The Lady with a Dog
At home in Moscow everything was in its winter routine; the
stoves were heated, and in the morning it was still dark when
the children were having breakfast and getting ready for school,
and the nurse would light the lamp for a short time. The frosts
had begun already. When the first snow has fallen, on the first
day of sledge-driving it is pleasant to see the white earth, the
white roofs, to draw soft, delicious breath, and the season
brings back the days of one's youth. The old limes and birches,
white with hoar-frost, have a good-natured expression; they are
nearer to one's heart than cypresses and palms, and near them
one doesn't want to be thinking of the sea and the mountains.
Gurov was Moscow born; he arrived in Moscow on a fine frosty
day, and when he put on his fur coat and warm gloves, and walked
along Petrovka, and when on Saturday evening he heard the
ringing of the bells, his recent trip and the places he had seen
lost all charm for him. Little by little he became absorbed in
Moscow life, greedily read three newspapers a day, and declared
he did not read the Moscow papers on principle! He already felt
a longing to go to restaurants, clubs, dinner-parties,
anniversary celebrations, and he felt flattered at entertaining
distinguished lawyers and artists, and at playing cards with a
professor at the doctors' club. He could already eat a whole
plateful of salt fish and cabbage.
In another month, he fancied, the image of Anna Sergeyevna would
be shrouded in a mist in his memory, and only from time to time
would visit him in his dreams with a touching smile as others
did. But more than a month passed, real winter had come, and
everything was still clear in his memory as though he had parted
with Anna Sergeyevna only the day before. And his memories
glowed more and more vividly. When in the evening stillness he
heard from his study the voices of his children, preparing their
lessons, or when he listened to a song or the organ at the
restaurant, or the storm howled in the chimney, suddenly
everything would rise up in his memory: what had happened on the
groyne, and the early morning with the mist on the mountains,
and the steamer coming from Theodosia, and the kisses. He would
pace a long time about his room, remembering it all and smiling;
then his memories passed into dreams, and in his fancy the past
was mingled with what was to come. Anna Sergeyevna did not visit
him in dreams, but followed him about everywhere like a shadow
and haunted him. When he shut his eyes he saw her as though she
were living before him, and she seemed to him lovelier, younger,
tenderer than she was; and he imagined himself finer than he had
been in Yalta. In the evenings she peeped out at him from the
bookcase, from the fireplace, from the corner -- he heard her
breathing, the caressing rustle of her dress. In the street he
watched the women, looking for some one like her.
He was tormented by an intense desire to confide his memories to
some one. But in his home it was impossible to talk of his love,
and he had no one outside; he could not talk to his tenants nor
to any one at the bank. And what had he to talk of? Had he been
in love, then? Had there been anything beautiful, poetical, or
edifying or simply interesting in his relations with Anna
Sergeyevna? And there was nothing for him but to talk vaguely of
love, of woman, and no one guessed what it meant; only his wife
twitched her black eyebrows, and said:
"The part of a lady-killer does not suit you at all, Dimitri."
One evening, coming out of the doctors' club with an official
with whom he had been playing cards, he could not resist saying:
"If only you knew what a fascinating woman I made the
acquaintance of in Yalta!"
The official got into his sledge and was driving away, but
turned suddenly and shouted:
"You were right this evening: the sturgeon was a bit too
These words, so ordinary, for some reason moved Gurov to
indignation, and struck him as degrading and unclean. What
savage manners, what people! What senseless nights, what
uninteresting, uneventful days! The rage for card-playing, the
gluttony, the drunkenness, the continual talk always about the
same thing. Useless pursuits and conversations always about the
same things absorb the better part of one's time, the better
part of one's strength, and in the end there is left a life
grovelling and curtailed, worthless and trivial, and there is no
escaping or getting away from it -- just as though one were in a
madhouse or a prison.
Gurov did not sleep all night, and was filled with indignation.
And he had a headache all next day. And the next night he slept
badly; he sat up in bed, thinking, or paced up and down his
room. He was sick of his children, sick of the bank; he had no
desire to go anywhere or to talk of anything.
In the holidays in December he prepared for a journey, and told
his wife he was going to Petersburg to do something in the
interests of a young friend -- and he set off for S----. What
for? He did not very well know himself. He wanted to see Anna
Sergeyevna and to talk with her -- to arrange a meeting, if
He reached S---- in the morning, and took the best room at the
hotel, in which the floor was covered with grey army cloth, and
on the table was an inkstand, grey with dust and adorned with a
figure on horseback, with its hat in its hand and its head
broken off. The hotel porter gave him the necessary information;
Von Diderits lived in a house of his own in Old Gontcharny
Street -- it was not far from the hotel: he was rich and lived
in good style, and had his own horses; every one in the town
knew him. The porter pronounced the name "Dridirits."
Gurov went without haste to Old Gontcharny Street and found the
house. Just opposite the house stretched a long grey fence
adorned with nails.
"One would run away from a fence like that," thought Gurov,
looking from the fence to the windows of the house and back
He considered: to-day was a holiday, and the husband would
probably be at home. And in any case it would be tactless to go
into the house and upset her. If he were to send her a note it
might fall into her husband's hands, and then it might ruin
everything. The best thing was to trust to chance. And he kept
walking up and down the street by the fence, waiting for the
chance. He saw a beggar go in at the gate and dogs fly at him;
then an hour later he heard a piano, and the sounds were faint
and indistinct. Probably it was Anna Sergeyevna playing. The
front door suddenly opened, and an old woman came out, followed
by the familiar white Pomeranian. Gurov was on the point of
calling to the dog, but his heart began beating violently, and
in his excitement he could not remember the dog's name.
