The Horse-Stealers and Other Stories HTML version

A Happy Man
THE passenger train is just starting from Bologoe, the junction on the Petersburg-
Moscow line. In a second-class smoking compartment five passengers sit dozing,
shrouded in the twilight of the carriage. They had just had a meal, and now, snugly
ensconced in their seats, they are trying to go to sleep. Stillness.
The door opens and in there walks a tall, lanky figure straight as a poker, with a ginger-
coloured hat and a smart overcoat, wonderfully suggestive of a journalist in Jules Verne
or on the comic stage.
The figure stands still in the middle of the compartment for a long while, breathing
heavily, screwing up his eyes and peering at the seats.
"No, wrong again!" he mutters. "What the deuce! It's positively revolting! No, the wrong
one again!"
One of the passengers stares at the figure and utters a shout of joy:
"Ivan Alexyevitch! what brings you here? Is it you?"
The poker-like gentleman starts, stares blankly at the passenger, and recognizing him
claps his hands with delight.
"Ha! Pyotr Petrovitch," he says. "How many summers, how many winters! I didn't know
you were in this train."
"How are you getting on?"
"I am all right; the only thing is, my dear fellow, I've lost my compartment and I simply
can't find it. What an idiot I am! I ought to be thrashed!"
The poker-like gentleman sways a little unsteadily and sniggers.
"Queer things do happen!" he continues. "I stepped out just after the second bell to get a
glass of brandy. I got it, of course. Well, I thought, since it's a long way to the next
station, it would be as well to have a second glass. While I was thinking about it and
drinking it the third bell rang. . . . I ran like mad and jumped into the first carriage. I am
an idiot! I am the son of a hen!"
"But you seem in very good spirits," observes Pyotr Petrovitch. "Come and sit down!
There's room and a welcome."
"No, no. . . . I'm off to look for my carriage. Good-bye!"