After the Theatre by Anton Chekov
Translated by Constance Garrett
NADYA ZELENIN had just come back with her mamma from the theatre
where she had seen a performance of "Yevgeny Onyegin." As soon as
she reached her own room she threw off her dress, let down her
hair, and in her petticoat and white dressing-jacket hastily sat
down to the table to write a letter like Tatyana's.
"I love you," she wrote, "but you do not love me, do not love
She wrote it and laughed.
She was only sixteen and did not yet love anyone. She knew that
an officer called Gorny and a student called Gruzdev loved her,
but now after the opera she wanted to be doubtful of their love.
To be unloved and unhappy -- how interesting that was. There is
something beautiful, touching, and poetical about it when one
loves and the other is indifferent. Onyegin was interesting
because he was not in love at all, and Tatyana was fascinating
because she was so much in love; but if they had been equally in
love with each other and had been happy, they would perhaps have
"Leave off declaring that you love me," Nadya went on writing,
thinking of Gorny. "I cannot believe it. You are very clever,
cultivated, serious, you have immense talent, and perhaps a
brilliant future awaits you, while I am an uninteresting girl of
no importance, and you know very well that I should be only a
hindrance in your life. It is true that you were attracted by me
and thought you had found your ideal in me, but that was a
mistake, and now you are asking yourself in despair: 'Why did I
meet that girl?' And only your goodness of heart prevents you
from owning it to yourself. . . ."
Nadya felt sorry for herself, she began to cry, and went on:
"It is hard for me to leave my mother and my brother, or I should
take a nun's veil and go whither chance may lead me. And you
would be left free and would love another. Oh, if I were dead! "
She could not make out what she had written through her tears;
little rainbows were quivering on the table, on the floor, on the
ceiling, as though she were looking through a prism. She could
not write, she sank back in her easy-chair and fell to thinking
My God! how interesting, how fascinating men were! Nadya recalled
the fine expression, ingratiating, guilty, and soft, which came
into the officer's face when one argued about music with him, and
the effort he made to prevent his voice from betraying his
passion. In a society where cold haughtiness and indifference are
regarded as signs of good breeding and gentlemanly bearing, one
must conceal one's passions. And he did try to conceal them, but
he did not succeed, and everyone knew very well that he had a
passionate love of music. The endless discussions about music and
the bold criticisms of people who knew nothing about it kept him
always on the strain; he was frightened, timid, and silent. He
played the piano magnificently, like a professional pianist, and
if he had not been in the army he would certainly have been a
The tears on her eyes dried. Nadya remembered that Gorny had
declared his love at a Symphony concert, and again downstairs by
the hatstand where there was a tremendous draught blowing in all
"I am very glad that you have at last made the acquaintance of
Gruzdev, our student friend," she went on writing. "He is a very
clever man, and you will be sure to like him. He came to see us
yesterday and stayed till two o'clock. We were all delighted
with him, and I regretted that you had not come. He said a great
deal that was remarkable."
Nadya laid her arms on the table and leaned her head on them, and
her hair covered the letter. She recalled that the student, too,
loved her, and that he had as much right to a letter from her as
Gorny. Wouldn't it be better after all to write to Gruzdev?
There was a stir of joy in her bosom for no reason whatever; at
first the joy was small, and rolled in her bosom like an
india-rubber ball; then it became more massive, bigger, and
rushed like a wave. Nadya forgot Gorny and Gruzdev; her thoughts
were in a tangle and her joy grew and grew; from her bosom it
passed into her arms and legs, and it seemed as though a light,
cool breeze were breathing on her head and ruffling her hair. Her
shoulders quivered with subdued laughter, the table and the lamp
chimney shook, too, and tears from her eyes splashed on the
letter. She could not stop laughing, and to prove to herself that
she was not laughing about nothing she made haste to think of
"What a funny poodle," she said, feeling as though she would
choke with laughter. "What a funny poodle! "
She thought how, after tea the evening before, Gruzdev had played
with Maxim the poodle, and afterwards had told them about a very
intelligent poodle who had run after a crow in the yard, and the
crow had looked round at him and said: "Oh, you scamp! "
The poodle, not knowing he had to do with a learned crow, was
fearfully confused and retreated in perplexity, then began
barking. . . .
"No, I had better love Gruzdev," Nadya decided, and she tore up
the letter to Gorny.
She fell to thinking of the student, of his love, of her love;
but the thoughts in her head insisted on flowing in all
directions, and she thought about everything -- about her mother,
about the street, about the pencil, about the piano. . . . She
thought of them joyfully, and felt that everything was good,
splendid, and her joy told her that this was not all, that in a
little while it would be better still. Soon it would be spring,
summer, going with her mother to Gorbiki. Gorny would come for
his furlough, would walk about the garden with her and make love
to her. Gruzdev would come too. He would play croquet and
skittles with her, and would tell her wonderful things. She had a
passionate longing for the garden, the darkness, the pure sky,
the stars. Again her shoulders shook with laughter, and it seemed
to her that there was a scent of wormwood in the room and that a
twig was tapping at the window.
She went to her bed, sat down, and not knowing what to do with
the immense joy which filled her with yearning, she looked at the
holy image hanging at the back of her bed, and said:
"Oh, Lord God! Oh, Lord God!"