The Party by
The party broke up after supper about a quarter past twelve.
Seeing her visitors off, Olga Mihalovna stood at the door and
"You really ought to take a shawl! It's turning a little chilly.
Please God, you don't catch cold!"
"Don't trouble, Olga Mihalovna," the ladies answered as they got
into the carriage. "Well, good-bye. Mind now, we are expecting
you; don't play us false!"
"Wo-o-o!" the coachman checked the horses.
"Ready, Denis! Good-bye, Olga Mihalovna!"
"Kiss the children for me!"
The carriage started and immediately disappeared into the
darkness. In the red circle of light cast by the lamp in the
road, a fresh pair or trio of impatient horses, and the
silhouette of a coachman with his hands held out stiffly before
him, would come into view. Again there began kisses, reproaches,
and entreaties to come again or to take a shawl. Pyotr Dmitritch
kept running out and helping the ladies into their carriages.
"You go now by Efremovshtchina," he directed the coachman; "it's
nearer through Mankino, but the road is worse that way. You
might have an upset. . . . Good-bye, my charmer. Mille
compliments to your artist!"
"Good-bye, Olga Mihalovna, darling! Go indoors, or you will
catch cold! It's damp!"
"Wo-o-o! you rascal!"
"What horses have you got here?" Pyotr Dmitritch asked.
"They were bought from Haidorov, in Lent," answered the
"Capital horses. . . ."
And Pyotr Dmitritch patted the trace horse on the haunch.
"Well, you can start! God give you good luck!"
The last visitor was gone at last; the red circle on the road
quivered, moved aside, contracted and went out, as Vassily
carried away the lamp from the entrance. On previous occasions
when they had seen off their visitors, Pyotr Dmitritch and Olga
Mihalovna had begun dancing about the drawing-room, facing each
other, clapping their hands and singing: "They've gone! They've
gone!" But now Olga Mihalovna was not equal to that. She went to
her bedroom, undressed, and got into bed.
She fancied she would fall asleep at once and sleep soundly. Her
legs and her shoulders ached painfully, her head was heavy from
the strain of talking, and she was conscious, as before, of
discomfort all over her body. Covering her head over, she lay
still for three or four minutes, then peeped out from under the
bed-clothes at the lamp before the ikon, listened to the
silence, and smiled.
"It's nice, it's nice," she whispered, curling up her legs,
which felt as if they had grown longer from so much walking.
"Sleep, sleep . . . ."
Her legs would not get into a comfortable position; she felt
uneasy all over, and she turned on the other side. A big fly
blew buzzing about the bedroom and thumped against the ceiling.
She could hear, too, Grigory and Vassily stepping cautiously
about the drawing-room, putting the chairs back in their places;
it seemed to Olga Mihalovna that she could not go to sleep, nor
be comfortable till those sounds were hushed. And again she
turned over on the other side impatiently.
She heard her husband's voice in the drawing-room. Some one must
be staying the night, as Pyotr Dmitritch was addressing some one
and speaking loudly:
"I don't say that Count Alexey Petrovitch is an impostor. But he
can't help seeming to be one, because all of you gentlemen
attempt to see in him something different from what he really
is. His craziness is looked upon as originality, his familiar
manners as good-nature, and his complete absence of opinions as
Conservatism. Even granted that he is a Conservative of the
stamp of '84, what after all is Conservatism?"
Pyotr Dmitritch, angry with Count Alexey Petrovitch, his
visitors, and himself, was relieving his heart. He abused both
the Count and his visitors, and in his vexation with himself was
ready to speak out and to hold forth upon anything. After seeing
his guest to his room, he walked up and down the drawing-room,
walked through the dining-room, down the corridor, then into his
study, then again went into the drawing-room, and came into the
bedroom. Olga Mihalovna was lying on her back, with the
bed-clothes only to her waist (by now she felt hot), and with an
angry face, watched the fly that was thumping against the
"Is some one staying the night?" she asked.
Pyotr Dmitritch undressed and got into his bed.
Without speaking, he lighted a cigarette, and he, too, fell to
watching the fly. There was an uneasy and forbidding look in his
eyes. Olga Mihalovna looked at his handsome profile for five
minutes in silence. It seemed to her for some reason that if her
husband were suddenly to turn facing her, and to say, "Olga, I
am unhappy," she would cry or laugh, and she would be at ease.
She fancied that her legs were aching and her body was
uncomfortable all over because of the strain on her feelings.
