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Full text of "Reminiscences of Anton Chekhov"

REMINISCENCES OF ANTON CHEKHOV 



REMINISCENCES OF 
ANTON CHEKHOV 

BY 

MAXIM GORKY, ALEXANDER KUPRIN 
AND I. A. BUNIN 



TRANSLATED BY 

S. S. KOTELIANSKY and LEONARD WOOLF 




NEW YORK B. W. HUEBSCH, Inc. mcmxxi 



COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY i 

B. W. HUEBSCH, Inc. j 



PRINTED IN THV UNITBD 8TATB8 OT AMIRIOA 



CONTENTS 

FRAGMENTS OF RECOLLECTIONS BY MAXIM GORKY, 1 

TO Chekhov's memory by Alexander kuprin, 29 

A. p. CHEKHOV BY I. A. BUNIN, 9I 



ANTON CHEKHOV 

FRAGMENTS OF RECOLLECTIONS 
BY 

MAXIM GORKY 



Once he invited me to the village Kout- 
chouk-Koy where he had a tiny strip of land 
and a white, two-storied house. There, 
while showing me his "estate," he began to 
speak with animation: *'If I had plenty of 
money, I should build a sanatorium here for 
invalid village teachers. You know, I 
would put up a large, bright building — very 
bright, with large windows and lofty rooms. 
I would have a line library, different musical 
instruments, bees, a vegetable garden, an 
orchard. . . . There would be lectures on 
agriculture, mytholog}^ . . . Teachers ought 
to know everything, everything, my dear 
fellow." 

He was suddenly silent, coughed, looked 
at me out of the corners of his eyes, and 
smiled that tender, channing smile of his 
which attracted one so irresistibly to him and 
made one listen so attentively to his words. 

''Does it bore you to listen to my fanta- 
sies'? I do love to talk of it. . . . If you 
knew how badly the Russian village needs a 

[1] 



nice, sensible, educated teacher I We ought 
in Russia to give the teacher particularly 
good conditions, and it ought to be done as 
quickly as possible. We ought to realize 
that without a wide education of the people, 
Russia will collapse, like a house built of 
badly baked bricks. A teacher must be an 
artist, in love with his calling; but with us 
he is a journeyman, ill educated, who goes 
to the village to teach children as though 
he were going into exile. He is starved, 
crushed, terrorized by the fear of losing his 
daily bread. But he ought to-be the first 
man in the village; the peasants ought to 
recognize him as a power, worthy of atten- 
tion and respect ; no one should dare to shout 
at him or humilate him personally, as with 
us every one does — the village constable, the 
rich shop-keeper, the priest, the rural police 
commissioner, the school guardian, the coun- 
cilor, and that official who has the title of 
school-inspector, but who cares nothing for 
the improvement of education and only sees 
that the circulars of his chiefs are carried 
out. ... It is ridiculous to pay in farthings 
the man who has to educate the people. It 
is intolerable that he should walk in rags, 

[2] 



shiver with cold in damp and draughty 
schools, catch cold, and about the age of 
thirty get laryngitis, rheumatism, or tuber- 
culosis. We ought to be ashamed of it. 
Our teacher, for eight or nine months in the 
year, lives like a hermit: he has no one to 
speak a word to; without company, books, 
or amusements, he is growing stupid, and, 
if he invites his colleagues to visit him, then 
he becomes politically suspect — a stupid 
word with which crafty men frighten fools. 
All this is disgusting; it is the mockery of a 
man who is doing a great and tremendously 
important work. . . . Do you know, when- 
ever I see a teacher, I feel ashamed for him, 
for his timidity, and because he is badly 
dressed ... it seems to me that for the 
teacher's wretchedness I am myself to blame 
— ^I mean it.'' 

He was silent, thinking; and then, waving 
his hand, he said gently: "This Russia of 
ours is such an absurd, clumsy country." 

A shadow of sadness crossed his beauti- 
ful eyes; little rays of wrinkles surrounded 
them and made them look still more medita- 
tive. Then, looking round, he said jest- 
ingly: "You see, I have fired off at you a 

[3] 



complete leading article from a radical paper. 
Come, ril give you tea to reward your pa- 
tience." 

That was characteristic of him, to speak 
so earnestly, with such warmth and sincerity, 
and then suddenly to laugh at himself and 
his speech. In that sad and gentle smile one 
felt the subtle skepticism of the man who 
knows the value of words and dreams; and 
there also flashed in the smile a lovable 
modesty and delicate sensitiveness. . . . 

We walked back slowly in silence to the 
house. It was a clear, hot day; the waves 
sparkled under the bright rays of the sun; 
down below one heard a dog barking joy- 
fully. Chekhov took my arm, coughed, and 
said slowly: "It is shameful and sad, but 
true: there are many men who envy the 
dogs." 

And he added immediately with a laugh: 
"To-day I can only make feeble speeches 
... It means that I'm getting old.'' 

I often heard him say: "You know, a 
teacher has just come here — he's ill, mar- 
ried . . . couldn't you do something for 
him? I have made arrangements for him 
for the time being." Or again: "Listen, 

l4] 



Gorky, there is a teacher here who would 
like to meet you. He can't go out, he's ill. 
Won't you come and see him*? Do." Or: 
"Look here, the women teachers want books 
to be sent to them." 

Sometimes I would find that "teacher" at 
his house; usually he would be sitting on 
the edge of his chair, blushing at the con- 
sciousness of his own awkwardness, in the 
sweat of his brow picking and choosing his 
words, trying to speak smoothly and "edu- 
catedly"; or, with the ease of manner of a 
person who is morbidly shy, he would con- 
centrate himself upon the effort not to appear 
stupid in the eyes of an author, and he would 
simply belabor Anton Chekhov with a hail 
of questions which had never entered his 
head until that moment. 

Anton Chekhov would listen attentively 
to the dreary, incoherent speech; now and 
again a smile came into his sad eyes, a little 
wrinkle appeared on his forehead, and then, 
in his soft, lusterless voice, he began to speak 
simple, clear, homely words, words which 
somehow or other immediately made his 
questioner simple : the teacher stopped trying 
to be clever, and therefore immediately 

[5] 



became more clever and interesting. . . . 

I remember one teacher, a tall, thin man 
with a yellow, hungry- face and a long, 
hooked nose which drooped gloomily towards 
his chin. He sat opposite .\nton Chekhov 
and, looking fixedly into Chekhov's face with 
his black eyes, said in a melancholy bass 
voice : 

"From such impressions of existence 
within the space of the tutorial session there 
comes a psychical conglomeration which 
crushes every possibility of an objective at- 
titude towards the surrounding universe. 
Of course, the universe is nothing but our 
presentation of it. . . ." 

And he rushed headlong into philosophy, 
and he moved over its surface like a drunk- 
ard skating on ice. 

"Tell me," Chekhov put in quietly and 
kindly, "who is that teacher in your district 
who beats the children?" 

The teacher sprang from his chair and 
waved his arms indignantly: "Whom do you 
Tiean'? Me*? Never! Beating'?" 

He snorted with indignation. 

"Don't get excited," .\nton Chekhov went 



[6] 



on, smiling reassuringly; "Pm not speaking 
of you. But I remember — I read it in the 
newspapers — there is some one in your dis- 
trict who beats the children." 

The teacher sat down, wiped his perspir- 
ing face, and, with a sigh of relief, said in 
his deep bass : — 

'It's true . . . there was such a case . . . 
it was Makarov. You know, it's not surpris- 
ing. It's cruel, but explicable. He's mar- 
ried . . . has four children ... his wife is 
ill . . . himself consumptive ... his sal- 
ar\^ is 20 roubles, the school like a cellar, 
and the teacher has but a single room — under 
such circumstances you will give a thrash- 
ing to an angel of God for no fault . . . 
and the children — they're far from angels, 
believe me." 

And the man, who had just been merci- 
lessly belaboring ChekHov with his store of 
clever words, suddenly, ominously wagging 
his hooked nose, began to speak simple, 
weighty, clear-cut words, which illuminated, 
like a fire, the terrible, accursed truth about 
the life of the Russian village. 

When he said good-bye to his host, the 



[7] 



teacher took Chekhov's small, dry hand with 
its thin fingers in both his own, and, shaking 
it, said: — 

"I came to you as though I were going to 
the authorities, in fear and trembling . . . 
I puffed myself out like a turkey-cock . . . 
I wanted to show you that I was no ordinary 
mortal. . . . And now I'm leaving you as a 
nice, close friend who understands every- 
thing. . . . It's a great thing — to under- 
stand everything! Thank you! rrri tak- 
ing away with me a pleasant thought: big 
men are simpler and more understandable 
. . . 'and nearer in soul to us fellow men 
than all those wretches among whom we 
live. . . . Good-bye; I will never forget 
you." 

His nose quivered, his lips twisted into a 
good-natured smile, and he added suddenly: 

"To tell the truth, scoundrels too are un- 
happy — the devil take them." 

When he went out, Chekhov followed him 
with a glance, smiled, and said : 

"He's a nice fellow. . . , He won't be a 
teacher long." 

•^Why?' 

[8] 



"They will run him down — whip him 

off.'' 

He thought for a bit, and added quietly: 
'In Russia an honest man is rather like the 

chimney-sweep with whom nurses frighten 

children." 

I THINK that in Anton Chekhov's presence 
every one involuntarily felt in himself a de^ 
sire to b£._sirn2kruiiiiC£Jtry^^ one's 

^eli-; I often saw how people cast off the mot- 
ley finery of bookish phrases, smart words, 
and all the other cheap tricks with which a 
Russian, wishing to figure as a European, 
adorns himself, like a savage with shells and 
fish's teeth. Anton Chekhov disliked fish's 
teeth and cock's feathers; anything "bril- 
liant" or foreign, assumed by a man to make 
himself look bigger, disturbed him; I noticed 
that, whenever he saw any one dressed up in 
this way, he had a desire to free him from 
all that oppressive, useless tinsel and to find 
underneath the genuine face and living soul 
of the person. Alibis life Chekhov lived 
on his own soul; he w as^alwa y s h imself. 
iiTwardly^"7ree, and he never troubled about 



[9] 



/ 



what some people expected and others — 
coarser people — demanded of Anton Chek- 
hov. He did not like conversations about 
deep questions, conversations with which 
our dear Russians so assiduously comfort 
themselves, forgetting that it is ridiculous, 
and not at all amusing, to argue about velvet 
costumes in the future when in the pres- 
ent one has not even a decent pair of 
trousers. 

Beautifully simple himself, he loved 
everything simple, genuine, sincere, and he 
had a peculiar way of making other people 
simple. 

Once, I remember, three luxuriously 
dressed ladies came to see him; they filled his 
room with the rustle of silk skirts and the 
smell of strong scent; they sat down politely 
opposite their host, pretended that they were 
interested in politics, and began ''putting 
questions" : — 

Anton Pavlovitch, what do you think? 
How will the war end?" 

Anton Pavlovitch coughed, thought for 
a while, and then gently, in a serious and 
kindly voice, replied: 

"Probably in peace." 
[lo] 



"Well, yes . . . certainly. But who 
will win? The Greeks or the Turks?" 

''It seems to me that those will win who 
are the stronger." 

"And who, do you think, are the strong- 
er?" all the ladies asked together. 

"Those who are the better fed and the bet- 
ter educated." 

"Ah, how clever," one of them exclaimed. 

"And whom do you like best?" another 
asked. 

Anton Pavlovitch looked at her kindly, 
and answered with a meek smile : 

"I love candied fruits . . . don't you?" 

"Very much," the lady exclaimed gayly. 

"Especially Abrikossov^s," the second 
agreed solidly. And the third, half closing 
her eyes, added with relish: 

"It smells so good." 

And all three began to talk with vivacity, 
revealing, on the subject of candied fruit, 
great erudition and subtle knowledge. It 
was obvious that they were happy at not 
having to strain their minds and pretend to 
be seriously interested in Turks and Greeks, 
to whom up to that moment they had not 
given a thought. 

[11] 



When they left, they merrily promised 
Anton Pavlovitch: 

"We will send you some candied fruit." 

"You managed that nicely," I observed 
when they had gone. 

Anton Pavlovitch laughed quietly and 
said: 

"Every one should speak his own lan- 
guage." 

On another occasion I found at his house 
a young and prettyish crown prosecutor. 
He was standing in front of Chekhov, shak- 
ing his curly head, and speaking briskly : 

"In your story, 'The Conspirator,' you, 
Anton Pavlovitch, put before me a very com- 
plex case. If I admit in Denis Grigoriev 
a criminal and conscious intention, then I 
must, without any reservation, bundle him 
into prison, in the interests of the commu- 
nity. But he is a savage; he did not realize 
the criminality of his act. ... I feel pity 
for him. But suppose I regard him as a 
man who acted without understanding, and 
suppose I yield to my feeling of pity, how 
can I guarantee the community that Denis 
will not again unscrew the nut in the sleep- 

[12] 



ers and wreck a train ^ That's the question. 
What's to be done^" 

He stopped, threw himself back, and fixed 
an inquiring look on Anton Pavlovitch's 
face. His uniform was quite new, and the 
buttons shone as self -confidently and dully 
on his chest as did the little eyes in the 
pretty, clean, little face of the youthful en- 
thusiast for justice. 

