Chekhov - A Living Chattel
It was a lovely August evening. The sun, set in a golden
background lightly flecked with purple, stood above the western
horizon on the point of sinking behind the far-away tumuli. In
the garden, shadows and half-shadows had vanished, and the air
had grown damp, but the golden light was still playing on the
tree-tops. . . . It was warm. . . . Rain had just fallen, and
made the fresh, transparent fragrant air still fresher.
I am not describing the August of Petersburg or Moscow, foggy,
tearful, and dark, with its cold, incredibly damp sunsets. God
forbid! I am not describing our cruel northern August. I ask the
reader to move with me to the Crimea, to one of its shores, not
far from Feodosia, the spot where stands the villa of one of our
heroes. It is a pretty, neat villa surrounded by flower-beds and
clipped bushes. A hundred paces behind it is an orchard in which
its inmates walk. . . . Groholsky pays a high rent for that
villa, a thousand roubles a year, I believe. . . . The villa is
not worth that rent, but it is pretty. . . . Tall, with delicate
walls and very delicate parapets, fragile, slender, painted a
pale blue colour, hung with curtains, portires, draperies, it
suggests a charming, fragile Chinese lady. . . .
On the evening described above, Groholsky and Liza were sitting
on the verandah of this villa. Groholsky was reading Novoye
Vremya and drinking milk out of a green mug. A syphon of Seltzer
water was standing on the table before him. Groholsky imagined
that he was suffering from catarrh of the lungs, and by the
advice of Dr. Dmitriev consumed an immense quantity of grapes,
milk, and Seltzer water. Liza was sitting in a soft easy chair
some distance from the table. With her elbows on the parapet,
and her little face propped on her little fists, she was gazing
at the villa opposite. . . . The sun was playing upon the
windows of the villa opposite, the glittering panes reflected
the dazzling light. . . . Beyond the little garden and the few
trees that surrounded the villa there was a glimpse of the sea
with its waves, its dark blue colour, its immensity, its white
masts. . . . It was so delightful! Groholsky was reading an
article by Anonymous, and after every dozen lines he raised his
blue eyes to Liza's back. . . . The same passionate, fervent
love was shining in those eyes still. . . . He was infinitely
happy in spite of his imaginary catarrh of the lungs. . . . Liza
was conscious of his eyes upon her back, and was thinking of
Mishutka's brilliant future, and she felt so comfortable, so
serene. . . .
She was not so much interested by the sea, and the glittering
reflection on the windows of the villa opposite as by the
waggons which were trailing up to that villa one after another.
The waggons were full of furniture and all sorts of domestic
articles. Liza watched the trellis gates and big glass doors of
the villa being opened and the men bustling about the furniture
and wrangling incessantly. Big armchairs and a sofa covered with
dark raspberry coloured velvet, tables for the hall, the
drawing-room and the dining-room, a big double bed and a child's
cot were carried in by the glass doors; something big, wrapped
up in sacking, was carried in too. A grand piano, thought Liza,
and her heart throbbed.
It was long since she had heard the piano, and she was so fond
of it. They had not a single musical instrument in their villa.
Groholsky and she were musicians only in soul, no more. There
were a great many boxes and packages with the words: "with care"
upon them carried in after the piano.
They were boxes of looking-glasses and crockery. A gorgeous and
luxurious carriage was dragged in, at the gate, and two white
horses were led in looking like swans.
"My goodness, what riches!" thought Liza, remembering her old
pony which Groholsky, who did not care for riding, had bought
her for a hundred roubles. Compared with those swan-like steeds,
her pony seemed to her no better than a bug. Groholsky, who was
afraid of riding fast, had purposely bought Liza a poor horse.
"What wealth!" Liza thought and murmured as she gazed at the
The sun hid behind the tumuli, the air began to lose its dryness
and limpidity, and still the furniture was being driven up and
hauled into the house. At last it was so dark that Groholsky
left off reading the newspaper while Liza still gazed and gazed.
"Shouldn't we light the lamp?" said Groholsky, afraid that a fly
might drop into his milk and be swallowed in the darkness.
