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Contents > Author > Anton Chekhov > The Lady with the Dog 4 1860- 1904
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Anton Chekhov
The Lady with the Dog 4
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IV


And Anna Sergeyevna began coming to see him in Moscow. Once in two
or three months she left S----, telling her husband that she was
going to consult a doctor about an internal complaint-- and her
husband believed her, and did not believe her. In Moscow she stayed
at the Slaviansky Bazaar hotel, and at once sent a man in a red cap
to Gurov. Gurov went to see her, and no one in Moscow knew of it.

Once he was going to see her in this way on a winter morning (the
messenger had come the evening before when he was out). With him
walked his daughter, whom he wanted to take to school: it was on
the way. Snow was falling in big wet flakes.

"It's three degrees above freezing-point, and yet it is snowing,"
said Gurov to his daughter. "The thaw is only on the surface of the
earth; there is quite a different temperature at a greater height
in the atmosphere."

"And why are there no thunderstorms in the winter, father?"

He explained that, too. He talked, thinking all the while that he
was going to see her, and no living soul knew of it, and probably
never would know. He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by
all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative
falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances;
and another life running its course in secret. And through some
strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything
that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in
which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that
made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people; and all
that was false in him, the sheath in which he hid himself to conceal
the truth-- such, for instance, as his work in the bank, his
discussions at the club, his "lower race," his presence with his
wife at anniversary festivities-- all that was open. And he judged
of others by himself, not believing in what he saw, and always
believing that every man had his real, most interesting life under
the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night. All personal
life rested on secrecy, and possibly it was partly on that account
that civilised man was so nervously anxious that personal privacy
should be respected.

After leaving his daughter at school, Gurov went on to the Slaviansky
Bazaar. He took off his fur coat below, went upstairs, and softly
knocked at the door. Anna Sergeyevna, wearing his favourite grey
dress, exhausted by the journey and the suspense, had been expecting
him since the evening before. She was pale; she looked at him, and
did not smile, and he had hardly come in when she fell on his breast.
Their kiss was slow and prolonged, as though they had not met for
two years.

"Well, how are you getting on there?" he asked. "What news?"

"Wait; I'll tell you directly. . . . I can't talk."

She could not speak; she was crying. She turned away from him, and
pressed her handkerchief to her eyes.

"Let her have her cry out. I'll sit down and wait," he thought, and
he sat down in an arm-chair.

Then he rang and asked for tea to be brought him, and while he drank
his tea she remained standing at the window with her back to him.
She was crying from emotion, from the miserable consciousness that
their life was so hard for them; they could only meet in secret,
hiding themselves from people, like thieves! Was not their life
shattered?

"Come, do stop!" he said.

It was evident to him that this love of theirs would not soon be
over, that he could not see the end of it. Anna Sergeyevna grew
more and more attached to him. She adored him, and it was unthinkable
to say to her that it was bound to have an end some day; besides,
she would not have believed it!

He went up to her and took her by the shoulders to say something
affectionate and cheering, and at that moment he saw himself in the
looking-glass.

His hair was already beginning to turn grey. And it seemed strange
to him that he had grown so much older, so much plainer during the
last few years. The shoulders on which his hands rested were warm
and quivering. He felt compassion for this life, still so warm and
lovely, but probably already not far from beginning to fade and
wither like his own. Why did she love him so much? He always seemed
to women different from what he was, and they loved in him not
himself, but the man created by their imagination, whom they had
been eagerly seeking all their lives; and afterwards, when they
noticed their mistake, they loved him all the same. And not one of
them had been happy with him. Time passed, he had made their
acquaintance, got on with them, parted, but he had never once loved;
it was anything you like, but not love.

And only now when his head was grey he had fallen properly, really
in love-- for the first time in his life.

Anna Sergeyevna and he loved each other like people very close and
akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them
that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not
understand why he had a wife and she a husband; and it was as though
they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in
different cages. They forgave each other for what they were ashamed
of in their past, they forgave everything in the present, and felt
that this love of theirs had changed them both.

In moments of depression in the past he had comforted himself with
any arguments that came into his mind, but now he no longer cared
for arguments; he felt profound compassion, he wanted to be sincere
and tender. . . .

"Don't cry, my darling," he said. "You've had your cry; that's
enough. . . . Let us talk now, let us think of some plan."

Then they spent a long while taking counsel together, talked of how
to avoid the necessity for secrecy, for deception, for living in
different towns and not seeing each other for long at a time. How
could they be free from this intolerable bondage?

"How? How?" he asked, clutching his head. "How?"

And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be
found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was
clear to both of them that they had still a long, long road before
them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of it was
only just beginning.


* * * * * THE END * * * * *


 

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