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The Chorus Girl and Other Stories

The Chorus Girl
ONE day when she was younger and better-looking, and when her voice was stronger,
Nikolay Petrovitch Kolpakov, her adorer, was sitting in the outer room in her summer
villa. It was intolerably hot and stifling. Kolpakov, who had just dined and drunk a whole
bottle of inferior port, felt ill-humoured and out of sorts. Both were bored and waiting for
the heat of the day to be over in order to go for a walk.
All at once there was a sudden ring at the door. Kolpakov, who was sitting with his coat
off, in his slippers, jumped up and looked inquiringly at Pasha.
"It must be the postman or one of the girls," said the singer.
Kolpakov did not mind being found by the postman or Pasha's lady friends, but by way of
precaution gathered up his clothes and went into the next room, while Pasha ran to open
the door. To her great surprise in the doorway stood, not the postman and not a girl
friend, but an unknown woman, young and beautiful, who was dressed like a lady, and
from all outward signs was one.
The stranger was pale and was breathing heavily as though she had been running up a
steep flight of stairs.
"What is it?" asked Pasha.
The lady did not at once answer. She took a step forward, slowly looked about the room,
and sat down in a way that suggested that from fatigue, or perhaps illness, she could not
stand; then for a long time her pale lips quivered as she tried in vain to speak.
"Is my husband here?" she asked at last, raising to Pasha her big eyes with their red tear-
stained lids.
"Husband?" whispered Pasha, and was suddenly so frightened that her hands and feet
turned cold. "What husband?" she repeated, beginning to tremble.
"My husband, . . . Nikolay Petrovitch Kolpakov."
"N . . . no, madam. . . . I . . . I don't know any husband."
A minute passed in silence. The stranger several times passed her handkerchief over her
pale lips and held her breath to stop her inward trembling, while Pasha stood before her
motionless, like a post, and looked at her with astonishment and terror.
"So you say he is not here?" the lady asked, this time speaking with a firm voice and
smiling oddly.
 
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