A. Chekhov -
One day, after dinner, he ran breathless into the lodge and
said: "Go along, your sister has come."
I went out, and there I found a hired brake from the town
standing before the entrance of the great house. My sister had
come in it with Anyuta Blagovo and a gentleman in a military
tunic. Going up closer I recognized the latter: it was the
brother of Anyuta Blagovo, the army doctor.
"We have come to you for a picnic," he said; "is that all
My sister and Anyuta wanted to ask how I was getting on here,
but both were silent, and simply gazed at me. I was silent too.
They saw that I did not like the place, and tears came into my
sister's eyes, while Anyuta Blagovo turned crimson.
We went into the garden. The doctor walked ahead of us all and
"What air! Holy Mother, what air!"
In appearance he was still a student. And he walked and talked
like a student, and the expression of his grey eyes was as keen,
honest, and frank as a nice student's. Beside his tall and
handsome sister he looked frail and thin; and his beard was thin
too, and his voice, too, was a thin but rather agreeable tenor.
He was serving in a regiment somewhere, and had come home to his
people for a holiday, and said he was going in the autumn to
Petersburg for his examination as a doctor of medicine. He was
already a family man, with a wife and three children, he had
married very young, in his second year at the University, and
now people in the town said he was unhappy in his family life
and was not living with his wife.
"What time is it?" my sister asked uneasily. "We must get back
in good time. Papa let me come to see my brother on condition I
was back at six."
"Oh, bother your papa!" sighed the doctor.
I set the samovar. We put down a carpet before the verandah of
the great house and had our tea there, and the doctor knelt
down, drank out of his saucer, and declared that he now knew
what bliss was. Then Tcheprakov came with the key and opened the
glass door, and we all went into the house. There it was half
dark and mysterious, and smelt of mushrooms, and our footsteps
had a hollow sound as though there were cellars under the floor.
The doctor stopped and touched the keys of the piano, and it
responded faintly with a husky, quivering, but melodious chord;
he tried his voice and sang a song, frowning and tapping
impatiently with his foot when some note was mute. My sister did
not talk about going home, but walked about the rooms and kept
"How happy I am! How happy I am!"
There was a note of astonishment in her voice, as though it
seemed to her incredible that she, too, could feel
light-hearted. It was the first time in my life I had seen her
so happy. She actually looked prettier. In profile she did not
look nice; her nose and mouth seemed to stick out and had an
expression as though she were pouting, but she had beautiful
dark eyes, a pale, very delicate complexion, and a touching
expression of goodness and melancholy, and when she talked she
seemed charming and even beautiful. We both, she and I, took
after our mother, were broad shouldered, strongly built, and
capable of endurance, but her pallor was a sign of ill-health;
she often had a cough, and I sometimes caught in her face that
look one sees in people who are seriously ill, but for some
reason conceal the fact. There was something na?e and childish
in her gaiety now, as though the joy that had been suppressed
and smothered in our childhood by harsh education had now
suddenly awakened in her soul and found a free outlet.
But when evening came on and the horses were brought round, my
sister sank into silence and looked thin and shrunken, and she
got into the brake as though she were going to the scaffold.
When they had all gone, and the sound had died away . . . I
remembered that Anyuta Blagovo had not said a word to me all
"She is a wonderful girl!" I thought. "Wonderful girl!"
St. Peter's fast came, and we had nothing but Lenten dishes
every day. I was weighed down by physical depression due to
idleness and my unsettled position, and dissatisfied with
myself. Listless and hungry, I lounged about the garden and only
waited for a suitable mood to go away.
Towards evening one day, when Radish was sitting in the lodge,
Dolzhikov, very sunburnt and grey with dust, walked in
unexpectedly. He had been spending three days on his land, and
had come now to Dubetchnya by the steamer, and walked to us from
the station. While waiting for the carriage, which was to come
for him from the town, he walked round the grounds with his
bailiff, giving orders in a loud voice, then sat for a whole
hour in our lodge, writing letters. While he was there telegrams
came for him, and he himself tapped off the answers. We three
stood in silence at attention.
"What a muddle!" he said, glancing contemptuously at a record
book. "In a fortnight I am transferring the office to the
station, and I don't know what I am to do with you, my friends."
"I do my best, your honour," said Tcheprakov.
"To be sure, I see how you do your best. The only thing you can
do is to take your salary," the engineer went on, looking at me;
"you keep relying on patronage to faire le carri?e as quickly
and as easily as possible. Well, I don't care for patronage. No
one took any trouble on my behalf. Before they gave me a railway
contract I went about as a mechanic and worked in Belgium as an
oiler. And you, Panteley, what are you doing here?" he asked,
turning to Radish. "Drinking with them?"
He, for some reason, always called humble people Panteley, and
such as me and Tcheprakov he despised, and called them
drunkards, beasts, and rabble to their faces. Altogether he was
cruel to humble subordinates, and used to fine them and turn
them off coldly without explanations.
At last the horses came for him. As he said good-bye he promised
to turn us all off in a fortnight; he called his bailiff a
blockhead; and then, lolling at ease in his carriage, drove back
to the town.
"Andrey Ivanitch," I said to Radish, "take me on as a workman."
"Oh, all right!"
And we set off together in the direction of the town. When the
station and the big house with its buildings were left behind I
asked: "Andrey Ivanitch, why did you come to Dubetchnya this
"In the first place my fellows are working on the line, and in
the second place I came to pay the general's lady my interest.
Last year I borrowed fifty roubles from her, and I pay her now a
rouble a month interest."
The painter stopped and took me by the button.
"Misail Alexeyitch, our angel," he went on. "The way I look at
it is that if any man, gentle or simple, takes even the smallest
interest, he is doing evil. There cannot be truth and justice in
such a man."
Radish, lean, pale, dreadful-looking, shut his eyes, shook his
head, and, in the tone of a philosopher, pronounced:
"Lice consume the grass, rust consumes the iron, and lying the
soul. Lord, have mercy upon us sinners."