The Safety match
by Anton Chekhov
On the morning of October 6, 1885,
in the office of the Inspector of Police of the second
division of S---- District, there appeared a respectably
dressed young man, who announced that his master, Marcus
Ivanovitch Klausoff, a retired officer of the Horse Guards,
separated from his wife, had been murdered. While making
this announcement the young man was white and terribly
agitated. His hands trembled and his eyes were full of
"Whom have I the honor of
addressing?" asked the inspector.
"Psyekoff, Lieutenant Klausoff's agent;
agriculturist and mechanician!"
The inspector and his deputy, on visiting the
scene of the occurrence in company with Psyekoff, found the
following: Near the wing in which Klausoff had lived was
gathered a dense crowd. The news of the murder had sped
swift as lightning through the neighborhood, and the
peasantry, thanks to the fact that the day was a holiday,
had hurried together from all the neighboring villages.
There was much commotion and talk. Here and there, pale,
tear-stained faces were seen. The door of Klausoff's bedroom
was found locked The key was inside.
"It is quite clear that the scoundrels
got in by the window!" said Psyekoff as they examined
They went to the garden, into which the
bedroom window opened. The window looked dark and ominous.
It was covered by a faded green curtain. One corner of the
curtain was slightly turned up, which made it possible to
look into the bedroom.
"Did any of you look into the
window?" asked the inspector.
"Certainly not, your worship!"
answered Ephraim, the gardener, a little gray-haired old
man, who looked like a retired sergeant. "Who's going
to look in, if all their bones are shaking?"
"Ah, Marcus Ivanovitch, Marcus
Ivanovitch!" sighed the inspector, looking at the
window, "I told you you would come to a bad end! I told
the dear man, but he wouldn't listen! Dissipation doesn't
bring any good!"
"Thanks to Ephraim," said Psyekoff;
"but for him, we would never have guessed. He was the
first to guess that something was wrong. He comes to me this
morning, and says: 'Why is the master so long getting up? He
hasn't left his bedroom for a whole week!' The moment he
said that, it was just as if some one had hit me with an ax.
The thought flashed through my mind, 'We haven't had a sight
of him since last Saturday, and to-day is Sunday'! Seven
whole days--not a doubt of it!"
"Ay, poor fellow!" again sighed the
inspector. "He was a clever fellow, finely educated,
and kind-hearted at that! And in society, nobody could touch
him! But he was a waster, God rest his soul! I was prepared
for anything since he refused to live with Olga Petrovna.
Poor thing, a good wife, but a sharp tongue! Stephen!"
the inspector called to one of his deputies, "go over
to my house this minute, and send Andrew to the captain to
lodge an information with him! Tell him that Marcus
Ivanovitch has been murdered. And run over to the orderly;
why should he sit there, kicking his heels? Let him come
here! And go as fast as you can to the examining magistrate,
Nicholas Yermolaïyevitch. Tell him to come over here!
Wait; I'll write him a note!"
The inspector posted sentinels around the
wing, wrote a letter to the examining magistrate, and then
went over to the director's for a glass of tea. Ten minutes
later he was sitting on a stool, carefully nibbling a lump
of, sugar, and swallowing the scalding tea.
"There you are!" he was saying to
Psyekoff; "there you are! A noble by birth! a rich man-
-a favorite of the gods, you may say, as Pushkin has it, and
what did he come to? He drank and dissipated and--there you
After a couple of hours the examining
magistrate drove up. Nicholas Yermolaïyevitch
Chubikoff--for that was the magistrate's name--was a tall,
fleshy old man of sixty, who had been wrestling with the
duties of his office for a quarter of a century. Everybody
in the district knew him as an honest man, wise, energetic,
and in love with his work. He was accompanied to the scene
of the murder by his inveterate companion, fellow worker,
and secretary, Dukovski, a tall young fellow of twenty-six.
"Is it possible, gentlemen?" cried
Chubikoff, entering Psyekoff's room, and quickly shaking
hands with everyone. Is it possible? Marcus Ivanovitch?
Murdered? No! It is impossible! Im-poss-i-ble!"
"Go in there!" sighed the
"Lord, have mercy on us! Only last
Friday I saw him at the fair in Farabankoff. I had a drink
of vodka with him, save the mark!"
"Go in there!" again sighed the
They sighed, uttered exclamations of horror,
drank a glass of tea each, and went to the wing.
"Get back!" the orderly cried to
Going to the wing, the examining magistrate
began his work by examining the bedroom door. The door
proved to be of pine, painted yellow, and was uninjured.
Nothing was found which could serve as a clew. They had to
break in the door.