''If I were judge," said Anton Pavlovitch 
gravely, "I would acquit Denis." 

"On what grounds'?" 

"I would say to him: you, Denis, have 
not yet ripened into the type of the deliber- 
ate criminal; go — and ripen." 

The lawyer began to laugh, but instantly 
again became pompously serious and said: 

"No, sir, the question put by you must be 
answered only in the interests of the commu- 
nity whose life and property I am called 
upon to protect. Denis is a savage, but he 
is also a criminal — that is the truth." 

"Do you like gramophones^" suddenly 
asked Anton Pavlovitch in his soft voice. 

"O yes, very much. An amazing inven- 
tion!" the youth answered gayly. 

[13] 



^ 



I 



"And I can't stand gramophones," Anton 
Pavlovitch confessed sadly. 

"Why?" 

"They speak and sing without feeling. 
Everything seems like a caricature . . . 
dead. Do you like photography?" 

It appeared that the lawyer was a passion- 
ate lover of photography; he began at once 
to speak of it with enthusiaism, completely 
uninterested, as Chekhov had subtly and 
truly noticed, in the gramophone, despite 
his admiration for that "amazing invention." 
And again I observed how there looked out 
of that uniform a living and rather amusing 
little man, whose feelings towards life were 
still those of a puppy hunting. 

When Anton Pavlovitch had seen Jiim 
out, he said sternly: 

"They are like pimples on the seat of 
justice — disposing of the fate of people." 

And after a short silence: 

"Crown prosecutors must be very fond of 
fishing . . . especially for little fish." 

He had the art of revealing everywhere and 
driving away banality, an art which is only 
possible to a man who demands much from 






life and which comes from a keen desire to 
see men simple, beautiful, harmonious 
Banality always found m him"X^3iscemirig 
andjnercile^judg^:^^ / 

Some one told in his presence how the edi- 
tor of a popular magazine, who was always j 
talking of the necessity of love and pity, had, 
for no reason at all, insulted a railway \ 
guard, and how he usually acted with ex- : 
treme rudeness towards his inferiors. A 

"Well," said Anton Pavlovitch with a j 
gloomy smile, *'but isn't he an aristocrat, an } 
educated gentleman'? He studied at the \ 
seminary. His father wore bast shoes, and ; 
he wears patent-leather boots." 

And in his tone there was something which 
at once made the "aristocrat" trivial and 
ridiculous. 

"He's a very gifted man," he said of a 
certain journalist. "He always writes so 
nobly, humanely, . , ;. lemonadely. Calls 
his wife a fool in public . . . the servants' 
rooms are damp and the maids constantly 
get rheumatics." 

"Don't you like N. N., Anton Pavlo- 
vitch"?" 

"Yes, I do — very much. He's a pleas- 

[15] 



ant fellow," Anton Pavlovitch agrees, cough- 
ing. ''He knows everything . . . reads a 
lot . . . he hasn't returned three of my 
books . . . he's absent-minded. To-day he 
will tell you that you're a wonderful fellow, 
and to-morrow he will tell somebody else 
that you cheat your servants, and that you 
have stolen from your mistress's husband 
his silk socks ... the black ones with the 
blue stripes." 

Some one in his presence complained of the 
heaviness and tediousness of the ''serious" 
sections in thick monthly magazines. 

"But you mustn't read those articles," 
said Anton Pavlovitch. "They are friends' 
literature — written for friends. They are 
written by Messrs. Red, Black, and White. 
One writes an article; the other replies to it; 
and the third reconciles the contradictions of 
the other two. It is like playing whist with 
a dummy. Yet none of them asks himself 
what good it is to the reader." 

Once a plump, healthy, handsome, well- 
dressed lady came to him and began to speak 
a la Chekhov : — 

"Life is so boring, Anton Pavlovitch. 
Everything is so gray: people, the sea, even 

[16] 



the flowers seem to me gray. . . . And I 
have no desires . . . my soul is in pain . . . 
it is like a disease." 

"It is a disease," said Anton Pavlovitch 
with conviction, "it is a disease; in Latin 
it is called morbus imitatisJ' 

Fortunately the lady did not seem to know 
Latin, or, perhaps, she pretended not to know 
it. 

"Critics are like horse-flies which prevent 
the horse from plowing," he said, smiling 
his wise smile. "The horse works, all its 
muscles drawn tight like the strings on a 
doublebass, and a fly settles on his flanks and 
tickles and buzzes ... he has to twitch his 
skin and swish his tail. And what does the 
fly buzz about ^ It scarcely knows itself; 
simply because it is restless and wants to 
proclaim: 'Look, I too am living on the 
earth. See, I can buzz, too, buzz about 
anything.' For twenty-five years I have 
read criticisms of my stories, and I don't re- 
member a single remark of any value or one 
word of valuable advice. Only once Skabit- 
chevsky wrote something which made an im- 
pression on me ... he said I would die 
in a ditch, drunk." 

[17] 



Nearly always there was an ironical smile 
in his gray eyes, but at times they became 
cold, sharp, hard ; at such times a harder tone 
sounded in his soft, sincere voice, and then 
it appeared that this modest, gentle man, 
when he found it necessary, could rouse him- 
self vigorously against a hostile force and 
would not yield. 

But sometimes, I thought, there was in 
his attitude towards people a feeling of hope- 
lessness, almost 'of cold, resigned despair. 

''A Russian is a strange creature," he said 
once. "He is like a sieve; nothing remains 
in him. In his youth he fills himself greed- 
ily With anything which he comes across, 
and after thirty years nothing remains but a 
kind of gray rubbish. ... In order to live 
well and humanly one must work — work 
with love and with faith. But we, we can't 
do it. An architect, having built a couple 
of decent buildings, sits down to play cards, 
plays all his life, or else is to be found some- 
where behind the scenes of some theatre. 
A doctor, if he has a practice, ceases to be 
interested in science, and reads nothing but 
The Medical Journal^ and at forty seriously 

[18] 



believes that all diseases have their origin in 
catarrh. I have never met a single civil ser- 
vant who had any idea of the meaning of his 
work : usually he sits in the metropolis or the 
chief town cff the province, and writes papers 
and sends them off to Zmiev or Smorgon for 
attention. But that those papers will de- 
prive some one in Zmiev or Smorgon of free- 
dom of movement — of that the civil servant 
thinks as little as an atheist of the tortures 
of hell. A lawyer who has made a name by 
a successful defense ceases to care about jus- 
tice, and defends only the rights of property, 
gambles on the Turf, eats oysters, figures, 
as a connoisseur of all the arts. An actor, 
having taken two or three parts tolerably, no 
longer troubles to learn his parts, puts on a 
silk hat, and thinks himself a genius. Rus- 
sia is a land of insatiable and lazy people: 
they eat enormously of nice things, drink, 
like to sleep in the day-time, and snore in\ 
their sleep. They niarry in order to get their | 
house looked after and keep mistresses in \ 
order to be thought well of in society. Their 1 
psychology is that of a dog: when they are ( 
beaten, they whine shrilly and run into their 

;[i9]i 



kennels; when petted, they lie on their backs 
with their paws in the air and wag their 
tails." 

Pain and cold contempt sounded in these 
words. But, though contemptuous, he felt 
pity, and, if in his presence you abused any 
one, Anton Pavlovitch would immediately 
defend him. 

''Why dto you say that^ He is an old 
man . . . he's seventy." Or: "But he's 
still so young . . . it's only stupidity." 

And, when he spoke like that, I never saw 
a sign of aversion in his face. 

When a man is young, banality seems only 
amusing and unimportant, but little by 
little it possesses a man; it permeates his 
brain and blood like poison or asphyxiating 
fumes; he becomes like an old, rusty sign- 
board: something is painted on it, but what? 
— You can't make out. 

Anton Pavlovitch in his early stories was 
already able to reveal in the dim sea of 
banality its tragic humor; one has only to 
read his "humorous" stories with attention 
to see what a lot of cruel and disgusting 

[20] 



things, behind the humorous words and i 

situations, had been observed by the au- ; 

thor with sorrow and were concealed by \ 

him. 

«^-He was ingenuously shy; he would not 
say aloud and openly to people: "Now do 
be more decent" ; he hoped in vain that they 
would themselves see how necessary it was \ 

that they should be more decent. He hated ] 

everything banal and foul, and he described | 

the abominations of life in the noble Ian- j 

guage of a poet, with the humorist's gentle 1 

smile, and behind the beautiful form of his 
stories people scarcely noticed the inner 
meaning, full of bitter reproach. ^r^t^^f ^^^ 

The dear public, when it reads his j 

"Daughter of Albion," laughs and hardly \ 

realizes how abominable is the well-fed \ 

squire's mockery of a person who is lonely \ 

and strange to every one and everything. In ' 

each of his humorous stories I hear the quiet, 
deep sigh of a pure and human heart, the \ 

hopeless sigh of sympathy for men who do i 

not know how to respect human dignity, who 
submit without any resistance to mere force, 

live like fish, believe in nothing but the ne- \ 

I 

[21] : 



f 



cessity of swallowing every day as much 
thick soup as possible, and feel nothing but 
fear that some one, strong and insolent, will 
^ive them a hiding. 

^ No one understood as clearly and finely 
as Anton Chekhov, the tragedy of life's triv- 
ialities, no one before him showed men with 
such merciless truth the terrible and shame- 
ful picture of their life in the dim chaos of 
bourgeois every-day existence. 

His enemy was banality; he fought it all 
his life long; he ridiculed it, drawing it with 
a pointed and unimpassioned pen, finding the 
mustiness of banality even where at the first 
glance everything seemed to be arranged very 
nicely, comfortably, and even brilliantly — ■ 
and banality revenged itself upon him by af 
nasty prank, for it saw that his corpse, the 
corpse of a poet, was put into a railway truck 
"For the Conveyance of Oysters." 

That dirty green railway truck seems to 
me precisely the great, triumphant laugh of 
banality over its tired enemy; and all the 
"Recollections" in the gutter press are hypo- 
critical sorrow, behind which I feel the cold 
and smelly breath of banality, secretly re- 
joicing over the death of its enemy. 
[22] 



Reading Anton Chekhov's stories, one feels 
oneself in a melancholy day of late autumn, 
when the air is transparent and the outline of 
naked trees, narrow houses, grayish people, 
is sharp. Everything is strange, lonely, mo- 
tionless, helpless. The horizon, blue and 
empty, melts into the pale sky and its breath 
is terribly cold upon the earth which is cov- 
ered with frozen mud. The author's mind, 
like the autumn sun, shows up in hard out- 
line the monotonous roads, the crooked 
streets, the little squalid houses in which 
tiny, miserable people are stifled by boredom 
and laziness and fill the houses with an un- 
intelligible, drowsy bustle. Here anxiously, 
like a gray mouse, scurries "The Darling," 
the dear, meek woman who loves so slavishly 
and who can love so much. You can slap 
her cheek and she won't even dare to utter a 
sigh aloud, the meek slave. . . . And by her 
side is Olga of "The Three Sisters" : she too 
loves much, and submits with resignation to 
the caprices of the dissolute, banal wife of 
her good-for-nothing brother; the life of her 
sisters crumbles before her eyes, she weeps 
and cannot help any one in anything, and 

[23] 



she has not within her a single live, strong 
word of protest against banality. 

And here is the lachrymose Ranevskaya 
and the other owners of "The Cherry Orch- 
ard," egotistical like children, with the flab- 
biness of senility. They missed the right 
moment for dying; they whine, seeing noth- 
ing of what is going on around them, under- 
standing nothing, parasites without the 
power of again taking root in life. The | 
wretched little student, Trofimov, speaks I 
eloquently of the necessity of working — and 
does nothing but amuse himself, out of sheer 
boredom, with stupid mockery of Varya 
who works ceaselessly for the good of the 
idlers. 

Vershinin dreams 'of how pleasant life 
will be in three hundred years, and lives 
without perceiving that everything around 
him is falling into ruin before his eyes; Sol- 
yony, from boredom and stupidity, is ready 
to kill the pitiable Baron Tousenbach. 

There passes before one a long file of men 
and women, slaves of their love, of their stu- 
pidity and idleness, of their greed for the 
good things of life; there walk the slaves of 
the dark fear of life; they straggle anxiously 

[24I 



along, filling life with incoherent words 
about the future, feeling that in the present 
there is no place for them. 

At moments out of the gray mass of them 
one hears the sound of a shot: Ivanov or 
Triepliev has guessed what he ought to do, 
and has died. 

Many of them have nice dreams of how 
pleasant life will be in two hundred years, 
but it occurs to none of them to ask them- 
selves who will make life pleasant if we 
only dream. 

In front of that dreary, gray crowd of 
helpless people there passed a great, wise, 
and observant man; he looked at all these 
dreary inhabitants of his country, and, with 
a sad smile, with a tone of gentle but deep 
reproach, with anguish in his face and in his 
heart, in a beautiful and sincere voice, he 
said to them: 

*'You live badly, my friends. It is 
shameful to live like that." 



