At home in Moscow everything was in its winter routine; the stoves
were heated, and in the morning it was still dark when the children
were having breakfast and getting ready for school, and the nurse
would light the lamp for a short time. The frosts had begun already.
When the first snow has fallen, on the first day of sledge-driving
it is pleasant to see the white earth, the white roofs, to draw
soft, delicious breath, and the season brings back the days of one's
youth. The old limes and birches, white with hoar-frost, have a
good-natured expression; they are nearer to one's heart than cypresses
and palms, and near them one doesn't want to be thinking of the sea
and the mountains.
Gurov was Moscow born; he arrived in Moscow on a fine frosty day,
and when he put on his fur coat and warm gloves, and walked along
Petrovka, and when on Saturday evening he heard the ringing of the
bells, his recent trip and the places he had seen lost all charm
for him. Little by little he became absorbed in Moscow life, greedily
read three newspapers a day, and declared he did not read the Moscow
papers on principle! He already felt a longing to go to restaurants,
clubs, dinner-parties, anniversary celebrations, and he felt flattered
at entertaining distinguished lawyers and artists, and at playing
cards with a professor at the doctors' club. He could already eat
a whole plateful of salt fish and cabbage.
In another month, he fancied, the image of Anna Sergeyevna would
be shrouded in a mist in his memory, and only from time to time
would visit him in his dreams with a touching smile as others did.
But more than a month passed, real winter had come, and everything
was still clear in his memory as though he had parted with Anna
Sergeyevna only the day before. And his memories glowed more and
more vividly. When in the evening stillness he heard from his study
the voices of his children, preparing their lessons, or when he
listened to a song or the organ at the restaurant, or the storm
howled in the chimney, suddenly everything would rise up in his
memory: what had happened on the groyne, and the early morning with
the mist on the mountains, and the steamer coming from Theodosia,
and the kisses. He would pace a long time about his room, remembering
it all and smiling; then his memories passed into dreams, and in
his fancy the past was mingled with what was to come. Anna Sergeyevna
did not visit him in dreams, but followed him about everywhere like
a shadow and haunted him. When he shut his eyes he saw her as though
she were living before him, and she seemed to him lovelier, younger,
tenderer than she was; and he imagined himself finer than he had
been in Yalta. In the evenings she peeped out at him from the
bookcase, from the fireplace, from the corner-- he heard her
breathing, the caressing rustle of her dress. In the street he
watched the women, looking for some one like her.
He was tormented by an intense desire to confide his memories to
some one. But in his home it was impossible to talk of his love,
and he had no one outside; he could not talk to his tenants nor to
any one at the bank. And what had he to talk of? Had he been in
love, then? Had there been anything beautiful, poetical, or edifying
or simply interesting in his relations with Anna Sergeyevna? And
there was nothing for him but to talk vaguely of love, of woman,
and no one guessed what it meant; only his wife twitched her black
eyebrows, and said:
"The part of a lady-killer does not suit you at all, Dimitri."
One evening, coming out of the doctors' club with an official with
whom he had been playing cards, he could not resist saying:
"If only you knew what a fascinating woman I made the acquaintance
of in Yalta!"
The official got into his sledge and was driving away, but turned
suddenly and shouted:
"You were right this evening: the sturgeon was a bit too strong!"
These words, so ordinary, for some reason moved Gurov to indignation,
and struck him as degrading and unclean. What savage manners, what
people! What senseless nights, what uninteresting, uneventful days!
The rage for card-playing, the gluttony, the drunkenness, the
continual talk always about the same thing. Useless pursuits and
conversations always about the same things absorb the better part
of one's time, the better part of one's strength, and in the end
there is left a life grovelling and curtailed, worthless and trivial,
and there is no escaping or getting away from it-- just as though
one were in a madhouse or a prison.
Gurov did not sleep all night, and was filled with indignation. And
he had a headache all next day. And the next night he slept badly;
he sat up in bed, thinking, or paced up and down his room. He was
sick of his children, sick of the bank; he had no desire to go
anywhere or to talk of anything.
In the holidays in December he prepared for a journey, and told his
wife he was going to Petersburg to do something in the interests
of a young friend-- and he set off for S----. What for? He did not
very well know himself. He wanted to see Anna Sergeyevna and to
talk with her-- to arrange a meeting, if possible.
He reached S---- in the morning, and took the best room at the
hotel, in which the floor was covered with grey army cloth, and on
the table was an inkstand, grey with dust and adorned with a figure
on horseback, with its hat in its hand and its head broken off. The
hotel porter gave him the necessary information; Von Diderits lived
in a house of his own in Old Gontcharny Street-- it was not far
from the hotel: he was rich and lived in good style, and had his
own horses; every one in the town knew him. The porter pronounced
the name "Dridirits."
Gurov went without haste to Old Gontcharny Street and found the
house. Just opposite the house stretched a long grey fence adorned
"One would run away from a fence like that," thought Gurov, looking
from the fence to the windows of the house and back again.