"Liza! shouldn't we light the lamp? Shall we sit in darkness, my
Liza did not answer. She was interested in a chaise which had
driven up to the villa opposite. . . . What a charming little
mare was in that chaise. Of medium size, not large, but
graceful. . . . A gentleman in a top hat was sitting in the
chaise, a child about three, apparently a boy, was sitting on
his knees waving his little hands. . . . He was waving his
little hands and shouting with delight.
Liza suddenly uttered a shriek, rose from her seat and lurched
"What is the matter?" asked Groholsky.
"Nothing. . . I only . . . I fancied. . . ."
The tall, broad-shouldered gentleman in the top hat jumped out
of the chaise, lifted the boy down, and with a skip and a hop
ran gaily in at the glass door. The door opened noisily and he
vanished into the darkness of the villa apartments.
Two smart footmen ran up to the horse in the chaise, and most
respectfully led it to the gate. Soon the villa opposite was
lighted up, and the clatter of plates, knives, and forks was
audible. The gentleman in the top hat was having his supper, and
judging by the duration of the clatter of crockery, his supper
lasted long. Liza fancied she could smell chicken soup and roast
duck. After supper discordant sounds of the piano floated across
from the villa. In all probability the gentleman in the top hat
was trying to amuse the child in some way, and allowing it to
strum on it.
Groholsky went up to Liza and put his arm round her waist.
"What wonderful weather!" he said. "What air! Do you feel it? I
am very happy, Liza, very happy indeed. My happiness is so great
that I am really afraid of its destruction. The greatest things
are usually destroyed, and do you know, Liza, in spite of all my
happiness, I am not absolutely . . . at peace. . . . One
haunting thought torments me . . . it torments me horribly. It
gives me no peace by day or by night. . . ."
"An awful thought, my love. I am tortured by the thought of your
husband. I have been silent hitherto. I have feared to trouble
your inner peace, but I cannot go on being silent. Where is he?
What has happened to him? What has become of him with his money?
It is awful! Every night I see his face, exhausted, suffering,
imploring. . . . Why, only think, my angel -- can the money he
so generously accepted make up to him for you? He loved you very
much, didn't he?"
"There you see! He has either taken to drink now, or . . . I am
anxious about him! Ah, how anxious I am! Should we write to him,
do you think? We ought to comfort him . . . a kind word, you
Groholsky heaved a deep sigh, shook his head, and sank into an
easy chair exhausted by painful reflection. Leaning his head on
his fists he fell to musing. Judging from his face, his musings
"I am going to bed," said Liza; "it's time."
Liza went to her own room, undressed, and dived under the
bedclothes. She used to go to bed at ten o'clock and get up at
ten. She was fond of her comfort.
She was soon in the arms of Morpheus. Throughout the whole night
she had the most fascinating dreams. . . . She dreamed whole
romances, novels, Arabian Nights. . . . The hero of all these
dreams was the gentleman in the top hat, who had caused her to
utter a shriek that evening.
The gentleman in the top hat was carrying her off from
Groholsky, was singing, was beating Groholsky and her, was
flogging the boy under the window, was declaring his love, and
driving her off in the chaise. . . . Oh, dreams! In one night,
lying with one's eyes shut, one may sometimes live through more
than ten years of happiness. . . . That night Liza lived through
a great variety of experiences, and very happy ones, even in
spite of the beating.
Waking up between six and seven, she flung on her clothes,
hurriedly did her hair, and without even putting on her Tatar
slippers with pointed toes, ran impulsively on to the verandah.
Shading her eyes from the sun with one hand, and with the other
holding up her slipping clothes, she gazed at the villa
opposite. Her face beamed. . . . There could be no further doubt
it was he.
On the verandah in the villa opposite there was a table in front
of the glass door. A tea service was shining and glistening on
the table with a silver samovar at the head. Ivan Petrovitch was
sitting at the table. He had in his hand a glass in a silver
holder, and was drinking tea. He was drinking it with great
relish. That fact could be deduced from the smacking of his
lips, the sound of which reached Liza's ears. He was wearing a
brown dressing-gown with black flowers on it. Massive tassels
fell down to the ground. It was the first time in her life Liza
had seen her husband in a dressing-gown, and such an
Mishutka was sitting on one of his knees, and hindering him from
drinking his tea. The child jumped up and down and tried to
clutch his papa's shining lip. After every three or four sips
the father bent down to his son and kissed him on the head. A
grey cat with its tail in the air was rubbing itself against one
of the table legs, and with a plaintive mew proclaiming its
desire for food. Liza hid behind the verandah curtain, and
fastened her eyes upon the members of her former family; her
face was radiant with joy.
