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Contents > Author > Anton Chekhov > The Lady with the Dog 2 1860- 1904
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Anton Chekhov
The Lady with the Dog 2
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II


A week had passed since they had made acquaintance. It was a holiday.
It was sultry indoors, while in the street the wind whirled the
dust round and round, and blew people's hats off. It was a thirsty
day, and Gurov often went into the pavilion, and pressed Anna
Sergeyevna to have syrup and water or an ice. One did not know what
to do with oneself.

In the evening when the wind had dropped a little, they went out
on the groyne to see the steamer come in. There were a great many
people walking about the harbour; they had gathered to welcome some
one, bringing bouquets. And two peculiarities of a well-dressed
Yalta crowd were very conspicuous: the elderly ladies were dressed
like young ones, and there were great numbers of generals.

Owing to the roughness of the sea, the steamer arrived late, after
the sun had set, and it was a long time turning about before it
reached the groyne. Anna Sergeyevna looked through her lorgnette
at the steamer and the passengers as though looking for acquaintances,
and when she turned to Gurov her eyes were shining. She talked a
great deal and asked disconnected questions, forgetting next moment
what she had asked; then she dropped her lorgnette in the crush.

The festive crowd began to disperse; it was too dark to see people's
faces. The wind had completely dropped, but Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna
still stood as though waiting to see some one else come from the
steamer. Anna Sergeyevna was silent now, and sniffed the flowers
without looking at Gurov.

"The weather is better this evening," he said. "Where shall we go
now? Shall we drive somewhere?"

She made no answer.

Then he looked at her intently, and all at once put his arm round
her and kissed her on the lips, and breathed in the moisture and
the fragrance of the flowers; and he immediately looked round him,
anxiously wondering whether anyone had seen them.

"Let us go to your hotel," he said softly. And both walked quickly.

The room was close and smelt of the scent she had bought at the
Japanese shop. Gurov looked at her and thought: "What different
people one meets in the world!" From the past he preserved memories
of careless, good-natured women, who loved cheerfully and were
grateful to him for the happiness he gave them, however brief it
might be; and of women like his wife who loved without any genuine
feeling, with superfluous phrases, affectedly, hysterically, with
an expression that suggested that it was not love nor passion, but
something more significant; and of two or three others, very
beautiful, cold women, on whose faces he had caught a glimpse of a
rapacious expression-- an obstinate desire to snatch from life
more than it could give, and these were capricious, unreflecting,
domineering, unintelligent women not in their first youth, and when
Gurov grew cold to them their beauty excited his hatred, and the
lace on their linen seemed to him like scales.

But in this case there was still the diffidence, the angularity of
inexperienced youth, an awkward feeling; and there was a sense of
consternation as though some one had suddenly knocked at the door.
The attitude of Anna Sergeyevna-- "the lady with the dog"-- to
what had happened was somehow peculiar, very grave, as though it
were her fall-- so it seemed, and it was strange and inappropriate.
Her face dropped and faded, and on both sides of it her long hair
hung down mournfully; she mused in a dejected attitude like "the
woman who was a sinner" in an old-fashioned picture.

"It's wrong," she said. "You will be the first to despise me now."

There was a water-melon on the table. Gurov cut himself a slice and
began eating it without haste. There followed at least half an hour
of silence.

Anna Sergeyevna was touching; there was about her the purity of a
good, simple woman who had seen little of life. The solitary candle
burning on the table threw a faint light on her face, yet it was
clear that she was very unhappy.

"How could I despise you?" asked Gurov. "You don't know what you
are saying."

"God forgive me," she said, and her eyes filled with tears. "It's
awful."

"You seem to feel you need to be forgiven."

"Forgiven? No. I am a bad, low woman; I despise myself and don't
attempt to justify myself. It's not my husband but myself I have
deceived. And not only just now; I have been deceiving myself for
a long time. My husband may be a good, honest man, but he is a
flunkey! I don't know what he does there, what his work is, but I
know he is a flunkey! I was twenty when I was married to him. I
have been tormented by curiosity; I wanted something better. 'There
must be a different sort of life,' I said to myself. I wanted to
live! To live, to live! . . . I was fired by curiosity . . . you
don't understand it, but, I swear to God, I could not control myself;
something happened to me: I could not be restrained. I told my
husband I was ill, and came here. . . . And here I have been walking
about as though I were dazed, like a mad creature; . . . and now I
have become a vulgar, contemptible woman whom anyone may despise."

Gurov felt bored already, listening to her. He was irritated by the
naive tone, by this remorse, so unexpected and inopportune; but for
the tears in her eyes, he might have thought she was jesting or
playing a part.

"I don't understand," he said softly. "What is it you want?"

She hid her face on his breast and pressed close to him.

"Believe me, believe me, I beseech you . . ." she said. "I love a
pure, honest life, and sin is loathsome to me. I don't know what I
am doing. Simple people say: 'The Evil One has beguiled me.' And I
may say of myself now that the Evil One has beguiled me."

"Hush, hush! . . ." he muttered.

He looked at her fixed, scared eyes, kissed her, talked softly and
affectionately, and by degrees she was comforted, and her gaiety
returned; they both began laughing.

Afterwards when they went out there was not a soul on the sea-front.
The town with its cypresses had quite a deathlike air, but the sea
still broke noisily on the shore; a single barge was rocking on the
waves, and a lantern was blinking sleepily on it.

They found a cab and drove to Oreanda.

"I found out your surname in the hall just now: it was written on
the board-- Von Diderits," said Gurov. "Is your husband a German?"

"No; I believe his grandfather was a German, but he is an Orthodox
Russian himself."

At Oreanda they sat on a seat not far from the church, looked down
at the sea, and were silent. Yalta was hardly visible through the
morning mist; white clouds stood motionless on the mountain-tops.
The leaves did not stir on the trees, grasshoppers chirruped, and
the monotonous hollow sound of the sea rising up from below, spoke
of the peace, of the eternal sleep awaiting us. So it must have
sounded when there was no Yalta, no Oreanda here; so it sounds now,
and it will sound as indifferently and monotonously when we are all
no more. And in this constancy, in this complete indifference to
the life and death of each of us, there lies hid, perhaps, a pledge
of our eternal salvation, of the unceasing movement of life upon
earth, of unceasing progress towards perfection. Sitting beside a
young woman who in the dawn seemed so lovely, soothed and spellbound
in these magical surroundings-- the sea, mountains, clouds, the
open sky-- Gurov thought how in reality everything is beautiful
in this world when one reflects: everything except what we think
or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the higher
aims of our existence.

A man walked up to them-- probably a keeper-- looked at them and
walked away. And this detail seemed mysterious and beautiful, too.
They saw a steamer come from Theodosia, with its lights out in the
glow of dawn.

"There is dew on the grass," said Anna Sergeyevna, after a silence.

"Yes. It's time to go home."

They went back to the town.

Then they met every day at twelve o'clock on the sea-front, lunched
and dined together, went for walks, admired the sea. She complained
that she slept badly, that her heart throbbed violently; asked the
same questions, troubled now by jealousy and now by the fear that
he did not respect her sufficiently. And often in the square or
gardens, when there was no one near them, he suddenly drew her to
him and kissed her passionately. Complete idleness, these kisses
in broad daylight while he looked round in dread of some one's
seeing them, the heat, the smell of the sea, and the continual
passing to and fro before him of idle, well-dressed, well-fed people,
made a new man of him; he told Anna Sergeyevna how beautiful she
was, how fascinating. He was impatiently passionate, he would not
move a step away from her, while she was often pensive and continually
urged him to confess that he did not respect her, did not love her
in the least, and thought of her as nothing but a common woman.
Rather late almost every evening they drove somewhere out of town,
to Oreanda or to the waterfall; and the expedition was always a
success, the scenery invariably impressed them as grand and beautiful.

They were expecting her husband to come, but a letter came from
him, saying that there was something wrong with his eyes, and he
entreated his wife to come home as quickly as possible. Anna
Sergeyevna made haste to go.

"It's a good thing I am going away," she said to Gurov. "It's the
finger of destiny!"

She went by coach and he went with her. They were driving the whole
day. When she had got into a compartment of the express, and when
the second bell had rung, she said:

"Let me look at you once more . . . look at you once again. That's
right."

She did not shed tears, but was so sad that she seemed ill, and her
face was quivering.

"I shall remember you . . . think of you," she said. "God be with
you; be happy. Don't remember evil against me. We are parting forever
-- it must be so, for we ought never to have met. Well, God be with
you."

The train moved off rapidly, its lights soon vanished from sight,
and a minute later there was no sound of it, as though everything
had conspired together to end as quickly as possible that sweet
delirium, that madness. Left alone on the platform, and gazing into
the dark distance, Gurov listened to the chirrup of the grasshoppers
and the hum of the telegraph wires, feeling as though he had only
just waked up. And he thought, musing, that there had been another
episode or adventure in his life, and it, too, was at an end, and
nothing was left of it but a memory. . . . He was moved, sad, and
conscious of a slight remorse. This young woman whom he would never
meet again had not been happy with him; he was genuinely warm and
affectionate with her, but yet in his manner, his tone, and his
caresses there had been a shade of light irony, the coarse condescension
of a happy man who was, besides, almost twice her age. All the time
she had called him kind, exceptional, lofty; obviously he had seemed
to her different from what he really was, so he had unintentionally
deceived her. . . .

Here at the station was already a scent of autumn; it was a cold
evening.

"It's time for me to go north," thought Gurov as he left the platform.
"High time!"


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