The Chorus Girl and Other Stories HTML version

On The Road
"Upon the breast of a gigantic crag, A golden cloudlet rested for one night."
IN the room which the tavern keeper, the Cossack Semyon Tchistopluy, called the
"travellers' room," that is kept exclusively for travellers, a tall, broad-shouldered man of
forty was sitting at the big unpainted table. He was asleep with his elbows on the table
and his head leaning on his fist. An end of tallow candle, stuck into an old pomatum pot,
lighted up his light brown beard, his thick, broad nose, his sunburnt cheeks, and the thick,
black eyebrows overhanging his closed eyes. . . . The nose and the cheeks and the
eyebrows, all the features, each taken separately, were coarse and heavy, like the
furniture and the stove in the "travellers' room," but taken all together they gave the effect
of something harmonious and even beautiful. Such is the lucky star, as it is called, of the
Russian face: the coarser and harsher its features the softer and more good-natured it
looks. The man was dressed in a gentleman's reefer jacket, shabby, but bound with wide
new braid, a plush waistcoat, and full black trousers thrust into big high boots.
On one of the benches, which stood in a continuous row along the wall, a girl of eight, in
a brown dress and long black stockings, lay asleep on a coat lined with fox. Her face was
pale, her hair was flaxen, her shoulders were narrow, her whole body was thin and frail,
but her nose stood out as thick and ugly a lump as the man's. She was sound asleep, and
unconscious that her semi-circular comb had fallen off her head and was cutting her
The "travellers' room" had a festive appearance. The air was full of the smell of freshly
scrubbed floors, there were no rags hanging as usual on the line that ran diagonally across
the room, and a little lamp was burning in the corner over the table, casting a patch of red
light on the ikon of St. George the Victorious. From the ikon stretched on each side of the
corner a row of cheap oleographs, which maintained a strict and careful gradation in the
transition from the sacred to the profane. In the dim light of the candle end and the red
ikon lamp the pictures looked like one continuous stripe, covered with blurs of black.
When the tiled stove, trying to sing in unison with the weather, drew in the air with a
howl, while the logs, as though waking up, burst into bright flame and hissed angrily, red
patches began dancing on the log walls, and over the head of the sleeping man could be
seen first the Elder Seraphim, then the Shah Nasir-ed-Din, then a fat, brown baby with
goggle eyes, whispering in the ear of a young girl with an extraordinarily blank, and
indifferent face. . . .
Outside a storm was raging. Something frantic and wrathful, but profoundly unhappy,
seemed to be flinging itself about the tavern with the ferocity of a wild beast and trying to
break in. Banging at the doors, knocking at the windows and on the roof, scratching at the
walls, it alternately threatened and besought, then subsided for a brief interval, and then
with a gleeful, treacherous howl burst into the chimney, but the wood flared up, and the