"Misha!" she murmured, "Misha! Are you really here, Misha? The
darling! And how he loves Vanya! Heavens!"
And Liza went off into a giggle when Mishutka stirred his
father's tea with a spoon. "And how Vanya loves Misha! My
Liza's heart throbbed, and her head went round with joy and
happiness. She sank into an armchair and went on observing them,
"How did they come here?" she wondered as she sent airy kisses
to Mishutka. "Who gave them the idea of coming here? Heavens!
Can all that wealth belong to them? Can those swan-like horses
that were led in at the gate belong to Ivan Petrovitch? Ah!"
When he had finished his tea, Ivan Petrovitch went into the
house. Ten minutes later, he appeared on the steps and Liza was
astounded. . . . He, who in his youth only seven years ago had
been called Vanushka and Vanka and had been ready to punch a man
in the face and turn the house upside down over twenty kopecks,
was dressed devilishly well. He had on a broad-brimmed straw
hat, exquisite brilliant boots, a piqu waistcoat. . . .
Thousands of suns, big and little, glistened on his watch-chain.
With much chic he held in his right hand his gloves and cane.
And what swagger, what style there was in his heavy figure when,
with a graceful motion of his hand, he bade the footman bring
the horse round.
He got into the chaise with dignity, and told the footmen
standing round the chaise to give him Mishutka and the fishing
tackle they had brought. Setting Mishutka beside him, and
putting his left arm round him, he held the reins and drove off.
"Ge-ee up!" shouted Mishutka.
Liza, unaware of what she was doing, waved her handkerchief
after them. If she had looked in the glass she would have been
surprised at her flushed, laughing, and, at the same time,
tear-stained face. She was vexed that she was not beside her
gleeful boy, and that she could not for some reason shower
kisses on him at once.
For some reason! . . . Away with all your petty delicacies!
"Grisha! Grisha!" Liza ran into Groholsky's bedroom and set to
work to wake him. "Get up, they have come! The darling!"
"Who has come?" asked Groholsky, waking up.
"Our people . . . Vanya and Misha, they have come, they are in
the villa opposite. . . . I looked out, and there they were
drinking tea. . . . And Misha too. . . . What a little angel our
Misha has grown! If only you had seen him! Mother of God!"
"Seen whom? Why, you are. . . . Who has come? Come where?"
"Vanya and Misha. . . . I have been looking at the villa
opposite, while they were sitting drinking tea. Misha can drink
his tea by himself now. . . . Didn't you see them moving in
yesterday, it was they who arrived!"
Groholsky rubbed his forehead and turned pale.
"Arrived? Your husband?" he asked.
"Most likely he is going to live here. They don't know we are
here. If they did, they would have looked at our villa, but they
drank their tea and took no notice."
"Where is he now? But for God's sake do talk sense! Oh, where is
"He has gone fishing with Misha in the chaise. Did you see the
horses yesterday? Those are their horses . . . Vanya's . . .
Vanya drives with them. Do you know what, Grisha? We will have
Misha to stay with us. . . . We will, won't we? He is such a
pretty boy. Such an exquisite boy!"
Groholsky pondered, while Liza went on talking and talking.
"This is an unexpected meeting," said Groholsky, after prolonged
and, as usual, harrassing reflection. "Well, who could have
expected that we should meet here? Well. . . There it is. . . .
So be it. It seems that it is fated. I can imagine the
awkwardness of his position when he meets us."
"Shall we have Misha to stay with us?"
"Yes, we will. . . . It will be awkward meeting him. . . . Why,
what can I say to him? What can I talk of? It will be awkward
for him and awkward for me. . . . We ought not to meet. We will
carry on communications, if necessary, through the servants. . .
