An Uneasy Night
Auntie had a doggy dream that a porter ran after her with a
broom, and she woke up in a fright.
It was quite dark and very stuffy in the room. The fleas were
biting. Auntie had never been afraid of darkness before, but
now, for some reason, she felt frightened and inclined to bark.
Her master heaved a loud sigh in the next room, then soon
afterwards the sow grunted in her sty, and then all was still
again. When one thinks about eating one's heart grows lighter,
and Auntie began thinking how that day she had stolen the leg of
a chicken from Fyodor Timofeyitch, and had hidden it in the
drawing-room, between the cupboard and the wall, where there
were a great many spiders' webs and a great deal of dust. Would
it not be as well to go now and look whether the chicken leg
were still there or not? It was very possible that her master
had found it and eaten it. But she must not go out of the room
before morning, that was the rule. Auntie shut her eyes to go to
sleep as quickly as possible, for she knew by experience that
the sooner you go to sleep the sooner the morning comes. But all
at once there was a strange scream not far from her which made
her start and jump up on all four legs. It was Ivan Ivanitch,
and his cry was not babbling and persuasive as usual, but a
wild, shrill, unnatural scream like the squeak of a door
opening. Unable to distinguish anything in the darkness, and not
understanding what was wrong, Auntie felt still more frightened
and growled: "R-r-r-r. . . ."
Some time passed, as long as it takes to eat a good bone; the
scream was not repeated. Little by little Auntie's uneasiness
passed off and she began to doze. She dreamed of two big black
dogs with tufts of last year's coat left on their haunches and
sides; they were eating out of a big basin some swill, from
which there came a white steam and a most appetising smell; from
time to time they looked round at Auntie, showed their teeth and
growled: "We are not going to give you any!" But a peasant in a
fur-coat ran out of the house and drove them away with a whip;
then Auntie went up to the basin and began eating, but as soon
as the peasant went out of the gate, the two black dogs rushed
at her growling, and all at once there was again a shrill
"K-gee! K-gee-gee!" cried Ivan Ivanitch.
Auntie woke, jumped up and, without leaving her mattress, went
off into a yelping bark. It seemed to her that it was not Ivan
Ivanitch that was screaming but someone else, and for some
reason the sow again grunted in her sty.
Then there was the sound of shuffling slippers, and the master
came into the room in his dressing-gown with a candle in his
hand. The flickering light danced over the dirty wall-paper and
the ceiling, and chased away the darkness. Auntie saw that there
was no stranger in the room. Ivan Ivanitch was sitting on the
floor and was not asleep. His wings were spread out and his beak
was open, and altogether he looked as though he were very tired
and thirsty. Old Fyodor Timofeyitch was not asleep either. He,
too, must have been awakened by the scream.
"Ivan Ivanitch, what's the matter with you?" the master asked
the gander. "Why are you screaming? Are you ill?"
The gander did not answer. The master touched him on the neck,
stroked his back, and said: "You are a queer chap. You don't
sleep yourself, and you don't let other people. . . ."
When the master went out, carrying the candle with him, there
was darkness again. Auntie felt frightened. The gander did not
scream, but again she fancied that there was some stranger in
the room. What was most dreadful was that this stranger could
not be bitten, as he was unseen and had no shape. And for some
reason she thought that something very bad would certainly
happen that night. Fyodor Timofeyitch was uneasy too.
Auntie could hear him shifting on his mattress, yawning and
shaking his head.
Somewhere in the street there was a knocking at a gate and the
sow grunted in her sty. Auntie began to whine, stretched out her
front-paws and laid her head down upon them. She fancied that in
the knocking at the gate, in the grunting of the sow, who was
for some reason awake, in the darkness and the stillness, there
was something as miserable and dreadful as in Ivan Ivanitch's
scream. Everything was in agitation and anxiety, but why? Who
was the stranger who could not be seen? Then two dim flashes of
green gleamed for a minute near Auntie. It was Fyodor
Timofeyitch, for the first time of their whole acquaintance
coming up to her. What did he want? Auntie licked his paw, and
not asking why he had come, howled softly and on various notes.
"K-gee!" cried Ivan Ivanitch, "K-g-ee!"
The door opened again and the master came in with a candle.
The gander was sitting in the same attitude as before, with his
beak open, and his wings spread out, his eyes were closed.
"Ivan Ivanitch!" his master called him.
The gander did not stir. His master sat down before him on the
floor, looked at him in silence for a minute, and said:
"Ivan Ivanitch, what is it? Are you dying? Oh, I remember now, I
remember!" he cried out, and clutched at his head. "I know why
it is! It's because the horse stepped on you to-day! My God! My
Auntie did not understand what her master was saying, but she
saw from his face that he, too, was expecting something
dreadful. She stretched out her head towards the dark window,
where it seemed to her some stranger was looking in, and howled.
"He is dying, Auntie!" said her master, and wrung his hands.
"Yes, yes, he is dying! Death has come into your room. What are
we to do?"
Pale and agitated, the master went back into his room, sighing
and shaking his head. Auntie was afraid to remain in the
darkness, and followed her master into his bedroom. He sat down
on the bed and repeated several times: "My God, what's to be
Auntie walked about round his feet, and not understanding why
she was wretched and why they were all so uneasy, and trying to
understand, watched every movement he made. Fyodor Timofeyitch,
who rarely left his little mattress, came into the master's
bedroom too, and began rubbing himself against his feet. He
shook his head as though he wanted to shake painful thoughts out
of it, and kept peeping suspiciously under the bed.
The master took a saucer, poured some water from his wash-stand
into it, and went to the gander again.
"Drink, Ivan Ivanitch!" he said tenderly, setting the saucer
before him; "drink, darling."
But Ivan Ivanitch did not stir and did not open his eyes. His
master bent his head down to the saucer and dipped his beak into
the water, but the gander did not drink, he spread his wings
wider than ever, and his head remained lying in the saucer.
"No, there's nothing to be done now," sighed his master. "It's
all over. Ivan Ivanitch is gone!"
And shining drops, such as one sees on the window-pane when it
rains, trickled down his cheeks. Not understanding what was the
matter, Auntie and Fyodor Timofeyitch snuggled up to him and
looked with horror at the gander.
"Poor Ivan Ivanitch!" said the master, sighing mournfully. "And
I was dreaming I would take you in the spring into the country,
and would walk with you on the green grass. Dear creature, my
good comrade, you are no more! How shall I do without you now?"
It seemed to Auntie that the same thing would happen to her,
that is, that she too, there was no knowing why, would close her
eyes, stretch out her paws, open her mouth, and everyone would
look at her with horror. Apparently the same reflections were
passing through the brain of Fyodor Timofeyitch. Never before
had the old cat been so morose and gloomy.
It began to get light, and the unseen stranger who had so
frightened Auntie was no longer in the room. When it was quite
daylight, the porter came in, took the gander, and carried him
away. And soon afterwards the old woman came in and took away
Auntie went into the drawing-room and looked behind the
cupboard: her master had not eaten the chicken bone, it was
lying in its place among the dust and spiders' webs. But Auntie
felt sad and dreary and wanted to cry. She did not even sniff at
the bone, but went under the sofa, sat down there, and began
softly whining in a thin voice.