interesting, and I really
must confess I was a little carried away by you. For some reason
you often came back to my memory during the summer, and when I
was getting ready for the theatre today I thought I should see

"And she laughed.

" 'But you look dispirited today,' she repeated; 'it makes you
seem older.'

"The next day I lunched at the Luganovitchs'. After lunch they
drove out to their summer villa, in order to make arrangements
there for the winter, and I went with them. I returned with them
to the town, and at midnight drank tea with them in quiet
domestic surroundings, while the fire glowed, and the young
mother kept going to see if her baby girl was asleep. And after
that, every time I went to town I never failed to visit the
Luganovitchs. They grew used to me, and I grew used to them. As a
rule I went in unannounced, as though I were one of the family.

" 'Who is there?' I would hear from a faraway room, in the
drawling voice that seemed to me so lovely.

" 'It is Pavel Konstantinovitch,' answered the maid or the nurs

"Anna Alexyevna would come out to me with an anxious face, and
would ask every time:

" 'Why is it so long since you have been? Has anything happened?'

"Her eyes, the elegant refined hand she gave me, her indoor
dress, the way she did her hair, her voice, her step, always
produced the same impression on me of something new and
extraordinary in my life, and very important. We talked together
for hours, were silent, thinking each our own thoughts, or she
played for hours to me on the piano. If there were no one at home
I stayed and waited, talked to the nurse, played with the child,
or lay on the sofa in the study and read; and when Anna Alexyevna
came back I met her in the hall, took all her parcels from her,
and for some reason I carried those parcels every time with as
much love, with as much solemnity, as a boy.

"There is a proverb that if a peasant woman has no troubles she
will buy a pig. The Luganovitchs had no troubles, so they made
friends with me. If I did not come to the town I must be ill or
something must have happened to me, and both of them were
extremely anxious. They were worried that I, an educated man with
a knowledge of languages, should, instead of devoting myself to
science or literary work, live in the country, rush round like a
squirrel in a rage, work hard with never a penny to show for it.
They fancied that I was unhappy, and that I only talked, laughed,
and ate to conceal my sufferings, and even at cheerful moments
when I felt happy I was aware of their searching eyes fixed upon
me. They were particularly touching when I really was depressed,
when I was being worried by some creditor or had not money enough
to pay interest on the proper day. The two of them, husband and
wife, would whisper together at the window; then he would come to
me and say with a grave face:

" 'If you really are in need of money at the moment, Pavel
Konstantinovitch, my wife and I beg you not to hesitate to borrow
from us.'

"And he would blush to his ears with emotion. And it would happen
that, after whispering in the same way at the window, he would
come up to me, with red ears, and say:

" 'My wife and I earnestly beg you to accept this present.'

"And he would give me studs, a cigar-case, or a lamp, and I would
send them game, butter, and flowers from the country. They both,
by the way, had considerable means of their own. In early days I
often borrowed money, and was not very particular about it --
borrowed wherever I could -- but nothing in the world would have
induced me to borrow from the Luganovitchs. But why talk of it?

"I was unhappy. At home, in the fields, in the barn, I thought of
her; I tried to understand the mystery of a beautiful,
intelligent young woman's marrying some one so uninteresting,
almost an old man (her husband was over forty), and having
children by him; to understand the mystery of this uninteresting,
good, simple-hearted man, who argued with such wearisome good
sense, at balls and evening parties kept near the more solid
people, looking listless and superfluous, with a submissive,
uninterested expression, as though he had been brought there for
sale, who yet believed in his right to be happy, to have children
by her; and I kept trying to understand why she had met him first
and not me, and why such a terrible mistake in our lives need
have happened.

"And when I went to the town I saw every time from her eyes that
she was expecting me, and she would confess to me herself that
she had had a peculiar feeling all that day and had guessed that
I should come. We talked a long time, and were silent, yet we did
not confess our love to each other, but timidly and jealously
concealed it. We were afraid of everything that might reveal our
secret to ourselves. I loved her tenderly, deeply, but I
reflected and kept asking myself what our love could lead to if
we had not the strength to fight against it. It seemed to be
incredible that my gentle, sad love could all at once coarsely
break up the even tenor of the life of her husband, her children,
and all the household in which I was so loved and trusted. Would
it be honourable? She would go away with me, but where? Where
could I take her? It would have been a different matter if I had
had a beautiful, interesting life -- if, for instance, I had been
struggling for the emancipation of my country, or had been a
celebrated man of science, an artist or a painter; but as it was
it would mean taking her from one everyday humdrum life to
another as humdrum or perhaps more so. And how long would our
happiness last? What would happen to her in case I was ill, in
case I died, or if we simply grew cold to one another?

