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Contents > Author > Anton Chekhov > The Lady with the Dog 1 1860- 1904
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Anton Chekhov
The Lady with the Dog 1
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I

IT was said that a new person had appeared on the sea-front: a lady
with a little dog. Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, who had by then been a
fortnight at Yalta, and so was fairly at home there, had begun to
take an interest in new arrivals. Sitting in Verney's pavilion, he
saw, walking on the sea-front, a fair-haired young lady of medium
height, wearing a beret; a white Pomeranian dog was running behind
her.

And afterwards he met her in the public gardens and in the square
several times a day. She was walking alone, always wearing the same
beret, and always with the same white dog; no one knew who she
was, and every one called her simply "the lady with the dog."

"If she is here alone without a husband or friends, it wouldn't be
amiss to make her acquaintance," Gurov reflected.

He was under forty, but he had a daughter already twelve years old,
and two sons at school. He had been married young, when he was a
student in his second year, and by now his wife seemed half as old
again as he. She was a tall, erect woman with dark eyebrows, staid
and dignified, and, as she said of herself, intellectual. She read
a great deal, used phonetic spelling, called her husband, not Dmitri,
but Dimitri, and he secretly considered her unintelligent, narrow,
inelegant, was afraid of her, and did not like to be at home. He
had begun being unfaithful to her long ago-- had been unfaithful
to her often, and, probably on that account, almost always spoke
ill of women, and when they were talked about in his presence, used
to call them "the lower race."

It seemed to him that he had been so schooled by bitter experience
that he might call them what he liked, and yet he could not get on
for two days together without "the lower race." In the society of
men he was bored and not himself, with them he was cold and
uncommunicative; but when he was in the company of women he felt
free, and knew what to say to them and how to behave; and he was
at ease with them even when he was silent. In his appearance, in
his character, in his whole nature, there was something attractive
and elusive which allured women and disposed them in his favour;
he knew that, and some force seemed to draw him, too, to them.

Experience often repeated, truly bitter experience, had taught him
long ago that with decent people, especially Moscow people-- always
slow to move and irresolute-- every intimacy, which at first so
agreeably diversifies life and appears a light and charming adventure,
inevitably grows into a regular problem of extreme intricacy, and
in the long run the situation becomes unbearable. But at every fresh
meeting with an interesting woman this experience seemed to slip
out of his memory, and he was eager for life, and everything seemed
simple and amusing.

One evening he was dining in the gardens, and the lady in the beret
came up slowly to take the next table. Her expression, her gait,
her dress, and the way she did her hair told him that she was a
lady, that she was married, that she was in Yalta for the first
time and alone, and that she was dull there. . . . The stories told
of the immorality in such places as Yalta are to a great extent
untrue; he despised them, and knew that such stories were for the
most part made up by persons who would themselves have been glad
to sin if they had been able; but when the lady sat down at the
next table three paces from him, he remembered these tales of easy
conquests, of trips to the mountains, and the tempting thought of
a swift, fleeting love affair, a romance with an unknown woman,
whose name he did not know, suddenly took possession of him.

He beckoned coaxingly to the Pomeranian, and when the dog came up
to him he shook his finger at it. The Pomeranian growled: Gurov
shook his finger at it again.

The lady looked at him and at once dropped her eyes.

"He doesn't bite," she said, and blushed.

"May I give him a bone?" he asked; and when she nodded he asked
courteously, "Have you been long in Yalta?"

"Five days."

"And I have already dragged out a fortnight here."

There was a brief silence.

"Time goes fast, and yet it is so dull here!" she said, not looking
at him.

"That's only the fashion to say it is dull here. A provincial will
live in Belyov or Zhidra and not be dull, and when he comes here
it's 'Oh, the dullness! Oh, the dust!' One would think he came from
Grenada."

She laughed. Then both continued eating in silence, like strangers,
but after dinner they walked side by side; and there sprang up
between them the light jesting conversation of people who are free
and satisfied, to whom it does not matter where they go or what
they talk about. They walked and talked of the strange light on the
sea: the water was of a soft warm lilac hue, and there was a golden
streak from the moon upon it. They talked of how sultry it was after
a hot day. Gurov told her that he came from Moscow, that he had
taken his degree in Arts, but had a post in a bank; that he had
trained as an opera-singer, but had given it up, that he owned two
houses in Moscow. . . . And from her he learnt that she had grown
up in Petersburg, but had lived in S---- since her marriage two
years before, that she was staying another month in Yalta, and that
her husband, who needed a holiday too, might perhaps come and fetch
her. She was not sure whether her husband had a post in a Crown
Department or under the Provincial Council-- and was amused by her
own ignorance. And Gurov learnt, too, that she was called Anna
Sergeyevna.

Afterwards he thought about her in his room at the hotel-- thought
she would certainly meet him next day; it would be sure to happen.
As he got into bed he thought how lately she had been a girl at
school, doing lessons like his own daughter; he recalled the
diffidence, the angularity, that was still manifest in her laugh
and her manner of talking with a stranger. This must have been the
first time in her life she had been alone in surroundings in which
she was followed, looked at, and spoken to merely from a secret
motive which she could hardly fail to guess. He recalled her slender,
delicate neck, her lovely grey eyes.

"There's something pathetic about her, anyway," he thought, and
fell asleep.


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