"Everyone not here on business is
requested to keep away!" said the magistrate, when,
after much hammering and shaking, the door yielded to ax and
chisel. "I request this, in the interest of the
investigation. Orderly, don't let anyone in!"
Chubikoff, his assistant, and the inspector
opened the door, and hesitatingly, one after the other,
entered the room. Their eyes met the following sight: Beside
the single window stood the big wooden bed with a huge
feather mattress. On the crumpled feather bed lay a tumbled,
crumpled quilt. The pillow, in a cotton pillow-case, also
much crumpled, was dragging on the floor. On the table
beside the bed lay a silver watch and a silver twenty-kopeck
piece. Beside them lay some sulphur matches. Beside the bed,
the little table, and the single chair, there was no
furniture in the room. Looking under the bed, the inspector
saw a couple of dozen empty bottles, an old straw hat, and a
quart of vodka. Under the table lay one top boot, covered
with dust. Casting a glance around the room, the magistrate
frowned and grew red in the face.
"Scoundrels!" he muttered,
clenching his fists.
"And where is Marcus Ivanovitch?"
asked Dukovski in a low voice.
"Mind your own business!" Chubikoff
answered roughly. "Be good enough to examine the floor!
This is not the first case of the kind I have had to deal
with! Eugraph Kuzmitch," he said, turning to the
inspector, and lowering his voice, "in 1870 I had
another case like this. But you must remember it--the murder
of the merchant Portraitoff. It was just the same there. The
scoundrels murdered him, and dragged the corpse out through
Chubikoff went up to the window, pulled the
curtain to one side, and carefully pushed the window. The
"It opens, you see! It wasn't fastened.
Hm! There are tracks under the window. Look! There is the
track of a knee! Somebody got in there. We must examine the
"There is nothing special to be found on
the floor," said Dukovski. "No stains or
scratches. The only thing I found was a struck safety match.
Here it is! So far as I remember, Marcus Ivanovitch did not
smoke. And he always used sulphur matches, never safety
matches. Perhaps this safety match may serve as a
"Oh, do shut up!" cried the
magistrate deprecatingly. "You go on about your match!
I can't abide these dreamers! Instead of chasing matches,
you had better examine the bed!"
After a thorough examination of the bed,
"There are no spots, either of blood or
of anything else. There are likewise no new torn places. On
the pillow there are signs of teeth. The quilt is stained
with something which looks like beer and smells like beer.
The general aspect of the bed gives grounds for thinking
that a struggle took place on it."
"I know there was a struggle, without
your telling me! You are not being asked about a struggle.
Instead of looking for struggles, you had better----"
"Here is one top boot, but there is no
sign of the other."
"Well, and what of that?"
"It proves that they strangled him,
while he was taking his boots off. He hadn't time to take
the second boot off when----"
"There you go!--and how do you know they
"There are marks of teeth on the pillow.
The pillow itself is badly crumpled, and thrown a coupLe of
yards from the bed."
"Listen to his foolishness! Better come
into the garden. You would be better employed examining the
garden than digging around here. I can do that without
When they reached the garden they began by
examining the grass. The grass under the window was crushed
and trampled. A bushy burdock growing under the window close
to the wall was also trampled. Dukovski succeeded in finding
on it some broken twigs and a piece of cotton wool. On the
upper branches were found some fine hairs of dark blue wool.
"What color was his last suit?"
Dukovski asked Psyekoff.
"Excellent! You see they wore
A few twigs of the burdock were cut off, and
carefully wrapped in paper by the investigators. At this
point Police Captain Artsuybasheff Svistakovski and Dr.
Tyutyeff arrived. The captain bade them "Good
day!" and immediately began to satisfy his curiosity.
The doctor, a tall, very lean man, with dull eyes, a long
nose, and a pointed chin, without greeting anyone or asking
about anything, sat down on a log, sighed, and began:
"The Servians are at war again! What in
heaven's name can they want now? Austria, it's all your
The examination of the window from the
outside did not supply any conclusive data. The examination
of the grass and the bushes nearest to the window yielded a
series of useful clews. For example, Dukovski succeeded in
discovering a long, dark streak, made up of spots, on the
grass, which led some distance into the center of the
garden. The streak ended under one of the lilac bushes in a
dark brown stain. Under this same lilac bush was found a top
boot, which turned out to be the fellow of the boot already
found in the bedroom.
"That is a blood stain made some time
ago," said Dukovski, examining the spot.
At the word "blood" the doctor
rose, and going over lazily, looked at the spot.
"Yes, it is blood!" he muttered.
