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The Schoolmaster and Other Stories

The Schoolmaster
FYODOR LUKITCH SYSOEV, the master of the factory school maintained at the
expense of the firm of Kulikin, was getting ready for the annual dinner. Every year after
the school examination the board of managers gave a dinner at which the inspector of
elementary schools, all who had conducted the examinations, and all the managers and
foremen of the factory were present. In spite of their official character, these dinners were
always good and lively, and the guests sat a long time over them; forgetting distinctions
of rank and recalling only their meritorious labours, they ate till they were full, drank
amicably, chattered till they were all hoarse and parted late in the evening, deafening the
whole factory settlement with their singing and the sound of their kisses. Of such dinners
Sysoev had taken part in thirteen, as he had been that number of years master of the
factory school.
Now, getting ready for the fourteenth, he was trying to make himself look as festive and
correct as possible. He had spent a whole hour brushing his new black suit, and spent
almost as long in front of a looking-glass while he put on a fashionable shirt; the studs
would not go into the button-holes, and this circumstance called forth a perfect storm of
complaints, threats, and reproaches addressed to his wife.
His poor wife, bustling round him, wore herself out with her efforts. And indeed he, too,
was exhausted in the end. When his polished boots were brought him from the kitchen he
had not strength to pull them on. He had to lie down and have a drink of water.
"How weak you have grown!" sighed his wife. "You ought not to go to this dinner at all."
"No advice, please!" the schoolmaster cut her short angrily.
He was in a very bad temper, for he had been much displeased with the recent
examinations. The examinations had gone off splendidly; all the boys of the senior
division had gained certificates and prizes; both the managers of the factory and the
government officials were pleased with the results; but that was not enough for the
schoolmaster. He was vexed that Babkin, a boy who never made a mistake in writing, had
made three mistakes in the dictation; Sergeyev, another boy, had been so excited that he
could not remember seventeen times thirteen; the inspector, a young and inexperienced
man, had chosen a difficult article for dictation, and Lyapunov, the master of a
neighbouring school, whom the inspector had asked to dictate, had not behaved like "a
good comrade"; but in dictating had, as it were, swallowed the words and had not
pronounced them as written.
After pulling on his boots with the assistance of his wife, and looking at himself once
more in the looking-glass, the schoolmaster took his gnarled stick and set off for the
dinner. Just before the factory manager's house, where the festivity was to take place, he
had a little mishap. He was taken with a violent fit of coughing . . . . He was so shaken by