The Chorus Girl and Other Stories
IVAN ALEXEYITCH OGNEV remembers how on that August evening he opened the
glass door with a rattle and went out on to the verandah. He was wearing a light Inverness
cape and a wide-brimmed straw hat, the very one that was lying with his top-boots in the
dust under his bed. In one hand he had a big bundle of books and notebooks, in the other
a thick knotted stick.
Behind the door, holding the lamp to show the way, stood the master of the house,
Kuznetsov, a bald old man with a long grey beard, in a snow-white piqué jacket. The old
man was smiling cordially and nodding his head.
"Good-bye, old fellow!" said Ognev.
Kuznetsov put the lamp on a little table and went out to the verandah. Two long narrow
shadows moved down the steps towards the flower-beds, swayed to and fro, and leaned
their heads on the trunks of the lime-trees.
"Good-bye and once more thank you, my dear fellow!" said Ivan Alexeyitch. "Thank you
for your welcome, for your kindness, for your affection. . . . I shall never forget your
hospitality as long as I live. You are so good, and your daughter is so good, and everyone
here is so kind, so good-humoured and friendly . . . Such a splendid set of people that I
don't know how to say what I feel!"
From excess of feeling and under the influence of the home-made wine he had just drunk,
Ognev talked in a singing voice like a divinity student, and was so touched that he
expressed his feelings not so much by words as by the blinking of his eyes and the
twitching of his shoulders. Kuznetsov, who had also drunk a good deal and was touched,
craned forward to the young man and kissed him.
"I've grown as fond of you as if I were your dog," Ognev went on. "I've been turning up
here almost every day; I've stayed the night a dozen times. It's dreadful to think of all the
home-made wine I've drunk. And thank you most of all for your co-operation and help.
Without you I should have been busy here over my statistics till October. I shall put in
my preface: 'I think it my duty to express my gratitude to the President of the District
Zemstvo of N----, Kuznetsov, for his kind co-operation.' There is a brilliant future before
statistics! My humble respects to Vera Gavrilovna, and tell the doctors, both the lawyers
and your secretary, that I shall never forget their help! And now, old fellow, let us
embrace one another and kiss for the last time!"
Ognev, limp with emotion, kissed the old man once more and began going down the
steps. On the last step he looked round and asked: "Shall we meet again some day?"
"God knows!" said the old man. "Most likely not!"