The Darling and Other Stories HTML version

The Helpmate
"I'VE asked you not to tidy my table," said Nikolay Yevgrafitch. "There's no finding
anything when you've tidied up. Where's the telegram? Where have you thrown it? Be so
good as to look for it. It's from Kazan, dated yesterday."
The maid--a pale, very slim girl with an indifferent expression --found several telegrams
in the basket under the table, and handed them to the doctor without a word; but all these
were telegrams from patients. Then they looked in the drawing-room, and in Olga
Dmitrievna's room.
It was past midnight. Nikolay Yevgrafitch knew his wife would not be home very soon,
not till five o'clock at least. He did not trust her, and when she was long away he could
not sleep, was worried, and at the same time he despised his wife, and her bed, and her
looking-glass, and her boxes of sweets, and the hyacinths, and the lilies of the valley
which were sent her every day by some one or other, and which diffused the sickly
fragrance of a florist's shop all over the house. On such nights he became petty, ill-
humoured, irritable, and he fancied now that it was very necessary for him to have the
telegram he had received the day before from his brother, though it contained nothing but
Christmas greetings.
On the table of his wife's room under the box of stationery he found a telegram, and
glanced at it casually. It was addressed to his wife, care of his mother-in-law, from Monte
Carlo, and signed Michel . . . . The doctor did not understand one word of it, as it was in
some foreign language, apparently English.
"Who is this Michel? Why Monte Carlo? Why directed care of her mother?"
During the seven years of his married life he had grown used to being suspicious,
guessing, catching at clues, and it had several times occurred to him, that his exercise at
home had qualified him to become an excellent detective. Going into his study and
beginning to reflect, he recalled at once how he had been with his wife in Petersburg a
year and a half ago, and had lunched with an old school-fellow, a civil engineer, and how
that engineer had introduced to him and his wife a young man of two or three and twenty,
called Mihail Ivanovitch, with rather a curious short surname--Riss. Two months later the
doctor had seen the young man's photograph in his wife's album, with an inscription in
French: "In remembrance of the present and in hope of the future." Later on he had met
the young man himself at his mother-in-law's. And that was at the time when his wife had
taken to being very often absent and coming home at four or five o'clock in the morning,
and was constantly asking him to get her a passport for abroad, which he kept refusing to
do; and a continual feud went on in the house which made him feel ashamed to face the
Six months before, his colleagues had decided that he was going into consumption, and
advised him to throw up everything and go to the Crimea. When she heard of this, Olga