"That shows he wasn't strangled, if
there was blood," said Chubikoff, looking sarcastically
"They strangled him in the bedroom; and
here, fearing he might come round again, they struck him a
blow with some sharp-pointed instrument. The stain under the
bush proves that he lay there a considerable time, while
they were looking about for some way of carrying him out of
"Well, and how about the boot?"
"The boot confirms completely my idea
that they murdered him while he was taking his boots off
before going to bed. He had already taken off one boot, and
the other, this one here, he had only had time to take half
off. The half-off boot came off of itself, while the body
was dragged over, and fell----"
"There's a lively imagination for
you!" laughed Chubikoff. "He goes on and on like
that! When will you learn enough to drop your deductions?
Instead of arguing and deducing, it would be much better if
you took some of the blood-stained grass for analysis!"
When they had finished their examination, and
drawn a plan of the locality, the investigators went to the
director's office to write their report and have breakfast.
While they were breakfasting they went on talking:
"The watch, the money, and so on--all
untouched--" Chubikoff began, leading off the talk,
"show as clearly as that two and two are four that the
murder was not committed for the purpose of robbery."
"The murder was committed by an educated
man!" insisted Dukovski.
"What evidence have you of that?"
"The safety match proves that to me, for
the peasants hereabouts are not yet acquainted with safety
matches. Only the landowners use them, and by no means all
of them. And it is evident that there was not one murderer,
but at least three. Two held him, while one killed him.
Klausoff was strong, and the murderers must have known
"What good would his strength be,
supposing he was asleep?"
"The murderers came on him while he was
taking off his boots. If he was taking off his boots, that
proves that he wasn't asleep!"
"Stop inventing your deductions! Better
"In my opinion, your worship," said
the gardener Ephraim, setting the samovar on the table,
"it was nobody but Nicholas who did this dirty
"Quite possible," said Psyekoff.
"And who is Nicholas?"
"The master's valet, your worship,"
answered Ephraim. " Who else could it be? He's a
rascal, your worship! He's a drunkard and a blackguard, the
like of which Heaven should not permit! He always took the
master his vodka and put the master to bed. Who else could
it be? And I also venture to point out to your worship, he
once boasted at the public house that he would kill the mas-
ter! It happened on account of Aquilina, the woman, you
know. He was making up to a soldier's widow. She pleased the
master; the master made friends with her himself, and
Nicholas--naturally, he was mad! He is rolling about drunk
in the kitchen now. He is crying, and telling lies, saying
he is sorry for the master----"
The examining magistrate ordered Nicholas to
be brought. Nicholas, a lanky young fellow, with a long,
freckled nose, narrow-chested, and wearing an old jacket of
his master's, entered Psyekoff's room, and bowed low before
the magistrate. His face was sleepy and tear-stained. He was
tipsy and could hardly keep his feet.
"Where is your master?" Chubikoff
"Murdered! your worship!"
As he said this, Nicholas blinked and began
"We know he was murdered. But where is
he now? Where is his body?"
"They say he was dragged out of the
window and buried in the garden!"
"Hum! The results of the investigation
are known in the kitchen already!--That's bad! Where were
you, my good fellow, the night the master was murdered?
Saturday night, that is."
Nicholas raised his head, stretched his neck,
and began to think.
"I don't know, your worship," he
said. "I was drunk and don't remember."
"An alibi!" whispered Dukovski,
smiling, and rubbing his hands.
"So-o! And why is there blood under the
Nicholas jerked his head up and considered.
"Hurry up!" said the Captain of
"Right away! That blood doesn't amount
to anything, your worship! I was cutting a chicken's throat.
I was doing it quite simply, in the usual way, when all of a
sudden it broke away and started to run. That is where the
blood came from."
Ephraim declared that Nicholas did kill a
chicken every evening, and always in some new place, but
that nobody ever heard of a half-killed chicken running
about the garden, though of course it wasn't impossible.
"An alibi," sneered Dukovski;
"and what an asinine alibi!"
"Did you know Aquilina?"
"Yes, your worship, I know her."
"And the master cut you out with
"Not at all. He cut me out--Mr.
Psyekoff there, Ivan Mikhailovitch; and the master cut Ivan
Mikhailovitch out. That is how it was."
Psyekoff grew confused and began to scratch
his left eye. Dukovski looked at him attentively, noted his
confusion, and started. He noticed that the director had
dark blue trousers, which he had not observed before. The
trousers reminded him of the dark blue threads found on the
burdock. Chubikoff in his turn glanced suspiciously at
"Go!" he said to Nicholas.
"And now permit me to put a question to you, Mr.
