The schoolmistress and other stories by Anton Chechov - HTML preview
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“And it keeps sprinkling and sprinkling,” muttered Semyon, fired from a revolver, probably with the idea that the ferrymen wiping the snow from his face; “and where it all comes from were asleep or had gone to the pot-house in the village.
God only knows.”
“All right, you have plenty of time,” said Semyon in the On the bank stood a thin man of medium height in a jacket tone of a man convinced that there was no necessity in this lined with fox fur and in a white lambskin cap. He was stand-world to hurry — that it would lead to nothing, anyway.
ing at a little distance from his horses and not moving; he had The heavy, clumsy barge moved away from the bank and a gloomy, concentrated expression, as though he were trying floated between the willow-bushes, and only the willows to remember something and angry with his untrustworthy slowly moving back showed that the barge was not standing memory. When Semyon went up to him and took off his still but moving. The ferrymen swung the oars evenly in time; cap, smiling, he said:
Semyon lay with his stomach on the tiller and, describing a
“I am hastening to Anastasyevka. My daughter’s worse again, semicircle in the air, flew from one side to the other. In the and they say that there is a new doctor at Anastasyevka.” darkness it looked as though the men were sitting on some They dragged the carriage on to the barge and floated back.
antediluvian animal with long paws, and were moving on it The man whom Semyon addressed as Vassily Sergeyitch stood through a cold, desolate land, the land of which one some-all the time motionless, tightly compressing his thick lips and times dreams in nightmares.
staring off into space; when his coachman asked permission They passed beyond the willows and floated out into the to smoke in his presence he made no answer, as though he open. The creak and regular splash of the oars was heard on had not heard. Semyon, lying with his stomach on the tiller, the further shore, and a shout came: “Make haste! make haste!” looked mockingly at him and said:
The Schoolmistress and other stories
“Even in Siberia people can live — can li-ive!” hatred and repulsion, shivering, and mixing Tatar words with There was a triumphant expression on Canny’s face, as his broken Russian, said: “He is good … good; but you are though he had proved something and was delighted that things bad! You are bad! The gentleman is a good soul, excellent, had happened as he had foretold. The unhappy helplessness and you are a beast, bad! The gentleman is alive, but you are a of the man in the foxskin coat evidently afforded him great dead carcass… . God created man to be alive, and to have joy pleasure.
and grief and sorrow; but you want nothing, so you are not
“It’s muddy driving now, Vassily Sergeyitch,” he said when alive, you are stone, clay! A stone wants nothing and you want the horses were harnessed again on the bank. “You should nothing. You are a stone, and God does not love you, but He have put off going for another fortnight, when it will be drier.
loves the gentleman!”
Or else not have gone at all… . If any good would come of Everyone laughed; the Tatar frowned contemptuously, and with your going —but as you know yourself, people have been a wave of his hand wrapped himself in his rags and went to the driving about for years and years, day and night, and it’s alway’s campfire. The ferrymen and Semyon sauntered to the hut.
been no use. That’s the truth.”
“It’s cold,” said one ferryman huskily as he stretched him-Vassily Sergeyitch tipped him without a word, got into his self on the straw with which the damp clay floor was covered.
carriage and drove off.
“Yes, its not warm,” another assented. “It’s a dog’s life… .”
“There, he has galloped off for a doctor!” said Semyon, They all lay down. The door was thrown open by the wind shrinking from the cold. “But looking for a good doctor is and the snow drifted into the hut; nobody felt inclined to get like chasing the wind in the fields or catching the devil by the up and shut the door: they were cold, and it was too much tail, plague take your soul! What a queer chap, Lord forgive trouble.
me a sinner!”
“I am all right,” said Semyon as he began to doze. “I wouldn’t The Tatar went up to Canny, and, looking at him with wish anyone a better life.”
“You are a tough one, we all know. Even the devils won’t THE CATTLE-DEALERS
Sounds like a dog’s howling came from outside.
THE LONG GOODS TRAIN has been standing for hours in the little
“What’s that? Who’s there?”
station. The engine is as silent as though its fire had gone out;
“It’s the Tatar crying.”
there is not a soul near the train or in the station yard.
“I say… . He’s a queer one!”
A pale streak of light comes from one of the vans and glides
“He’ll get u-used to it!” said Semyon, and at once fell asleep.
over the rails of a siding. In that van two men are sitting on an The others were soon asleep too. The door remained un-outspread cape: one is an old man with a big gray beard, wear-closed.
ing a sheepskin coat and a high lambskin hat, somewhat like a busby; the other a beardless youth in a threadbare cloth reefer jacket and muddy high boots. They are the owners of the goods. The old man sits, his legs stretched out before him, musing in silence; the young man half reclines and softly strums on a cheap accordion. A lantern with a tallow candle in it is hanging on the wall near them.
