Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. N. Pleshtcheyev.

SUMY, June 28, 1888.

. . . We have been to the province of Poltava. We went to the Smagins’, and to Sorotchintsi. We drove with a four-in-hand, in an ancestral, very comfortable carriage. We had no end of laughter, adventures, misunderstandings, halts, and meetings on the way. . . . If you had only seen the places where we stayed the night and the villages stretching eight or ten versts through which we drove! . . . What weddings we met on the road, what lovely music we heard in the evening stillness, and what a heavy smell of fresh hay there was! Really one might sell one’s soul to the devil for the pleasure of looking at the warm evening sky, the pools and the rivulets reflecting the sad, languid sunset. . . .

. . . The Smagins’ estate is “great and fertile,” but old, neglected, and dead as last year’s cobwebs. The house has sunk, the doors won’t shut, the tiles in the stove squeeze one another out and form angles, young suckers of cherries and plums peep up between the cracks of the floors. In the room where I slept a nightingale had made herself a nest between the window and the shutter, and while I was there little naked nightingales, looking like undressed Jew babies, hatched out from the eggs. Sedate storks live on the barn. At the beehouse there is an old grandsire who remembers the King Goroh [Translator’s Note: The equivalent of Old King Cole.] and Cleopatra of Egypt.

Everything is crumbling and decrepit, but poetical, sad, and beautiful in the extreme.

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