Psyekoff. Of course you were here last Saturday
"Yes! I had supper with Marcus
Ivanovitch about ten o'clock."
"Afterwards--afterwards---- Really, I do
not remember," stammered Psyekoff. "I had a good
deal to drink at supper. I don't remember when or where I
went to sleep. Why are you all looking at me like that, as
if I was the murderer?"
"Where were you when, you woke up?"
"I was in the servants' kitchen, lying
behind the stove! They can all confirm it. How I got behind
the stove I don't know----"
"Do not get agitated. Did you know
"There's nothing extraordinary about
"She first liked you and then preferred
"Yes. Ephraim, give us some more
mushrooms! Do you want some more tea, Eugraph
A heavy, oppressive silence began and lasted
fully five minutes. Dukovski silently kept his piercing eyes
fixed on Psyekoff's pale face. The silence was finally
broken by the examining magistrate:
"We must go to the house and talk with
Maria Ivanovna, the sister of the deceased. Perhaps she may
be able to supply some clews."
Chubikoff and his assistant expressed their
thanks for the breakfast, and went toward the house. They
found Klausoff's sister, Maria Ivanovna, an old maid of
forty-five, at prayer before the big case of family icons.
When she saw the portfolios in her guests' hands, and their
official caps, she grew pale.
"Let me begin by apologizing for
disturbing, so to speak, your devotions," began the
gallant Chubikoff, bowing and scraping. "We have come
to you with a request. Of course, you have heard already.
There is a suspicion that your dear brother, in some way or
other, has been murdered. The will of God, you know. No one
can escape death, neither czar nor plowman. Could you not
help us with some clew, some explanation----?"
"Oh, don't ask me!" said Maria
Ivanovna, growing still paler, and covering her face with
her hands. "I can tell you nothing. Nothing! I beg you!
I know nothing-- What can I do? Oh, no! no!--not a word
about my brother! If I die, I won't say anything!"
Maria Ivanovna began to weep, and left the
room. The investigators looked at each other, shrugged their
shoulders, and beat a retreat.
"Confound the woman!" scolded
Dukovski, going out of the house." It is clear she
knows something, and is concealing it! And the chambermaid
has a queer expression too! Wait, you wretches! We'll ferret
it all out!"
In the evening Chubikoff and his deputy, lit
on their road by the pale moon, wended their way homeward.
They sat in their carriage and thought over the results of
the day. Both were tired and kept silent. Chubikoff was
always unwilling to talk while traveling, and the talkative
Dukovski remained silent, to fall in with the elder man's
humor. But at the end of their journey the deputy could hold
in no longer, and said:
"It is quite certain," he said,
"that Nicholas had something to do with the matter.
Non dubitandum est! You can see by his face what sort
of a case he is! His alibi betrays him, body and bones. But
it is also certain that he did not set the thing going. He
was only the stupid hired tool. You agree? And the humble
Psyekoff was not without some slight share in the matter.
His dark blue breeches, his agitation, his lying behind the
stove in terror after the murder, his alibi
"'Grind away, Emilian; it's your week!'
So, according to you, whoever knew Aquilina is the murderer!
Hothead! You ought to be sucking a bottle, and not handling
affairs! You were one of Aquilina's admirers yourself--does
it follow that you are implicated too?"
"Aquilina was cook in your house for a
month. I am saying nothing about that! The night before that
Saturday I was playing cards with you, and saw you,
otherwise I should be after you too! It isn't the woman that
matters, old chap! It is the mean, nasty, low spirit of
jealousy that matters. The retiring young man was not
pleased when they got the better of him, you see! His
vanity, don't you see? He wanted revenge. Then, those thick
lips of his suggest passion. So there you have it: wounded
self-love and passion. That is quite enough motive for a
murder. We have two of them in our hands; but who is the
third? Nicholas and Psyekoff held him, but who smothered
him? Psyekoff is shy, timid, an all-round coward. And
Nicholas would not know how to smother with a pillow. His
sort use an ax or a club. Some third person did the
smothering; but who was it?"
Dukovski crammed his hat down over his eyes
and pondered. He remained silent until the carriage rolled
up to the magistrate's door.
"Eureka!" he said, entering the
little house and throwing off his overcoat. "Eureka,
Nicholas Yermolaïyevitch! The only thing I can't
understand is, how it did not occur to me sooner! Do you
know who the third person was?"
"Oh, for goodness sake, shut up! There
is supper! Sit down to your evening meal!"
The magistrate and Dukovski sat down to
supper. Dukovski poured himself out a glass of vodka, rose,
drew himself up, and said, with sparkling eyes:
"Well, learn that the third person, who
acted in concert with that scoundrel Psyekoff, and did the
smothering, was a woman! Yes-s! I mean the murdered man's
sister, Maria Ivanovna!"