. My head does ache so, Lizotchka. My arms and legs too, I ache
all over. Is my head feverish?"
Liza put her hand on his forehead and found that his head was
"I had dreadful dreams all night . . . I shan't get up to-day. I
shall stay in bed . . . I must take some quinine. Send me my
breakfast here, little woman."
Groholsky took quinine and lay in bed the whole day. He drank
warm water, moaned, had the sheets and pillowcase changed,
whimpered, and induced an agonising boredom in all surrounding
He was insupportable when he imagined he had caught a chill.
Liza had continually to interrupt her inquisitive observations
and run from the verandah to his room. At dinner-time she had to
put on mustard plasters. How boring all this would have been, O
reader, if the villa opposite had not been at the service of my
heroine! Liza watched that villa all day long and was gasping
At ten o'clock Ivan Petrovitch and Mishutka came back from
fishing and had breakfast. At two o'clock they had dinner, and
at four o'clock they drove off somewhere in a carriage. The
white horses bore them away with the swiftness of lightning. At
seven o'clock visitors came to see them -- all of them men. They
were playing cards on two tables in the verandah till midnight.
One of the men played superbly on the piano. The visitors
played, ate, drank, and laughed. Ivan Petrovitch guffawing
loudly, told them an anecdote of Armenian life at the top of his
voice, so that all the villas round could hear. It was very gay
and Mishutka sat up with them till midnight.
"Misha is merry, he is not crying," thought Liza, "so he does
not remember his mamma. So he has forgotten me!"
And there was a horrible bitter feeling in Liza's soul. She
spent the whole night crying. She was fretted by her little
conscience, and by vexation and misery, and the desire to talk
to Mishutka and kiss him. . . . In the morning she got up with a
headache and tear-stained eyes. Her tears Groholsky put down to
his own account.
"Do not weep, darling," he said to her, "I am all right to-day,
my chest is a little painful, but that is nothing."
While they were having tea, lunch was being served at the villa
opposite. Ivan Petrovitch was looking at his plate, and seeing
nothing but a morsel of goose dripping with fat.
"I am very glad," said Groholsky, looking askance at Bugrov,
"very glad that his life is so tolerable! I hope that decent
surroundings anyway may help to stifle his grief. Keep out of
sight, Liza! They will see you . . . I am not disposed to talk
to him just now . . . God be with him! Why trouble his peace?"
But the dinner did not pass off so quietly. During dinner
precisely that "awkward position" which Groholsky so dreaded
occurred. Just when the partridges, Groholsky's favorite dish,
had been put on the table, Liza was suddenly overcome with
confusion, and Groholsky began wiping his face with his dinner
napkin. On the verandah of the villa opposite they saw Bugrov.
He was standing with his arms leaning on the parapet, and
staring straight at them, with his eyes starting out of his
"Go in, Liza, go in," Groholsky whispered. "I said we must have
dinner indoors! What a girl you are, really. . . ."
Bugrov stared and stared, and suddenly began shouting. Groholsky
looked at him and saw a face full of astonishment. . . .
"Is that you ?" bawled Ivan Petrovitch, "you! Are you here too?"
Groholsky passed his fingers from one shoulder to another, as
though to say, "My chest is weak, and so I can't shout across
such a distance." Liza's heart began throbbing, and everything
turned round before her eyes. Bugrov ran from his verandah, ran
across the road, and a few seconds later was standing under the
verandah on which Groholsky and Liza were dining. Alas for the
"How are you?" he began, flushing crimson, and stuffing his big
hands in his pockets. "Are you here? Are you here too?"
"Yes, we are here too. . . ."
"How did you get here?"
"Why, how did you?"
"I? It's a long story, a regular romance, my good friend! But
don't put yourselves out -- eat your dinner! I've been living,
you know, ever since then . . . in the Oryol province. I rented
an estate. A splendid estate! But do eat your dinner! I stayed
there from the end of May, but now I have given it up. . . . It
was cold there, and -- well, the doctor advised me to go to the
Crimea. . . ."
"Are you ill, then?" inquired Groholsky.
"Oh, well. . . . There always seems, as it were. . . something
gurgling here. . . ."