He walked up and down, and loathed the grey fence more and more,
and by now he thought irritably that Anna Sergeyevna had
forgotten him, and was perhaps already amusing herself with some
one else, and that that was very natural in a young woman who
had nothing to look at from morning till night but that
confounded fence. He went back to his hotel room and sat for a
long while on the sofa, not knowing what to do, then he had
dinner and a long nap.
"How stupid and worrying it is!" he thought when he woke and
looked at the dark windows: it was already evening. "Here I've
had a good sleep for some reason. What shall I do in the night?"
He sat on the bed, which was covered by a cheap grey blanket,
such as one sees in hospitals, and he taunted himself in his
"So much for the lady with the dog . . . so much for the
adventure. . . . You're in a nice fix. . . ."
That morning at the station a poster in large letters had caught
his eye. "The Geisha" was to be performed for the first time. He
thought of this and went to the theatre.
"It's quite possible she may go to the first performance," he
The theatre was full. As in all provincial theatres, there was a
fog above the chandelier, the gallery was noisy and restless; in
the front row the local dandies were standing up before the
beginning of the performance, with their hands behind them; in
the Governor's box the Governor's daughter, wearing a boa, was
sitting in the front seat, while the Governor himself lurked
modestly behind the curtain with only his hands visible; the
orchestra was a long time tuning up; the stage curtain swayed.
All the time the audience were coming in and taking their seats
Gurov looked at them eagerly.
Anna Sergeyevna, too, came in. She sat down in the third row,
and when Gurov looked at her his heart contracted, and he
understood clearly that for him there was in the whole world no
creature so near, so precious, and so important to him; she,
this little woman, in no way remarkable, lost in a provincial
crowd, with a vulgar lorgnette in her hand, filled his whole
life now, was his sorrow and his joy, the one happiness that he
now desired for himself, and to the sounds of the inferior
orchestra, of the wretched provincial violins, he thought how
lovely she was. He thought and dreamed.
A young man with small side-whiskers, tall and stooping, came in
with Anna Sergeyevna and sat down beside her; he bent his head
at every step and seemed to be continually bowing. Most likely
this was the husband whom at Yalta, in a rush of bitter feeling,
she had called a flunkey. And there really was in his long
figure, his side-whiskers, and the small bald patch on his head,
something of the flunkey's obsequiousness; his smile was sugary,
and in his buttonhole there was some badge of distinction like
the number on a waiter.
During the first interval the husband went away to smoke; she
remained alone in her stall. Gurov, who was sitting in the
stalls, too, went up to her and said in a trembling voice, with
a forced smile:
She glanced at him and turned pale, then glanced again with
horror, unable to believe her eyes, and tightly gripped the fan
and the lorgnette in her hands, evidently struggling with
herself not to faint. Both were silent. She was sitting, he was
standing, frightened by her confusion and not venturing to sit
down beside her. The violins and the flute began tuning up. He
felt suddenly frightened; it seemed as though all the people in
the boxes were looking at them. She got up and went quickly to
the door; he followed her, and both walked senselessly along
passages, and up and down stairs, and figures in legal,
scholastic, and civil service uniforms, all wearing badges,
flitted before their eyes. They caught glimpses of ladies, of
fur coats hanging on pegs; the draughts blew on them, bringing a
smell of stale tobacco. And Gurov, whose heart was beating
"Oh, heavens! Why are these people here and this orchestra! . .
And at that instant he recalled how when he had seen Anna
Sergeyevna off at the station he had thought that everything was
over and they would never meet again. But how far they were
still from the end!
On the narrow, gloomy staircase over which was written "To the
Amphitheatre," she stopped.
"How you have frightened me!" she said, breathing hard, still
pale and overwhelmed. "Oh, how you have frightened me! I am half
dead. Why have you come? Why?"
"But do understand, Anna, do understand . . ." he said hastily
in a low voice. "I entreat you to understand. . . ."
She looked at him with dread, with entreaty, with love; she
looked at him intently, to keep his features more distinctly in
"I am so unhappy," she went on, not heeding him. "I have thought
of nothing but you all the time; I live only in the thought of
you. And I wanted to forget, to forget you; but why, oh, why,
have you come?"
On the landing above them two schoolboys were smoking and
looking down, but that was nothing to Gurov; he drew Anna
Sergeyevna to him, and began kissing her face, her cheeks, and
"What are you doing, what are you doing!" she cried in horror,
pushing him away. "We are mad. Go away to-day; go away at once.
. . . I beseech you by all that is sacred, I implore you. . . .
There are people coming this way!"
Some one was coming up the stairs.
"You must go away," Anna Sergeyevna went on in a whisper. "Do
you hear, Dmitri Dmitritch? I will come and see you in Moscow. I
have never been happy; I am miserable now, and I never, never
shall be happy, never! Don't make me suffer still more! I swear
I'll come to Moscow. But now let us part. My precious, good,
dear one, we must part!"
She pressed his hand and began rapidly going downstairs, looking
round at him, and from her eyes he could see that she really was
unhappy. Gurov stood for a little while, listened, then, when
all sound had died away, he found his coat and left the theatre.