Chubikoff choked over his vodka, and fixed
his eyes on Dukovski.
"You aren't--what's-its-name? Your
head isn't what-do-you-call-it? You haven't a pain in
"I am perfectly well! Very well, let us
say that I am crazy; but how do you explain her confusion
when we appeared? How do you explain her unwillingness to
give us any information? Let us admit that these are
trifles. Very well! All right! But remember their relations.
She detested her brother. She never forgave him for living
apart from his wife. She is of the Old Faith, while in her
eyes he is a godless profligate. There is where the germ of
her hate was hatched. They say he succeeded in making her
believe that be was an angel of Satan. He even went in for
spiritualism in her presence!"
"Well, what of that?"
"You don't understand? She, as a member
of the Old Faith, murdered him through fanaticism. It was
not only that she was putting to death a weed, a
profligate--she was freeing the world of an
antichrist!--and there, in her opinion, was her
service, her religious achievement! Oh, you don't know those
old maids of the Old Faith. Read Dostoyevsky! And what does
Lyeskoff say about them, or Petcherski? It was she, and
nobody else, even if you cut me open. She smothered him! O
treacherous woman! wasn't that the reason why she was
kneeling before the icons, when we came in, just to take our
attention away? 'Let me kneel down and pray,' she said to
herself, 'and they will think I am tranquil and did not
expect them!' That is the plan of all novices in crime,
Nicholas Yermolaïyevitch, old pal! My dear old man,
won't you intrust this business to me? Let me personally
bring it through! Friend, I began it and I will finish
Chubikoff shook his head and frowned.
"We know how to manage difficult matters
ourselves," he said; "and your business is not to
push yourself in where you don't belong. Write from
dictation when you are dictated to; that is your job!"
Dukovski flared up, banged the door, and
"Clever rascal!" muttered
Chubikoff, glancing after him. "Awfully clever! But too
much of a hothead. I must buy him a cigar case at the fair
as a present."
The next day, early in the morning, a young
man with a big head and a pursed-up mouth, who came from
Klausoff's place, was introduced to the magistrate's office.
He said he was the shepherd Daniel, and brought a very
interesting piece of information.
"I was a bit drunk," he said.
"I was with my pal till midnight. On my way home, as I
was drunk, I went into the river for a bath. I was taking a
bath, when I looked up. Two men were walking along the dam,
carrying something black. 'Shoo!' I cried at them. They got
scared, and went off like the wind toward Makareff's cabbage
garden. Strike me dead, if they weren't carrying away the
That same day, toward evening, Psyekoff and
Nicholas were arrested and brought under guard to the
district town. In the town they were committed to the cells
of the prison.
A FORTNIGHT passed.
It was morning. The magistrate Nicholas
Yermolaïyevitch was sitting in his office before a
green table, turning over the papers of the "Klausoff
case"; Dukovski was striding restlessly up and down,
like a wolf in a cage.
"You are convinced of the guilt of
Nicholas and Psyekoff," he said, nervously plucking at
his young beard. "Why will you not believe in the guilt
of Maria Ivanovna? Are there not proofs enough for
"I don't say I am not convinced. I am
convinced, but somehow I don't believe it! There are no real
proofs, but just a kind of philosophizing--fanaticism, this
"You can't do without an ax and
bloodstained sheets. Those jurists! Very well, I'll prove it
to you! You will stop sneering at the psychological side of
the affair! To Siberia with your Maria Ivanovna! I will
prove it! If philosophy is not enough for you, I have
something substantial for you. It will show you how correct
my philosophy is. Just give me permission----"
"What are you going on about?"
"About the safety match! Have you
forgotten it? I haven't! I am going to find out who struck
it in the murdered man's room. It was not Nicholas that
struck it; it was not Psyekoff, for neither of them had any
matches when they were examined; it was the third person,
Maria Ivanovna. I will prove it to you. Just give me
permission to go through the district to find out."
"That's enough! Sit down. Let us go on
with the examination."
Dukovski sat down at a little table, and
plunged his long nose in a bundle of papers.
"Bring in Nicholas Tetekhoff!"
cried the examining magistrate.
They brought Nicholas in. Nicholas was pale
and thin as a rail. He was trembling.
"Tetekhoff!" began Chubikoff.
"In 1879 you were tried in the Court of the First
Division, convicted of theft, and sentenced to imprisonment.
In 1882 you were tried a second time for theft, and were
again imprisoned. We know all----"
Astonishment was depicted on Nicholas's face.