He considered: to-day was a holiday, and the husband would probably
be at home. And in any case it would be tactless to go into the
house and upset her. If he were to send her a note it might fall
into her husband's hands, and then it might ruin everything. The
best thing was to trust to chance. And he kept walking up and down
the street by the fence, waiting for the chance. He saw a beggar
go in at the gate and dogs fly at him; then an hour later he heard
a piano, and the sounds were faint and indistinct. Probably it was
Anna Sergeyevna playing. The front door suddenly opened, and an old
woman came out, followed by the familiar white Pomeranian. Gurov
was on the point of calling to the dog, but his heart began beating
violently, and in his excitement he could not remember the dog's
He walked up and down, and loathed the grey fence more and more,
and by now he thought irritably that Anna Sergeyevna had forgotten
him, and was perhaps already amusing herself with some one else,
and that that was very natural in a young woman who had nothing to
look at from morning till night but that confounded fence. He went
back to his hotel room and sat for a long while on the sofa, not
knowing what to do, then he had dinner and a long nap.
"How stupid and worrying it is!" he thought when he woke and looked
at the dark windows: it was already evening. "Here I've had a good
sleep for some reason. What shall I do in the night?"
He sat on the bed, which was covered by a cheap grey blanket, such
as one sees in hospitals, and he taunted himself in his vexation:
"So much for the lady with the dog . . . so much for the adventure
. . . . You're in a nice fix. . . ."
That morning at the station a poster in large letters had caught
his eye. "The Geisha" was to be performed for the first time. He
thought of this and went to the theatre.
"It's quite possible she may go to the first performance," he
The theatre was full. As in all provincial theatres, there was a
fog above the chandelier, the gallery was noisy and restless; in
the front row the local dandies were standing up before the beginning
of the performance, with their hands behind them; in the Governor's
box the Governor's daughter, wearing a boa, was sitting in the front
seat, while the Governor himself lurked modestly behind the curtain
with only his hands visible; the orchestra was a long time tuning
up; the stage curtain swayed. All the time the audience were coming
in and taking their seats Gurov looked at them eagerly.
Anna Sergeyevna, too, came in. She sat down in the third row, and
when Gurov looked at her his heart contracted, and he understood
clearly that for him there was in the whole world no creature so
near, so precious, and so important to him; she, this little woman,
in no way remarkable, lost in a provincial crowd, with a vulgar
lorgnette in her hand, filled his whole life now, was his sorrow
and his joy, the one happiness that he now desired for himself, and
to the sounds of the inferior orchestra, of the wretched provincial
violins, he thought how lovely she was. He thought and dreamed.
A young man with small side-whiskers, tall and stooping, came in
with Anna Sergeyevna and sat down beside her; he bent his head at
every step and seemed to be continually bowing. Most likely this
was the husband whom at Yalta, in a rush of bitter feeling, she had
called a flunkey. And there really was in his long figure, his
side-whiskers, and the small bald patch on his head, something of
the flunkey's obsequiousness; his smile was sugary, and in his
buttonhole there was some badge of distinction like the number on
During the first interval the husband went away to smoke; she
remained alone in her stall. Gurov, who was sitting in the stalls,
too, went up to her and said in a trembling voice, with a forced
She glanced at him and turned pale, then glanced again with horror,
unable to believe her eyes, and tightly gripped the fan and the
lorgnette in her hands, evidently struggling with herself not to
faint. Both were silent. She was sitting, he was standing, frightened
by her confusion and not venturing to sit down beside her. The
violins and the flute began tuning up. He felt suddenly frightened;
it seemed as though all the people in the boxes were looking at
them. She got up and went quickly to the door; he followed her, and
both walked senselessly along passages, and up and down stairs, and
figures in legal, scholastic, and civil service uniforms, all wearing
badges, flitted before their eyes. They caught glimpses of ladies,
of fur coats hanging on pegs; the draughts blew on them, bringing
a smell of stale tobacco. And Gurov, whose heart was beating
"Oh, heavens! Why are these people here and this orchestra! . . ."
And at that instant he recalled how when he had seen Anna Sergeyevna
off at the station he had thought that everything was over and they
would never meet again. But how far they were still from the end!
On the narrow, gloomy staircase over which was written "To the
Amphitheatre," she stopped.
"How you have frightened me!" she said, breathing hard, still pale
and overwhelmed. "Oh, how you have frightened me! I am half dead.
Why have you come? Why?"
"But do understand, Anna, do understand . . ." he said hastily in
a low voice. "I entreat you to understand. . . ."
She looked at him with dread, with entreaty, with love; she looked
at him intently, to keep his features more distinctly in her memory.
"I am so unhappy," she went on, not heeding him. "I have thought
of nothing but you all the time; I live only in the thought of you.
And I wanted to forget, to forget you; but why, oh, why, have you
On the landing above them two schoolboys were smoking and looking
down, but that was nothing to Gurov; he drew Anna Sergeyevna to
him, and began kissing her face, her cheeks, and her hands.
"What are you doing, what are you doing!" she cried in horror,
pushing him away. "We are mad. Go away to-day; go away at once. . . .
I beseech you by all that is sacred, I implore you. . . . There
are people coming this way!"
Someone was coming up the stairs.
"You must go away," Anna Sergeyevna went on in a whisper. "Do you
hear, Dmitri Dmitritch? I will come and see you in Moscow. I have
never been happy; I am miserable now, and I never, never shall be
happy, never! Don't make me suffer still more! I swear I'll come
to Moscow. But now let us part. My precious, good, dear one, we
She pressed his hand and began rapidly going downstairs, looking
round at him, and from her eyes he could see that she really was
unhappy. Gurov stood for a little while, listened, then, when all
sound had died away, he found his coat and left the theatre.
* * * * *