[-5] 



TO CHEKHOV'S MEMORY 

BY 

ALEXANDER KUPRIN 

He lived among us 



/ 



You remember how, in early childhood, 
after the long summer holidays, one went 
back to school. Everything was gray; it 
was like a barrack; it smelt of fresh paint 
and putty; one's school-fellows rough, 
the authorities unkind. Still one tried some- 
how to keep up one's courage, though at mo- 
ments one was seized with home-sickness. 
One was occupied in greeting friends, struck 
by changes in faces, deafened by the noise 
and movement. 

But when evening comes and the bustle 
in the half dark dormitory ceases, O what 
an unbearablei sadness, what despair pos- 
sesses one's soul. One bites one's pillow, 
suppressing one's sobs, one whispers dear 
names and cries, cries with tears that burn, 
and knows that this sorrow is unquenchable. 
It is then that one realizes Xor the first time 



all the shattering horror of j.WB-^ngsjL,the_ 
■~lffev(^abITrty "oFlhe J3a^^ of- 

^ioneliness'.'" Tt seems as if one would gladly 

[29] 



give up all the rest of life, gladly suffer any 
tortures, for a single day of that bright, beau- 
tiful life which will never repeat itself. It 
seems as if one would snatch each kind, car- 
essing word and enclose it forever in one's 
memor}% as if one would drink into one's 
soul, slowly and greedily, drop by drop, 
every caress. And one is cruelly tormented 
by the thought that, through carelessness, in 
the hurry, and because time seemed inex- 
haustible, one had not made the most of 
each hour and moment that flashed by in 
vain. 

A child's sorrows are sharp, but will melt 
in sleep and disappear with the morning sun. 
We, grown-up people, do not feel them so 
passionately, but we remember longer and 
grieve more deeply. After Chekhov's fu- 
neral, coming back from the service in the 
cemetery, one great writer spoke words that 
were simple, but full of meaning: 

"Now we have buried him, the hopeless 
keenness of the loss is passing away. But do 
you realize, forever, till the end of our days, 
there will remain in us a constant, dull, sad, 
consciousness that Chekhov is not there'?" 

And now that he is not here, one feels with 

[30] 



peculiar pain how precious was each word 
of his, each smile, movement, glance, in 
which shone out his beautiful, elect, aristo- 
cratic soul. One is sorry that one was not 
always attentive to those special details, 
which sometimes more potently and inti- 
mately than great deeds reveal the inner 
man. One reproaches oneself that in the 
fluster of life one has not managed to remem- 
ber — to write down much of what is interest- 
ing, characteristic and important. And at 
the same time one knows that these feelings 
are shared by all those who were near him, 
who loved him truly as a man of incompar- 
able spiritual fineness and beauty; and with 
eternal gratitude they will respect his mem- 
ory, as the memory of one of the most re- 
markable of Russian writers. 

To the love, to the tender and subtle sor- 
row of these men, I dedicate these lines. 

Chekhov's cottage in Yalta stood neany 
outside the town, right on the white and 
dusty Antka road. I do not know who had 
built it, but it was the most original build- 
ing in Yalta. All bright, pure, light, beau- 
tifully-proportioned, built in no definite 

[31] 



architectural style whatsoever, with a watch- 
tower like a castle, with unexpected gables, 
with a glass verandah on the ground and 
an open terrace above, with scattered win- 
dows — both wide and narrow — the bunga- 
low resembled a building of the modern 
school, if there were not obvious in its plan 
the attentive and original thought, the origi- 
nal, peculiar taste of an individual. The 
bungalow stood in the corner of an orchard, 
surrounded by a flower-garden. Adjoining 
the garden, on the side opposite the road was 
an old deserted Tartar cemetery, fenced with 
a low little wall ; always green, still and un- 
peopled, with modest stones on the graves. 
The flower garden was tiny, not at all 
luxurious, and the fruit orchard was still 
very young. There grew in it pears and 
crab-apples, apricots, peaches, almonds. 
During the last year the orchard began to 
bear fruit, which caused Anton Pavlovitch 
much worry and a touching and childish 
pleasure. When the time came to gather 
almonds, they were also gathered in Chek- 
hov's orchard. They usually lay in a little 
heap in the window-sill of the drawing room, 
and it seemed as if nobody could be cruel 

[32] 



enough to take them, although they were 
offered. 

Anton Pavlovitch did not like it and was 
even cross when people told him that his 
bungalow was too little protected from the 
dust, which came from the Antka road, and 
that the orchard was insufficiently supplied 
with water. Without on the whole liking 
the Crimea, and certainly not Yalta, he re- 
garded his orchard with a special, zealous 
love. People saw him sometimes in the 
morning, sitting on his heels, carefully coat- 
ing the stems of his roses with sulphur or 
pulling weeds from the flower beds. And 
what rejoicing there would be, when in the 
summer drought there at last began a rain 
that filled the spare clay cisterns with water ! 

But his love was not that of a proprietor, 
it was something else — a mightier and wiser 
consciousness. He would often say, look- 
ing at his orchard with a twinkle in his eye : 

"Look, I have planted each tree here and 
certainly they are dear to me. But this is 
of no consequence. Before I came here all 
this was waste land and ravines, all covered 
with stones and thistles. Then I came and 
turned this wilderness into a cultivated, 

[33] 



beautiful place. Do you know^" — ^he 
would suddenly add with a grave face, in a 
tone of profound belief — "do you know that 
in three or four hundred years all the earth 
will become a flourishing garden. And life 
will then be exceedingly light and comfor- 
table." 

The thought of the beauty of the coming 
life, which is expressed so tenderly, sadly, 
and charmingly in all his latest works, was 
in his life also one of his most intimate, most 
Cherished thoughts. How often must he 
have thought of the future happiness of 
mankind when, in the mornings, alone, si- 
lently, he trimmed his roses, still moist from 
the dew, or examined carefully a young sap- 
ling, wounded by the wind. And how much 
there was in that thought of meek, wise, and 
humble self-forgetfulness. 

No, it was not a thirst for life, a clinging 
to life coming from the insatiable human 
heart, neither was it a greedy curiosity as 
to what will come after one's own life, nor 
an envious jealousy of remote generations. 
It was the agony of an exceptionally refined, 
charming, and sensitive soul, who suffered 
beyond measure from banality, coarseness, 

[34] 



dreariness, nothingness, violence, savagery — 
the whole horror and darkness of modern 
everyday existence. And that is why, when 
towards the end of his life there came to him 
immense fame and comparative security, to- 
gether with the devoted love of all that was 
sensitive, talented and honest in Russian so- 
cif:ty, — that is why he did not lock himself 
up in the inaccessibility of cold greatness 
nor become a masterful prophet nor shrink 
into a venomous and petty hostility against 
the fame of others. No, the sum of his wide 
and hard experience of life, of his sorrows, 
joys, and disappointments was expressed in 
that beautiful, anxious, self-forgetting 
dream of the coming happiness of others. 

— "How beautiful life will be in three or 
four hundred years." 

And that is why he looked lovingly after 
his flower beds, as if he saw in them the sym- 
bol of beauty to come, and watched new 
paths being laid out by human intellect and 
knowledge. He looked with pleasure at 
new original buildings and at large, seago- 
ing steamers; he was eagerly interested in 
every new invention and was not bored by 
the company of specialists. With firm con- 

[35] 



I 



viction he said that crimes such as murder, 
theft, and adultery are decreasing, and have 
nearly disappeared among the intelligentsia, 
teachers, doctors, and authors. He believed 
that in the future true culture would en- 
noble mankind. 

Telling of Chekhov's orchard I forgot to 
mention that there stood in the middle of it 
swings and a wooden bench. Both these 
latter remained from "Uncle Vanya," which 
play the Moscow Art Theatre acted at 
Yalta, evidently with the sole purpose of 
showing the performance to Anton Pavlo- 
vitch who was ill then. Both objects were 
specially dear to Chekhov and, pointing to 
them, he would recollect with gratitude the 
attention paid him so kindly by the Art 
Theatre. It is fitting to say here that these 
fine actors, by their exceptionally subtle re- 
sponse to Chekhov's talent and their friendly 
devotion to himself, much sweetened his 
last days. 



II 



There lived in the yard a tame crane and 
two dogs. It must be said that Anton Chek- 

[36] 



hov loved all animals very much with the 
exception of cats, for whom he felt an in- 
vincible disgust. He loved dogs specially. 
His dead "Kashtanka," his "Bromide," and 
"Quinine," which he had in Melikhovo, he 
remembered and spoke of, as one remembers 
one's dead friends. "Fine race, dogs!" — he 
would say at times with a good-natured smile. 

The crane was a pompous, grave bird. 
He generally mistrusted people, but had a 
close friendship with Arseniy, Anton Chek- 
hov's pious servant. He would run after 
Arseniy anywhere, in the garden, orchard 
or yard and would jump amusingly and wave 
his wide-open wings, performing a char- 
acteristic crane dance, which always made 
Anton Pavlovitch laugh. 

One dog was called "Tusik," and the other 
"Kashtan," in honor of the famous "Kash- 
tanka.'^ "Kashtan" was distinguished* in 
nothing but stupidity and idleness. In ap- 
pearance he was fat, smooth and clumsy, of 
a bright chocolate color, with senseless yel- 
low eyes. He would bark after "Tusik" at 
strangers, but one had only to call him and 
he would turn on his back and begin ser- 
vilely to crawl on the ground. Anton Pavlo- 

[37] 



vitch would give him a little push with his 
stick, when he came up fawning, and would 
say with mock sternness : 

— "Go away, go away, fool. . . . Leave 
me alone." 

And would add, turning to his interlocu- 
tor, with annoyance, but with laughter in his 
eyes: 

— "Wouldn't you like me to give you this 
dog? You can't believe how stupid he is." 

But it happened once that "Kashtan," 
through his stupidity and clumsiness, got un- 
der the wheels of a cab which crushed his 
leg. The poor dog came home running on 
three legs, howling ter-ibly. His hind leg 
was crippled, the flesh cut nearly to the bone, 
bleeding profusely. Anton Pavlovitch in- 
stantly washed his wound with warm water 
and sublimate, sprinkled iodoform and put 
on a bandage. And with what tenderness, 
how dexterously and warily his big beauti- 
ful fingers touched the torn skin of the dog, 
and with what compassionate reproof he 
soothed the howling "Kashtan": 

— "Ah, you silly, silly. . . . How did 
you do it? Be quiet . . . you'll be better 
. . . little stupid . . ." 
[38] 



I have to repeat a commonplace, but there 
is no doubt that animals and children were 
instinctively drawn to Chekhov. Sometimes 
a girl who was ill would come to A. P. and 
bring with her a little orphan girl of three 
or four, whom she was bringing up. Be- 
tween the tiny child and the sad invalid man, 
the famous author, was established a pecu- 
liar, serious and trusting friendship. They 
would sit for a long time on the bench, in 
the verandah. Anton Pavlovitch listened 
with attention and concentration, and she 
would whisper to him without ceasing her 
funny words and tangle her little hands in 
his beard. 

Chekhov was regarded with a great and 
heart-felt love by all sorts of simple people 
with whom he came into contact — servants, 
messengers, porters, beggars, tramps, post- 
men, — and not only with love, but with sub- 
tle sensitiveness, with concern and with un- 
derstanding. I cannot help telling here one 
story which was told me by a small official 
of the Russian Navigation and Trade Com- 
pany, a downright man, reserved and per- 
fectly direct in receiving and telling his im- 
pressions. 

[39] 



'It was autumn. Chekhov, returning 
from Moscow, had just arrived by steamer 
from Sebastopol at Yalta, and had not yet 
left the deck. It was that interval of chaos, 
of shouts and bustle which comes while the 
gangway is being put in place. At that cha- 
otic moment the porter, a Tartar, who 
always waited on Chekhov, saw him from the 
distance and managed to climb up on the 
steamer sooner than any one else. He found 
Chekhov's luggage and was already on the 
point of carrying it down, when suddenly a 
rough and fierce-looking chief mate rushed 
on him. The man did not confine himself 
to obscene language, but in the access of his 
official anger, he struck the Tartar on the face. 
"And then an unbelievable scene took 
place," my friend told me — "the Tartar 
threw the luggage on the deck, beat his 
breast with his fists and, with wild eyes, was 
ready to fall on the chief mate, while he 
shouted in a voice which rang all over the 
port: 

— "'What^ Striking me? D'ye think 
you struck me? It is him — him, that you 
struck!" 
"And he pointed his finger at Chekhov. 

[40] 



And Chekhov, you know, was pale, his lips 
trembled. He came up to the mate and said 
to him quietly and distinctly, but with an 
unusual expression : 'Are not you ashamed I' 
Believe me, by Jove, if I were that chief 
mate, I would rather be spat upon twenty 
times in the face than hear that 'are not 
you ashamed.' And although the mate 
was sufficiently thick-skinned, even he felt it. 
He bustled about for a moment, murmured 
something and disappeared instantly. No 
more of him was seen on deck." 