The examining magistrate's omniscience startled him. But
soon his expression of astonishment changed to extreme
indignation. He began to cry and requested permission to go
and wash his face and quiet down. They led him away.
"Brink in Psyekoff!" ordered the
They brought in Psyekoff. The young man had
changed greatly during the last few days. He had grown thin
and pale, and looked haggard. His eyes had an apathetic
"Sit down, Psyekoff," said
Chubikoff. "I hope that today you are going to be
reasonable, and will not tell lies, as you did before. All
these days you have denied that you had anything to do with
the murder of Klausoff, in spite of all the proofs that
testify against you. That is foolish. Confession will
lighten your guilt. This is the last time I am going to talk
to you. If you do not confess to-day, to-morrow it will be
too late. Come, tell me all----"
"I know nothing about it. I know nothing
about your proofs," answered Psyekoff, almost
"It's no use! Well, let me relate to you
how the matter took place. On Saturday evening you were
sitting in Klausoff's sleeping room, and drinking vodka and
beer with him." (Dukovski fixed his eyes on Psyekoff's
face, and kept them there all through the examination.)
"Nicholas was waiting on you. At one o'clock, Marcus
Ivanovitch announced his intention of going to bed. He
always went to bed at one o'clock. When he was taking off
his boots, and was giving you directions about details of
management, you and Nicholas, at a given signal, seized your
drunken master and threw him on the bed. One of you sat on
his legs, the other on his head. Then a third person came in
from the passage--a woman in a black dress, whom you know
well, and who had previously arranged with you as to her
share in your criminal deed. She seized a pillow and began
to smother him. While the struggle was going on the candle
went out. The woman took a box of safety matches from her
pocket, and lit the candle. Was it not so? I see by your
face that I am speaking the truth. But to go on. After you
had smothered him, and saw that he had ceased breathing, you
and Nicholas pulled him out through the window and laid him
down near the burdock. Fearing that he might come round
again, you struck him with something sharp. Then you carried
him away, and laid him down under a lilac bush for a short
time. After resting awhile and considering, you carried him
across the fence. Then you entered the road. After that
comes the dam. Near the dam, a peasant frightened you. Well,
what is the matter with you?"
"I am suffocating!" replied
Psyekoff. "Very well--have it so. Only let me go out,
They led Psyekoff away..
"At last! He has confessed!" cried
Chubikoff, stretching himself luxuriously. "He has
betrayed himself! And didn't I get round him cleverly!
Regularly caught him napping----"
"And he doesn't deny the woman in the
black dress!" exulted Dukovski. "But all the same,
that safety match is tormenting me frightfully. I can't
stand it any longer. Good-by! I am of off!"
Dukovski put on his cap and drove off.
Chubikoff began to examine Aquilina. Aquilina declared that
she knew nothing whatever about it.
At six that evening Dukovski returned. He was
more agitated than he had ever been before. His hands
trembled so that he could not even unbutton his greatcoat.
His cheeks glowed. It was clear that he did not come
"Veni, vidi, vici!" he
cried, rushing into Chubikoff's room, and falling into an
armchair. "I swear to you on my honor, I begin to
believe that I am a genius! Listen, devil take us all! It is
funny, and it is sad. We have caught three already--isn't
that so? Well, I have found the fourth, and a woman at that.
You will never believe who it is! But listen. I went to
Klausoff's village, and began to make a spiral round it. I
visited all the little shops, public houses, dram shops on
the road, everywhere asking for safety matches. Everywhere
they said they hadn't any. I made a wide round. Twenty times
I lost faith, and twenty times I got it back again. I
knocked about the whole day, and only an hour ago I got on
the track. Three versts from here. They gave me a packet of
ten boxes. One box was missing. Immediately: 'Who bought the
other box?' 'Such-a-one! She was pleased with them!' Old
man! Nicholas Yermolaïyevitch! See what a fellow who
was expelled from the seminary and who has read Gaboriau can
do! From to-day on I begin to respect myself! Oof! Well,
"To her, to number four! We must hurry,
otherwise--otherwise I'll burst with impatience! Do you
know who she is? You'll never guess! Olga Petrovna, Marcus
Ivanovitch's wife--his own wife--that's who it is! She is
the person who bought the matchbox!"
"You--you--you are out of your
"It's quite simple! To begin with, she
smokes. Secondly, she was head and ears in love with
Klausoff, even after he refused to live in the same house
with her, because she was always scolding his head off. Why,
they say she used to beat him because she loved him so much.
And then he positively refused to stay in the same house.
Love turned sour. 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.'
But come along! Quick, or it will be dark. Come!"