The van is quite full. If one glances in through the dim light of the lantern, for the first moment the eyes receive an impression of something shapeless, monstrous, and unmistakably alive, something very much like gigantic crabs which move their claws and feelers, crowd together, and noiselessly climb up the walls to the ceiling; but if one looks more closely, 62
The Schoolmistress and other stories horns and their shadows, long lean backs, dirty hides, tails,
“Are we going to stay here much longer?” asks the old man.
eyes begin to stand out in the dusk. They are cattle and their No answer. The motionless figure is evidently asleep. The shadows. There are eight of them in the van. Some turn round old man clears his throat impatiently and, shrinking from the and stare at the men and swing their tails. Others try to stand penetrating damp, walks round the engine, and as he does so or lie d own more comfortably. They are crowded. If one lies the brilliant light of the two engine lamps dazzles his eyes for down the others must stand and huddle closer. No manger, an instant and makes the night even blacker to him; he goes no halter, no litter, not a wisp of hay… .*
to the station.
At last the old man pulls out of his pocket a silver watch The platform and steps of the station are wet. Here and and looks at the time: a quarter past two.
there are white patches of freshly fallen melting snow. In the
“We have been here nearly two hours,” he says, yawning. “Bet-station itself it is light and as hot as a steam-bath. There is a ter go and stir them up, or we may be here till morning. They smell of paraffin. Except for the weighing-machine and a yel-have gone to sleep, or goodness knows what they are up to.” low seat on which a man wearing a guard’s uniform is asleep, The old man gets up and, followed by his long shadow, there is no furniture in the place at all. On the left are two cautiously gets down from the van into the darkness. He makes wide-open doors. Through one of them the telegraphic aphis way along beside the train to the engine, and after passing paratus and a lamp with a green shade on it can be seen; through some two dozen vans sees a red open furnace; a human figure the other, a small room, half of it taken up by a dark cup-sits motionless facing it; its peaked cap, nose, and knees are board. In this room the head guard and the engine-driver are lighted up by the crimson glow, all the rest is black and can sitting on the window-sill. They are both feeling a cap with scarcely be distinguished in the darkness.
their fingers and disputing.
“That’s not real beaver, it’s imitation,” says the engine-driver.
* On many railway lines, in order to avoid accidents, it is against the regulations to carry hay on the trains, and so live
“Real beaver is not like that. Five roubles would be a high stock are without fodder on the journey. — Author’s Note.
price for the whole cap, if you care to know!” stations to let the trains going the opposite way pass. Whether
“You know a great deal about it, …” the head guard says, we set off now or in the morning we shan’t be number four-offended. “Five roubles, indeed! Here, we will ask the mer-teen. We shall have to be number twenty-three.” chant. Mr. Malahin,” he says, addressing the old man, “what
“And how do you make that out?”
do you say: is this imitation beaver or real?”
“Well, there it is.”
Old Malahin takes the cap into his hand, and with the air Malahin looks at the guard, reflects, and mutters mechani-of a connoisseur pinches the fur, blows on it, sniffs at it, and cally as though to himself:
a contemptuous smile lights up his angry face.
“God be my judge, I have reckoned it and even jotted it
“It must be imitation!” he says gleefully. “Imitation it is.” down in a notebook; we have wasted thirty-four hours stand-A dispute follows. The guard maintains that the cap is real ing still on the journey. If you go on like this, either the cattle beaver, and the engine-driver and Malahin try to persuade will die, or they won’t pay me two roubles for the meat when him that it is not. In the middle of the argument the old man I do get there. It’s not traveling, but ruination.” suddenly remembers the object of his coming.
The guard raises his eyebrows and sighs with an air that
“Beaver and cap is all very well, but the train’s standing still, seems to say: “All that is unhappily true!” The engine-driver gentlemen!” he says. “Who is it we are waiting for? Let us start!” sits silent, dreamily looking at the cap. From their faces one
“Let us,” the guard agrees. “We will smoke another ciga-can see that they have a secret thought in common, which rette and go on. But there is no need to be in a hurry… . We they do not utter, not because they want to conceal it, but shall be delayed at the next station anyway!” because such thoughts are much better expressed by signs than
“Why should we?”
by words. And the old man understands. He feels in his pocket,
“Oh, well… . We are too much behind time… . If you are takes out a ten-rouble note, and without preliminary words, late at one station you can’t help being delayed at the other without any change in the tone of his voice or the expression 64
The Schoolmistress and other stories of his face, but with the confidence and directness with which person, but he is broad, strong, heavy and rough like the old probably only Russians give and take bribes, he gives the guard man; he does not stir nor shift his position, as though he is the note. The latter takes it, folds it in four, and without not equal to moving his big body. It seems as though any undue haste puts it in his pocket. After that all three go out of movement he made would tear his clothes and be so noisy as the room, and waking the sleeping guard on the way, go on to frighten both him and the cattle. From under his big fat to the platform.
fingers that clumsily pick out the stops and keys of the accor-
“What weather!” grumbles the head guard, shrugging his dion comes a steady flow of thin, tinkling sounds which blend shoulders. “You can’t see your hand before your face.” into a simple, monotonous little tune; he listens to it, and is
“Yes, it’s vile weather.”
evidently much pleased with his performance.