Ill 



Chekhov's stuHy in his Yalta house was 
not big, about twelve strides long and six 
wide, modest, but breathing a peculiar charm. 
Just opposite the entrance was a large square 
window in a frame of yellow colored glass. 
To the left of the entrance, by the window, 
stood a writing table, and behind it was a 
small niche, lighted from the ceiling, by a 
tiny window. In the niche was a Turkish 
divan. To the right, in the middle of the 
wall was a brown fireplace of Dutch tiles. 
On the top of the fireplace there is a small 

[41] 



hole where a tile is missing, and in this is a 
carelessly painted but lovely landscape of an 
evening field with hayricks in the distance; 
the work of Levitan. Further, in the corner, 
there is a door, through which is seen Anton 
Pavlovitch's bachelor bedroom, a bright, 
gay room, shining with a certain virgin clean- 
liness, whiteness and innocence. The walls 
of the study are covered with dark and gold 
papers, and by the writing table hangs a 
printed placard: "You are requested not to 
smoke." Immediately by the entrance door, 
to the right, there is a book-case with books. 
On the mantelpiece there are some bric-a-brac 
and among them a beautifully made model 
of a sailing ship. There are many pretty 
things made of ivory and wood on the writ- 
ing table; models of elephants being in the 
majority. On the walls hang portraits of 
Tolstoy, Grigorovitch, and Turgenev. On a 
little table with a fan-like stand are a num- 
ber of photographs of actors and authors. 
Heavy dark curtains fall on both sides of 
the window. On the floor is a large carpet 
of oriental design. This softens all the out- 
lines and darkens the study; yet the light 
from the window falls evenly and pleasantly 

[42] 



on the writing table. The room smells of 
very fine scents of which A. Pavlovitch was 
very fond. From the window is seen an 
open horseshoe-shaped hollow, running down 
to the sea, and the sea itself, surrounded by 
an amphitheatre of houses. On the left, on 
the right, and behind, rise mountains in a 
semi-circle. In the evenings, when the lights 
are lit in the hilly environs of Yalta and the 
lights and the stars over them are so mixed 
that you cannot distinguish one from the 
other, — then the place reminds one of cer- 
tain spots in the Caucasus. 

This is what always happens — )^ou get to 
know a man; you have studied his appear- 
ance, bearing, voice and manners, and still 
you can always recall his face as it was when 
you saw it for the first time, completely dif- 
ferent from the present. Thus, after several 
years of friendship with Anton Pavlovitch, 
there is preserved in my memory the Chek- 
hov, whom I saw for the first time in the 
public room of the hotel "London" in Odessa. 
He seemed to me then tall, lean, but broad 
in the shoulders, with a somewhat stern look. 
Signs of illness were not then noticeable, 
unless in his walk — weak, and as if on some- 

[43] 



what bent knees. If I were asked what he 
was like at first sight, I should say: "A 
Zemstvo doctor or a teacher of a provincial 
secondary school." But there was also in 
him something plain and modest, something 
extraordinarily Russian— of the people. In 
his face, speech and manners there was also 
a touch of the Moscow undergraduate's care- 
lessnesss. Many people saw that in him, 
and I among them. But a few hours later 
I saw a completely different Chekhov — the 
Chekhov, whose face could never be caught 
by any photograph, who, unfortunately, was 
not understood by any painter who drew 
. him. I saw the most beautiful, refined and 
/ spiritual face that I have ever come across 
; in my life. 

Many said that Chekhov had blue eyes. 
It is a mistake, but a mistake strangely com- 
mon to all who knew him. His eyes were 
dark, almost brown, and the iris of his right 
eye was considerably brighter, which gave 
A. P. 's look, at certain moments, an expres- 
Bion of absent-mindedness. His eyelids 
hung rather heavy upon his eyes, as is so 
often observed in artists, hunters and sailors, 
and all those who concentrate their gaze. 

[44] 



Owing to his pince-nez and his manner of 
looking through the bottom of his glasses, 
with his head somewhat tilted upwards, An- 
ton Pavlovitch's face often seemed stern. 
But one ought to have seen Chekhov at cer- 
tain moments (rare, alas, during the last 
years) when gayety possessed him, and when 
with a quick movement of the hand, he threw 
off his glasses and swung his chair and burst 
into gay, sincere and deep laughter. Then 
his eyes became narrow and bright, with 
good-natured little wrinkles at the corners, 
and he reminded one then of that youthful 
portrait in which he is seen as a beardless 
boy, smiling, short-sighted and naive, look- 
ing rather sideways. And — strange though 
it is — each time that I look at that photo- 
graph, I cannot rid myself of the thought 
that Chekhov's eyes were really blue. 

Looking at Chekhov one noticed his fore- 
head, which was wide, white and pure, and 
beautifully shaped; two thoughtful folds 
came beween the eyebrows, by the bridge 
of the nose, two vertical melancholy folds. 
Chekhov's ears were large and not shapely, 
but such sensible, intelligent ears I have seen 
only in one other man — Tolstoy. 

[45] 



Once in the summer, availing myself of 
A. P.'s good humor, I took several photo- 
graphs of him with a little camera. Un- 
fortunately the best of them and those most 
like him turned out very pale, owing to the 
weak light of the study. Of the others, 
which were more successful, A. P. said as he 
looked at them: 

''Well, you know, it is not me but some 
Frenchman." 

I remember now very vividly the grip of 
his large, dry and hot hand, — a grip, always 
strong and manly but at the same time re- 
served, as if it were consciously concealing 
something. I also visualize now his hand- 
writing: thin, with extremely fine strokes, 
careless at first sight and inelegant, but, 
when you look closer, it appears very dis- 
tinct, tender, fine and characteristic, as every- 
thing else about him. 



IV 



A. P. used to get up, in the summer at 
least, very early. None even of his most 
intimate friends saw him carelessly dressed, 
nor did he approve of lazy habits, like wear- 

[46] 



ing slippers, dressing gowns or light jackets. 
At eight or nine he was already pacing his 
study or at his writing table, invariably 
impeccably and neatly dressed. 

Evidently, his best time for work was in 
the morning before lunch, although nobody 
ever managed to find him writing: in this 
respect he was extraordinarily reserved and 
shy. All the same, on nice warm mornings 
he could be seen sitting on a slope behind the 
house, in the cosiest part of the place, where 
oleanders stood in tubs along the walls, and 
where he had planted a cypress. There he 
sat sometimes for an hour or longer, alone, 
without stirring, with his hands on his knees, 
looking in front of him at the sea. 

About midday and later visitors began to 
fill the house. Girls stood for hours at the 
iron railings, separating the bungalow from 
the road, with open mouths, in white felt 
hats. The most diverse people came to 
Chekhov : scholars, authors, Zemstvo workers, 
doctors, military, painters, admirers of both 
sexes, professors, society men and women, 
senators, priests, actors — and God knows 
who else. Often he was asked to give ad- 
vice or help and still more often to give his 

[47] 



opinion upon manuscripts. Casual newspa- 
per reporters and people who were merely in- 
quisitive would appear; also people who 
came to him with the sole purpose of "direct- 
ing the big, but erring talent to the proper, 
ideal side." Beggars came — genuine and 
sham. These never met with a refusal. I 
do not think it right, myself, to mention 
private cases, but I know for certain that 
Chekhov's generosity towards students of 
both sexes, -was immeasurably beyond what 
his modest means would allow. 

People came to him from all strata of 
society, of all camps, of all shades. Not- 
withstanding the worry of so continuous a 
stream of visitors, there was something at- 
tractive in it to Chekhov. He got first-hand 
knowledge of everything that was going on 
at any given moment in Russia. How mis- 
taken were those who wrote or supposed that 
he was a man indifferent to public interests, 
to the whirling life of the intelligentsia, and 
to the burning questions of his time! He 
watched everything carefully, and thought- 
fully. He was tormented and distressed by 
all the things which tormented the minds of 
the best Russians. One had only to see how 

[48] 



. in those terrible times, when the absurd, 
. dark, evil phenomena of our public life were 
discussed in his presence, he knitted his thick 
eyebrows, and how martyred his face looked, 
and what a deep sorrow shone in his beauti- 
ful eyes. 

It is fitting to mention here one fact 
which, in my opinion, superbly illustrates 
\ Chekhov's attitude to the stupidities of Rus- 
sian life. Many know that he resigned the 
rank of an honorary member of the Academy ; 
the motives of his resignation are known ; but 
very few have read his letter to the Acad- 
emy, — a splendid letter, written with a 
simple and noble dignity, and the restrained 
indignation of a great soul. 

To the August President of the Academy 

25 August, 1902 
Yalta. 
Your Imperial Highness, 

August President! 

In December of last year I received a notice of 
the election of A. M. Pyeshkov (Maxim Gorky) 
as an honorary academician, and I took the first 
opportunity of seeing A. M. Pyeshkov, who was 
then in Crimea. I was the first to bring him news 
of his election and I was the first to congratulate 
him. Some time later, it was announced in the 

[49] 



newspapers that, in view of proceedings according 
to Art. 1035 being instituted against Pyeshkov for 
his political views, his election was cancelled. It 
was expressly stated that this act came from the 
Academy of Sciences ; and since I am an honorary 
academician, I also am partly responsible for this 
act. I have congratulated him heartily on becom- 
ing an academician and I consider his election can- 
celled — such a contradiction does not agree with 
my conscience, I cannot reconcile my conscience to 
it. The study of Art. 1035 has explained nothing 
to me. And after long deliberation I can only 
come to one decision, which is extremely painful 
and regrettable to me, and that is to ask rrlost 
respectfully to be relieved of the rank of honorary 
academician. With a feeling of deepest respect I 
have the honor to remain 

Your most devoted 

Anton Chekhov. 

Queer — to what an extent people misun- 
derstood Chekhov! He, the "incorrigible 
pessimist," as he was labelled, — never tired 
of hoping for a bright future, never ceased to 
believe in the invisible but persistent and 
fruitful work of the best forces of our coun- 
try. Which of his friends does not remember 
the favorite phrase, which he so often, 
sometimes so incongruously and unexpect- 
edly, uttered in a tone of assurance: 

[50] 



— "Look here, don't you see^ There is 
sure to be a constitution in Russia in ten years 
time." 

Yes, even in that there sounds the motif of 
the joyous future which is awaiting mankind; 
the motif that was audible in all the work 
of his last years. 

The truth must be told: by no means all 
visitors spared A. P. 's time and nerves, and 
some of them were quite merciless. I re- 
member one striking, and almost incredible 
instance of the banality and indelicacy which 
could be displayed by a man of the so-called 
artistic power. 

It was a pleasant, cool and windless sum- 
mer morning. A. P. was in an unusually 
light and cheerful mood. Suddenly there 
appeared as from the blue a stout gentleman 
(who subsequently turned out to be an archi- 
tect), who sent his card to Chekhov and 
asked for an interview. A. P. received him. 
The architect came in, introduced himself, 
and, without taking any notice of the pla- 
card "You are requested not to smoke," with- 
out asking any permission, lit a huge stinking 
Riga cigar. Then, after paying, as was in- 

[51] 



evi table, a few stone-heavy compliments to 
his host, he began on the business which 
brought him here. 

The business consisted in the fact that the 
architect's little son, a school boy of the third 
form, was running in the streets the other 
day and from.a habit peculiar to boys, whilst 
running, touched with his hand anything he 
came across: lamp-posts, or posts or fences. 
At last he managed to push his hand into a 
barbed wire fence and thus scratched his 
palm. "You see now, my worthy A. P.," — 
the architect concluded his tale, "I shall very 
much like you to write a letter about it in 
the newspapers. It is lucky that Kolya (his 
boy) got off with a scratcti, but it's only a 
chance. He might have cut an artery — 
what would have happened then?" "Yes, 
it's a nuisance," Chekhov answered, "but, un- 
fortunately, I cannot be of any use to you. 
I do not write, nor have ever written, letters 
in the newspapers. I only write stories." 
"So much the better, so much the better! 
Put it in a story" — the architect was de- 
lighted. "Just put the name of the landlord 
in full letters. You may even put my own 
name, I do not object to it. . . . Still . . 

[52] 



it would be best if you only put my initials, 
not the full name. . . . There are only two 
genuine authors left in Russia, you and Mr. 
P." (and the architect gave the name of a 
notorious literary tailor). 

I am not able to repeat even a hundredth 
part of the boring commonplaces which the 
injured architect managed to speak, since he 
made the interview last until he finished the 
cigar to the end, and the study had to be 
aired for a long time to get rid of the smell. 
But when at last he left, A. P. came out into 
the garden completely upset with red spots 
on his cheeks. His voice trembled, when 
he turned reproachfully to his sister Marie 
and to a friend who sat on the bench : 

"Could you not shield me from that man^ 
You should have sent word that I was needed 
somewhere. He has tortured me I" 

I also remember, — and this I am sorry 
to say was partly my fault — how a certain 
self-assured general came to him to express 
his appreciation as a reader, and, probably, 
desiring to give Chekhov pleasure, he began, 
with his legs spread open and the fists of his 
turned-out hand leaning on them, to vilify 
a young author, whose great popularity was 

[53] 



then only beginning to grow. And Chek- \ 
hov, at once, shrank into himself, and sat all I 
the time with his eyes cast down, coldly, j 
without saying a single word. And only 
from the quick reproachful look, which he 
cast at my friend, who had introduced that 
general, did he show what pain he caused. 

