The Duel and Other Stories HTML version

Expensive Lessons
FOR a cultivated man to be ignorant of foreign languages is a great inconvenience.
Vorotov became acutely conscious of it when, after taking his degree, he began upon a
piece of research work.
"It's awful," he said, breathing hard (although he was only twenty-six he was fat, heavy,
and suffered from shortness of breath).
"It's awful! Without languages I'm like a bird without wings. I might just as well give up
the work."
And he made up his mind at all costs to overcome his innate laziness, and to learn French
and German; and began to look out for a teacher.
One winter noon, as Vorotov was sitting in his study at work, the servant told him that a
young lady was inquiring for him.
"Ask her in," said Vorotov.
And a young lady elaborately dressed in the last fashion walked in. She introduced
herself as a teacher of French, Alice Osipovna Enquête, and told Vorotov that she had
been sent to him by one of his friends.
"Delighted! Please sit down," said Vorotov, breathing hard and putting his hand over the
collar of his nightshirt (to breathe more freely he always wore a nightshirt at work instead
of a stiff linen one with collar). "It was Pyotr Sergeitch sent you? Yes, yes . . . I asked
him about it. Delighted!"
As he talked to Mdlle. Enquête he looked at her shyly and with curiosity. She was a
genuine Frenchwoman, very elegant and still quite young. Judging from her pale, languid
face, her short curly hair, and her unnaturally slim waist, she might have been eighteen;
but looking at her broad, well-developed shoulders, the elegant lines of her back and her
severe eyes, Vorotov thought that she was not less than three-and-twenty and might be
twenty-five; but then again he began to think she was not more than eighteen. Her face
looked as cold and business-like as the face of a person who has come to speak about
money. She did not once smile or frown, and only once a look of perplexity flitted over
her face when she learnt that she was not required to teach children, but a stout grown-up
"So, Alice Osipovna," said Vorotov, "we'll have a lesson every evening from seven to
eight. As regards your terms--a rouble a lesson--I've nothing to say against that. By all
means let it be a rouble. . . ."