From the window they can see the flaxen head of the tele-A bell rings, but with such a muffled note that it seems to graph clerk appear beside the green lamp and the telegraphic come from far away. A hurried second bell soon follows, then apparatus; soon after another head, bearded and wearing a red a third and the guard’s whistle. A minute passes in profound cap, appears beside it — no doubt that of the station-master.
silence; the van does not move, it stands still, but vague sounds The station-master bends down to the table, reads something begin to come from beneath it, like the crunch of snow un-on a blue form, rapidly passing his cigarette along the lines… .
der sledge-runners; the van begins to shake and the sounds Malahin goes to his van.
cease. Silence reigns again. But now comes the clank of buff-The young man, his companion, is still half reclining and ers, the violent shock makes the van start and, as it were, give hardly audibly strumming on the accordion. He is little more a lurch forward, and all the cattle fall against one another.
than a boy, with no trace of a mustache; his full white face
“May you be served the same in the world to come,” with its broad cheek-bones is childishly dreamy; his eyes have grumbles the old man, setting straight his cap, which had a melancholy and tranquil look unlike that of a grown-up slipped on the back of his head from the jolt. “He’ll maim all 65
my cattle like this!”
“Shut the door, Yasha, and we will go to bed,” says the old Yasha gets up without a word and, taking one of the fallen man. “Why burn a candle for nothing?” beasts by the horns, helps it to get on to its legs… . The jolt Yasha moves the heavy door; there is a sound of a whistle, is followed by a stillness again. The sounds of crunching snow the engine and the train set off.
come from under the van again, and it seems as though the
“It’s cold,” mutters the old man, stretching himself on the train had moved back a little.
cape and laying his head on a bundle. “It is very different at
“There will be another jolt in a minute,” says the old man.
home! It’s warm and clean and soft, and there is room to say And the convulsive quiver does, in fact, run along the train, your prayers, but here we are worse off than any pigs. It’s four there is a crashing sound and the bullocks fall on one an-days and nights since I have taken off my boots.” other again.
Yasha, staggering from the jolting of the train, opens the
“It’s a job!” says Yasha, listening. “The train must be heavy.
lantern and snuffs out the wick with his wet fingers. The It seems it won’t move.”
light flares up, hisses like a frying pan and goes out.
“It was not heavy before, but now it has suddenly got heavy. No,
“Yes, my lad,” Malahin goes on, as he feels Yasha lie down my lad, the guard has not gone shares with him, I expect. Go and beside him and the young man’s huge back huddle against his take him something, or he will be jolting us till morning.” own, “it’s cold. There is a draught from every crack. If your Yasha takes a three-rouble note from the old man and jumps mother or your sister were to sleep here for one night they out of the van. The dull thud of his heavy footsteps resounds would be dead by morning. There it is, my lad, you wouldn’t outside the van and gradually dies away. Stillness… . In the study and go to the high school like your brothers, so you next van a bullock utters a prolonged subdued “moo,” as must take the cattle with your father. It’s your own fault, you though it were singing.
have only yourself to blame… . Your brothers are asleep in Yasha comes back. A cold damp wind darts into the van.
their beds now, they are snug under the bedclothes, but you, 66
The Schoolmistress and other stories the careless and lazy one, are in the same box as the cattle… .
is busy with the cattle.
The old man wakes up out of humor. Frowning and The old man’s words are inaudible in the noise of the train, gloomy, he clears his throat angrily and looks from under his but for a long time he goes on muttering, sighing and clear-brows at Yasha who, supporting a bullock with his powerful ing his throat… . The cold air in the railway van grows thicker shoulder and slightly lifting it, is trying to disentangle its leg.
and more stifling The pungent odor of fresh dung and smol-
“I told you last night that the cords were too long,” mutters dering candle makes it so repulsive and acrid that it irritates the old man; “but no, ‘It’s not too long, Daddy.’ There’s no Yasha’s throat and chest as he falls asleep. He coughs and making you do anything, you will have everything your own sneezes, while the old man, being accustomed to it, breathes way… . Blockhead!”
with his whole chest as though nothing were amiss, and merely He angrily moves the door open and the light rushes into clears his throat.
the van. A passenger train is standing exactly opposite the door, To judge from the swaying of the van and the rattle of the and behind it a red building with a roofed-in platform — a wheels the train is moving rapidly and unevenly. The engine big station with a refreshment bar. The roofs and bridges of breathes heavily, snorting out of time with the pulsation of the trains, the earth, the sleepers, all are covered with a thin the train, and altogether there is a medley of sounds. The coating of fluffy, freshly fallen snow. In the spaces between bullocks huddle together uneasily and knock their horns the carriages of the passenger train the passengers can be seen against the walls.
moving to and fro, and a red-haired, red-faced gendarme walk-When the old man wakes up, the deep blue sky of early ing up and down; a waiter in a frock-coat and a snow-white morning is peeping in at the cracks and at the little uncovered shirt-front, looking cold and sleepy, and probably very much window. He feels unbearably cold, especially in the back and dissatisfied with his fate, is running along the platform carry-the feet. The train is standing still; Yasha, sleepy and morose, ing a glass of tea and two rusks on a tray.