"I am not yet sufficiently crazy to go
and disturb a respectable honorable woman in the middle of
the night for a crazy boy!"
"Respectable, honorable! Do honorable
women murder their husbands? After that you are a rag, and
not an examining magistrate! I never ventured to call you
names before, but now you compel me to. Rag!
Dressing-gown!--Dear Nicholas Yermola;yevitch, do come,
I beg of you!"
The magistrate made a deprecating motion with
"I beg of you! I ask, not for myself,
but in the interests of justice. I beg you! I implore you!
Do what I ask you to, just this once! "
Dukovski went down on his knees.
"Nicholas Yermolaïyevitch! Be kind!
Call me a blackguard, a ne'er-do-weel,
if I am mistaken about this woman.
You see what an affair it is. What a case it is. A romance!
A woman murdering her own husband for love! The fame of it
will go all over Russia. They will make you investigator in
all important cases. Understand, O foolish old man!"
The magistrate frowned, and undecidedly
stretched his hand toward his cap.
"Oh, the devil take you!" he said.
"Let us go!"
It was dark when the magistrate's carriage
rolled up to the porch of the old country house in which
Olga Petrovna had taken refuge with her brother.
"What pigs we are," said Chubikoff,
taking hold of the bell, "to disturb a poor woman like
"It's all right! It's all right! Don't
get frightened! We can say that we have broken a
Chubikoff and Dukovski were met at the
threshold by a tall buxom woman of three and twenty, with
pitch-black brows and juicy red lips. It was Olga Petrovna
herself, apparently not the least distressed by the recent
"Oh, what a pleasant surprise!" she
said, smiling broadly. "You are just in time for
supper. Kuzma Petrovitch is not at home. He is visiting the
priest, and has stayed late. But we'll get on without him!
Be seated. You have come from the examination?"
"Yes. We broke a spring, you know," began
Chubikoff, entering the sitting room and sinking into an
"Take her unawares--at once! "
whispered Dukovski; " take her unawares!"
"A spring--hum--yes--so we
"Take her unawares, I tell you! She will
guess what the matter is if you drag things out like
"Well, do it yourself as you want. But
let me get out of it," muttered Chubikoff, rising and
going to the window.
"Yes, a spring," began Dukovski,
going close to Olga Petrovna and wrinkling his long nose.
"We did not drive over here--to take supper with you
or--to see Kuzma Petrovitch. We came here to ask you,
respected madam, where Marcus Ivanovitch is, whom you
"What? Marcus Ivanovitch murdered?"
stammered Olga Petrovna, and her broad face suddenly and
instantaneously flushed bright scarlet. "I don't--
"I ask you in the name of the law! Where
is Klausoff? We know all!"
"Who told you?" Olga Petrovna asked
in a low voice, unable to endure Dukovski's glance.
"Be so good as to show us where he
"But how did you find out? Who told
"We know all! I demand it in the name of
The examining magistrate, emboldened by her
confusion, came forward and said:
"Show us, and we will go away.
"What do you want with him?"
"Madam, what is the use of these
questions? We ask you to show us! You tremble, you are
agitated. Yes, he has been murdered, and, if you must have
it, murdered by you! Your accomplices have betrayed
Olga Petrovna grew pale.
"Come!" she said in a low voice,
wringing her hands. "I have him--hid--in the bath
house! Only for heaven's sake, do not tell Kuzma Petrovitch.
I beg and implore you! He will never forgive me!"
Olga Petrovna took down a big key from the
wall, and led her guests through the kitchen and passage to
the courtyard. The courtyard was in darkness. Fine rain was
falling. Olga Petrovna walked in advance of them. Chubikoff
and Dukovski strode behind her through the long grass, as
the odor of wild hemp and dishwater splashing under their
feet reached them. The courtyard was wide. Soon the
dishwater ceased, and they felt freshly broken earth under
their feet. In the darkness appeared the shadowy outlines of
trees, and among the trees a little house with a crooked
"That is the bath house," said Olga
Petrovna. "But I implore you, do not tell my brother!
If you do, I'll never hear the end of it!"
Going up to the bath house, Chubikoff and
Dukovski saw a huge padlock on the door.
"Get your candle and matches
ready," whispered the examining magistrate to his
Olga Petrovna unfastened the padlock, and let
her guests into the bath house. Dukovski struck a match and
lit up the anteroom. In the middle of the anteroom stood a
table. On the table, beside a sturdy little samovar, stood a
soup tureen with cold cabbage soup and a plate with the rem-
nants of some sauce.
They went into the next room, where the bath
was. There was a table there also. On the table was a dish
with some ham, a bottle of vodka, plates, knives, forks.
