The Horse-Stealers and Other Stories
An Actor's End
SHTCHIPTSOV, the "heavy father" and "good-hearted simpleton," a tall and thick-set
old man, not so much distinguished by his talents as an actor as by his exceptional
physical strength, had a desperate quarrel with the manager during the performance, and
just when the storm of words was at its height felt as though something had snapped in
his chest. Zhukov, the manager, as a rule began at the end of every heated discussion to
laugh hysterically and to fall into a swoon; on this occasion, however, Shtchiptsov did not
remain for this climax, but hurried home. The high words and the sensation of something
ruptured in his chest so agitated him as he left the theatre that he forgot to wash off his
paint, and did nothing but take off his beard.
When he reached his hotel room, Shtchiptsov spent a long time pacing up and down, then
sat down on the bed, propped his head on his fists, and sank into thought. He sat like that
without stirring or uttering a sound till two o'clock the next afternoon, when Sigaev, the
comic man, walked into his room.
"Why is it you did not come to the rehearsal, Booby Ivanitch?" the comic man began,
panting and filling the room with fumes of vodka. "Where have you been?"
Shtchiptsov made no answer, but simply stared at the comic man with lustreless eyes,
under which there were smudges of paint.
"You might at least have washed your phiz!" Sigaev went on. "You are a disgraceful
sight! Have you been boozing, or . . . are you ill, or what? But why don't you speak? I am
asking you: are you ill?"
Shtchiptsov did not speak. In spite of the paint on his face, the comic man could not help
noticing his striking pallor, the drops of sweat on his forehead, and the twitching of his
lips. His hands and feet were trembling too, and the whole huge figure of the "good-
natured simpleton" looked somehow crushed and flattened. The comic man took a rapid
glance round the room, but saw neither bottle nor flask nor any other suspicious vessel.
"I say, Mishutka, you know you are ill!" he said in a flutter. "Strike me dead, you are ill!
You don't look yourself!"
Shtchiptsov remained silent and stared disconsolately at the floor.
"You must have caught cold," said Sigaev, taking him by the hand. "Oh, dear, how hot
your hands are! What's the trouble?"
"I wa-ant to go home," muttered Shtchiptsov.
"But you are at home now, aren't you?"