The old man gets up and begins saying his prayers towards interfered with fills his teapot with boiling water.
the east. Yasha, having finished with the bullock and put down
“Damned blackguard!” the bar-keeper shouts after him as the spade in the corner, stands beside him and says his prayers he runs back to the railway van.
also. He merely moves his lips and crosses himself; the father The scowling face of Malahin grows a little brighter over prays in a loud whisper and pronounces the end of each prayer the tea.
aloud and distinctly.
“We know how to eat and drink, but we don’t remember
“… And the life of the world to come. Amen,” the old man our work. Yesterday we could do nothing all day but eat and says aloud, draws in a breath, and at once whispers another drink, and I’ll be bound we forgot to put down what we prayer, rapping out clearly and firmly at the end: “ … and lay spent. What a memory! Lord have mercy on us!” calves upon Thy altar!”
The old man recalls aloud the expenditure of the day be-After saying his prayers, Yasha hurriedly crosses himself and fore, and writes down in a tattered notebook where and how says: “Five kopecks, please.”
much he had given to guards, engine-drivers, oilers… .
And on being given the five-kopeck piece, he takes a red Meanwhile the passenger train has long ago gone off, and copper teapot and runs to the station for boiling water. Tak-an engine runs backwards and forwards on the empty line, ing long jumps over the rails and sleepers, leaving huge tracks apparently without any definite object, but simply enjoying in the feathery snow, and pouring away yesterday’s tea out of its freedom. The sun has risen and is playing on the snow; the teapot he runs to the refreshment room and jingles his bright drops are falling from the station roof and the tops of five-kopeck piece against his teapot. From the van the bar-the vans.
keeper can be seen pushing away the big teapot and refusing Having finished his tea, the old man lazily saunters from to give half of his samovar for five kopecks, but Yasha turns the van to the station. Here in the middle of the first-class the tap himself and, spreading wide his elbows so as not to be waiting-room he sees the familiar figure of the guard stand-68
The Schoolmistress and other stories ing beside the station-master, a young man with a handsome and that he is ready to do for Malahin everything in his power.
beard and in a magnificent rough woollen overcoat. The young And from his face it is evident that he is ready to do anything man, probably new to his position, stands in the same place, to please not only Malahin, but the whole world — he is so gracefully shifting from one foot to the other like a good race-happy, so pleased, and so delighted! The old man listens, and horse, looks from side to side, salutes everyone that passes by, though he can make absolutely nothing of the intricate sys-smiles and screws up his eyes… . He is red-cheeked, sturdy, and tem of numbering the trains, he nods his head approvingly, good-humored; his face is full of eagerness, and is as fresh as and he, too, puts two fingers on the soft wool of the rough though he had just fallen from the sky with the feathery snow.
coat. He enjoys seeing and hearing the polite and genial young Seeing Malahin, the guard sighs guiltily and throws up his hands.
man. To show goodwill on his side also, he takes out a ten-
“We can’t go number fourteen,” he says. “We are very much rouble note and, after a moment’s thought, adds a couple of behind time. Another train has gone with that number.” rouble notes to it, and gives them to the station-master. The The station-master rapidly looks through some forms, then latter takes them, puts his finger to his cap, and gracefully turns his beaming blue eyes upon Malahin, and, his face radi-thrusts them into his pocket.
ant with smiles and freshness, showers questions on him:
“Well, gentlemen, can’t we arrange it like this?” he says,
“You are Mr. Malahin? You have the cattle? Eight vanloads?
kindled by a new idea that has flashed on him. “The troop What is to be done now? You are late and I let number four-train is late, … as you see, it is not here, … so why shouldn’t teen go in the night. What are we to do now?” you go as the troop train?** And I will let the troop train go The young man discreetly takes hold of the fur of Malahin’s as twenty-eight. Eh?”
coat with two pink fingers and, shifting from one foot to the
**The train destined especially for the transport of troops is other, explains affably and convincingly that such and such called the troop train; when they are no troops it takes goods, numbers have gone already, and that such and such are going, and goes more rapidly than ordinary goods train. — Author’s Note.
“If you like,” agrees the guard.
moving cattle every hour is precious. To-day meat is one price;
“Excellent!” the station-master says, delighted. “In that case and to-morrow, look you, it will be another. If you are a day there is no need for you to wait here; you can set off at once.
or two late and don’t get your price, instead of a profit you I’ll dispatch you immediately. Excellent!” get home — excuse my saying it — with out your breeches.
