The Schoolmaster and Other Stories HTML version

A Mystery
ON the evening of Easter Sunday the actual Civil Councillor, Navagin, on his return from
paying calls, picked up the sheet of paper on which visitors had inscribed their names in
the hall, and went with it into his study. After taking off his outer garments and drinking
some seltzer water, he settled himself comfortably on a couch and began reading the
signatures in the list. When his eyes reached the middle of the long list of signatures, he
started, gave an ejaculation of astonishment and snapped his fingers, while his face
expressed the utmost perplexity.
"Again!" he said, slapping his knee. "It's extraordinary! Again! Again there is the
signature of that fellow, goodness knows who he is! Fedyukov! Again!"
Among the numerous signatures on the paper was the signature of a certain Fedyukov.
Who the devil this Fedyukov was, Navagin had not a notion. He went over in his memory
all his acquaintances, relations and subordinates in the service, recalled his remote past
but could recollect no name like Fedyukov. What was so strange was that this incognito,
Fedyukov, had signed his name regularly every Christmas and Easter for the last thirteen
years. Neither Navagin, his wife, nor his house porter knew who he was, where he came
from or what he was like.
"It's extraordinary!" Navagin thought in perplexity, as he paced about the study. "It's
strange and incomprehensible! It's like sorcery!"
"Call the porter here!" he shouted.
"It's devilish queer! But I will find out who he is!"
"I say, Grigory," he said, addressing the porter as he entered, "that Fedyukov has signed
his name again! Did you see him?"
"No, your Excellency."
"Upon my word, but he has signed his name! So he must have been in the hall. Has he
"No, he hasn't, your Excellency."
"How could he have signed his name without being there?"
"I can't tell."
"Who is to tell, then? You sit gaping there in the hall. Try and remember, perhaps
someone you didn't know came in? Think a minute!"