Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To Madame Kiselyov.

ALEXIN, July 20, 1891.

Greetings, honoured Marya Vladimirovna.

For God’s sake write what you are doing, whether you are all well and how things are in regard to mushrooms and gudgeon.

We are living at Bogimovo in the province of Kaluga. . . . It’s a huge house, a fine park, the inevitable views, at the sight of which I am for some reason expected to say “Ach!” A river, a pond with hungry carp who love to get on to the hook, a mass of sick people, a smell of iodoform, and walks in the evenings. I am busy with my Sahalin; and in the intervals, that I may not let my family starve, I cherish the muse and write stories. Everything goes on in the old way, there is nothing new. I get up every day at five o’clock, and prepare my coffee with my own hands — a sign that I have already got into old bachelor habits and am resigned to them. Masha is painting, Misha wears his cockade creditably, father talks about bishops, mother bustles about the house, Ivan fishes. On the same estate with us there is living a zoologist called Wagner and his family, and some Kisilyovs — not the Kisilyovs, but others, not the real ones.

Wagner catches ladybirds and spiders, and Kisilyov the father sketches, as he is an artist. We get up performances, tableaux-vivants, and picnics. It is very gay and amusing, but I have only to catch a perch or find a mushroom for my head to droop, and my thoughts to be carried back to the past, and my brain and soul begin in a funereal voice to sing the duet “We are parted.” The “deposed idol and the deserted temple” rise up before my imagination, and I think devoutly: “I would exchange all the zoologists and great artists in the world for one little Idiotik.” [Footnote: Madame Kisilyov’s son.] The weather has all the while been hot and dry, and only to-day there has been a crash of thunder and the gates of heaven are open. One longs to get away somewhere — for instance, to America, or Norway. . . . Be well and happy, and may the good spirits, of whom there are so many at Babkino, have you in their keeping.

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