He salutes Malahin and runs off to his room, reading forms Pray take a little… . I rely on you, and as for standing you as he goes. The old man is very much pleased by the conver-something or what you like, I shall be pleased to show you sation that has just taken place; he smiles and looks about the my respect at any time.”
room as though looking for something else agreeable.
After having fed the guard, Malahin goes back to the van.
“We’ll have a drink, though,” he says, taking the guard’s
“I have just got hold of the troop train,” he says to his son.
“We shall go quickly. The guard says if we go all the way with
“It seems a little early for drinking.” that number we shall arrive at eight o’clock to-morrow
“No, you must let me treat you to a glass in a friendly way.” evening. If one does not bestir oneself, my boy, one gets noth-They both go to the refreshment bar. After having a drink ing… . That’s so… . So you watch and learn… .” the guard spends a long time selecting something to eat.
After the first bell a man with a face black with soot, in a He is a very stout, elderly man, with a puffy and discolored blouse and filthy frayed trousers hanging very slack, comes to face. His fatness is unpleasant, flabby-looking, and he is sal-the door of the van. This is the oiler, who had been creeping low as people are who drink too much and sleep irregularly.
under the carriages and tapping the wheels with a hammer.
“And now we might have a second glass,” says Malahin.
“Are these your vans of cattle?” he asks.
“It’s cold now, it’s no sin to drink. Please take some. So I can
rely upon you, Mr. Guard, that there will be no hindrance or
“Why, because two of the vans are not safe. They can’t go unpleasantness for the rest of the journey. For you know in on, they must stay here to be repaired.” 70
The Schoolmistress and other stories
“Oh, come, tell us another! You simply want a drink, to get without ceasing, and at every stopping place runs to the re-something out of me… . You should have said so.” freshment bar. Feeling the need of a listener, he takes with
“As you please, only it is my duty to report it at once.” him first the guard, and then the engine-driver, and does not Without indignation or protest, simply, almost mechani-simply drink, but makes a long business of it, with suitable cally, the old man takes two twenty-kopeck pieces out of his remarks and clinking of glasses.
pocket and gives them to the oiler. He takes them very calmly,
“You have your job and we have ours,” he says with an af-too, and looking good-naturedly at the old man enters into fable smile. “May God prosper us and you, and not our will conversation.
but His be done.”
“You are going to sell your cattle, I suppose… . It’s good The vodka gradually excites him and he is worked up to a business!”
great pitch of energy. He wants to bestir himself, to fuss about, Malahin sighs and, looking calmly at the oiler’s black face, to make inquiries, to talk incessantly. At one minute he tells him that trading in cattle used certainly to be profitable, fumbles in his pockets and bundles and looks for some form.
but now it has become a risky and losing business.
Then he thinks of something and cannot remember it; then
“I have a mate here,” the oiler interrupts him. “You mer-takes out his pocketbook, and with no sort of object counts chant gentlemen might make him a little present….” over his money. He bustles about, sighs and groans, clasps his Malahin gives something to the mate too. The troop train hands… . Laying out before him the letters and telegrams goes quickly and the waits at the stations are comparatively from the meat salesmen in the city, bills, post office and tele-short. The old man is pleased. The pleasant impression made graphic receipt forms, and his note book, he reflects aloud by the young man in the rough overcoat has gone deep, the and insists on Yasha’s listening.
vodka he has drunk slightly clouds his brain, the weather is And when he is tired of reading over forms and talking magnificent, and everything seems to be going well. He talks about prices, he gets out at the stopping places, runs to the 71
vans where his cattle are, does nothing, but simply clasps his and his assistant, very phlegmatic and imperturbable persons, hands and exclaims in horror.
perform incomprehensible movements and don’t hurry them-
“Oh, dear! oh, dear!” he says in a complaining voice. “Holy selves. After standing for a while by the engine, Yasha saunters Martyr Vlassy! Though they are bullocks, though they are beasts, lazily to the station; here he looks at the eatables in the re-yet they want to eat and drink as men do… . It’s four days and freshment bar, reads aloud some quite uninteresting notice, nights since they have drunk or eaten. Oh, dear! oh, dear!” and goes back slowly to the cattle van. His face expresses nei-Yasha follows him and does what he is told like an obedient ther boredom nor desire; apparently he does not care where son. He does not like the old man’s frequent visits to the he is, at home, in the van, or by the engine.
refreshment bar. Though he is afraid of his father, he cannot Towards evening the train stops near a big station. The lamps refrain from remarking on it.
have only just been lighted along the line; against the blue
“So you have begun already!” he says, looking sternly at the old background in the fresh limpid air the lights are bright and man. “What are you rejoicing at? Is it your name-day or what?” pale like stars; they are only red and glowing under the station
“Don’t you dare teach your father.” roof, where it is already dark. All the lines are loaded up with
“Fine goings on!”
