The Schoolmaster and Other Stories
A Tripping Tongue
NATALYA MIHALOVNA, a young married lady who had arrived in the morning from
Yalta, was having her dinner, and in a never-ceasing flow of babble was telling her
husband of all the charms of the Crimea. Her husband, delighted, gazed tenderly at her
enthusiastic face, listened, and from time to time put in a question.
"But they say living is dreadfully expensive there?" he asked, among other things.
"Well, what shall I say? To my thinking this talk of its being so expensive is exaggerated,
hubby. The devil is not as black as he is painted. Yulia Petrovna and I, for instance, had
very decent and comfortable rooms for twenty roubles a day. Everything depends on
knowing how to do things, my dear. Of course if you want to go up into the mountains . .
. to Aie-Petri for instance . . . if you take a horse, a guide, then of course it does come to
something. It's awful what it comes to! But, Vassitchka, the mountains there! Imagine
high, high mountains, a thousand times higher than the church. . . . At the top--mist, mist,
mist. . . . At the bottom --enormous stones, stones, stones. . . . And pines. . . . Ah, I can't
bear to think of it!"
"By the way, I read about those Tatar guides there, in some magazine while you were
away . . . . such abominable stories! Tell me is there really anything out of the way about
Natalya Mihalovna made a little disdainful grimace and shook her head.
"Just ordinary Tatars, nothing special . . ." she said, "though indeed I only had a glimpse
of them in the distance. They were pointed out to me, but I did not take much notice of
them. You know, hubby, I always had a prejudice against all such Circassians, Greeks . . .
"They are said to be terrible Don Juans."
"Perhaps! There are shameless creatures who . . . ."
Natalya Mihalovna suddenly jumped up from her chair, as though she had thought of
something dreadful; for half a minute she looked with frightened eyes at her husband and
said, accentuating each word:
"Vassitchka, I say, the im-mo-ral women there are in the world! Ah, how immoral! And
it's not as though they were working-class or middle-class people, but aristocratic ladies,
priding themselves on their bon-ton! It was simply awful, I could not believe my own
eyes! I shall remember it as long as I live! To think that people can forget themselves to
such a point as . . . ach, Vassitchka, I don't like to speak of it! Take my companion, Yulia
Petrovna, for example. . . . Such a good husband, two children . . . she moves in a decent