The Lady with a Dog
And Anna Sergeyevna began coming to see him in Moscow. Once in
two or three months she left S----, telling her husband that she
was going to consult a doctor about an internal complaint -- and
her husband believed her, and did not believe her. In Moscow she
stayed at the Slaviansky Bazaar hotel, and at once sent a man in
a red cap to Gurov. Gurov went to see her, and no one in Moscow
knew of it.
Once he was going to see her in this way on a winter morning
(the messenger had come the evening before when he was out).
With him walked his daughter, whom he wanted to take to school:
it was on the way. Snow was falling in big wet flakes.
"It's three degrees above freezing-point, and yet it is
snowing," said Gurov to his daughter. "The thaw is only on the
surface of the earth; there is quite a different temperature at
a greater height in the atmosphere."
"And why are there no thunderstorms in the winter, father?"
He explained that, too. He talked, thinking all the while that
he was going to see her, and no living soul knew of it, and
probably never would know. He had two lives: one, open, seen and
known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of
relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and
acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret.
And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of
circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of
value to him, everything in which he was sincere and did not
deceive himself, everything that made the kernel of his life,
was hidden from other people; and all that was false in him, the
sheath in which he hid himself to conceal the truth -- such, for
instance, as his work in the bank, his discussions at the club,
his "lower race," his presence with his wife at anniversary
festivities -- all that was open. And he judged of others by
himself, not believing in what he saw, and always believing that
every man had his real, most interesting life under the cover of
secrecy and under the cover of night. All personal life rested
on secrecy, and possibly it was partly on that account that
civilised man was so nervously anxious that personal privacy
should be respected.
After leaving his daughter at school, Gurov went on to the
Slaviansky Bazaar. He took off his fur coat below, went
upstairs, and softly knocked at the door. Anna Sergeyevna,
wearing his favourite grey dress, exhausted by the journey and
the suspense, had been expecting him since the evening before.
She was pale; she looked at him, and did not smile, and he had
hardly come in when she fell on his breast. Their kiss was slow
and prolonged, as though they had not met for two years.
"Well, how are you getting on there?" he asked. "What news?"
"Wait; I'll tell you directly. . . . I can't talk."
She could not speak; she was crying. She turned away from him,
and pressed her handkerchief to her eyes.
"Let her have her cry out. I'll sit down and wait," he thought,
and he sat down in an arm-chair.
Then he rang and asked for tea to be brought him, and while he
drank his tea she remained standing at the window with her back
to him. She was crying from emotion, from the miserable
consciousness that their life was so hard for them; they could
only meet in secret, hiding themselves from people, like
thieves! Was not their life shattered?
"Come, do stop!" he said.
It was evident to him that this love of theirs would not soon be
over, that he could not see the end of it. Anna Sergeyevna grew
more and more attached to him. She adored him, and it was
unthinkable to say to her that it was bound to have an end some
day; besides, she would not have believed it!
He went up to her and took her by the shoulders to say something
affectionate and cheering, and at that moment he saw himself in
His hair was already beginning to turn grey. And it seemed
strange to him that he had grown so much older, so much plainer
during the last few years. The shoulders on which his hands
rested were warm and quivering. He felt compassion for this
life, still so warm and lovely, but probably already not far
from beginning to fade and wither like his own. Why did she love
him so much? He always seemed to women different from what he
was, and they loved in him not himself, but the man created by
their imagination, whom they had been eagerly seeking all their
lives; and afterwards, when they noticed their mistake, they
loved him all the same. And not one of them had been happy with
him. Time passed, he had made their acquaintance, got on with
them, parted, but he had never once loved; it was anything you
like, but not love.
And only now when his head was grey he had fallen properly,
really in love -- for the first time in his life.
Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close
and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed
to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and
they could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband;
and it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage,
caught and forced to live in different cages. They forgave each
other for what they were ashamed of in their past, they forgave
everything in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had
changed them both.
In moments of depression in the past he had comforted himself
with any arguments that came into his mind, but now he no longer
cared for arguments; he felt profound compassion, he wanted to
be sincere and tender. . . .
"Don't cry, my darling," he said. "You've had your cry; that's
enough. . . . Let us talk now, let us think of some plan."
Then they spent a long while taking counsel together, talked of
how to avoid the necessity for secrecy, for deception, for
living in different towns and not seeing each other for long at
a time. How could they be free from this intolerable bondage?
"How? How?" he asked, clutching his head. "How?"
And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be
found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was
clear to both of them that they had still a long, long road
before them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of
it was only just beginning.
Verney's pavilion: an ice-cream and sweets shop
phonetic spelling: literally, "omitted the 'hard sign,' " a
characteristic of a progressive intellectual (this anticipated
the reform of the Russian alphabet)
Belyov or Zhidra: Belev and Zhizdra are examples of provincial
and backward towns
lorgnette: a pair of eyeglasses with a short handle
second bell: in Russian theaters three bells were rung, and the
curtain went up on the third bell
The Geisha: an 1896 operetta by the Englishman Sidney Jones
three degrees above freezing-point: about 39 degrees F.