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The Schoolmaster and Other Stories

A Play
"PAVEL VASSILYEVITCH, there's a lady here, asking for you," Luka announced.
"She's been waiting a good hour. . . ."
Pavel Vassilyevitch had only just finished lunch. Hearing of the lady, he frowned and
"Oh, damn her! Tell her I'm busy."
"She has been here five times already, Pavel Vassilyevitch. She says she really must see
you. . . . She's almost crying."
"H'm . . . very well, then, ask her into the study."
Without haste Pavel Vassilyevitch put on his coat, took a pen in one hand, and a book in
the other, and trying to look as though he were very busy he went into the study. There
the visitor was awaiting him--a large stout lady with a red, beefy face, in spectacles. She
looked very respectable, and her dress was more than fashionable (she had on a crinolette
of four storeys and a high hat with a reddish bird in it). On seeing him she turned up her
eyes and folded her hands in supplication.
"You don't remember me, of course," she began in a high masculine tenor, visibly
agitated. "I . . . I have had the pleasure of meeting you at the Hrutskys. . . . I am Mme.
Murashkin. . . ."
"A. . . a . . . a . . . h'm . . . Sit down! What can I do for you?"
"You . . . you see . . . I . . . I . . ." the lady went on, sitting down and becoming still more
agitated. "You don't remember me. . . . I'm Mme. Murashkin. . . . You see I'm a great
admirer of your talent and always read your articles with great enjoyment. . . . Don't
imagine I'm flattering you--God forbid!--I'm only giving honour where honour is due. . . .
I am always reading you . . . always! To some extent I am myself not a stranger to
literature-- that is, of course . . . I will not venture to call myself an authoress, but . . . still
I have added my little quota . . . I have published at different times three stories for
children. . . . You have not read them, of course. . . . I have translated a good deal and . . .
and my late brother used to write for The Cause."
"To be sure . . . er--er--er----What can I do for you?"
"You see . . . (the lady cast down her eyes and turned redder) I know your talents . . . your
views, Pavel Vassilyevitch, and I have been longing to learn your opinion, or more
exactly . . . to ask your advice. I must tell you I have perpetrated a play, my first-born --
pardon pour l'expression!--and before sending it to the Censor I should like above all
things to have your opinion on it."