And at the word "here" Ivan Petrovitch passed his open hand from
his neck down to the middle of his stomach.
"So you are here too. . . . Yes . . . that's very pleasant. Have
you been here long?"
"Oh, and you, Liza, how are you? Quite well?"
"Quite well," answered Liza, and was embarrassed.
"You miss Mishutka, I'll be bound. Eh? Well, he's here with me.
. . . I'll send him over to you directly with Nikifor. This is
very nice. Well, good-bye! I have to go off directly. . . . I
made the acquaintance of Prince Ter-Haimazov yesterday;
delightful man, though he is an Armenian. So he has a croquet
party to-day; we are going to play croquet. . . . Good-bye! The
carriage is waiting. . . ."
Ivan Petrovitch whirled round, tossed his head, and, waving
adieu to them, ran home.
"Unhappy man," said Groholsky, heaving a deep sigh as he watched
him go off.
"In what way is he unhappy?" asked Liza.
"To see you and not have the right to call you his!"
"Fool!" Liza was so bold to think. "Idiot!"
Before evening Liza was hugging and kissing Mishutka. At first
the boy howled, but when he was offered jam, he was all friendly
For three days Groholsky and Liza did not see Bugrov. He had
disappeared somewhere, and was only at home at night. On the
fourth day he visited them again at dinner-time. He came in,
shook hands with both of them, and sat down to the table. His
face was serious.
"I have come to you on business," he said. "Read this." And he
handed Groholsky a letter. "Read it! Read it aloud!"
Groholsky read as follows:
"My beloved and consoling, never-forgotten son Ioann! I have
received the respectful and loving letter in which you invite
your aged father to the mild and salubrious Crimea, to breathe
the fragrant air, and behold strange lands. To that letter I
reply that on taking my holiday, I will come to you, but not for
long. My colleague, Father Gerasim, is a frail and delicate man,
and cannot be left alone for long. I am very sensible of your
not forgetting your parents, your father and your mother. . . .
You rejoice your father with your affection, and you remember
your mother in your prayers, and so it is fitting to do. Meet me
at Feodosia. What sort of town is Feodosia -- what is it like?
It will be very agreeable to see it. Your godmother, who took
you from the font, is called Feodosia. You write that God has
been graciously pleased that you should win two hundred thousand
roubles. That is gratifying to me. But I cannot approve of your
having left the service while still of a grade of little
importance; even a rich man ought to be in the service. I bless
you always, now and hereafter. Ilya and Seryozhka Andronov send
you their greetings. You might send them ten roubles each --
they are badly off!
"Your loving Father,
"Pyotr Bugrov, Priest."
Groholsky read this letter aloud, and he and Liza both looked
inquiringly at Bugrov.
"You see what it is," Ivan Petrovitch began hesitatingly. "I
should like to ask you, Liza, not to let him see you, to keep
out of his sight while he is here. I have written to him that
you are ill and gone to the Caucasus for a cure. If you meet
him. . . You see yourself. . . . It's awkward. . . H'm. . . ."
"Very well," said Liza.
"We can do that," thought Groholsky, "since he makes sacrifices,
why shouldn't we?"
"Please do. . . . If he sees you there will be trouble. . . . My
father is a man of strict principles. He would curse me in seven
churches. Don't go out of doors, Liza, that is all. He won't be
here long. Don't be afraid."
Father Pyotr did not long keep them waiting. One fine morning
Ivan Petrovitch ran in and hissed in a mysterious tone:
"He has come! He is asleep now, so please be careful."
And Liza was shut up within four walls. She did not venture to
go out into the yard or on to the verandah. She could only see
the sky from behind the window curtain. Unluckily for her, Ivan
Petrovitch's papa spent his whole time in the open air, and even
slept on the verandah. Usually Father Pyotr, a little parish
priest, in a brown cassock and a top hat with a curly brim,
walked slowly round the villas and gazed with curiosity at the
"strange lands" through his grandfatherly spectacles. Ivan
Petrovitch with the Stanislav on a little ribbon accompanied
him. He did not wear a decoration as a rule, but before his own
people he liked to show off. In their society he always wore the
Liza was bored to death. Groholsky suffered too. He had to go
for his walks alone without a companion. He almost shed tears,
but . . . had to submit to his fate. And to make things worse,
Bugrov would run across every morning and in a hissing whisper
would give some quite unnecessary bulletin concerning the health
of Father Pyotr. He bored them with those bulletins.