Just as shyly and coldly he regarded 
praises lavished on him. He would retire 
into his niche, on the divan, his eyelids 
trembled, slowly fell and were not again 
raised, and his face became motionless and 
gloomy. Sometimes, when immoderate rap- 
tures came from some one he knew, he would 
try to turn the conversation into a joke, 
and give it a different direction. He would 
suddenly say, without rhyme or reason, with 
a light little laugh: 

— "1 like reading what the Odessa repor- 
ters write about me." 

"What is that^" 

"It is very funny — all lies. Last spring 
one of them appeared in my hotel. He 
asked for an interview. And I had no time 
for it. -So I said: 'Excuse me but I am 
busy now. But write whatever you like; 

[54] 



it is of no consequence to me.' Well, he 
did write. It drove me into a fever." 

And once with a most serious face he said : 
— "You know, ini Yalta every cabman 
knows me. They say: 'O, Chekhov, that 
man, the reader'? I know him.' For some 
reason they call me reader. Perhaps they 
think that I read psalm-services for the dead? 
You, old fellow, ought to ask a cabman what 
my occupation is. . . ." 



At one o'clock Chekhov dined downstairs, 
in a cool bright dining-room, and there was 
nearly always a guest at dinner. It was 
difficult not to yield to the fascination of 
that simple, kind, cordial family. One felt 
constant solicitude and love, not expressed 
with a single high-sounding word, — an amaz- 
ing amount of refin,ement and attention, 
which never, as if on purpose, got beyond 
the limits of ordinary, everyday relations. 
One always noticed a truly Chekhovian fear / 
of everything high-flown, insincere, or showy./ 
In that family one felt very much at one's 



[55] 



ease, light and warm, and I perfectly under- 
stand a certain author who said that he was 

in love with all the Chekhovs at the same i 

time. I 

Anton. Pavlovitch ate exceedingly little i 

and did not like to sit at table, but usually i 

passed from the window to the door and \ 

back. Often after dinner, staying behind i 

with some one in the dining-room, Yev- \ 

guenia Yakovlevna (A. P. 's mother) said ] 

quietly with anxiety in her voice: i 

"Again Antosha ate nothing at dinner." I 

He was very hospitable and loved it when I 

people stayed to dinner, and he knew how ] 

to treat guests in his own peculiar way, , 

simply and heartily. He would say, stand- ; 
ing behind one's chair : 

— "Listen, have some vodka. When I 

was young and healthy I loved it. I j 
would pick mushrooms for a whole morning, 
get tired out, hardly able to reach home, and 
before lunch I would have two or three 

thimblefuls. Wonderful I ..." \ 

After dinner he had tea upstairs, on the | 

open verandah, or in his study, or he would \ 

come down into the garden and sit there on | 

the bench, in his overcoat, with a cane, push- \ 

[56] I 



ing his soft black hat down to his very eyes 
and looking out under its brim with screwed 
up eyes. 

These hours were the most crowded. 
There were constant rings on the telephone, 
asking if Anton Chekhov could be seen ; and 
perpetual visitors. Strangers also came, 
sending in their cards and asking for help, 
for autographs or books. Then queer 
things happened. 

One "Tambov squire," as Chekhov chris- 
tened him, came to him for medical advice. 
In vain did Anton Pavlovitch answer him, 
that he had given up medical practice long 
ago and that he was behind the times in 
medicine. In vain did he recommend a 
more experienced physician, — the "Tambov 
squire" persisted: no doctor would he trust 
but Chekhov. Willy-nilly he had to give a 
few trifling, perfectly innocent pieces of 
advice. On taking leave the "Tambov 
squire" put on the table two gold coins and, 
in spite of all Chekhov's persuasion, he 
would not agree to take them back. Anton 
Pavlovitch had to give way. He said that 
as he neither wished nor considered himself 
entitled to take money as a fee, he would 

[57] 



give it to the Yalta Charitable Society, and 
at once wrote a receipt. It turned out that 
it was that the "Tambov squire" wanted. 
With a radiant face, he carefully put the 
receipt in his pocket-book, and then con- 
fessed that the sole purpose of his visit was 
to obtain Chekhov's autograph. Chekhov 
himself told me the story of this original 
and persistent patient — half-laughing, half- 
cross. 

I repeat, many of these visitors plagued 
him fearfully and even irritated him, but, 
owing to the amazing delicacy peculiar to 
him, he was with all patient, attentive and 
accessible to those who wished to see him. 
His delicacy at times reached a limit that 
bordered on weakness. Thus, for instance, 
one nice, well-meaning lady, a great admirer 
of Chekhov, gave him for a birthday pres- 
ent a huge pug-dog in a sitting position, 
made of colored plaster of Paris, over a 
yard high, i. e., about five times larger than 
its natural size. That pug-dog was placed 
downstairs, on the landing near the dining 
room, and 'there he sat with an angry face 
chewing his teeth and frightening those who 



had forgotten him. 



[58] 



— "O, Pm afraid of that stone dog my- 
self," Chekhov confessed, "but it is awkward 
to move him; it might hurt her. Let him 
stay on here." 

And suddenly, with eyes full of laughter, 
he added unexpectedly, in his usual manner : 

''Have you noticed in the houses of rich 
Jews, such plaster dogs often sit by the fire- 
placed' 

At times, for days on end, he would be 
annoyed with every sort of admirer and de- 
tractor and even adviser. "O, I have such 
a mass of visitors," — he complained in a 
letter, — '"that my head swims. I cannot 
work." But still he did not remain indif- 
ferent to a sincere feeling of love and respect 
and always distinguished it from idle and 
fulsome tittle-tattle. Once he returned in 
a very gay mood from the quay where he 
sometimes took a walk, and with great ani- 
mation told us: 

— "I just had a wonderful meeting. An 
artillery officer suddenly came up to me on 
the quay, quite a young man, a sub-lieu- 
tenant. — 'Are you A. P. Chekhov'?' 
— 'Yes. Do you want anything?' — 'Ex- 
cuse me please for my importunity, but for 

[59] 



so long I have wanted to shake your hand I* 
And he blushed — he was a wonderful fel- 
low with a fine face. We shook hands and 
parted." 

Chekhov was at his best towards evening, 
about seven o'clock, when people gathered in 
the dining room for tea and a light supper. 
Sometimes — but more and more rarely as 
the years went on — there revived in him the 
old Chekhov, inexhaustibly gay, witty, with 
a bubbling, charming, youthful humor. 
Then he improvised stories in which the 
characters were his friends, and he was par- 
ticularly fond of arranging imaginary wed- 
dings, which sometimes ended with the 
young husband the following morning, sit- 
ting at the table and having his tea, saying 
as it were by the way in an unconcerned and 
businesslike tone: 

— "Do you know, my dear, after tea we'll 
get ready and go to a solicitor's. Why 
should you have unnecessary bother about 
your money *?" 

He invented wonderful Chekhovian 
names, of which I now — alas! — remember 
only a certain mythical sailor Ko^hkodo- 
venko-cat-slayer. He also liked as a joke 

[60] 



to make young writers appear old. "What 
are you saying — Bunin is my age" — ^he 
would assure one with mock seriousness. 
"So is Teleshov: he is an old writer. 'Well, 
ask him yourself: he will tell you what a 
spree we had at T. A. Bieloussov's wedding. 
What a long time ago!" To a talented 
novelist, a serious writer and a man of ideas, 
he said: "Look here, you're twenty years my 
senior: surely you wrote previously under 
the nom-de-plume 'Nestor Kukolnik.' " 

But his jokes never left any bitterness any 
more than he consciously ever caused the 
slightest pain to any living thing. 

After dinner he would keep some one in 
! his study for half an hour or an hour. On 
his table candles would be lit. Later, when 
all had gone and he remained alone, a light 
would still be seen in his large window for a 
long time. Whether he worked at that 
time, or looked through his note-books, 
putting down the impressions of the day no- 
body seems to know. 



VI 



It is true, on the whole, that we know 

[61] 



nearly nothing, not only of his creative ac- 
tivities, but even of the external methods of 
his work. In this respect Anton Pavlo- 
vitch was almost eccentric in his reserve 
and silence. I remember him saying, as if 
by the way, something very significant: 

— "For God's sake don't read your work 
to any one until it is published. Don't 
read it to others in proof even." 

This was always his own habit, although 
he sometimes made exceptions for his wife 
and sister. Formerly he is said to have been 
more communicative in this respect. 

That was when he wrote a great deal and 
at great speed. He himself said that he 
used to write a story a day. E. T. Chek- 
hov, his mother, used to say: ''When he 
was still an undergraduate, Antosha would 
sit at the table in the morning, having his 
tea and suddenly fall to thinking; he would 
sometimes look straight into one's eyes, but 
I knew that he saw nothing. Then he 
would get his note-book out of his pocket 
and write quickly, quickly. And again he 
would fall to thinking. . . ." 

But during the last years Chekhov began 
to treat himself with ever increasing strict- 

[62] 



ness and exactitude: he kept his stories for 
several years, continually correcting and 
copying them, and nevertheless in spite of 
such minute work, the final proofs, which 
came from him, were speckled throughout 
with signs, corrections, and insertions. In 
order to finish a work he had to write with- 
out tearing himself away. "If I leave a 
story for a long time," — he once said — "I 
cannot make myself finish it afterwards. I 
have to begin again." 

Where did he draw his images from? 
Where did he find his observations and his 
similes? Where did he forge his superb 
language, unique in Russian literature? He 
confided in nobody, never revealed his crea- 
tive methods. Many note-books are said 
to have been left by him; perhaps in them 
will in time be found the keys to those mys- 
teries. Or perhaps they will forever remain 
unsolved. Who knows? At any rate we 
must limit ourselves to vague hints and 
guesses. 

I think that always, from morning to night, 
and perhaps at night even, in his sleep and 
sleeplessness, there was going on in him an 
invisible but persistent — at times even un- 

[63] 



conscious — activity, the activity of weighing, 
defining and remembering. He knew how 
to listen and ask questions, as no one else 
did; but often, in the middle of a lively con- 
versation, it would be noticed, how his at- 
tentive and kindly look became motionless 
and deep, as if it were withdrawing some- 
where inside, contemplating something mys- 
terious and important, which was going 
on there. At those moments A. P. would 
put his strange questions, amazing through 
their unexpectedness, completely out of 
touch with the conversation, questions which 
confused many people. The conversation 
was about neo-marxists, and he would sud- 
denly ask: "Have you ever been to a stud- 
farm^ You ought to see one. It is inter- 
esting." Or he would repeat a question for 
the second time, which had already been 
answered. 

Chekhov was not remarkable for a mem- 
ory of external things. I speak of that 
power of minute memory, which women so 
often possess in a very high degree, also peas- 
ants, which consists in remembering, how 
a person, was dressed, whether he has a 
beard and mustaches, what his watch chain 

[64] 



was like or his boots, what color his hair 
was. These details were simply unimpor- 
tant and uninteresting to him. But, in- 
stead, he took the whole person and defined 
quickly and truly, exactly like an exper- 
ienced chemist, his specific gravity, his 
quality and order, and he knew already how 
to describe his essential qualities in a couple 
of strokes. 

Once Chekhov spoke with slight displeas- 
ure of a good friend of his, a famous scholar, 
who, in spite of a long-standing friendship, 
somewhat oppressed Chekhov with his 
talkativeness. No sooner would he arrive 
in Yalta, than he at once came to Chekhov 
and sat there with him all the morning till 
lunch. Then he would go to his hotel for 
half an hour, and come back and sit until 
late at night, all the time talking, talking, 
talking. . . . And so on day after day. 

Suddenly, abruptly breaking off his story, 
as if carried away by a new interesting 
thought, Anton Pavlovitch added with ani- 
mation : 

— "And nobody would guess what is most 
characteristic in that man. I know it. 
That he is a professor and a savant with a 

[65] 



European reputation, is to him a secondary 
matter. The chief thing is that in his heart 
he considers himself to be a remarkable ac- 
tor, and he profoundly believes that it is 
only by chance that he has not won universal 
popularity on the stage. At home he always 
reads Ostrovsky aloud." 

Once, smiling at his recollection, he sud- 
denly observed: 

— "D'you know, Moscow is the most 
peculiar city. In it everything is unexpec- 
ted. Once on a spring morning S., the pub- 
licist, and myself came out of the Great 
Moscow Hotel. It was after a late and 
merry supper. Suddenly S. dragged me to 
the Tversky Church, just opposite. He 
took a handful of coppers and began to share 
it out to the beggars — there are dozens stand- 
ing about there. He would give one a 
penny and whisper: Tray for the health of 
Michael the slave of God.' It is his Chris- 
tian name Michael. And again: 'for the 
servant of God, Michael; for Michael, the 
servant of God.' And he himself does not 
believe in God. . . . Queer fellow!" . . . 

I now approach a delicate point which 
may not perhaps please every one. I am 
[66] 



I 



convinced that Chekhov talked to a scholar 
and a peddler, a beggar and a litterateur, 
with a prominent Zemstvo worker and a sus- 
picious monk or shop assistant or a small 
postman, with the same attention and curios- 
ity. Is not that the reason why in his 
stories the professor speaks and thinks just 
like an old professor, and the tramp just like 
a veritable tramp'? And is it not because of 
this, that immediately after his death there 
appeared so many "bosom" friends, for 
whom, in their words, he would be ready to 
go through fire and water? 

