The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories
An Anonymous Story
THROUGH causes which it is not the time to go into in detail, I had to enter the service
of a Petersburg official called Orlov, in the capacity of a footman. He was about five and
thirty, and was called Georgy* Ivanitch.
*Both g's hard, as in "Gorgon"; e like ai in rain.
I entered this Orlov's service on account of his father, a prominent political man, whom I
looked upon as a serious enemy of my cause. I reckoned that, living with the son, I
should--from the conversations I should hear, and from the letters and papers I should
find on the table--learn every detail of the father's plans and intentions.
As a rule at eleven o'clock in the morning the electric bell rang in my footman's quarters
to let me know that my master was awake. When I went into the bedroom with his
polished shoes and brushed clothes, Georgy Ivanitch would be sitting in his bed with a
face that looked, not drowsy, but rather exhausted by sleep, and he would gaze off in one
direction without any sign of satisfaction at having waked. I helped him to dress, and he
let me do it with an air of reluctance without speaking or noticing my presence; then with
his head wet with washing, smelling of fresh scent, he used to go into the dining-room to
drink his coffee. He used to sit at the table, sipping his coffee and glancing through the
newspapers, while the maid Polya and I stood respectfully at the door gazing at him. Two
grown-up persons had to stand watching with the gravest attention a third drinking coffee
and munching rusks. It was probably ludicrous and grotesque, but I saw nothing
humiliating in having to stand near the door, though I was quite as well born and well
educated as Orlov himself.
I was in the first stage of consumption, and was suffering from something else, possibly
even more serious than consumption. I don't know whether it was the effect of my illness
or of an incipient change in my philosophy of life of which I was not conscious at the
time, but I was, day by day, more possessed by a passionate, irritating longing for
ordinary everyday life. I yearned for mental tranquillity, health, fresh air, good food. I
was becoming a dreamer, and, like a dreamer, I did not know exactly what I wanted.
Sometimes I felt inclined to go into a monastery, to sit there for days together by the
window and gaze at the trees and the fields; sometimes I fancied I would buy fifteen
acres of land and settle down as a country gentleman; sometimes I inwardly vowed to
take up science and become a professor at some provincial university. I was a retired
navy lieutenant; I dreamed of the sea, of our squadron, and of the corvette in which I had
made the cruise round the world. I longed to experience again the indescribable feeling
when, walking in the tropical forest or looking at the sunset in the Bay of Bengal, one is
thrilled with ecstasy and at the same time homesick. I dreamed of mountains, women,
music, and, with the curiosity of a child, I looked into people's faces, listened to their