carriages, and it seems that if another train came in there would When he has not to follow his father along the other vans be no place for it. Yasha runs to the station for boiling water Yasha sits on the cape and strums on the accordion. Occa-to make the evening tea. Well-dressed ladies and high-school sionally he gets out and walks lazily beside the train; he stands boys are walking on the platform. If one looks into the dis-by the engine and turns a prolonged, unmoving stare on the tance from the platform there are far-away lights twinkling in wheels or on the workmen tossing blocks of wood into the the evening dusk on both sides of the station — that is the tender; the hot engine wheezes, the falling blocks come down town. What town? Yasha does not care to know. He sees only with the mellow, hearty thud of fresh wood; the engine-driver the dim lights and wretched buildings beyond the station, 72
The Schoolmistress and other stories hears the cabmen shouting, feels a sharp, cold wind on his
“And where is the troop train? Why have you taken me off face, and imagines that the town is probably disagreeable, the troop train?”
uncomfortable, and dull.
Getting n o answer, the old man goes to the station. He While they are having tea, when it is quite dark and a lan-looks first for the familiar figure of the head guard and, not tern is hanging on the wall again as on the previous evening, finding him, goes to the station-master. The station-master is the train quivers from a slight shock and begins moving back-sitting at a table in his own room, turning over a bundle of wards. After going a little way it stops; they hear indistinct forms. He is busy, and affects not to see the newcomer. His shouts, someone sets the chains clanking near the buffers and appearance is impressive: a cropped black head, prominent shouts, “Ready!” The train moves and goes forward. Ten min-ears, a long hooked nose, a swarthy face; he has a forbidding utes later it is dragged back again.
and, as it were, offended expression. Malahin begins making Getting out of the van, Malahin does not recognize his train.
his complaint at great length.
His eight vans of bullocks are standing in the same row with
“What?” queries the station-master. “How is this?” He leans some trolleys which were not a part of the train before. Two against the back of his chair and goes on, growing indignant: or three of these are loaded with rubble and the others are
“What is it? and why shouldn’t you go by number eighteen?
empty. The guards running to and fro on the platform are Speak more clearly, I don’t understand! How is it? Do you strangers. They give unwilling and indistinct answers to his want me to be everywhere at once?”
questions. They have no thoughts to spare for Malahin; they He showers questions on him, and for no apparent reason are in a hurry to get the train together so as to finish as soon as grows sterner and sterner. Malahin is already feeling in his pocket possible and be back in the warmth.
for his pocketbook, but in the end the station-master, aggrieved
“What number is this?” asks Malahin and indignant, for some unknown reason jumps up from his
seat and runs out of the room. Malahin shrugs his shoulders, 73
and goes out to look for someone else to speak to.
agents everywhere, they hunt and hunt. And then — can you From boredom or from a desire to put the finishing stroke imagine it? — the Company happen to come upon a broken-to a busy day, or simply that a window with the inscription down carriage of the Z. line. They repair it at their depot, and
“Telegraph! “ on it catches his eye, he goes to the window and all at once, bless my soul! see their own mark on the wheels expresses a desire to send off a telegram. Taking up a pen, he What do you say to that? Eh? If I did it they would send me thinks for a moment, and writes on a blue form: “Urgent.
to Siberia, but the railway companies simply snap their fin-Traffic Manager. Eight vans of live stock. Delayed at every gers at it!”
station. Kindly send an express number. Reply paid. Malahin.” It is pleasant to Malahin to talk to educated, cultured Having sent off the telegram, he goes back to the station-people. He strokes his beard and joins in the conversation master’s room. There he finds, sitting on a sofa covered with with dignity.
gray cloth, a benevolent-looking gentleman in spectacles and
“Take this case, gentlemen, for instance,” he says. I am trans-a cap of raccoon fur; he is wearing a peculiar overcoat very porting cattle to X. Eight vanloads. Very good… . Now let us much like a lady’s, edged with fur, with frogs and slashed say they charge me for each vanload as a weight of ten tons; sleeves. Another gentleman, dried-up and sinewy, wearing the eight bullocks don’t weigh ten tons, but much less, yet they uniform of a railway inspector, stands facing him.
don’t take any notice of that… .”
“Just think of it,” says the inspector, addressing the gentle-At that instant Yasha walks into the room looking for his man in the queer overcoat. “ I’ll tell you an incident that re-father. He listens and is about to sit down on a chair, but prob-ally is A1! The Z. railway line in the coolest possible way ably thinking of his weight goes and sits on the window-sill.
stole three hundred trucks from the N. line. It’s a fact, sir! I
“They don’t take any notice of that,” Malahin goes on, “and swear it! They carried them off, repainted them, put their charge me and my son the third-class fare, too, forty-two letters on them, and that’s all about it. The N. line sends its roubles, for going in the van with the bullocks. This is my 74
The Schoolmistress and other stories son Yakov. I have two more at home, but they have gone in
“Listen, with what number am I to go?” asks Malahin.