"And she apparently reasoned in the same way. She thought of her
husband, her children, and of her mother, who loved the husband
like a son. If she abandoned herself to her feelings she would
have to lie, or else to tell the truth, and in her position
either would have been equally terrible and inconvenient. And she
was tormented by the question whether her love would bring me
happiness -- would she not complicate my life, which, as it was,
was hard enough and full of all sorts of trouble? She fancied she
was not young enough for me, that she was not industrious nor
energetic enough to begin a new life, and she often talked to her
husband of the importance of my marrying a girl of intelligence
and merit who would be a capable housewife and a help to me --
and she would immediately add that it would be difficult to find
such a girl in the whole town.

"Meanwhile the years were passing. Anna Alexyevna already had two
children. When I arrived at the Luganovitchs' the servants smiled
cordially, the children shouted that Uncle Pavel Konstantinovitch
had come, and hung on my neck; every one was overjoyed. They did
not understand what was passing in my soul, and thought that I,
too, was happy. Every one looked on me as a noble being. And
grown-ups and children alike felt that a noble being was walking
about their rooms, and that gave a peculiar charm to their manner
towards me, as though in my presence their life, too, was purer
and more beautiful. Anna Alexyevna and I used to go to the
theatre together, always walking there; we used to sit side by
side in the stalls, our shoulders touching. I would take the
opera-glass from her hands without a word, and feel at that
minute that she was near me, that she was mine, that we could not
live without each other; but by some strange misunderstanding,
when we came out of the theatre we always said good-bye and
parted as though we were strangers. Goodness knows what people
were saying about us in the town already, but there was not a
word of truth in it all!

"In the latter years Anna Alexyevna took to going away for
frequent visits to her mother or to her sister; she began to
suffer from low spirits, she began to recognize that her life was
spoilt and unsatisfied, and at times she did not care to see her
husband nor her children. She was already being treated for

"We were silent and still silent, and in the presence of
outsiders she displayed a strange irritation in regard to me;
whatever I talked about, she disagreed with me, and if I had an
argument she sided with my opponent. If I dropped anything, she
would say coldly:

" 'I congratulate you.'

"If I forgot to take the opera-glass when we were going to the
theatre, she would say afterwards:

" 'I knew you would forget it.'

"Luckily or unluckily, there is nothing in our lives that does
not end sooner or later. The time of parting came, as Luganovitch
was appointed president in one of the western provinces. They had
to sell their furniture, their horses, their summer villa. When
they drove out to the villa, and afterwards looked back as they
were going away, to look for the last time at the garden, at the
green roof, every one was sad, and I realized that I had to say
goodbye not only to the villa. It was arranged that at the end of
August we should see Anna Alexyevna off to the Crimea, where the
doctors were sending her, and that a little later Luganovitch and
the children would set off for the western province.

"We were a great crowd to see Anna Alexye vna off. When she had
said good-bye to her husband and her children and there was only
a minute left before the third bell, I ran into her compartment
to put a basket, which she had almost forgotten, on the rack, and
I had to say good-bye. When our eyes met in the compartment our
spiritual fortitude deserted us both; I took her in my arms, she
pressed her face to my breast, and tears flowed from her eyes.
Kissing her face, her shoulders, her hands wet with tears -- oh,
how unhappy we were! -- I confessed my love for her, and with a
burning pain in my heart I realized how unnecessary, how petty,
and how deceptive all that had hindered us from loving was. I
understood that when you love you must either, in your reasonings
about that love, start from what is highest, from what is more
important than happiness or unhappiness, sin or virtue in their
accepted meaning, or you must not reason at all.

"I kissed her for the last time, pressed her hand, and parted for
ever. The train had already started. I went into the next
compartment -- it was empty -- and until I reached the next
station I sat there crying. Then I walked home to Sofino. . . ."

While Alehin was telling his story, the rain left off and the sun
came out. Burkin and Ivan Ivanovitch went out on the balcony,
from which there was a beautiful view over the garden and the
mill-pond, which was shining now in the sunshine like a mirror.
They admired it, and at the same time they were sorry that this
man with the kind, clever eyes, who had told them this story with
such genuine feeling, should be rushing round and round this huge
estate like a squirrel on a wheel instead of devoting himself to
science or something else which would have made his life more
pleasant; and they thought what a sorrowful face Anna Alexyevna
must have had when he said good-bye to her in the
railway-carriage and kissed her face and shoulders. Both of them
had met her in the town, and Burkin knew her and thought her


IVAN DMITRITCH, a middle-class man who lived with his family on
an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied
with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading
the newspaper.

