The Schoolmaster and Other Stories HTML version

Oh! The Public
"HERE goes, I've done with drinking! Nothing. . . n-o-thing shall tempt me to it. It's time
to take myself in hand; I must buck up and work. . . You're glad to get your salary, so you
must do your work honestly, heartily, conscientiously, regardless of sleep and comfort.
Chuck taking it easy. You've got into the way of taking a salary for nothing, my boy--
that's not the right thing . . . not the right thing at all. . . ."
After administering to himself several such lectures Podtyagin, the head ticket collector,
begins to feel an irresistible impulse to get to work. It is past one o'clock at night, but in
spite of that he wakes the ticket collectors and with them goes up and down the railway
carriages, inspecting the tickets.
"T-t-t-ickets . . . P-p-p-please!" he keeps shouting, briskly snapping the clippers.
Sleepy figures, shrouded in the twilight of the railway carriages, start, shake their heads,
and produce their tickets.
"T-t-t-tickets, please!" Podtyagin addresses a second-class passenger, a lean, scraggy-
looking man, wrapped up in a fur coat and a rug and surrounded with pillows. "Tickets,
The scraggy-looking man makes no reply. He is buried in sleep. The head ticket-collector
touches him on the shoulder and repeats impatiently: "T-t-tickets, p-p-please!"
The passenger starts, opens his eyes, and gazes in alarm at Podtyagin.
"What? . . . Who? . . . Eh?"
"You're asked in plain language: t-t-tickets, p-p-please! If you please!"
"My God!" moans the scraggy-looking man, pulling a woebegone face. "Good Heavens!
I'm suffering from rheumatism. . . . I haven't slept for three nights! I've just taken morphia
on purpose to get to sleep, and you . . . with your tickets! It's merciless, it's inhuman! If
you knew how hard it is for me to sleep you wouldn't disturb me for such nonsense. . . .
It's cruel, it's absurd! And what do you want with my ticket! It's positively stupid!"
Podtyagin considers whether to take offence or not--and decides to take offence.
"Don't shout here! This is not a tavern!"
"No, in a tavern people are more humane. . ." coughs the passenger. "Perhaps you'll let
me go to sleep another time! It's extraordinary: I've travelled abroad, all over the place,
and no one asked for my ticket there, but here you're at it again and again, as though the
devil were after you. . . ."