Chekhov - Ionitch
The following evening he went to the Turkins' to make an offer.
But it turned out to be an inconvenient moment, as Ekaterina
Ivanovna was in her own room having her hair done by a
hair-dresser. She was getting ready to go to a dance at the
He had to sit a long time again in the dining-room drinking tea.
Ivan Petrovitch, seeing that his visitor was bored and
preoccupied, drew some notes out of his waistcoat pocket, read a
funny letter from a German steward, saying that all the
ironmongery was ruined and the plasticity was peeling off the
"I expect they will give a decent dowry," thought Startsev,
After a sleepless night, he found himself in a state of
stupefaction, as though he had been given something sweet and
soporific to drink; there was fog in his soul, but joy and
warmth, and at the same time a sort of cold, heavy fragment of
his brain was reflecting:
"Stop before it is too late! Is she the match for you? She is
spoilt, whimsical, sleeps till two o'clock in the afternoon,
while you are a deacon's son, a district doctor. . . ."
"What of it?" he thought. "I don't care."
"Besides, if you marry her," the fragment went on, "then her
relations will make you give up the district work and live in
"After all," he thought, "if it must be the town, the town it
must be. They will give a dowry; we can establish ourselves
At last Ekaterina Ivanovna came in, dressed for the ball, with a
low neck, looking fresh and pretty; and Startsev admired her so
much, and went into such ecstasies, that he could say nothing,
but simply stared at her and laughed.
She began saying good-bye, and he -- he had no reason for
staying now -- got up, saying that it was time for him to go
home; his patients were waiting for him.
"Well, there's no help for that," said Ivan Petrovitch. "Go, and
you might take Kitten to the club on the way."
It was spotting with rain; it was very dark, and they could only
tell where the horses were by Panteleimon's husky cough. The
hood of the carriage was put up.
"I stand upright; you lie down right; he lies all right," said
Ivan Petrovitch as he put his daughter into the carriage.
They drove off.
"I was at the cemetery yesterday," Startsev began. "How
ungenerous and merciless it was on your part! . . ."
"You went to the cemetery?"
"Yes, I went there and waited almost till two o'clock. I
suffered . . ."
"Well, suffer, if you cannot understand a joke."
Ekaterina Ivanovna, pleased at having so cleverly taken in a man
who was in love with her, and at being the object of such
intense love, burst out laughing and suddenly uttered a shriek
of terror, for, at that very minute, the horses turned sharply
in at the gate of the club, and the carriage almost tilted over.
Startsev put his arm round Ekaterina Ivanovna's waist; in her
fright she nestled up to him, and he could not restrain himself,
and passionately kissed her on the lips and on the chin, and
hugged her more tightly.
"That's enough," she said drily.
And a minute later she was not in the carriage, and a policeman
near the lighted entrance of the club shouted in a detestable
voice to Panteleimon:
"What are you stopping for, you crow? Drive on."
Startsev drove home, but soon afterwards returned. Attired in
another man's dress suit and a stiff white tie which kept sawing
at his neck and trying to slip away from the collar, he was
sitting at midnight in the club drawing-room, and was saying
with enthusiasm to Ekaterina Ivanovna.
"Ah, how little people know who have never loved! It seems to me
that no one has ever yet written of love truly, and I doubt
whether this tender, joyful, agonising feeling can be described,
and any one who has once experienced it would not attempt to put
it into words. What is the use of preliminaries and
introductions? What is the use of unnecessary fine words? My
love is immeasurable. I beg, I beseech you," Startsev brought
out at last, "be my wife!"
"Dmitri Ionitch," said Ekaterina Ivanovna, with a very grave
face, after a moment's thought -- "Dmitri Ionitch, I am very
grateful to you for the honour. I respect you, but . . ." she
got up and continued standing, "but, forgive me, I cannot be
your wife. Let us talk seriously. Dmitri Ionitch, you know I
love art beyond everything in life. I adore music; I love it
frantically; I have dedicated my whole life to it. I want to be
an artist; I want fame, success, freedom, and you want me to go
on living in this town, to go on living this empty, useless
life, which has become insufferable to me. To become a wife --
oh, no, forgive me! One must strive towards a lofty, glorious
goal, and married life would put me in bondage for ever. Dmitri
Ionitch" (she faintly smiled as she pronounced his name; she
thought of "Alexey Feofilaktitch") -- "Dmitri Ionitch, you are a
good, clever, honourable man; you are better than any one. . .
." Tears came into her eyes. "I feel for you with my whole
heart, but . . . but you will understand. . . ."
And she turned away and went out of the drawing-room to prevent
herself from crying.
Startsev's heart left off throbbing uneasily. Going out of the
club into the street, he first of all tore off the stiff tie and
drew a deep breath. He was a little ashamed and his vanity was
wounded -- he had not expected a refusal -- and could not
believe that all his dreams, his hopes and yearnings, had led
him up to such a stupid end, just as in some little play at an
amateur performance, and he was sorry for his feeling, for that
love of his, so sorry that he felt as though he could have burst
into sobs or have violently belaboured Panteleimon's broad back
with his umbrella.
For three days he could not get on with anything, he could not
eat nor sleep; but when the news reached him that Ekaterina
Ivanovna had gone away to Moscow to enter the Conservatoire, he
grew calmer and lived as before.
Afterwards, remembering sometimes how he had wandered about the
cemetery or how he had driven all over the town to get a dress
suit, he stretched lazily and said:
"What a lot of trouble, though!"