"Pyotr, what are you thinking of?" she said.
"Oh, nothing . . ." her husband answered.
"You have taken to having secrets from me of late: that's not
"Why is it not right?" answered Pyotr Dmitritch drily and not at
once. "We all have our personal life, every one of us, and we
are bound to have our secrets."
"Personal life, our secrets . . . that's all words! Understand
you are wounding me!" said Olga Mihalovna, sitting up in bed.
"If you have a load on your heart, why do you hide it from me?
And why do you find it more suitable to open your heart to women
who are nothing to you, instead of to your wife? I overheard
your outpourings to Lubotchka by the bee-house to-day."
"Well, I congratulate you. I am glad you did overhear it."
This meant "Leave me alone and let me think." Olga Mihalovna was
indignant. Vexation, hatred, and wrath, which had been
accumulating within her during the whole day, suddenly boiled
over; she wanted at once to speak out, to hurt her husband
without putting it off till to-morrow, to wound him, to punish
him. . . . Making an effort to control herself and not to
scream, she said:
"Let me tell you, then, that it's all loathsome, loathsome,
loathsome! I've been hating you all day; you see what you've
Pyotr Dmitritch, too, got up and sat on the bed.
"It's loathsome, loathsome, loathsome," Olga Mihalovna went on,
beginning to tremble all over. "There's no need to congratulate
me; you had better congratulate yourself! It's a shame, a
disgrace. You have wrapped yourself in lies till you are ashamed
to be alone in the room with your wife! You are a deceitful man!
I see through you and understand every step you take!"
"Olya, I wish you would please warn me when you are out of
humour. Then I will sleep in the study."
Saying this, Pyotr Dmitritch picked up his pillow and walked out
of the bedroom. Olga Mihalovna had not foreseen this. For some
minutes she remained silent with her mouth open, trembling all
over and looking at the door by which her husband had gone out,
and trying to understand what it meant. Was this one of the
devices to which deceitful people have recourse when they are in
the wrong, or was it a deliberate insult aimed at her pride? How
was she to take it? Olga Mihalovna remembered her cousin, a
lively young officer, who often used to tell her, laughing, that
when "his spouse nagged at him" at night, he usually picked up
his pillow and went whistling to spend the night in his study,
leaving his wife in a foolish and ridiculous position. This
officer was married to a rich, capricious, and foolish woman
whom he did not respect but simply put up with.
Olga Mihalovna jumped out of bed. To her mind there was only one
thing left for her to do now; to dress with all possible haste
and to leave the house forever. The house was her own, but so
much the worse for Pyotr Dmitritch. Without pausing to consider
whether this was necessary or not, she went quickly to the study
to inform her husband of her intention ("Feminine logic!"
flashed through her mind), and to say something wounding and
sarcastic at parting. . . .
Pyotr Dmitritch was lying on the sofa and pretending to read a
newspaper. There was a candle burning on a chair near him. His
face could not be seen behind the newspaper.
"Be so kind as to tell me what this means? I am asking you."
"Be so kind . . ." Pyotr Dmitritch mimicked her, not showing his
face. "It's sickening, Olga! Upon my honour, I am exhausted and
not up to it. . . . Let us do our quarrelling to-morrow."
"No, I understand you perfectly!" Olga Mihalovna went on. "You
hate me! Yes, yes! You hate me because I am richer than you! You
will never forgive me for that, and will always be lying to me!"
("Feminine logic!" flashed through her mind again.) "You are
laughing at me now. . . . I am convinced, in fact, that you only
married me in order to have property qualifications and those
wretched horses. . . . Oh, I am miserable!"
Pyotr Dmitritch dropped the newspaper and got up. The unexpected
insult overwhelmed him. With a childishly helpless smile he
looked desperately at his wife, and holding out his hands to her
as though to ward off blows, he said imploringly:
And expecting her to say something else awful, he leaned back in
his chair, and his huge figure seemed as helplessly childish as
"Olya, how could you say it?" he whispered.
Olga Mihalovna came to herself. She was suddenly aware of her
passionate love for this man, remembered that he was her
husband, Pyotr Dmitritch, without whom she could not live for a
day, and who loved her passionately, too. She burst into loud
sobs that sounded strange and unlike her, and ran back to her
She fell on the bed, and short hysterical sobs, choking her and
making her arms and legs twitch, filled the bedroom. Remembering
there was a visitor sleeping three or four rooms away, she
buried her head under the pillow to stifle her sobs, but the
pillow rolled on to the floor, and she almost fell on the floor
herself when she stooped to pick it up. She pulled the quilt up
to her face, but her hands would not obey her, but tore
convulsively at everything she clutched.
