The Schoolmaster and Other Stories
From The Diary Of A Violent-Tempered Man
I AM a serious person and my mind is of a philosophic bent. My vocation is the study of
finance. I am a student of financial law and I have chosen as the subject of my
dissertation--the Past and Future of the Dog Licence. I need hardly point out that young
ladies, songs, moonlight, and all that sort of silliness are entirely out of my line.
Morning. Ten o'clock. My maman pours me out a cup of coffee. I drink it and go out on
the little balcony to set to work on my dissertation. I take a clean sheet of paper, dip the
pen into the ink, and write out the title: "The Past and Future of the Dog Licence."
After thinking a little I write: "Historical Survey. We may deduce from some allusions in
Herodotus and Xenophon that the origin of the tax on dogs goes back to . . . ."
But at that point I hear footsteps that strike me as highly suspicious. I look down from the
balcony and see below a young lady with a long face and a long waist. Her name, I
believe, is Nadenka or Varenka, it really does not matter which. She is looking for
something, pretends not to have noticed me, and is humming to herself:
"Dost thou remember that song full of tenderness?"
I read through what I have written and want to continue, but the young lady pretends to
have just caught sight of me, and says in a mournful voice:
"Good morning, Nikolay Andreitch. Only fancy what a misfortune I have had! I went for
a walk yesterday and lost the little ball off my bracelet!"
I read through once more the opening of my dissertation, I trim up the tail of the letter "g"
and mean to go on, but the young lady persists.
"Nikolay Andreitch," she says, "won't you see me home? The Karelins have such a huge
dog that I simply daren't pass it alone."
There is no getting out of it. I lay down my pen and go down to her. Nadenka (or
Varenka) takes my arm and we set off in the direction of her villa.
When the duty of walking arm-in-arm with a lady falls to my lot, for some reason or
other I always feel like a peg with a heavy cloak hanging on it. Nadenka (or Varenka),
between ourselves, of an ardent temperament (her grandfather was an Armenian), has a
peculiar art of throwing her whole weight on one's arm and clinging to one's side like a
leech. And so we walk along.
As we pass the Karelins', I see a huge dog, who reminds me of the dog licence. I think
with despair of the work I have begun and sigh.