for study. Well and apart from that it is my opinion that the The station-master looks at a form and says indignantly: railways have ruined the cattle trade. In old days when they
“Are you Malahin, eight vanloads? You must pay a rouble a drove them in herds it was better.” van and six roubles and twenty kopecks for stamps. You have The old man’s talk is lengthy and drawn out. After every no stamps. Total, fourteen roubles, twenty kopecks.” sentence he looks at Yasha as though he would say: “See how Receiving the money, he writes something down, dries it I am talking to clever people.”
with sand, and, hurriedly snatching up a bundle of forms,
“Upon my word!” the inspector interrupts him. “No one is goes quickly out of the room.
indignant, no one criticizes. And why? It is very simple. An At ten o’clock in the evening Malahin gets an answer from abomination strikes the eye and arouses indignation only when the traffic manager: “Give precedence.” it is exceptional, when the established order is broken by it.
Reading the telegram through, the old man winks signifi-Here, where, saving your presence, it constitutes the long-cantly and, very well pleased with himself, puts it in his pocket.
established program and forms and enters into the basis of
“Here,” he says to Yasha, “look and learn.” the order itself, where every sleeper on the line bears the trace At midnight his train goes on. The night is dark and cold of it and stinks of it, one too easily grows accustomed to it!
like the previous one; the waits at the stations are long. Yasha Yes, sir!”
sits on the cape and imperturbably strums on the accordion, The second bell rings, the gentlemen in the queer overcoat while the old man is still more eager to exert himself. At one gets up. The inspector takes him by the arm and, still talking of the stations he is overtaken by a desire to lodge a com-with heat, goes off with him to the platform. After the third plaint. At his request a gendarme sits down and writes: bell the station-master runs into his room, and sits down at
“November 10, 188-. — I, non-commissioned officer of his table.
the Z. section of the N. police department of railways, Ilya 75
Tchered, in accordance with article II of the statute of May which his side pocket is stuffed, and, much pleased, goes back 19, 1871, have drawn up this protocol at the station of X. as to his van.
herewith follows… .”
In the morning Malahin wakes up again in a bad humor,
“What am I to write next?” asks the gendarme.
but his wrath vents itself not on Yasha but the cattle.
Malahin lays out before him forms, postal and telegraph
“The cattle are done for!” he grumbles. “They are done for! They receipts, accounts… . He does not know himself definitely are at the last gasp! God be my judge! they will all die. Tfoo!” what he wants of the gendarme; he wants to describe in the The bullocks, who have had nothing to drink for many protocol not any separate episode but his whole journey, with days, tortured by thirst, are licking the hoar frost on the walls, all his losses and conversations with station-masters — to de-and when Malachin goes up to them they begin licking his scribe it lengthily and vindictively.
cold fur jacket. From their clear, tearful eyes it can be seen
“At the station of Z.,” he says, “write that the station-mas-that they are exhausted by thirst and the jolting of the train, ter unlinked my vans from the troop train because he did not that they are hungry and miserable.
like my countenance.”
“It’s a nice job taking you by rail, you wretched brutes!” And he wants the gendarme to be sure to mention his coun-mutters Malahin. “I could wish you were dead to get it over!
tenance. The latter listens wearily, and goes on writing with-It makes me sick to look at you!”
out hearing him to the end. He ends his protocol thus: At midday the train stops at a big station where, according
“The above deposition I, non-commissioned officer to the regulations, there was drinking water provided for cattle.
Tchered, have written down in this protocol with a view to Water is given to the cattle, but the bullocks will not drink present it to the head of the Z. section, and have handed a it: the water is too cold… .
copy thereof to Gavril Malahin.”
The old man takes the copy, adds it to the papers with
* * * * * * *76
The Schoolmistress and other stories TWO MORE DAYS and nights pass, and at last in the distance in At last the bullocks are sold to a dealer. Malahin hires drov-the murky fog the city comes into sight. The jou rney is over.
ers. The cattle are divided into herds, ten in each, and driven The train comes to a standstill before reaching the town, near to the other end of the town. The bullocks, exhausted, go a goods’ station. The bullocks, released from the van, stagger with drooping heads through the noisy streets, and look in-and stumble as though they were walking on slippery ice.
differently at what they see for the first and last time in their Having got through the unloading and veterinary inspec-lives. The tattered drovers walk after them, their heads droop-tion, Malahin and Yasha take up their quarters in a dirty, cheap ing too. They are bored… . Now and then some drover starts hotel in the outskirts of the town, in the square in which the out of his brooding, remembers that there are cattle in front cattle-market is held. Their lodgings are filthy and their food of him intrusted to his charge, and to show that he is doing is disgusting, unlike what they ever have at home; they sleep his duty brings a stick down full swing on a bullock’s back.
to the harsh strains of a wretched steam hurdy-gurdy which The bullock staggers with the pain, runs forward a dozen plays day and night in the restaurant under their lodging.
