The Schoolmaster and Other Stories
A PIANO-TUNER called Murkin, a close-shaven man with a yellow face, with a nose
stained with snuff, and cotton-wool in his ears, came out of his hotel-room into the
passage, and in a cracked voice cried: "Semyon! Waiter!"
And looking at his frightened face one might have supposed that the ceiling had fallen in
on him or that he had just seen a ghost in his room.
"Upon my word, Semyon!" he cried, seeing the attendant running towards him. "What is
the meaning of it? I am a rheumatic, delicate man and you make me go barefoot! Why is
it you don't give me my boots all this time? Where are they?"
Semyon went into Murkin's room, looked at the place where he was in the habit of
putting the boots he had cleaned, and scratched his head: the boots were not there.
"Where can they be, the damned things?" Semyon brought out. "I fancy I cleaned them in
the evening and put them here. . . . H'm! . . . Yesterday, I must own, I had a drop. . . . I
must have put them in another room, I suppose. That must be it, Afanasy Yegoritch, they
are in another room! There are lots of boots, and how the devil is one to know them apart
when one is drunk and does not know what one is doing? . . . I must have taken them in
to the lady that's next door . . . the actress. . . ."
"And now, if you please, I am to go in to a lady and disturb her all through you! Here, if
you please, through this foolishness I am to wake up a respectable woman."
Sighing and coughing, Murkin went to the door of the next room and cautiously tapped.
"Who's there?" he heard a woman's voice a minute later.
"It's I!" Murkin began in a plaintive voice, standing in the attitude of a cavalier
addressing a lady of the highest society. "Pardon my disturbing you, madam, but I am a
man in delicate health, rheumatic . . . . The doctors, madam, have ordered me to keep my
feet warm, especially as I have to go at once to tune the piano at Madame la Générale
Shevelitsyn's. I can't go to her barefoot."
"But what do you want? What piano?"
"Not a piano, madam; it is in reference to boots! Semyon, stupid fellow, cleaned my
boots and put them by mistake in your room. Be so extremely kind, madam, as to give me
There was a sound of rustling, of jumping off the bed and the flapping of slippers, after
which the door opened slightly and a plump feminine hand flung at Murkin's feet a pair
of boots. The piano-tuner thanked her and went into his own room.