"He slept well," he informed them. "Yesterday he was put out
because I had no salted cucumbers. . . He has taken to Mishutka;
he keeps patting him on the head."
At last, a fortnight later, little Father Pyotr walked for the
last time round the villas and, to Groholsky's immense relief,
departed. He had enjoyed himself, and went off very well
satisfied. Liza and Groholsky fell back into their old manner of
life. Groholsky once more blessed his fate. But his happiness
did not last for long. A new trouble worse than Father Pyotr
followed. Ivan Petrovitch took to coming to see them every day.
Ivan Petrovitch, to be frank, though a capital fellow, was a
very tedious person. He came at dinner-time, dined with them and
stayed a very long time. That would not have mattered. But they
had to buy vodka, which Groholsky could not endure, for his
dinner. He would drink five glasses and talk the whole
dinner-time. That, too, would not have mattered. . . . But he
would sit on till two o'clock in the morning, and not let them
get to bed, and, worse still, he permitted himself to talk of
things about which he should have been silent. When towards two
o'clock in the morning he had drunk too much vodka and
champagne, he would take Mishutka in his arms, and weeping, say
to him, before Groholsky and Liza:
"Mihail, my son, what am I? I . . . am a scoundrel. I have sold
your mother! Sold her for thirty pieces of silver, may the Lord
punish me! Mihail Ivanitch, little sucking pig, where is your
mother? Lost! Gone! Sold into slavery! Well, I am a scoundrel."
These tears and these words turned Groholsky's soul inside out.
He would look timidly at Liza's pale face and wring his hands.
"Go to bed, Ivan Petrovitch," he would say timidly.
"I am going. . . . Come along, Mishutka. . . . The Lord be our
judge! I cannot think of sleep while I know that my wife is a
slave. . . . But it is not Groholsky's fault. . . . The goods
were mine, the money his. . . . Freedom for the free and Heaven
for the saved."
By day Ivan Petrovitch was no less insufferable to Groholsky. To
Groholsky's intense horror, he was always at Liza's side. He
went fishing with her, told her stories, walked with her, and
even on one occasion, taking advantage of Groholsky's having a
cold, carried her off in his carriage, goodness knows where, and
did not bring her back till night!
"It's outrageous, inhuman," thought Groholsky, biting his lips.
Groholsky liked to be continually kissing Liza. He could not
exist without those honeyed kisses, and it was awkward to kiss
her before Ivan Petrovitch. It was agony. The poor fellow felt
forlorn, but fate soon had compassion on him. Ivan Petrovitch
suddenly went off somewhere for a whole week. Visitors had come
and carried him off with them . . . And Mishutka was taken too.
One fine morning Groholsky came home from a walk good-humoured
"He has come," he said to Liza, rubbing his hands. "I am very
glad he has come. Ha-ha-ha!"
"What are you laughing at?"
"There are women with him."
"I don't know. . . . It's a good thing he has got women. . . . A
capital thing, in fact. . . . He is still young and fresh. Come
Groholsky led Liza on to the verandah, and pointed to the villa
opposite. They both held their sides, and roared with laughter.
It was funny. Ivan Petrovitch was standing on the verandah of
the villa opposite, smiling. Two dark-haired ladies and Mishutka
were standing below, under the verandah. The ladies were
laughing, and loudly talking French.
"French women," observed Groholsky. "The one nearest us isn't at
all bad-looking. Lively damsels, but that's no matter. There are
good women to be found even among such. . . . But they really do
go too far."
What was funny was that Ivan Petrovitch bent across the
verandah, and stretching with his long arms, put them round the
shoulders of one of the French girls, lifted her in the air, and
set her giggling on the verandah. After lifting up both ladies
on to the verandah, he lifted up Mishutka too. The ladies ran
down and the proceedings were repeated.