I think that he did not open or give his 
heart completely to any one (there is a leg- 
end, though, of an intimate, beloved friend, 
a Taganrog official). But he regarded all 
kindly, indifferently so far as friendship is 
concerned — and at the same time with a 
great, perhaps unconscious, interest. 

His Chekhovian mots and those little 
traits that astonish us by their neatness and 
appositeness, he often took direct from life. 
The expression "it displeasures me" which 
quickly became, after the "Bishop," a bye- 
word with a wide circulation, he got from a 
certain gloomy tramp, half-drunkard, half- 

[67] 



madman, half-prophet. I also remember J 
talking once with Chekhov of a long deadi 
Moscow poet, and Chekhov glowingly re- 
membered him, and his mistress, and hisi 
empty rooms, and his St. Bernard, ''Ami,", 
who suffered from constant indigestion.! 
"Certainly, I remember," — Chekhov saidi 
laughing gayly — "At five o'clock his mistress, 
would always come in and ask: 'Liodor 
Tranitch, I say, Liodor Tranitch, is it notj 
time you drank your beer?'" And then; 
I imprudently said: "O, that's where it j 
comes from in your 'Ward N 6' ?" — "Yes, i 
well, yes" — replied Chekhov with displea- i 
sure. 

He had friends also among those mer-l 
chants' wives, who, in spite of their millions | 
and the most fashionable dresses, and an i 
outward interest in literature, say "ideal" '' 
and "in principal." Some of them would for j 
hours pour out their souls before Chekhov, I 
wishing to convey what extraordinarily re- ! 
fined, neurotic characters they were, and i 
what a remarkable novel could be written by j 
a writer of genius about their lives, if only [ 
they could tell everything. And he would \ 
sit quietly, in silence, and listen with appar- j 

[68] I 



ent pleasure — only under his moustache 
glided an almost imperceptible smile. 

I do not wish to say that he looked for 
models, like many other writers. But I 
think, that everywhere and always he saw 
material for observation, and this happened 
involuntarily, often perhaps against his will, 
through his long-cultivated and ineradicable 
habit of diving into people, of analyzing 
and generalizing them. In this hidden pro- 
cess was to him, probably, all the torment 
and joy of his creative activity. 

He shared his impressions with no one, 
just as he never spoke of what and how he 
was going to write. Also very rarely was the 
artist and novelist shown in his talk. He, 
partly deliberately, partly instinctively, used 
in his speech ordinary, average, common ex- 
pressions, without having recourse either to 
simile or picturesqueness. He guarded his 
treasures in his soul, not permitting them to 
be wasted in wordy foam, and in this there 
was a huge difference between him and those 
novelists who tell their stories much better 
than they write them. 

This, I think, came from a natural reserve, 

[69] 



but also from a peculiar shyness. There are 
people who constitutionally cannot endure 
and are morbidly shy of too demonstrative 
attitudes, gestures and words, and Anton 
Pavlovitch possessed this quality in the high- 
est degree. Herein, maybe, is hidden the 
key to his seeming indifference towards ques- 
tion of struggle and protest and his aloofness 
towards topical events, which did and do ag- 
itate the Russian intelligentsia. He had a 
horror of pathos, of vehement emotions and 
the theatrical effects inseparable from them. 
I can only compare him in this with a man 
who loves a woman with all the ardor, ten- 
derness and depth, of which a man of refine- 
ment and great intelligence is capable. He 
will never try to speak of it in pompous, 
high-flown words, and he cannot even imag- 
ine himself falling on his knees and pressing 
his hand to his heart and speaking in the 
tremulous voice of a young lover on the stage. 
And therefore he loves and is silent, and 
suffers in silence, and will never attempt to 
utter what the average man will express 
freely and noisily according to all the rules 
of rhetoric. 

[70] 



VII 



To young writers, Chekhov was always 
sympathetic and kind. No one left him 
oppressed by his enormous talent and by 
one's own insignificance. He never said to 
any one: "Do as I do; see how I behave." 
If in despair one complained to him: "Is it 
worth going on, if one will forever remain 
*our young and promising author"?" he 
answered quietly and seriously: 

— "But, my dear fellow, not every one can 
write like Tolstoy." His considerateness 
was at times pathetic. A certain young 
writer came to Yalta and took a little room 
in a big and noisy Greek family somewhere 
beyond Antka, on the outskirts of the city. 
He once complained to Chekhov that it was 
difficult to work in such surroundings, and 
Chekhov insisted that the writer should come 
to him in the mornings and work downstairs 
in the room adjoining the dining room. 
"You will write downstairs, and I upstairs" 
— he said with his charming smile — "And 
you will have dinner with me. When you 



[71] 



finish something, do read it to me, or, if you 
go away, send me the proofs." 

He read an amazing amount and always 
remembered everything, and never confused i 
one writer with another. If writers asked { 
his opinion, he always praised their work, i 
not so as to get rid of them, but because he i 
knew how cruelly a sharp, even if just, criti- j 
cism cuts the wings of beginners, and what an i 
encouragement and hope a little praise gives i 
sometimes. "I have read your story. It is I 
marvelously well done," he would say on ! 
such occasions in a hearty voice. But when j 
a certain confidence was established and they | 
got to know each other, especially if an au- i 
thor insisted, he gave his opinion more def- t 
initely, directly, and at greater length. I I 
have two letters of his, written to one and j 
the same novelist, concerning one and the ! 
same tale. Here is a quotation from the j 
first : ! 

"Dear N., I received your tale and have | 
read it; many thanks. The tale is good, I I 
have read it at one go, as I did the previous | 
one, and with the same pleasure. ..." 

But as the author was not satisfied with 

[72] 



praise alone, he soon received a second letter 
from Anton Pavlovitch. 

"You want me to speak of defects only, 
and thereby you put me in an embarrassing 
situation. There are no defects in that 
story, and if one finds fault, it is only with a 
few of its peculiarities. For instance, your 
heroes, characters, you treat in the old style, 
as they have been treated for a hundred years 
by all who have written about them — noth- 
ing new. Secondly, in the first chapter 
you are busy describing people's faces — 
again that is the old way, it is a description 
which can be dispensed with. Five 
minutely described faces tire the attention, 
and in the end lose their value. Clean- 
shaved characters are like each other, like 
Catholic priests, and remain alike, however 
studiously you describe them. Thirdly, 
you overdo your rough manner in the des- 
cription of drunken people. That is all I 
can say in reply to your question about the 
defects; I can find nothing more that is 



wrong." 



To those writers with whom he had any 
common spiritual bond, he always behaved 

[73] 



with great care and attention. He never 
missed an occasion to tell them any news 
which he knew would be pleasing or useful. 

"Dear N.," he wrote to a certain friend of 
mine, — "I hereby inform you that your 
story was read by L. N. Tolstoy and he liked 
it very much. Be so good as to send him 
your book at this address; Koreiz, Tauric 
Province, and on the title page underline the 
stories which you consider best, so that he 
should begin with them. Or send the book 
to me and I will hand it to him." 

To the writer of these lines he also ance 
showed a delightful kindness, communicating 
by letter that, "in the 'Dictionary of the Rus- 
sian Language,' published by the Academy 
of Sciences, in the sixth number of the second 
volume, which number I received to-day, you 
too appeared at last." 

All these of course are details, but in them 
is apparent much sympathy and concern, so 
that now, when this great artist and remark- 
able man is no longer among us, his letters 
acquire the significance of a far-away, irre- 
vocable caress. 

^ "Write, write as much as possible" — he 
would say to young novelists. "It does not 

[74] 



matter if it does not come off. Later on it 
will come off. The chief thing is, do not 
waste your youth and elasticity. It's now 
the time for working. See, you write su- 
perbly, but your vocabulary is small. You 
must acquire words and turns of speech, and 
for this you must write every day." » 

And he himself worked untiringly on him- 
self, enriching his charming, varied vocab- 
ulary from every source : from conversations, 
dictionaries, catalogues, from learned works, 
from sacred writings. The store of words 
which that silent man had was extraordinary. 

— "Listen, travel third class as often as 
possible" — he advised — "I am sorry that ill- 
ness prevents me from traveling third. 
There you will sometimes hear remarkably 
interesting things." 

He also wondered at those authors who 
for years on end see nothing but the next 
door house from the windows of their Peters- 
burg flats. And often he said with a shade 
of impatience : 

— "I cannot understand why you — young, 
healthy, and free — don't go, for instance, to 
Australia (Australia for some reason was his 
favorite part of the world), or to Siberia. 

[75] 



As soon as I am better, I shall certainly go to 
Siberia. I was there when I went to Sa|^ 
halien. You cannot imagine, my dear fel- 
low, what a wonderful country it is. It is 
quite different. You know, I am convinced 
Siberia will some day sever herself com- 
pletely from Russia, just as America severed 
herself from her motherland. You must, 
must go there without fail. . . ." 

''Why don't you write a play?" — he 
would sometimes ask. "Do write one, 
really. Every writer must write at least 
four plays." 

But he would confess now and then, that 
the dramatic form is losing its interest now. 
''The drama must either degenerate com- 
pletely, or take a completely ne,w form" — he 
said. "We cannot even im.agine what the 
theatre will be like in a hundred years." 

There were some little inconsistencies in 
Anton Pavlovitch which were particularly 
attractive in him and had at the same time a 
deep inner significance. This was once the 
case with regard to note-books. Chekhov 
had just strongly advised us not to have re- 
course to them for help but to rely wholly on 
our memory and imagination. "The big 

[76] 



things will remain" — he argued — "and the 
details you can always invent or find." 
But then, an hour later, one of the company, 
who had been for a year on the stage, began 
to talk of his theatrical impressions and 
incidentally mentioned this case. A rehearsal 
was taking place in the theatre of a tiny pro- 
vincial town. The "young lover" paced the 
stage in a hat and check trousers, with his 
hands in his pockets, showing off before a 
casual public which had straggled into the 
theatre. The "ingenue," his mistress, who 
was also on the stage, said to him: 
"Sasha, what was it you whistled yesterday 
from Pagliacci^ Do please whistle it 
again." The "young lover" turned to her, 
and looking her up and down with a devas- 
tating expression said in a fat, actor's voice : 
"Wha-at! Whistle on the staged Would 
you whistle in church? Then know that 
the stage is the same as a church !" 

At the end of that story Anton Pavlo- 
vitch threw off his pince-nez, flung himself 
back in his chair, and began to laugh with 
his clear, ringing laughter. He immediately 
opened the drawer of his table to get his 
note-book. "Wait, wait, how did you say 

[77] 



it^ The stage is a temple?'. . . And he 
put down the whole anecdote. 

There was no essential contradiction in 
this, and Anton Pavlovitch explained it him- 
self. ''One should not put down similes, 
characteristic traits^ details, scenes from 
nature — this must come of itself when it 
is needed. But a bare fact, a rare name, a 
technical term, should be put down in the 
note-book — otherwise it may be forgotten 
and lost." 

Chekhov frequently recalled the difficulties 
put in his way by the editors of serious 
magazines, until with the helping hand of 
"Sieverny Viestnik" he finally overcame 
them. 

"For one thing you all ought to be grate- 
ful to me," — he would say to young writers. 
— "It was I who opened the way for writers 
of short stories. Formerly, when one took a 
manuscript to an editor, he did not even 
read it. He just looked scornfully at one. 
'What? You call this a work? But this 
is shorter than a sparrow's nose. No, we 
do not want such trifles.' But, see, I got 
round them and paved the way for others. 
But that is nothing; they treated me much 

[78] 



worse than that! They used my name as 
a synonym for a writer of short stories. 
They would make merry: 'O, you Chek- 
hovsl' It seemed to them amusing." 

Anton Pavlovitch had a high opinion of 
modern writing, i. e., properly speaking, of 
the technique of modern writing. "All 
write superbly now; there are no bad 
writers" — he said in a resoluce tone. "And 
hence it is becoming more and more dif- 
ficult to win fame. Do you know whom 
that is due to'? — Maupassant. He, as an 
artist in language, put the standard before an 
author so high that it is no longer possible 
to write as of old. You try to re-read some 
of our classics, say, PisseSSky, Grigorovitch, 
or Ostrovsky ; try, and you will see what ob- 
solete, commonplace stuff it is. Take on 
the other hand our decadents. They are 
only pretending to be sick and crazy, — they 
all are burly peasants. But so far as writ- 
ing goes, — they are masters." -^ 

At the same time he asked that writers 
should choose ordinary, everyday themes, 
simplicity of treatment, and absence of 
showy tricks. "Why write," — he wondered 
— "about a man getting into a submarine 

[79] 



and going to' the North Pole to reconcile 
himself with the world, while his beloved 
at that moment throws herself with a hyster- 
ical shriek from the belfry? All this is 

i untrue and does not happen in reality. One 
must write about simple things: how Peter 

I Semionovitch married Marie Ivanovna. 

I That is all. And again, why those sub- 

^ titles: a psychological study, genre, nou- 
velle'? All these are mere pretense. Put 
as plain a title as possible — any that occurs 
to your mind — and nothing else. Also use 
as few brackets, italics and hyphens as pos- 
sible. They are mannerisms." 

