The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories
MIHAIL PETROVITCH ZOTOV, a decrepit and solitary old man of seventy, belonging
to the artisan class, was awakened by the cold and the aching in his old limbs. It was dark
in his room, but the little lamp before the ikon was no longer burning. Zotov raised the
curtain and looked out of the window. The clouds that shrouded the sky were beginning
to show white here and there, and the air was becoming transparent, so it must have been
nearly five, not more.
Zotov cleared his throat, coughed, and shrinking from the cold, got out of bed. In
accordance with years of habit, he stood for a long time before the ikon, saying his
prayers. He repeated "Our Father," "Hail Mary," the Creed, and mentioned a long string
of names. To whom those names belonged he had forgotten years ago, and he only
repeated them from habit. From habit, too, he swept his room and entry, and set his fat
little four-legged copper samovar. If Zotov had not had these habits he would not have
known how to occupy his old age.
The little samovar slowly began to get hot, and all at once, unexpectedly, broke into a
tremulous bass hum.
"Oh, you've started humming!" grumbled Zotov. "Hum away then, and bad luck to you!"
At that point the old man appropriately recalled that, in the preceding night, he had
dreamed of a stove, and to dream of a stove is a sign of sorrow.
Dreams and omens were the only things left that could rouse him to reflection; and on
this occasion he plunged with a special zest into the considerations of the questions: What
the samovar was humming for? and what sorrow was foretold by the stove? The dream
seemed to come true from the first. Zotov rinsed out his teapot and was about to make his
tea, when he found there was not one teaspoonful left in the box.
"What an existence!" he grumbled, rolling crumbs of black bread round in his mouth.
"It's a dog's life. No tea! And it isn't as though I were a simple peasant: I'm an artisan and
a house-owner. The disgrace!"
Grumbling and talking to himself, Zotov put on his overcoat, which was like a crinoline,
and, thrusting his feet into huge clumsy golosh-boots (made in the year 1867 by a
bootmaker called Prohoritch), went out into the yard. The air was grey, cold, and sullenly
still. The big yard, full of tufts of burdock and strewn with yellow leaves, was faintly
silvered with autumn frost. Not a breath of wind nor a sound. The old man sat down on
the steps of his slanting porch, and at once there happened what happened regularly every
morning: his dog Lyska, a big, mangy, decrepit-looking, white yard-dog, with black
patches, came up to him with its right eye shut. Lyska came up timidly, wriggling in a
frightened way, as though her paws were not touching the earth but a hot stove, and the
whole of her wretched figure was expressive of abjectness. Zotov pretended not to notice