"I forgot to look at the newspaper today," his wife said to him
as she cleared the table. "Look and see whether the list of
drawings is there."

"Yes, it is," said Ivan Dmitritch; "but hasn't your ticket

"No; I took the interest on Tuesday."

"What is the number?"

"Series 9,499, number 26."

"All right . . . we will look . . . 9,499 and 26."

Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck, and would not, as a
rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning numbers, but
now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was before
his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of
numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his scepticism,
no further than the second line from the top, his eye was caught
by the figure 9,499! Unable to believe his eyes, he hurriedly
dropped the paper on his knees without looking to see the number
of the ticket, and, just as though some one had given him a
douche of cold water, he felt an agreeable chill in the pit of
the stomach; tingling and terrible and sweet!

"Masha, 9,499 is there!" he said in a hollow voice.

His wife looked at his astonished and panic-stricken face, and
realized that he was not joking.

"9,499?" she asked, turning pale and dropping the folded
tablecloth on the table.

"Yes, yes . . . it really is there!"

"And the number of the ticket?"

"Oh, yes! There's the number of the ticket too. But stay . . .
wait! No, I say! Anyway, the number of our series is there!
Anyway, you understand. . . ."

Looking at his wife, Ivan Dmitritch gave a broad, senseless
smile, like a baby when a bright object is shown it. His wife
smiled too; it was as pleasant to her as to him that he only
mentioned the series, and did not try to find out the number of
the winning ticket. To torment and tantalize oneself with hopes
of possible fortune is so sweet, so thrilling!

"It is our series," said Ivan Dmitritch, after a long silence.
"So there is a probability that we have won. It's only a
probability, but there it is!"

"Well, now look!"

"Wait a little. We have plenty of time to be disappointed. It's
on the second line from the top, so the prize is seventy-five
thousand. That's not money, but power, capital! And in a minute I
shall look at the list, and there -- 26! Eh? I say, what if we
really have won?"

The husband and wife began laughing and staring at one another in
silence. The possibility of winning bewildered them; they could
not have said, could not have dreamed, what they both needed that
seventy-five thousand for, what they would buy, where they would
go. They thought only of the figures 9,499 and 75,000 and
pictured them in their imagination, while somehow they could not
think of the happiness itself which was so possible.

Ivan Dmitritch, holding the paper in his hand, walked several
times from corner to corner, and only when he had recovered from
the first impression began dreaming a little.

"And if we have won," he said -- "why, it will be a new life, it
will be a transformation! The ticket is yours, but if it were
mine I should, first of all, of course, spend twenty-five
thousand on real property in the shape of an estate; ten thousand
on immediate expenses, new furnishing . . . travelling . . .
paying debts, and so on. . . . The other forty thousand I would
put in the bank and get interest on it."

"Yes, an estate, that would be nice," said his wife, sitting down
and dropping her hands in her lap.

"Somewhere in the Tula or Oryol provinces. . . . In the first
place we shouldn't need a summer villa, and besides, it would
always bring in an income."

And pictures came crowding on his imagination, each more gracious
and poetical than the last. And in all these pictures he saw
himself well-fed, serene, healthy, felt warm, even hot! Here,
after eating a summer soup, cold as ice, he lay on his back on
the burning sand close to a stream or in the garden under a
lime-tree. . . . It is hot. . . . His little boy and girl are
crawling about near him, digging in the sand or catching
ladybirds in the grass. He dozes sweetly, thinking of nothing,
and feeling all over that he need not go to the office today,
tomorrow, or the day after. Or, tired of lying still, he goes to
the hayfield, or to the forest for mushrooms, or watches the
peasants catching fish with a net. When the sun sets he takes a
towel and soap and saunters to the bathing-shed, where he
undresses at his leisure, slowly rubs his bare chest with his
hands, and goes into the water. And in the water, near the opaque
soapy circles, little fish flit to and fro and green water-weeds
nod their heads. After bathing there is tea with cream and milk
rolls. . . . In the evening a walk or _vint_ with the neighbours.

"Yes, it would be nice to buy an estate," said his wife, also
dreaming, and from her face it was evident that she was enchanted
by her thoughts.