He also taught that an author should be 

/ indifferent to the joys and sorrows of his 
characters. "In a good story" — he said — 
"I have read a description of a restaurant by 
the sea in a large city. You saw at once 
that the author was all admiration for the 
music, the electric light, the flowers in the 
buttonholes; that he himself delighted in 
contemplating them. One has to stand out- 
side these things, and, although knowing 
them in minute detail, one must look at them 
from top to bottom with contempt. And 
then it will be true." 

[80] 



VIII 

The son of Alphonse Daudet in his memoirs 
of his father relates that the gifted French 
writer half jokingly called himself a "seller 
of happiness." People of all sorts would 
constantly apply to him for advice and as- 
sistance. They came with their sorrows and 
worries, and he, already bedridden with a 
painful and incurable disease, found suf- 
ficient courage, patience, and love of man- 
kind in himself to penetrate into other 
people's grief, to console and encourage them. 
Chekhov, certainly, with his extraordinary 
modesty and his dislike of phrase-making, 
would never have said anything like that. 
But how often he had to listen to people's 
confessions, to help by word and deed, to 
hold out a tender and strong hand to the 
falling. ... In his wonderful objectivity, 
standing above personal sorrows and joys, he 
knew and saw everything. But personal 
feeling stood in the way of his understand- 
ing. He could be kind and generous with- 
out loving; tender and sympathetic without 
attachment; a benefactor, without counting 

[81] 



on gratitude. And these traits which were 
never understood by those round him, con- 
tained the chief key to his personality. 

Availing myself of the permission of a 
friend of mine, I will quote a short extract 
from a Chekhov letter. The man was 
greatly alarmed and troubled during the first 
pregnancy of a much beloved wife, and, to 
tell the truth, he distressed Anton Pavlovitch 
greatly with his own trouble. Chekhov once 
wrote to him: 

"Tell your wife she should not be anxious, 
everything will be all right. The travail 
will last twenty hours, and then will ensue 
a most blissful state, when she will smile, 
and you will long to cry from love and grati- 
tude. Twenty hours is the usual maximum 
for the first childbirth." 

What a subtle cure for another's anxiety 
is heard in these few simple lines! But 
it is still more characteristic that later, when 
my friend had become a happy father, and, 
recollecting that letter, asked Chekhov how 
he understood these feelings so well, Anton 
Pavlovitch answered quietly, even indif- 
ferently : 

"When I lived in the country, I always 

[82] 



had to attend peasant women. It was just 
the s-^me — there too is the same joy." 

If Chekhov had not been such a remark- 
able writer, he would have been a great 
doctor. Physicians who sometimes invited 
him to a consultation spoke of him as an 
unusually thoughtful observer and penetrat- 
ing in diagnosis. It would not be surprising 
if his diagnosis were more perfect and pro- 
found than a diagnosis given by a fashion- 
able celebrity. He saw and heard in man 
— in his face, voice, and bearing — what was 
hidden and would escape the notice of an 
average observer. 

He himself preferred to recommend, in 
the rare cases when his advice was sought, 
medicines that were tried, simple, and mostly 
domestic. By the way he treated children 
with great success. 

He believed in medicine firmly and 
soundly, and nothing could shake that be- 
lief. I remember how cross he was once 
when some one began to talk slightingly of 
medicine, basing his remarks on Zola's novel 
"Doctor Pascal." 

— "Zola understands nothing and invents 
it all in his study," — he said in agitation, 

[83] 



coughing. ''Let him come and see how our 
Zemstvo doctors work and what they do 
for the people." 

Every one knows how often — with what 
sympathy and love beneath an external hard- 
ness, he describes those superb workers, those 
obscure and inconspicuous heroes who de- 
liberately doomed their names to oblivion. 
He described them, even without sparing 
them. 



IX 



There is a^ayjng;j^the death of each man is 
like him. One recalls it Tnvoluntarily when 
one thinks of the last years of Chekhov's 
life, of the last days, even of the last 
minutes. Even into his funeral fate 
brought, by some fatal consistency, man-" 
purely Chekhovian traits. 

He struggled long, terribly long, with an 
implacable disease, but bore it with manly 
simplicity and patience, without irritation, 
without complaints, almost in silence. Only 
just before his death, he mentions his dis- 
ease, just by the way, in his letters. ''My 
health is recovered, although I still walk 

[84] 



with a compress on." ... "I have just got 
through a pleurisy, but am better now." 
. . . "My health is not grand. ... I 
write on." 

He did not like to talk of his disease and 
was annoyed when questioned about it. 
Only from Arseniy (the servant) one would 
learn. *'This morning he was very bad — 
there was blood," he would say in a whisper, 
shaking his head. Or Yevguenia Yakov- 
levna, Chekhov's mother, would say secretly 
with anguish in her voice: 

"Antosha again coughed all night. I hear 
through the wall." 

Did he know the extent and meaning of 
his disease? I think he did, but intrepidly, 
like a doctor and a philosopher, he looked 
into the eyes of imminent death. There 
were various, trifling circumstances pointing 
to the fact that he knew. Thus, for in- 
stance, to a lady, who complained to him of 
insomnia and nervous breakdown, he said 
quietly, with an indefinable sadness: 

"You see; whilst a man's lungs are right, 
everything is right." 

He died simply, pathetically, r.nd fully 
conscious. They say his last words were: 

[85] 



J ^€ix^sterbe,l'^ And his last days were 

darkened by a deep sorrow for Russia, and 
by the anxiety of the monstrous Japanese 
war. 

His funeral comes back to mind like a 
dream. The cold, grayish Petersburg, a 
mistake about a telegram, a small gathering 
of people at the railway station, "Wagon 
for oysters," in which his remains were 
brought from Germany, the station author- 
ities who had never heard of Chekhov and 
saw in his body only a railway cargo. . . . 
Then, as a contrast, Moscow, profound sor- 
row, thousands of bereaved people, tear- 
stained faces. And at last his grave in the 
Novodevitchy cemetery, filled with flowers, 
side by side with the humble grave of the 
"Cossack's wide ., Olga Coocaretnikov." 

I remember the service in the cemetery the 
day after his funeral. It was a still July 
evening, and the old lime trees over the 
graves stood motionless and golden in the 
sun. With a quiet, tender sadness and 
sighing sounded the women's voices. And 
in the souls of many, then, was a deep per- 
plexity. 

Slowly and in silence the people left the 
[86] 



cemetery. I went up to Chekhov's mother 
and silently kissed her hand. And she said 
in a low, tired voice : 

*'Our trial is bitter. . . . Antosha is 
dead." 

O, the overwhelming depth of these 
simple, ordinary, very Chekhovian words! 
The enormous abyss of the loss, the irrevoc- 
able nature of the great event, opened be- 
hind. No! Consolations would be useless. 
Can the sorrow of those, whose souls have 
been so close to the great soul of the dead, 
ever be assuaged*? 

But let their unquenchable anguish be 
stayed by the consciousness that their dis- 
tress is our common distress. Let it be 
softened by the thought of the immortality 
of his great and pure name. Indeed: there 
will pass years and centuries, and time will 
efface the very memory of thousands and 
thousands of those living now. But the 
posterity, of whose happiness Chekhov 
dreamt with such fascinating sadness, will 
speak his name with gratitude and silent / 
sorrow for his fate. / 

[87] 



A. P. CHEKHOV 

BY 

I. A. BUNIN 



I MADE Chekhov's acquaintance in Moscow, 
towards the end of '95. We met then at 
intervals and I should not think it worth 
mentioning, if I did not remember some very 
characteristic phrases. 

"Do you write much^" he asked me once. 

I answered that I wrote little. 

"Bad," he said, almost sternly, in his low, 
deep voice. "One must work . . . without 
sparing oneself ... all one's life." 

And, after a pause, without any visible 
connection, he added: 

"When one has written a story I believe 
that one ought to strike out both the begin- 
ning and the end. That is where we novel- 
ists are most inclined to lie. And one must 
write shortly — as shortly as possible." 

Then we spoke of poetry, and he suddenly 
became excited. "Tell me, do you care for 
Alexey Tolstoy's poems? To me he is an 
actor. When he was a boy he put on 
evening dress and he has never taken it off." 

[91] 



After these stray meetings in which we 
touched upon some of Chekhov's favorite 
topics — as that one must work "without 
sparing oneself" and must write simply and 
without the shadow of falsehood — we did 
not meet till the spring of '99. I came to 
Yalta for a few days, and one evening I 
met Chekhov on the quay. 

*'Why don't you come to see me?" were 
his first words. "Be sure to come to- 



morrow." 



"At what time?" I asked. 

"In the morning about eight." 

And seeing perhaps that I looked surprised 
he added: 

"We get up early. Don't you?" 

"Yes I do too," I said. 

"Well then, come when you get up. We 
will give you coffee. You take coffee?" 

"Sometimes." 

"You ought to always. It's a wonderful 
drink. When I am working, I drink nothing 
but coffee and chicken broth until the 
evening. Coffee in the morning and chicken 
broth at midday. If I don't, my work 
suffers." 

I thanked him for asking me, and we 

[92] 



crossed the quay in silence and sat down on 
a bench. 

"Do you love the sea*?" I asked. 

"Yes," he replied. "But it is too lonely." 

"That's what I like about it," I replied. 

"I wonder," he mused, looking through 
his spectacles away into the distance and 
thinking his own thoughts. "It must be 
nice to be a soldier, or a young undergradu- 
ate ... to sit in a crowd and listen to the 
band. . . ." 

And then, as was usual with him, after 
a pause and without apparent connection, he 
added : 

"It is very difficult to describe the sea. 
Do you know the description that a school- 
boy gave in an exercise? 'The sea is vast.' 
Only that. Wonderful, I think." 

Some people might think him affected in 
saying this. But Chekhov — affected! 

"I grant," said one who knew Chekhov 
well, "that I have met men as sincere as 
Chekhov. But any one so simple, and so 
free from pose and affectation I have never 
known!" 

And that is true. He loved all that was. 
sincere, vital, and gay, so long as it was| 

[93] 



neither coarse nor dull, and could not en- 
dure pedants, or book-worms who have got 
so much into the habit of making phrases 
that they can talk in no other way. In his 
writings he scarcely ever spoke of himself 
or of his views, and this led people to think 
him a man without principles or sense of 
duty to his kind. In life, too, he was no 
egotist, and seldom spoke of his likings and 
dislikings. But both were very strong and 
lasting, and simplicity was one of the things 
he liked best. "The sea is vast." ... To 
him, with his passion for simplicity and his 
loathing of the strained and affected, that 
was "wonderful." His words about the 
officer and the music showed another char- 
acteristic of his: his reserve. The transi- 
tion from the sea to the officer was no 
doubt inspired by his secret craving for youth 
and health. The sea is lonely. . . . And 
Chekhov loved life and joy. During his 
last years his desire for happiness, even of 
the simplest kind, would constantly show 
itself in his conversation. It would be 
hinted at, not expressed. 

In Moscow, in the year 1895, I saw a 

[94] 



middle-aged man (Chekhov was then 35) 
wearing pince-nez, quietly dressed, rather 
tall, and light and graceful in his move- 
ments. He welcomed me, but so quietly 
that I, then a boy, took his quietness for 
coldness. ... In Yalta, in the year 1899, 
I found him already much changed; he had 
grown thin; his face was sadder; his dis- 
tinction was as great as ever but it was the 
distinction of an elderly man, who has gone 
through much, and been ennobled by his suf- 
fering. His voice was gentler. ... In 
other respects he was much as he had been 
in Moscow; cordial, speaking with anima- 
tion, but even more simply and shortly, 
and, while he talked, he went on with his 
own thoughts. He let me grasp the con- 
nections between his thoughts as well as I 
could, while he looked through his glasses 
at the sea, his face slightly raised. Next 
morning after meeting him on the quay I 
went to his house. I well remember the 
bright sunny morning that I spent with 
Chekhov in his garden. He was very lively, 
and laughed and read me the only poem, so 
he said, that he had ever written, "Horses, 

[95] 



Hares and Chinamen, a fable for children." | 
(Chekhov wrote it for the children of a 
friend. See Letters.) 

Once walked over a bridge 

Fat Chinamen, 
In front of them, with their tails up, 

Hares ran quickly. 
Suddenly the Chinamen shouted: 

"Stop'i Whoa I Ho! Ho!" 
The hares raised their tails still higher 

And hid in the bushes. 
The moral of this fable is clear : 

He who wants to eat hares 
Every day getting out of bed 

Must obey his father. 

After that visit I went to him more and 
more frequently. Chekhov's attitude to- 
wards me therefore changed. He became 
more friendly and cordial. . . . But he was 
still reserved, yet, as he was reserved not 
only with me but with those who were most 
intimate with him, it rose, I believed, not 
from coldness, but from something much 
more important. 

