A.P. Chekhov - Grisha
GRISHA, a chubby little boy, born two years and eight months
ago, is walking on the boulevard with his nurse. He is wearing a
long, wadded pelisse, a scarf, a big cap with a fluffy pom-pom,
and warm over-boots. He feels hot and stifled, and now, too, the
rollicking April sunshine is beating straight in his face, and
making his eyelids tingle.
The whole of his clumsy, timidly and uncertainly stepping little
figure expresses the utmost bewilderment.
Hitherto Grisha has known only a rectangular world, where in one
corner stands his bed, in the other nurse's trunk, in the third
a chair, while in the fourth there is a little lamp burning. If
one looks under the bed, one sees a doll with a broken arm and a
drum; and behind nurse's trunk, there are a great many things of
all sorts: cotton reels, boxes without lids, and a broken
Jack-a-dandy. In that world, besides nurse and Grisha, there are
often mamma and the cat. Mamma is like a doll, and puss is like
papa's fur-coat, only the coat hasn't got eyes and a tail. From
the world which is called the nursery a door leads to a great
expanse where they have dinner and tea. There stands Grisha's
chair on high legs, and on the wall hangs a clock which exists
to swing its pendulum and chime. From the dining-room, one can
go into a room where there are red arm-chairs. Here, there is a
dark patch on the carpet, concerning which fingers are still
shaken at Grisha. Beyond that room is still another, to which
one is not admitted, and where one sees glimpses of papa -- an
extremely enigmatical person! Nurse and mamma are
comprehensible: they dress Grisha, feed him, and put him to bed,
but what papa exists for is unknown. There is another
enigmatical person, auntie, who presented Grisha with a drum.
She appears and disappears. Where does she disappear to? Grisha
has more than once looked under the bed, behind the trunk, and
under the sofa, but she was not there.
In this new world, where the sun hurts one's eyes, there are so
many papas and mammas and aunties, that there is no knowing to
whom to run. But what is stranger and more absurd than anything
is the horses. Grisha gazes at their moving legs, and can make
nothing of it. He looks at his nurse for her to solve the
mystery, but she does not speak.
All at once he hears a fearful tramping. . . . A crowd of
soldiers, with red faces and bath brooms under their arms, move
in step along the boulevard straight upon him. Grisha turns cold
all over with terror, and looks inquiringly at nurse to know
whether it is dangerous. But nurse neither weeps nor runs away,
so there is no danger. Grisha looks after the soldiers, and
begins to move his feet in step with them himself.
Two big cats with long faces run after each other across the
boulevard, with their tongues out, and their tails in the air.
Grisha thinks that he must run too, and runs after the cats.
"Stop!" cries nurse, seizing him roughly by the shoulder. "Where
are you off to? Haven't you been told not to be naughty?"
Here there is a nurse sitting holding a tray of oranges. Grisha
passes by her, and, without saying anything, takes an orange.
"What are you doing that for?" cries the companion of his
travels, slapping his hand and snatching away the orange.
Now Grisha would have liked to pick up a bit of glass that was
lying at his feet and gleaming like a lamp, but he is afraid
that his hand will be slapped again.
"My respects to you!" Grisha hears suddenly, almost above his
ear, a loud thick voice, and he sees a tall man with bright
To his great delight, this man gives nurse his hand, stops, and
begins talking to her. The brightness of the sun, the noise of
the carriages, the horses, the bright buttons are all so
impressively new and not dreadful, that Grisha's soul is filled
with a feeling of enjoyment and he begins to laugh.
"Come along! Come along!" he cries to the man with the bright
buttons, tugging at his coattails.
"Come along where?" asks the man.
"Come along!" Grisha insists.
He wants to say that it would be just as well to take with them
papa, mamma, and the cat, but his tongue does not say what he
A little later, nurse turns out of the boulevard, and leads
Grisha into a big courtyard where there is still snow; and the
man with the bright buttons comes with them too. They carefully
avoid the lumps of snow and the puddles, then, by a dark and
dirty staircase, they go into a room. Here there is a great deal
of smoke, there is a smell of roast meat, and a woman is
standing by the stove frying cutlets. The cook and the nurse
kiss each other, and sit down on the bench together with the
man, and begin talking in a low voice. Grisha, wrapped up as he
is, feels insufferably hot and stifled.
"Why is this?" he wonders, looking about him.
He sees the dark ceiling, the oven fork with two horns, the
stove which looks like a great black hole.
"Mam-ma," he drawls.
"Come, come, come!" cries the nurse. "Wait a bit!"
The cook puts a bottle on the table, two wine-glasses, and a
pie. The two women and the man with the bright buttons clink
glasses and empty them several times, and, the man puts his arm
round first the cook and then the nurse. And then all three
begin singing in an undertone.
Grisha stretches out his hand towards the pie, and they give him
a piece of it. He eats it and watches nurse drinking. . . . He
wants to drink too.
"Give me some, nurse!" he begs.
The cook gives him a sip out of her glass. He rolls his eyes,
blinks, coughs, and waves his hands for a long time afterwards,
while the cook looks at him and laughs.
When he gets home Grisha begins to tell mamma, the walls, and
the bed where he has been, and what he has seen. He talks not so
much with his tongue, as with his face and his hands. He shows
how the sun shines, how the horses run, how the terrible stove
looks, and how the cook drinks. . . .
In the evening he cannot get to sleep. The soldiers with the
brooms, the big cats, the horses, the bit of glass, the tray of
oranges, the bright buttons, all gathered together, weigh on his
brain. He tosses from side to side, babbles, and, at last,
unable to endure his excitement, begins crying.
"You are feverish," says mamma, putting her open hand on his
forehead. "What can have caused it?
"Stove!" wails Grisha. "Go away, stove!"
"He must have eaten too much . . ." mamma decides.
And Grisha, shattered by the impressions of the new life he has
just experienced, receives a spoonful of castor-oil from mamma.
oranges: oranges were a luxury item in Russia