The Horse-Stealers and Other Stories HTML version

Old Age
UZELKOV, an architect with the rank of civil councillor, arrived in his native town, to
which he had been invited to restore the church in the cemetery. He had been born in the
town, had been at school, had grown up and married in it. But when he got out of the
train he scarcely recognized it. Everything was changed. . . . Eighteen years ago when he
had moved to Petersburg the street-boys used to catch marmots, for instance, on the spot
where now the station was standing; now when one drove into the chief street, a hotel of
four storeys stood facing one; in old days there was an ugly grey fence just there; but
nothing--neither fences nor houses --had changed as much as the people. From his
enquiries of the hotel waiter Uzelkov learned that more than half of the people he
remembered were dead, reduced to poverty, forgotten.
"And do you remember Uzelkov?" he asked the old waiter about himself. "Uzelkov the
architect who divorced his wife? He used to have a house in Svirebeyevsky Street . . . you
must remember."
"I don't remember, sir."
"How is it you don't remember? The case made a lot of noise, even the cabmen all knew
about it. Think, now! Shapkin the attorney managed my divorce for me, the rascal . . . the
notorious cardsharper, the fellow who got a thrashing at the club. . . ."
"Ivan Nikolaitch?"
"Yes, yes. . . . Well, is he alive? Is he dead?"
"Alive, sir, thank God. He is a notary now and has an office. He is very well off. He has
two houses in Kirpitchny Street. . . . His daughter was married the other day."
Uzelkov paced up and down the room, thought a bit, and in his boredom made up his
mind to go and see Shapkin at his office. When he walked out of the hotel and sauntered
slowly towards Kirpitchny Street it was midday. He found Shapkin at his office and
scarcely recognized him. From the once well-made, adroit attorney with a mobile,
insolent, and always drunken face Shapkin had changed into a modest, grey-headed,
decrepit old man.
"You don't recognize me, you have forgotten me," began Uzelkov. "I am your old client,
"Uzelkov, what Uzelkov? Ah!" Shapkin remembered, recognized, and was struck all of a
heap. There followed a shower of exclamations, questions, recollections.