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The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories

The Black Monk
I
ANDREY VASSILITCH KOVRIN, who held a master's degree at the University, had
exhausted himself, and had upset his nerves. He did not send for a doctor, but casually,
over a bottle of wine, he spoke to a friend who was a doctor, and the latter advised him to
spend the spring and summer in the country. Very opportunely a long letter came from
Tanya Pesotsky, who asked him to come and stay with them at Borissovka. And he made
up his mind that he really must go.
To begin with--that was in April--he went to his own home, Kovrinka, and there spent
three weeks in solitude; then, as soon as the roads were in good condition, he set off,
driving in a carriage, to visit Pesotsky, his former guardian, who had brought him up, and
was a horticulturist well known all over Russia. The distance from Kovrinka to
Borissovka was reckoned only a little over fifty miles. To drive along a soft road in May
in a comfortable carriage with springs was a real pleasure.
Pesotsky had an immense house with columns and lions, off which the stucco was
peeling, and with a footman in swallow-tails at the entrance. The old park, laid out in the
English style, gloomy and severe, stretched for almost three-quarters of a mile to the
river, and there ended in a steep, precipitous clay bank, where pines grew with bare roots
that looked like shaggy paws; the water shone below with an unfriendly gleam, and the
peewits flew up with a plaintive cry, and there one always felt that one must sit down and
write a ballad. But near the house itself, in the courtyard and orchard, which together with
the nurseries covered ninety acres, it was all life and gaiety even in bad weather. Such
marvellous roses, lilies, camellias; such tulips of all possible shades, from glistening
white to sooty black--such a wealth of flowers, in fact, Kovrin had never seen anywhere
as at Pesotsky's. It was only the beginning of spring, and the real glory of the flower-beds
was still hidden away in the hot-houses. But even the flowers along the avenues, and here
and there in the flower-beds, were enough to make one feel, as one walked about the
garden, as though one were in a realm of tender colours, especially in the early morning
when the dew was glistening on every petal.
What was the decorative part of the garden, and what Pesotsky contemptuously spoke of
as rubbish, had at one time in his childhood given Kovrin an impression of fairyland.
Every sort of caprice, of elaborate monstrosity and mockery at Nature was here. There
were espaliers of fruit-trees, a pear-tree in the shape of a pyramidal poplar, spherical oaks
and lime-trees, an apple-tree in the shape of an umbrella, plum-trees trained into arches,
crests, candelabra, and even into the number 1862--the year when Pesotsky first took up
horticulture. One came across, too, lovely, graceful trees with strong, straight stems like
palms, and it was only by looking intently that one could recognise these trees as
gooseberries or currants. But what made the garden most cheerful and gave it a lively air,
was the continual coming and going in it, from early morning till evening; people with
 
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