The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories
The Kreutzer Sonata
Travellers left and entered our car at every stopping of the train. Three persons, however,
remained, bound, like myself, for the farthest station: a lady neither young nor pretty,
smoking cigarettes, with a thin face, a cap on her head, and wearing a semi-masculine
outer garment; then her companion, a very loquacious gentleman of about forty years,
with baggage entirely new and arranged in an orderly manner; then a gentleman who held
himself entirely aloof, short in stature, very nervous, of uncertain age, with bright eyes,
not pronounced in color, but extremely attractive,--eyes that darted with rapidity from
one object to another.
This gentleman, during almost all the journey thus far, had entered into conversation with
no fellow-traveller, as if he carefully avoided all acquaintance. When spoken to, he
answered curtly and decisively, and began to look out of the car window obstinately.
Yet it seemed to me that the solitude weighed upon him. He seemed to perceive that I
understood this, and when our eyes met, as happened frequently, since we were sitting
almost opposite each other, he turned away his head, and avoided conversation with me
as much as with the others. At nightfall, during a stop at a large station, the gentleman
with the fine baggage--a lawyer, as I have since learned--got out with his companion to
drink some tea at the restaurant. During their absence several new travellers entered the
car, among whom was a tall old man, shaven and wrinkled, evidently a merchant,
wearing a large heavily-lined cloak and a big cap. This merchant sat down opposite the
empty seats of the lawyer and his companion, and straightway entered into conversation
with a young man who seemed like an employee in some commercial house, and who
had likewise just boarded the train. At first the clerk had remarked that the seat opposite
was occupied, and the old man had answered that he should get out at the first station.
Thus their conversation started.
I was sitting not far from these two travellers, and, as the train was not in motion, I could
catch bits of their conversation when others were not talking.
They talked first of the prices of goods and the condition of business; they referred to a
person whom they both knew; then they plunged into the fair at Nijni Novgorod. The
clerk boasted of knowing people who were leading a gay life there, but the old man did
not allow him to continue, and, interrupting him, began to describe the festivities of the
previous year at Kounavino, in which he had taken part. He was evidently proud of these
recollections, and, probably thinking that this would detract nothing from the gravity
which his face and manners expressed, he related with pride how, when drunk, he had
fired, at Kounavino, such a broadside that he could describe it only in the other's ear.