- The Grasshopper
Apparently, by the middle of the winter Dymov
began to suspect that he was being deceived. As though his
conscience was not clear, he could not look his wife straight in
the face, did not smile with delight when he met her, and to
avoid being left alone with her, he often brought in to dinner
his colleague, Korostelev, a little close-cropped man with a
wrinkled face, who kept buttoning and unbuttoning his reefer
jacket with embarrassment when he talked with Olga Ivanovna, and
then with his right hand nipped his left moustache. At dinner
the two doctors talked about the fact that a displacement of the
diaphragm was sometimes accompanied by irregularities of the
heart, or that a great number of neurotic complaints were met
with of late, or that Dymov had the day before found a cancer of
the lower abdomen while dissecting a corpse with the diagnosis
of pernicious anaemia. And it seemed as though they were talking
of medicine to give Olga Ivanovna a chance of being silent --
that is, of not lying. After dinner Korostelev sat down to the
piano, while Dymov sighed and said to him:
"Ech, brother -- well, well! Play something melancholy."
Hunching up his shoulders and stretching his fingers wide apart,
Korostelev played some chords and began singing in a tenor
voice, "Show me the abode where the Russian peasant would not
groan," while Dymov sighed once more, propped his head on his
fist, and sank into thought.
Olga Ivanovna had been extremely imprudent in her conduct of
late. Every morning she woke up in a very bad humour and with
the thought that she no longer cared for Ryabovsky, and that,
thank God, it was all over now. But as she drank her coffee she
reflected that Ryabovsky had robbed her of her husband, and that
now she was left with neither her husband nor Ryabovsky; then
she remembered talks she had heard among her acquaintances of a
picture Ryabovsky was preparing for the exhibition, something
striking, a mixture of genre and landscape, in the style of
Polyenov, about which every one who had been into his studio
went into raptures; and this, of course, she mused, he had
created under her influence, and altogether, thanks to her
influence, he had greatly changed for the better. Her influence
was so beneficent and essential that if she were to leave him he
might perhaps go to ruin. And she remembered, too, that the last
time he had come to see her in a great-coat with flecks on it
and a new tie, he had asked her languidly:
"Am I beautiful?"
And with his elegance, his long curls, and his blue eyes, he
really was very beautiful (or perhaps it only seemed so), and he
had been affectionate to her.
Considering and remembering many things Olga Ivanovna dressed
and in great agitation drove to Ryabovsky's studio. She found
him in high spirits, and enchanted with his really magnificent
picture. He was dancing about and playing the fool and answering
serious questions with jokes. Olga Ivanovna was jealous of the
picture and hated it, but from politeness she stood before the
picture for five minutes in silence, and, heaving a sigh, as
though before a holy shrine, said softly:
"Yes, you have never painted anything like it before. Do you
know, it is positively awe-inspiring?"
And then she began beseeching him to love her and not to cast
her off, to have pity on her in her misery and her wretchedness.
She shed tears, kissed his hands, insisted on his swearing that
he loved her, told him that without her good influence he would
go astray and be ruined. And, when she had spoilt his good-humour,
feeling herself humiliated, she would drive off to her
dressmaker or to an actress of her acquaintance to try and get
If she did not find him at his studio she left a letter in which
she swore that if he did not come to see her that day she would
poison herself. He was scared, came to see her, and stayed to
dinner. Regardless of her husband's presence, he would say rude
things to her, and she would answer him in the same way. Both
felt they were a burden to each other, that they were tyrants
and enemies, and were wrathful, and in their wrath did not
notice that their behaviour was unseemly, and that even
Korostelev, with his close-cropped head, saw it all. After
dinner Ryabovsky made haste to say good-bye and get away.
"Where are you off to?" Olga Ivanovna would ask him in the hall,
looking at him with hatred.
Scowling and screwing up his eyes, he mentioned some lady of
their acquaintance, and it was evident that he was laughing at
her jealousy and wanted to annoy her. She went to her bedroom
and lay down on her bed; from jealousy, anger, a sense of
humiliation and shame, she bit the pillow and began sobbing
aloud. Dymov left Korostelev in the drawing-room, went into the
bedroom, and with a desperate and embarrassed face said softly:
"Don't cry so loud, little mother; there's no need. You must be
quiet about it. You must not let people see. . . . You know what
is done is done, and can't be mended."
Not knowing how to ease the burden of her jealousy, which
actually set her temples throbbing with pain, and thinking still
that things might be set right, she would wash, powder her
tear-stained face, and fly off to the lady mentioned.
Not finding Ryabovsky with her, she would drive off to a second,
then to a third. At first she was ashamed to go about like this,
but afterwards she got used to it, and it would happen that in
one evening she would make the round of all her female
acquaintances in search of Ryabovsky, and they all understood
One day she said to Ryabovsky of her husband:
"That man crushes me with his magnanimity."
This phrase pleased her so much that when she met the artists
who knew of her affair with Ryabovsky she said every time of her
husband, with a vigorous movement of her arm:
"That man crushes me with his magnanimity."
Their manner of life was the same as it had been the year
before. On Wednesdays they were "At Home", an actor recited, the
artists sketched. The violoncellist played, a singer sang, and
invariably at half-past eleven the door leading to the
dining-room opened and Dymov, smiling, said:
"Come to supper, gentlemen."
As before, Olga Ivanovna hunted celebrities, found them, was not
satisfied, and went in pursuit of fresh ones. As before, she
came back late every night; but now Dymov was not, as last year,
asleep, but sitting in his study at work of some sort. He went
to bed at three o'clock and got up at eight.
One evening when she was getting ready to go to the theatre and
standing before the pier glass, Dymov came into her bedroom,
wearing his dress-coat and a white tie. He was smiling gently
and looked into his wife's face joyfully, as in old days; his
face was radiant.
"I have just been defending my thesis," he said, sitting down
and smoothing his knees.
"Defending?" asked Olga Ivanovna.
"Oh, oh!" he laughed, and he craned his neck to see his wife's
face in the mirror, for she was still standing with her back to
him, doing up her hair. "Oh, oh," he repeated, "do you know it's
very possible they may offer me the Readership in General
Pathology? It seems like it."
It was evident from his beaming, blissful face that if Olga
Ivanovna had shared with him his joy and triumph he would have
forgiven her everything, both the present and the future, and
would have forgotten everything, but she did not understand what
was meant by a "readership" or by "general pathology"; besides,
she was afraid of being late for the theatre, and she said
He sat there another two minutes, and with a guilty smile went