paces, and looks about him as though he were ashamed at The old man spends his time from morning till night go-being beaten before people.
ing about looking for purchasers, and Yasha sits for days in After selling the bullocks and buying for his family pre-the hotel room, or goes out into the street to look at the sents such as they could perfectly well have bought at home, town. He sees the filthy square heaped up with dung, the Malahin and Yasha get ready for their journey back. Three signboards of restaurants, the turreted walls of a monastery in hours before the train goes the old man, who has already the fog. Sometimes he runs across the street and looks into had a drop too much with the purchaser and so is fussy, the grocer’s shop, admires the jars of cakes of different colors, goes down with Yasha to the restaurant and sits down to yawns, and lazily saunters back to his room. The city does drink tea. Like all provincials, he cannot eat and drink alone: not interest him.
he must have company as fussy and as fond of sedate con-77
versation as himself.
to make a fuss about, and is not late for his train.
“Call the host!” he says to the waiter; “tell him I should like An hour later Malahin and Yasha, laden with bags and boxes, to entertain him.”
go downstairs from the hotel room to the front door to get The hotel-keeper, a well-fed man, absolutely indifferent to into a sledge and drive to the station. They are seen off by the his lodgers, comes and sits down to the table.
hotel-keeper, the waiter, and various women. The old man is
“Well, we have sold our stock,” Malahin says, laughing. “I touched. He thrusts ten-kopeck pieces in all directions, and have swapped my goat for a hawk. Why, when we set off the says in a sing-song voice:
price of meat was three roubles ninety kopecks, but when we
“Good by, good health to you! God grant that all may be arrived it had dropped to three roubles twenty-five. They tell well with you. Please God if we are alive and well we shall us we are too late, we should have been here three days earlier, come again in Lent. Good-by. Thank you. God bless you!” for now there is not the same demand for meat, St. Philip’s Getting into the sledge, the old man spends a long time cross-fast has come… . Eh? It’s a nice how-do-you-do! It meant a ing himself in the direction in which the monastery walls make loss of fourteen roubles on each bullock. Yes. But only think a patch of darkness in the fog. Yasha sits beside him on the very what it costs to bring the stock! Fifteen roubles carriage, and edge of the seat with his legs hanging over the side. His face as you must put down six roubles for each bullock, tips, bribes, before shows no sign of emotion and expresses neither bore-drinks, and one thing and another… .” dom nor desire. He is not glad that he is going home, nor sorry The hotel-keeper listens out of politeness and reluctantly that he has not had time to see the sights of the city.
drinks tea. Malahin sighs and groans, gesticulates, jests about
his ill-luck, but everything shows that the loss he has sus-The cabman whips up the horse and, turning round, begins tained does not trouble him much. He doesn’t mind whether swearing at the heavy and cumbersome luggage.
he has lost or gained as long as he has listeners, has something 78
The Schoolmistress and other stories SORROW
tience. Please God we shall reach the hospital, and in a trice it will be the right thing for you… . Pavel Ivanitch will give you THE TURNER, Grigory Petrov, who had been known for years some little drops, or tell them to bleed you; or maybe his past as a splendid craftsman, and at the same time as the most honor will be pleased to rub you with some sort of spirit —
senseless peasant in the Galtchinskoy district, was taking his it’ll … draw it out of your side. Pavel Ivanitch will do his old woman to the hospital. He had to drive over twenty miles, best. He will shout and stamp about, but he will do his best…
and it was an awful road. A government post driver could
. He is a nice gentleman, affable, God give him health! As hardly have coped with it, much less an incompetent slug-soon as we get there he will dart out of his room and will gard like Grigory. A cutting cold wind was blowing straight begin calling me names. ‘How? Why so?’ he will cry. ‘Why in his face. Clouds of snowflakes were whirling round and did you not come at the right time? I am not a dog to be round in all directions, so that one could not tell whether the hanging about waiting on you devils all day. Why did you snow was falling from the sky or rising from the earth. The not come in the morning? Go away! Get out of my sight.
fields, the telegraph posts, and the forest could not be seen Come again to-morrow.’ And I shall say: ‘Mr. Doctor! Pavel for the fog of snow. And when a particularly violent gust of Ivanitch! Your honor!’ Get on, do! plague take you, you devil!
wind swooped down on Grigory, even the yoke above the Get on!”
horse’s head could not be seen. The wretched, feeble little nag The turner lashed his nag, and without looking at the old crawled slowly along. It took all its strength to drag its legs woman went on muttering to himself: out of the snow and to tug with its head. The turner was in a
“‘Your honor! It’s true as before God… . Here’s the Cross hurry. He kept restlessly hopping up and down on the front for you, I set off almost before it was light. How could I be seat and lashing the horse’s back.
here in time if the Lord… .The Mother of God … is wroth,
“Don’t cry, Matryona, …” he muttered. “Have a little pa-and has sent such a snowstorm? Kindly look for yourself… .