"Powerful muscles, I must say," muttered Groholsky looking at
this scene. The operation was repeated some six times, the
ladies were so amiable as to show no embarrassment whatever when
the boisterous wind disposed of their inflated skirts as it
willed while they were being lifted. Groholsky dropped his eyes
in a shamefaced way when the ladies flung their legs over the
parapet as they reached the verandah. But Liza watched and
laughed! What did she care? It was not a case of men misbehaving
themselves, which would have put her, as a woman, to shame, but
In the evening, Ivan Petrovitch flew over, and with some
embarrassment announced that he was now a man with a household
to look after. . . .
"You mustn't imagine they are just anybody," he said. "It is
true they are French. They shout at the top of their voices, and
drink . . . but we all know! The French are brought up to be
like that! It can't be helped. . . . The prince," Ivan
Petrovitch added, "let me have them almost for nothing. . . . He
said: 'take them, take them. . . .' I must introduce you to the
prince sometime. A man of culture! He's for ever writing,
writing. . . . And do you know what their names are? One is
Fanny, the other Isabella. . . . There's Europe, ha-ha-ha! . . .
The west! Good-bye!"
Ivan Petrovitch left Liza and Groholsky in peace, and devoted
himself to his ladies. All day long sound of talk, laughter, and
the clatter of crockery came from his villa. . . . The lights
were not put out till far into the night. . . . Groholsky was in
bliss. . . . At last, after a prolonged interval of agony, he
felt happy and at peace again. Ivan Petrovitch with his two
ladies had no such happiness as he had with one. But alas,
destiny has no heart. She plays with the Groholskys, the Lizas,
the Ivans, and the Mishutkas as with pawns. . . . Groholsky lost
his peace again. . . .
One morning, about ten days afterwards, on waking up late, he
went out on to the verandah and saw a spectacle which shocked
him, revolted him, and moved him to intense indignation. Under
the verandah of the villa opposite stood the French women, and
between them Liza. She was talking and looking askance at her
own villa as though to see whether that tyrant, that despot were
awake (so Groholsky interpreted those looks). Ivan Petrovitch
standing on the verandah with his sleeves tucked up, lifted
Isabella into the air, then Fanny, and then Liza. When he was
lifting Liza it seemed to Groholsky that he pressed her to
himself. . . . Liza too flung one leg over the parapet. . . . Oh
these women! All sphinxes, every one of them!
When Liza returned home from her husband's villa and went into
the bedroom on tip-toe, as though nothing had happened,
Groholsky, pale, with hectic flushes on his cheeks, was lying in
the attitude of a man at his last gasp and moaning.
On seeing Liza, he sprang out of bed, and began pacing about the
"So that's what you are like, is it?" he shrieked in a high
tenor. "So that's it! Very much obliged to you! It's revolting,
madam! Immoral, in fact! Let me tell you that!"
Liza turned pale, and of course burst into tears. When women
feel that they are in the right, they scold and shed tears; when
they are conscious of being in fault, they shed tears only.
"On a level with those depraved creatures! It's . . . it's . . .
it's . . . lower than any impropriety! Why, do you know what
they are? They are kept women! Cocottes! And you a respectable
woman go rushing off where they are. . . And he . . . He! What
does he want? What more does he want of me? I don't understand
it! I have given him half of my property -- I have given him
more! You know it yourself! I have given him what I have not
myself. . . . I have given him almost all. . . . And he! I've
put up with your calling him Vanya, though he has no right
whatever to such intimacy. I have put up with your walks, kisses
after dinner. . . . I have put up with everything, but this I
will not put up with. . . . Either he or I! Let him go away, or
I go away! I'm not equal to living like this any longer, no! You
can see that for yourself! . . . Either he or I. . . . Enough!
The cup is brimming over. . . . I have suffered a great deal as
it is. . . . I am going to talk to him at once -- this minute!
What is he, after all? What has he to be proud of? No, indeed. .
. . He has no reason to think so much of himself. . . . "
Groholsky said a great many more valiant and stinging things,
but did not "go at once"; he felt timid and abashed. . . . He
went to Ivan Petrovitch three days later.
When he went into his apartment, he gaped with astonishment. He
was amazed at the wealth and luxury with which Bugrov had
surrounded himself. Velvet hangings, fearfully expensive chairs.