She thought that everything was lost, that the falsehood she had
told to wound her husband had shattered her life into fragments.
Her husband would not forgive her. The insult she had hurled at
him was not one that could be effaced by any caresses, by any
vows. . . . How could she convince her husband that she did not
believe what she had said?
"It's all over, it's all over!" she cried, not noticing that the
pillow had slipped on to the floor again. "For God's sake, for
Probably roused by her cries, the guest and the servants were
now awake; next day all the neighbourhood would know that she
had been in hysterics and would blame Pyotr Dmitritch. She made
an effort to restrain herself, but her sobs grew louder and
louder every minute.
"For God's sake," she cried in a voice not like her own, and not
knowing why she cried it. "For God's sake!"
She felt as though the bed were heaving under her and her feet
were entangled in the bed-clothes. Pyotr Dmitritch, in his
dressing-gown, with a candle in his hand, came into the bedroom.
"Olya, hush!" he said.
She raised herself, and kneeling up in bed, screwing up her eyes
at the light, articulated through her sobs:
"Understand . . . understand! . . . ."
She wanted to tell him that she was tired to death by the party,
by his falsity, by her own falsity, that it had all worked
together, but she could only articulate:
"Understand . . . understand!"
"Come, drink!" he said, handing her some water.
She took the glass obediently and began drinking, but the water
splashed over and was spilt on her arms, her throat and knees.
"I must look horribly unseemly," she thought.
Pyotr Dmitritch put her back in bed without a word, and covered
her with the quilt, then he took the candle and went out.
"For God's sake!" Olga Mihalovna cried again. "Pyotr,
Suddenly something gripped her in the lower part of her body and
back with such violence that her wailing was cut short, and she
bit the pillow from the pain. But the pain let her go again at
once, and she began sobbing again.
The maid came in, and arranging the quilt over her, asked in
"Mistress, darling, what is the matter?"
"Go out of the room," said Pyotr Dmitritch sternly, going up to
"Understand . . . understand! . . ." Olga Mihalovna began.
"Olya, I entreat you, calm yourself," he said. "I did not mean
to hurt you. I would not have gone out of the room if I had
known it would have hurt you so much; I simply felt depressed. I
tell you, on my honour . . ."
"Understand! . . . You were lying, I was lying. . . ."
"I understand. . . . Come, come, that's enough! I understand,"
said Pyotr Dmitritch tenderly, sitting down on her bed. "You
said that in anger; I quite understand. I swear to God I love
you beyond anything on earth, and when I married you I never
once thought of your being rich. I loved you immensely, and
that's all . . . I assure you. I have never been in want of
money or felt the value of it, and so I cannot feel the
difference between your fortune and mine. It always seemed to me
we were equally well off. And that I have been deceitful in
little things, that . . . of course, is true. My life has
hitherto been arranged in such a frivolous way that it has
somehow been impossible to get on without paltry lying. It
weighs on me, too, now. . . . Let us leave off talking about it,
for goodness' sake!"
Olga Mihalovna again felt in acute pain, and clutched her
husband by the sleeve.
"I am in pain, in pain, in pain . . ." she said rapidly. "Oh,
"Damnation take those visitors!" muttered Pyotr Dmitritch,
getting up. "You ought not to have gone to the island to-day!"
he cried. "What an idiot I was not to prevent you! Oh, my God!"
He scratched his head in vexation, and, with a wave of his hand,
walked out of the room.
Then he came into the room several times, sat down on the bed
beside her, and talked a great deal, sometimes tenderly,
sometimes angrily, but she hardly heard him. Her sobs were
continually interrupted by fearful attacks of pain, and each
time the pain was more acute and prolonged. At first she held
her breath and bit the pillow during the pain, but then she
began screaming on an unseemly piercing note. Once seeing her
husband near her, she remembered that she had insulted him, and
without pausing to think whether it were really Pyotr Dmitritch
or whether she were in delirium, clutched his hand in both hers
and began kissing it.
"You were lying, I was lying . . ." she began justifying
herself. "Understand, understand. . . . They have exhausted me,
driven me out of all patience."
"Olya, we are not alone," said Pyotr Dmitritch.