"But where is it--where is the murdered
man?" asked the examining magistrate.
"On the top tier," whispered Olga
Petrovna, still pale and trembling.
Dukovski took the candle in his hand and
climbed up to the top tier of the sweating frame. There he
saw a long human body lying motionless on a large feather
bed. A slight snore came from the body.
"You are making fun of us, devil take
it!" cried Dukovski. "That is not the murdered
man! Some live fool is lying here. Here, whoever you are,
the devil take you!"
The body drew in a quick breath and stirred.
Dukovski stuck his elbow into it. It raised a hand,
stretched itself, and lifted its head.
"Who is sneaking in here?" asked a
hoarse, heavy bass. "What do you want?"
Dukovski raised the candle to the face of the
unknown, and cried out. In the red nose, disheveled, unkempt
hair, the pitch-black mustaches, one of which was jauntily
twisted and pointed insolently toward the ceiling, he recog-
nized the gallant cavalryman Klausoff.
"You--Marcus--Ivanovitch? Is it
The examining magistrate glanced sharply up
at him, and stood spellbound.
"Yes, it is I. That's you, Dukovski?
What the devil do you want here? And who's that other mug
down there? Great snakes! It is the examining magistrate!
What fate has brought him here?"
Klausoff rushed down and threw his arms round
Chubikoff in a cordial embrace. Olga Petrovna slipped
through the door.
"How did you come here? Let's have a
drink, devil take it! Tra-ta-ti-to-tum--let us drink!
But who brought you here? How did you find out that I was
here? But it doesn't matter! Let's have a drink!"
Klausoff lit the lamp and poured out three
glasses of vodka.
"That is--I don't understand you,"
said the examining magistrate, running his hands over him.
"Is this you or not you!"
"Oh, shut up! You want to preach me a
sermon? Don't trouble yourself! Young Dukovski, empty your
glass! Friends, let us bring this-- What are you looking at?
"All the same, I do not
understand!" said the examining magistrate,
mechanically drinking off the vodka. "What are you here
"Why shouldn't I be here, if I am all
Klausoff drained his glass and took a bite of
"I am in captivity here, as you see. In
solitude, in a cavern, like a ghost or a bogey. Drink! She
carried me off and locked me up, and--well, I am living
here, in the deserted bath house, like a hermit. I am fed.
Next week I think I'll try to get out. I'm tired of it
"Incomprehensible!" said Dukovski.
"What is incomprehensible about
"Incomprehensible! For Heaven's sake,
how did your boot get into the garden?"
"We found one boot in the sleeping room
and the other in the garden."
"And what do you want to know that for?
It's none of your business! Why don't you drink, devil take
you? If you wakened me, then drink with me! It is an inter-
esting tale, brother, that of the boot! I didn't want to go
with Olga. I don't like to be bossed. She came under the
window and began to abuse me. She always was a termagant.
You know what women are like, all of them. I was a bit
drunk, so I took a boot and heaved it at her. Ha-ha-ha!
Teach her not to scold another time! But it didn't! Not a
bit of it! She climbed in at the window, lit the lamp, and
began to hammer poor tipsy me. She thrashed me, dragged me
over here, and locked me in. She feeds me now--on love,
vodka, and ham! But where are you off to, Chubikoff? Where
are you going?"
The examining magistrate swore, and left the
bath house. Dukovski followed him, crestfallen. They
silently took their seats in the carriage and drove off. The
road never seemed to them so long and disagreeable as it did
that time. Both remained silent. Chubikoff trembled with
rage all the way. Dukovski hid his nose in the collar of his
overcoat, as if he was afraid that the darkness and the
drizzling rain might read the shame in his face.
When they reached home, the examining
magistrate found Dr. Tyutyeff awaiting him. The doctor was
sitting at the table, and, sighing deeply, was turning over
the pages of the Neva.
"Such goings-on there are in the
world!" he said, meeting the examining magistrate with
a sad smile. "Austria is at it again! And Gladstone
also to some extent----"
Chubikoff threw his cap under the table, and
"Devils' skeletons! Don't plague me! A
thousand times I have told you not to bother me with your
politics! This is no question of politics! And you,"
said Chubikoff, turning to Dukovski and shaking his fist,
"I won't forget this in a thousand years!"
"But the safety match? How could I
"Choke yourself with your safety match!
Get out of my way! Don't make me mad, or the devil only
knows what I'll do to you! Don't let me see a trace of
Dukovski sighed, took his hat, and went out.
"I'll go and get drunk," he
decided, going through the door, and gloomily wending his
way to the public house.