. . . One was positively ashamed to step on the carpet.
Groholsky had seen many rich men in his day, but he had never
seen such frenzied luxury. . . . And the higgledy-piggledy
muddle he saw when, with an inexplicable tremor, he walked into
the drawing-room -- plates with bits of bread on them were lying
about on the grand piano, a glass was standing on a chair, under
the table there was a basket with a filthy rag in it. . . . Nut
shells were strewn about in the windows. Bugrov himself was not
quite in his usual trim when Groholsky walked in. . . . With a
red face and uncombed locks he was pacing about the room in
deshabille, talking to himself, apparently much agitated.
Mishutka was sitting on the sofa there in the drawing-room, and
was making the air vibrate with a piercing scream.
"It's awful, Grigory Vassilyevitch!" Bugrov began on seeing
Groholsky, "such disorder. . . such disorder. . . Please sit
down. You must excuse my being in the costume of Adam and Eve. .
. . It's of no consequence. . . . Horrible disorderliness! I
don't understand how people can exist here, I don't understand
it! The servants won't do what they are told, the climate is
horrible, everything is expensive. . . . Stop your noise,"
Bugrov shouted, suddenly coming to a halt before Mishutka; "stop
it, I tell you! Little beast, won't you stop it?"
And Bugrov pulled Mishutka's ear.
"That's revolting, Ivan Petrovitch," said Groholsky in a tearful
voice. "How can you treat a tiny child like that? You really
are. . ."
"Let him stop yelling then. . . . Be quiet -- I'll whip you!"
"Don't cry, Misha darling. . . . Papa won't touch you again.
Don't beat him, Ivan Petrovitch; why, he is hardly more than a
baby. . . . There, there. . . . Would you like a little horse?
I'll send you a little horse. . . . You really are hard-hearted.
. . ."
Groholsky paused, and then asked:
"And how are your ladies getting on, Ivan Petrovitch?"
"Not at all. I've turned them out without ceremony. I might have
gone on keeping them, but it's awkward. . . . The boy will grow
up. . . . A father's example. . . . If I were alone, then it
would be a different thing. . . . Besides, what's the use of my
keeping them? Poof . . . it's a regular farce! I talk to them in
Russian, and they answer me in French. They don't understand a
thing -- you can't knock anything into their heads."
"I've come to you about something, Ivan Petrovitch, to talk
things over. . . . H'm. . . . It's nothing very particular. But
just . . . two or three words. . . . In reality, I have a favour
to ask of you."
"Would you think it possible, Ivan Petrovitch, to go away? We
are delighted that you are here; it's very agreeable for us, but
it's inconvenient, don't you know. . . . You will understand me.
It's awkward in a way. . . . Such indefinite relations, such
continual awkwardness in regard to one another. . . . We must
part. . . . It's essential in fact. Excuse my saying so, but . .
. you must see for yourself, of course, that in such
circumstances to be living side by side leads to . . .
reflections. . . that is . . . not to reflections, but there is
a certain awkward feeling. . . ."
"Yes. . . . That is so, I have thought of it myself. Very good,
I will go away."
"We shall be very grateful to you. . . . Believe me, Ivan
Petrovitch, we shall preserve the most flattering memory of you.
The sacrifice which you. . ."
"Very good. . . . Only what am I to do with all this? I say, you
buy this furniture of mine! What do you say? It's not expensive,
eight thousand . . . ten. . . . The furniture, the carriage, the
grand piano. . . ."
"Very good. . . . I will give you ten thousand. . . ."
"Well, that is capital! I will set off to-morrow. I shall go to
Moscow. It's impossible to live here. Everything is so dear!
Awfully dear! The money fairly flies. . . . You can't take a
step without spending a thousand! I can't go on like that. I
have a child to bring up. . . . Well, thank God that you will
buy my furniture. . . . That will be a little more in hand, or I
should have been regularly bankrupt. . . ."
Groholsky got up, took leave of Bugrov, and went home rejoicing.
In the evening he sent him ten thousand roubles.
Early next morning Bugrov and Mishutka were already at Feodosia.