The Schoolmaster and Other Stories HTML version

In The Dark
A FLY of medium size made its way into the nose of the assistant procurator, Gagin. It
may have been impelled by curiosity, or have got there through frivolity or accident in
the dark; anyway, the nose resented the presence of a foreign body and gave the signal
for a sneeze. Gagin sneezed, sneezed impressively and so shrilly and loudly that the bed
shook and the springs creaked. Gagin's wife, Marya Mihalovna, a full, plump, fair
woman, started, too, and woke up. She gazed into the darkness, sighed, and turned over
on the other side. Five minutes afterwards she turned over again and shut her eyes more
firmly but she could not get to sleep again. After sighing and tossing from side to side for
a time, she got up, crept over her husband, and putting on her slippers, went to the
It was dark outside. She could see nothing but the outlines of the trees and the roof of the
stables. There was a faint pallor in the east, but this pallor was beginning to be clouded
over. There was perfect stillness in the air wrapped in slumber and darkness. Even the
watchman, paid to disturb the stillness of night, was silent; even the corncrake--the only
wild creature of the feathered tribe that does not shun the proximity of summer visitors--
was silent.
The stillness was broken by Marya Mihalovna herself. Standing at the window and
gazing into the yard, she suddenly uttered a cry. She fancied that from the flower garden
with the gaunt, clipped poplar, a dark figure was creeping towards the house. For the first
minute she thought it was a cow or a horse, then, rubbing her eyes, she distinguished
clearly the outlines of a man.
Then she fancied the dark figure approached the window of the kitchen and, standing still
a moment, apparently undecided, put one foot on the window ledge and disappeared into
the darkness of the window.
"A burglar!" flashed into her mind and a deathly pallor overspread her face.
And in one instant her imagination had drawn the picture so dreaded by lady visitors in
country places--a burglar creeps into the kitchen, from the kitchen into the dining-room . .
. the silver in the cupboard . . . next into the bedroom . . . an axe . . . the face of a brigand
. . . jewelry. . . . Her knees gave way under her and a shiver ran down her back.
"Vassya!" she said, shaking her husband, "Basile! Vassily Prokovitch! Ah! mercy on us,
he might be dead! Wake up, Basile, I beseech you!"
"W-well?" grunted the assistant procurator, with a deep inward breath and a munching
"For God's sake, wake up! A burglar has got into the kitchen! I was standing at the
window looking out and someone got in at the window. He will get into the dining-room