The charming white stone house, bright 
in the sun; the little orchard, planted and 
tended by Chekhov himself who loved all 

[96] 



flowers, trees, and animals; his study, with 
its few pictures, and the large window which 
looked out onto the valley of the river Ut- 
chan-Spo, and the blue triangle of the sea; 
the hours, days, and even months which I 
spent there, and my friendship with the man 
who fascinated me not only by his genius 
but also by his stern voice and his child- 
like smile — all this will always remain one 
of the happiest memories of my life. He 
was friendly to me and at times almost ten- 
der. But the reserve which I have spoken 
of never disappeared even when we were 
most intimate. He was reserved about 
everything. 

He was very humorous and loved laugh- 
ter, but he only laughed his charming in- 
fectious laugh when somebody else had made 
a joke: he himself would say the most amus- 
ing things without the slightest smile. He 
delighted in jokes, in absurd nicknames, and 
in mystifying people. . . . Even towards 
the end when he felt a little better 
his humor was irrepressible. And with 
what subtle humor he would make one 
laugh! He would drop a couple of words 
and wink his eye above his glasses. . . . 

[97] 



His letters too, though their form is perfect, 
are full of delightful humor. 

But Chekhov's reserve was shown in a 
great many other ways which proved the 
strength of his character. No one ever 
heard him complain, though no one had 
more reason to complain. He was one of 
a large family, which lived in a state of 
actual want. He had to work for money 
under conditions which would have ex- 
tinguished the most fiery inspiration. He 
lived in a tiny flat, writing at the edge of a 
table, in the midst of talk and noise with 
the whole family and often several visitors 
sitting round him. For many years he was 
very poor. . . . Yet he scarcely ever grum- 
bled at his lot. It was not that he asked 
little of life : on the contrary, he hated what 
was mean and meager though he was nobly 
Spartan in the way he lived. For fifteen 
years he suffered from an exhausting illness 
which finally killed him, but his readers 
never knew it. The same could not be said 
of most writers. Indeed, the manliness with 
which he bore his sufferings and met his 
death was admirable. Even at his worst he 
almost succeeded in hiding his pain. 

[98] 



"You are not feeling well, Antosha^" 
his mother or sister would say, seeing him 
sitting all day with his eyes shut. 

"I*?" he would answer, quietly, opening 
the eyes which looked so clear and mild 
without his glasses. "Oh, it's nothing. I 
have a little headache." 

He loved literature passionately, and to 
talk of writers and to praise Maupassant, 
Flaubert, or Tolstoy was a great joy to him. 
He spoke with particular enthusiasm of those 
just mentioned and also of Lermontov's 
"Taman." 

"I cannot understand," he would say, 
"how a mere boy could have written 
TamanI Ah, if one had written that and 
a good comedy — then one would be content 
to die!" 

But his talk about literature was very 
different from the usual shop talked by 
writers, with its narrowness, and smallness, 
and petty personal spite. He would only 
discuss books with people who loved litera- 
ture above all other arts and were disin- 
terested and pure in their love of it. 

"You should not read your writing to 
other people before it is published," he often 

[99] 



said. "And it is most important never to 
take any one's advice. If you have made a 
mess of it, let the blood be on your own 
head. Maupassant by his greatness has so 
raised the standard of writing that it is very 
hard to write; but we have to write, espe- 
cially we Russians, and in writing one must 
be courageous. There are big dogs and little 
dogs, but the little dogs should not be dis- 
heartened by the existence of the big dogs. 
All must bark — and bark with the voice 
God gave them." 

All that went on in the world of letters 
interested him keenly, and he was indig- 
nant with the stupidity, falsehood, affecta- 
tion and charlatanry which batten upon 
literature. But though he was angry he 
was never irritable and there was nothing 
personal in his anger. It is usual to say 
of dead writers that they rejoiced in the suc- 
cess of others, and were not jealous of them, j 
If, therefore, I suspected Chekhov of the i 
least jealousy I should be content to say \ 
nothing about it. But the fact is that he | 
rejoiced in the existence of talent, spontane- J 
ously. The word "talentless" was, I think, 
the most damaging expression he could use, ,| 
[loo] 



His own failures and successes he took as he 
alone knew how to take them. 

He was writing for twenty-five years and 
during that time his writing was constantly 
attacked. Being one of the greatest and 
most subtle of Russian writers, he never 
used his art to preach. That b^ing so, Rus- 
sian critics could neither understand him 
nor approve of him. Did they not insist 
diat Levitan should "light up" his land- 
scapes — that is paint in a cow, a goose, or 
the figure of a woman? Such criticism hurt 
Chekhov a good deal, and embittered him 
even more than he was already embit- 
tered by Russian life itself. His bitterness 
would show itself momentarily — only mo- 
mentarily. 

"We shall soon be celebrating your jubi- 
lee, Anton PavlovitchI" 

"I know your jubilees. For twenty-five 
years they do nothing but abuse and ridicule 
a man, and then you give him a pen made of 
aluminum and slobber over him for a whole 
day, and cry, and kiss him, and gush!" 

To talk of his fame and his popularity he 
would answer in the same way — with two 
or three words or a jest. 

[101] 



"Have you read it, Anton Pavlovitch?" 
one would ask, having read an article about 
him. 

He would look slyly over his spectacles, 
ludicrously lengthen his face, and sav in 
his deep voice: 
1 "Oh, a thousand thanks I There is a 
whole column, and at the bottom of it, 
j *There is also a writer called Chekhov : a 
'discontented man, a grumbler/ " 
Sometimes he would add seriously : 
"When you find yourself criticized, re- 
member us sinners. The critics boxed our 
ears for trifles just as if we were school- 
boys. One of them foretold that I should 
die in a ditch. He supposed that I had been 
expelled from school for drunkenness." 
J I never saw Chekhov lose his temper. 
Very seldom was he irritated, and if it did 
! happen he controlled himself astonishingly. 
' I remember, for instance, that he was once 
\ annoyed by reading in a book that he was 
I "indifferent" to questions of morality and 
: society, and that he was a pessimist. Yet his 
j ■ annoyance showed itself only in two words: 
"Utter idiot!" 

Nor did I find him cold. He said that he 
[102] 



was cold when he wrote, and that he only 
wrote when the thoughts and images that he 
was about to express were perfectly clear to 
him, and then he wrote on, steadily, without 
interruptions, until he had brought it to an 
end. 

"One ought only to write when one feels ^ 
completely calm," he said once. 

But this calm was of a very peculiar na- y/ 
ture. No other Russian writer had his sen- 
sibility and his complexity. 

Indeed, it would take a very versatile 
mind to throw any light upon this profound 
and complex spirit — this "incomparable ar- 
tist" as Tolstoy called him. I can only bear 
witness that he was a man of rare spiritual 
nobleness, distinguished and cultivated in 
the best sense, who combined tenderness and 
delicacy with complete sincerity, kindness 
and sensitiveness with complete candour. 

To jbe truthful and natural and yet retairi ^./ 
great charm impl ies a nature of rare beauty/ \ 



int egri t y, and pow er, I speak so frequently 
of Chekhov's composure because his compo- 
sure seems to me a proof of the strength of 
his character. It was always his, I think, 
even when he was young and in the highest 

[J03] 



spirits, and it was that, perhaps, that made 
him so independent, and able to begin his 
work unpretentiously and courageously, 
without paltering with his conscience. 

Do you remember the words of the old 
professor in "The Tedious Story ^" 
.? "I won't say that French books are good 
and gifted and noble; but they are not so 
dull as Russian books, and the chief element 
of creative power is often to be found in 
them — the sense of personal freedom." 

Chekhov had in the highest degree that 
''sense of personal freedom" and he could not 
bear that others should be without it. He 
would become bitter and uncompromising if 
he thought that others were taking liberties 
with it. 

That "freedom," it is well known, cost 
him a great deal ; but he was not one of those 
people who have two different ideals — one 
for themselves, the other for the public. 
His success was for a very long time much 
less than he deserved- But he never during 
the whole of his life made the least effort to 
increase his popularity. He was extremely 
severe upon all the wire-pulling which is now 
resorted to in order to achieve success. 
[104] 



*'Do you still call them writers'? They 
are cab-men!" he said bitterly. 

His dislike to being made a show of at 
times seemed excessive. 

"The Scorpion (a publishing firm) adver- 
tise their books badly," he wrote to me after 
the publication of ''Northern Flowers." 
"They put my name first, and when I read 
the advertisement in the daily Russkya Ve- 
donosti I swore I would never again have 
any truck with scorpions, crocodiles, or 
snakes." 

This was the winter of 1900 when Chek- 
hov who had become interested in certain 
features of the new publishing firm "Scor- 
pion" gave them at my request one of his 
youthful stories, "On the Sea." They 
printed it in a volume of collected stories 
and he many times regretted it. 

"All this new Russian art is nonsense," he 
would say. "I remember that I once saw a 
sign-board in Taganrog: Arfeticial (for 'arti- 
ficial') mineral waters are sold here! Well, 
this new art is the same as that." 

His reserve came from the loftiness of his 
spirit and from his incessant endeavor to ex- 
press himself exactly. It will eventually 

[105] 



happen that people will know that he was 
not only an "incomparable artist," not only 
an amazing master of language but an incom- 
parable man into the bargain. But it will 
take many years for people to grasp in its 
fullness his subtlety, power, and delicacy. 

"How are you, dear Ivan Alexeyevitch?" 
he wrote to me at Nice. "I wish you a 
happy New Year. I received your letter, 
thank you. In Moscow everything is safe, 
sound, and dull. There is no news (except 
the New Year) nor is any news expected. 
My play is not yet produced, nor do I 
know when it will be. It is possible that I 
may come to Nice in February. . . . Greet 
the lovely hot sun from me, and the quiet sea. 
Enjoy yourself, be happy, don't think about 
illness, and write often to your friends. . . . 
Keep well, and cheerful, and don't forget 
your sallow northern countrymen, who suffer 
from indigestion and bad temper." (8th 
January, 1904). 

"Greet the lovely hot sun and the quiet 
sea from me" ... I seldom heard him say 
that. But I often felt that he ought to say 
it, and then my heart ached sadly. 

I remember one night in early spring. It 

[106] 



was late. Suddenly the telephone rang. I 
heard Chekhov's deep voice : 

"Sir, take a cab and come here. Let us 
go for a drive." 

"A drive? At this time of night?' I an- 
swered. "What's the matter, Anton Pav- 
lovitch?" 

"I am in love." 

"That's good. But it is past nine. . . . 
You will catch cold." 

"Young man, don't quibble!" 

Ten minutes later I was at Afitka. The 
house, where during the winter Chekhov 
lived alone with his mother, was dark and 
silent, save that a light came through the 
key-hole of his mother's room, and two little 
candles burnt in the semi-darkness of his 
study. My heart shrank as usual at the 
sight of that quiet study, where Chekhov 
passed so many lonely winter nights, think- 
ing bitterly perhaps on the fate which had 
given him so much and mocked him so 
cruelly. 

"What a night!" he said to me with even 

more than his usual tenderness and pensive 

gladness, meeting me in the doorway. "It 

is so dull here! The only excitement is 

[107] 



when the telephone rings and Sophie Pav- 
lovna asks what I am doing, and I answer: 
'I am catching mice.' Come, let us drive to 
Orianda. I don't care a hang if I do catch 
cold!" 

The night was warm and still, with a 
bright moon, light clouds, and a few stars in 
the deep blue sky. The carriage rolled softly 
along the white road, and, soothed by the 
stillness of the night, we sat silent looking at 
the sea glowing a dim gold. . . . Then 
came the forest cob webbed over with shad- 
ows, but already spring-like and beautiful. 
. . . Black troops of giant cypresses rose 
majestically into the sky. We stopped the 
carriage and walked beneath them, past the 
ruins of the castle, which were pale blue in 
the moonlight. Chekhov suddenly said to 
me: 

"Do you know for how many years I shall 
be read*? Seven." 

"Why seven?" I asked. 

"Seven and a half, then." 

"No," I said. "Poetry lives long, and the 
longer it lives the better it becomes — like 
wine." 

He said nothing, but when we had sat 

[108] 



down on a bench from which we could see the 
sea shining in thie moonlight, he took off his 
glasses and said, looking at me with his kind, 
tired eyes : 

"Poets, sir, are those who use such phrases 
as 'the silvery distance,' 'accord,' or 'onward, 
onward, to the fight with the powers of 
darkness' !" 

"You are sad to-night, Anton Pavlovitch," 
I said, looking at his kind and beautiful face, 
pale in the moonlight. 

He was thoughtfully digging up little 
pebbles with the end of his stick, with his 
eyes on the ground. But when I said that 
he was sad, he looked across at mfe, humor- 
ously. 

"It is you who are sad," he answered. 
"You are sad because you have spent such a 
lot on the cab." 

Then he added gravely : 

"Yes, I shall only be read for another seven 
years; and I shall live for less — perhaps for 
six. But don't go and tell that to the news- 
paper reporters." 

He was wrong there: he did not live for 
six years. . . . 

He died peacefully without suffering in 

[109] 



the stillness and beauty of a summer's dawn 

I which he had always loved. When he was 

/ dead a look of happiness came upon his face, 

/ and it looked like the face of a very young 

man. There came to my mind the words of 
, Leconte de Lisle: 

' Moi, je fenvie, au fond du tombeau calmf,et noir 
j D'etre affranchi de vivre et de ne plus savoir 
/ La honte de penser et I'horreur d'etre un homme! 



[no] 



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