Olga Mihalovna raised her head and saw Varvara, who was kneeling
by the chest of drawers and pulling out the bottom drawer. The
top drawers were already open. Then Varvara got up, red from the
strained position, and with a cold, solemn face began trying to
unlock a box.
"Marya, I can't unlock it!" she said in a whisper. "You unlock
it, won't you?"
Marya, the maid, was digging a candle end out of the candlestick
with a pair of scissors, so as to put in a new candle; she went
up to Varvara and helped her to unlock the box.
"There should be nothing locked . . ." whispered Varvara.
"Unlock this basket, too, my good girl. Master," she said, "you
should send to Father Mihail to unlock the holy gates! You
"Do what you like," said Pyotr Dmitritch, breathing hard, "only,
for God's sake, make haste and fetch the doctor or the midwife!
Has Vassily gone? Send some one else. Send your husband!"
"It's the birth," Olga Mihalovna thought. "Varvara," she moaned,
"but he won't be born alive!"
"It's all right, it's all right, mistress," whispered Varvara.
"Please God, he will be alive! he will be alive!"
When Olga Mihalovna came to herself again after a pain she was
no longer sobbing nor tossing from side to side, but moaning.
She could not refrain from moaning even in the intervals between
the pains. The candles were still burning, but the morning light
was coming through the blinds. It was probably about five
o'clock in the morning. At the round table there was sitting
some unknown woman with a very discreet air, wearing a white
apron. From her whole appearance it was evident she had been
sitting there a long time. Olga Mihalovna guessed that she was
"Will it soon be over?" she asked, and in her voice she heard a
peculiar and unfamiliar note which had never been there before.
"I must be dying in childbirth," she thought.
Pyotr Dmitritch came cautiously into the bedroom, dressed for
the day, and stood at the window with his back to his wife. He
lifted the blind and looked out of window.
"What rain!" he said.
"What time is it?" asked Olga Mihalovna, in order to hear the
unfamiliar note in her voice again.
"A quarter to six," answered the midwife.
"And what if I really am dying?" thought Olga Mihalovna, looking
at her husband's head and the window-panes on which the rain was
beating. "How will he live without me? With whom will he have
tea and dinner, talk in the evenings, sleep?"
And he seemed to her like a forlorn child; she felt sorry for
him and wanted to say something nice, caressing and consolatory.
She remembered how in the spring he had meant to buy himself
some harriers, and she, thinking it a cruel and dangerous sport,
had prevented him from doing it.
"Pyotr, buy yourself harriers," she moaned.
He dropped the blind and went up to the bed, and would have said
something; but at that moment the pain came back, and Olga
Mihalovna uttered an unseemly, piercing scream.
The pain and the constant screaming and moaning stupefied her.
She heard, saw, and sometimes spoke, but hardly understood
anything, and was only conscious that she was in pain or was
just going to be in pain. It seemed to her that the nameday
party had been long, long ago -- not yesterday, but a year ago
perhaps; and that her new life of agony had lasted longer than
her childhood, her school-days, her time at the University, and
her marriage, and would go on for a long, long time, endlessly.
She saw them bring tea to the midwife, and summon her at midday
to lunch and afterwards to dinner; she saw Pyotr Dmitritch grow
used to coming in, standing for long intervals by the window,
and going out again; saw strange men, the maid, Varvara, come in
as though they were at home. . . . Varvara said nothing but, "He
will, he will," and was angry when any one closed the drawers
and the chest. Olga Mihalovna saw the light change in the room
and in the windows: at one time it was twilight, then thick like
fog, then bright daylight as it had been at dinner-time the day
before, then again twilight . . . and each of these changes
lasted as long as her childhood, her school-days, her life at
the University. . . .
In the evening two doctors -- one bony, bald, with a big red
beard; the other with a swarthy Jewish face and cheap spectacles
-- performed some sort of operation on Olga Mihalovna. To these
unknown men touching her body she felt utterly indifferent. By
now she had no feeling of shame, no will, and any one might do
what he would with her. If any one had rushed at her with a
knife, or had insulted Pyotr Dmitritch, or had robbed her of her
right to the little creature, she would not have said a word.
They gave her chloroform during the operation. When she came to
again, the pain was still there and insufferable. It was night.
And Olga Mihalovna remembered that there had been just such a
night with the stillness, the lamp, with the midwife sitting
motionless by the bed, with the drawers of the chest pulled out,
with Pyotr Dmitritch standing by the window, but some time very,
very long ago. . . .