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The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories

Volodya
AT five o'clock one Sunday afternoon in summer, Volodya, a plain, shy, sickly-looking
lad of seventeen, was sitting in the arbour of the Shumihins' country villa, feeling dreary.
His despondent thought flowed in three directions. In the first place, he had next day,
Monday, an examination in mathematics; he knew that if he did not get through the
written examination on the morrow, he would be expelled, for he had already been two
years in the sixth form and had two and three-quarter marks for algebra in his annual
report. In the second place, his presence at the villa of the Shumihins, a wealthy family
with aristocratic pretensions, was a continual source of mortification to his amour-
propre. It seemed to him that Madame Shumihin looked upon him and his maman as
poor relations and dependents, that they laughed at his maman and did not respect her. He
had on one occasion accidently overheard Madame Shumihin, in the verandah, telling her
cousin Anna Fyodorovna that his maman still tried to look young and got herself up, that
she never paid her losses at cards, and had a partiality for other people's shoes and
tobacco. Every day Volodya besought his maman not to go to the Shumihins', and drew a
picture of the humiliating part she played with these gentlefolk. He tried to persuade her,
said rude things, but she--a frivolous, pampered woman, who had run through two
fortunes, her own and her husband's, in her time, and always gravitated towards
acquaintances of high rank--did not understand him, and twice a week Volodya had to
accompany her to the villa he hated.
In the third place, the youth could not for one instant get rid of a strange, unpleasant
feeling which was absolutely new to him. . . . It seemed to him that he was in love with
Anna Fyodorovna, the Shumihins' cousin, who was staying with them. She was a
vivacious, loud-voiced, laughter-loving, healthy, and vigorous lady of thirty, with rosy
cheeks, plump shoulders, a plump round chin and a continual smile on her thin lips. She
was neither young nor beautiful-- Volodya knew that perfectly well; but for some reason
he could not help thinking of her, looking at her while she shrugged her plump shoulders
and moved her flat back as she played croquet, or after prolonged laughter and running
up and down stairs, sank into a low chair, and, half closing her eyes and gasping for
breath, pretended that she was stifling and could not breathe. She was married. Her
husband, a staid and dignified architect, came once a week to the villa, slept soundly, and
returned to town. Volodya's strange feeling had begun with his conceiving an
unaccountable hatred for the architect, and feeling relieved every time he went back to
town.
Now, sitting in the arbour, thinking of his examination next day, and of his maman, at
whom they laughed, he felt an intense desire to see Nyuta (that was what the Shumihins
called Anna Fyodorovna), to hear her laughter and the rustle of her dress. . . . This desire
was not like the pure, poetic love of which he read in novels and about which he dreamed
every night when he went to bed; it was strange, incomprehensible; he was ashamed of it,
and afraid of it as of something very wrong and impure, something which it was
disagreeable to confess even to himself.
 
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