Ivan Dmitritch pictured to himself autumn with its rains, its
cold evenings, and its St. Martin's summer. At that season he
would have to take longer walks about the garden and beside the
river, so as to get thoroughly chilled, and then drink a big
glass of vodka and eat a salted mushroom or a soused cucumber,
and then -- drink another. . . . The children would come running
from the kitchen-garden, bringing a carrot and a radish smelling
of fresh earth. . . . And then, he would lie stretched full
length on the sofa, and in leisurely fashion turn over the pages
of some illustrated magazine, or, covering his face with it and
unbuttoning his waistcoat, give himself up to slumber.

The St. Martin's summer is followed by cloudy, gloomy weather. It
rains day and night, the bare trees weep, the wind is damp and
cold. The dogs, the horses, the fowls -- all are wet, depressed,
downcast. There is nowhere to walk; one can't go out for days
together; one has to pace up and down the room, looking
despondently at the grey window. It is dreary!

Ivan Dmitritch stopped and looked at his wife.

"I should go abro ad, you know, Masha," he said.

And he began thinking how nice it would be in late autumn to go
abroad somewhere to the South of France . . . to Italy . . . . to

"I should certainly go abroad too," his wife said. "But look at
the number of the ticket!"

"Wait, wait! . . ."

He walked about the room and went on thinking. It occurred to
him: what if his wife really did go abroad? It is pleasant to
travel alone, or in the society of light, careless women who live
in the present, and not such as think and talk all the journey
about nothing but their children, sigh, and tremble with dismay
over every farthing. Ivan Dmitritch imagined his wife in the
train with a multitude of parcels, baskets, and bags; she would
be sighing over something, complaining that the train made her
head ache, that she had spent so much money. . . . At the
stations he would continually be having to run for boiling water,
bread and butter. . . . She wouldn't have dinner because of its
being too dear. . . .

"She would begrudge me every farthing," he thought, with a glance
at his wife. "The lottery ticket is hers, not mine! Besides, what
is the use of her going abroad? What does she want there? She
would shut herself up in the hotel, and not let me out of her
sight. . . . I know!"

And for the first time in his life his mind dwelt on the fact
that his wife had grown elderly and plain, and that she was
saturated through and through with the smell of cooking, while he
was still young, fresh, and healthy, and might well have got
married again.

"Of course, all that is silly nonsense," he thought; "but . . .
why should she go abroad? What would she make of it? And yet she
would go, of course. . . . I can fancy . . . In reality it is all
one to her, whether it is Naples or Klin. She would only be in my
way. I should be dependent upon her. I can fancy how, like a
regular woman, she will lock the money up as soon as she gets it.
. . . She will hide it from me. . . . She will look after her
relations and grudge me every farthing."

Ivan Dmitritch thought of her relations. All those wretched
brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles would come crawling
about as soon as they heard of the winning ticket, would begin
whining like beggars, and fawning upon them with oily,
hypocritical smiles. Wretched, detestable people! If they were
given anything, they would ask for more; while if they were
refused, they would swear at them, slander them, and wish them
every kind of misfortune.

Ivan Dmitritch remembered his own relations, and their faces, at
which he had looked impartially in the past, struck him now as
repulsive and hateful.

"They are such reptiles!" he thought.

And his wife's face, too, struck him as repulsive and hateful.
Anger surged up in his heart against her, and he thought

"She knows nothing about money, and so she is stingy. If she won
it she would give me a hundred roubles, and put the rest away
under lock and key."

And he looked at his wife, not with a smile now, but with hatred.
She glanced at him too, and also with hatred and anger. She had
her own daydreams, her own plans, her own reflections; she
understood perfectly well what her husband's dreams were. She
knew who would be the first to try and grab her winnings.

"It's very nice making daydreams at other people's expense!" is
what her eyes expressed. "No, don't you dare!"

Her husband understood her look; hatred began stirring again in
his breast, and in order to annoy his wife he glanced quickly, to
spite her at the fourth page on the newspaper and read out

"Series 9,499, number 46! Not 26!"

Hatred and hope both disappeared at once, and it began
immediately to seem to Ivan Dmitritch and his wife that their
rooms were dark and small and low-pitched, that the supper they
had been eating was not doing them good, but lying heavy on their
stomachs, that the evenings were long and wearisome. . . .

"What the devil's the meaning of it?" said Ivan Dmitritch,
beginning to be ill-humoured. "Wherever one steps there are bits
of paper under one's feet, crumbs, husks. The rooms are never
swept! One is simply forced to go out. Damnation take my soul
entirely! I shall go and hang myself on the first aspen-tree!"

Book of the day: