It needs no straining of memory to recall the rainy twilight autumn evening when I stood with my father in a crowded Moscow street and felt overtaken by a strange illness. I suffered no pain, but my legs gave way, my head hung helplessly on one side, and words stuck in my throat. I felt that I should soon fall on the pаvement and swoon away.
Had I been taken to hospital at the moment, the doctor would have written above my bed the word: “Fames” — a complaint not usually dealt with in medical text-books.
In the Graveyard
THE wind has got up, friends, and it is beginning to get dark. Hadn’t we better take ourselves off before it gets worse?”
The wind was frolicking among the yellow leaves of the old birch trees, and a shower of thick drops fell upon us from the leaves. One of our party slipped on the clayey soil, and clutched at a big grey cross to save himself from falling.
THE police superintendent Otchumyelov is walking across the market square wearing a new overcoat and carrying a parcel under his arm. A redhaired policeman strides after him with a sieve full of confiscated gooseberries in his hands. There is silence all around. Not a soul in the square…. The open doors of the shops and taverns look out upon God’s world disconsolately, like hungry mouths; there is not even a beggar near them.
Minds in Ferment
THE earth was like an oven. The afternoon sun blazed with such energy that even the thermometer hanging in the excise officer’s room lost its head: it ran up to 112.5 and stopped there, irresolute. The inhabitants streamed with perspiration like overdriven horses, and were too lazy to mop their faces.
Two of the inhabitants were walking along the marketplace in front of the closely shuttered houses.
KRATEROV, the titular councillor, as thin and slender as the Admiralty spire, stepped forward and, addressing Zhmyhov, said:
“Your Excellency! Moved and touched to the bottom of our hearts by the way you have ruled us during long years, and by your fatherly care… .”
“During the course of more than ten years…” Zakusin prompted.
THE Justice of the Peace, who had received a letter from Petersburg, had set the news going that the owner of Yefremovo, Count Vladimir Ivanovitch, would soon be arriving. When he would arrive — there was no saying.
“Like a thief in the night,” said Father Kuzma, a grey-headed little priest in a lilac cassock. “And when he does come the place will be crowded with the nobility and other high gentry. All the neighbours will flock here. Mind now, do your best, Alexey Alexeitch…. I beg you most earnestly.”
The Bird Market
THERE is a small square near the monastery of the Holy Birth which is called Trubnoy, or simply Truboy; there is a market there on Sundays. Hundreds of sheepskins, wadded coats, fur caps, and chimneypot hats swarm there, like crabs in a sieve. There is the sound of the twitter of birds in all sorts of keys, recalling the spring. If the sun is shining, and there are no clouds in the sky, the singing of the birds and the smell of hay make a more vivid impression, and this reminder of spring sets one thinking and carries one’s fancy far, far away. Along one side of the square there stands a string of waggons. The waggons are loaded, not with hay, not with cabbages, nor with beans, but with goldfinches, siskins, larks, blackbirds and thrushes, bluetits, bullfinches.
Sergey Kapitonlch Akhineyev, the teacher of calligraphy, gave his daughter Natalya in marriage to the teacher of history and geography, Ivan Petrovich Loshadinikh. The wedding feast went on swimmingly. They sang, played, and danced in the parlor. Waiters, hired for the occasion from the club, bustled about hither and thither like madmen, in black frock coats and soiled white neckties. A loud noise of voices smote the air. From the outside people looked in at the windows;—their social standing gave them no right to enter.
A Tragic Actor
IT was the benefit night of Fenogenov, the tragic actor. They were acting “Prince Serebryany.” The tragedian himself was playing Vyazemsky; Limonadov, the stage manager, was playing Morozov; Madame Beobahtov, Elena. The performance was a grand success. The tragedian accomplished wonders indeed. When he was carrying off Elena, he held her in one hand above his head as he dashed across the stage. He shouted, hissed, banged with his feet, tore his coat across his chest. When he refused to fight Morozov, he trembled all over as nobody ever trembles in reality, and gasped loudly. The theatre shook with applause. There were endless calls. Fenogenov was presented with a silver cigarette-case and a bouquet tied with long ribbons. The ladies waved their handkerchiefs and urged their men to applaud, many shed tears….