Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Kiselyov.

MELIHOVO, STATION LOPASNYA, MOSCOW-KURSK LINE. March 7, 1892.

This is our new address. And here are the details for you. If a peasant woman has no troubles she buys a pig. We have bought a pig, too, a big cumbersome estate, the owner of which would in Germany infallibly be made a herzog. Six hundred and thirty-nine acres in two parts with land not ours in between. Three hundred acres of young copse, which in twenty years will look like a wood, at present is a thicket of bushes. They call it “shaft wood,” but to my mind the name of “switch wood” would be more appropriate, since one could make nothing of it at present but switches. There is a fruit-garden, a park, big trees, long avenues of limes. The barns and sheds have been recently built, and have a fairly presentable appearance. The poultry house is made in accordance with the latest deductions of science, the well has an iron pump. The whole place is shut off from the world by a fence in the style of a palisade. The yard, the garden, the park, and the threshing-floor are shut off from each other in the same way. The house is good and bad. It’s more roomy than our Moscow flat, it’s light and warm, roofed with iron, and stands in a fine position, has a verandah into the garden, French windows, and so on, but it is bad in not being lofty, not sufficiently new, having outside a very stupid and naive appearance, and inside swarms with bugs and beetles which could only be got rid of by one means — a fire: nothing else would do for them.

There are flower-beds. In the garden fifteen paces from the house is a pond (thirty-five yards long, and thirty-five feet wide), with carp and tench in it, so that you can catch fish from the window. Beyond the yard there is another pond, which I have not yet seen. In the other part of the estate there is a river, probably a nasty one. Two miles away there is a broad river full of fish. We shall sow oats and clover. We have bought clover seed at ten roubles a pood, but we have no money left for oats. The estate has been bought for thirteen thousand. The legal formalities cost about seven hundred and fifty roubles, total fourteen thousand. The artist who sold it was paid four thousand down, and received a mortgage for five thousand at five per cent, for five years. The remaining four thousand the artist will receive from the Land Bank when in the spring I mortgage the estate to a bank. You see what a good arrangement. In two or three years I shall have five thousand, and shall pay off the mortgage, and shall be left with only the four thousand debt to the bank; but I have got to live those two of three years, hang it all! What matters is not the interest — that is small, not more than five hundred roubles a year — but that I shall be obliged all the time to think about quarter-days and all sorts of horrors attendant on being in debt. Moreover, your honour, as long as I am alive and earning four or five thousand a year, the debts will seem a trifle, and even a convenience, for to pay four hundred and seventy interest is much easier than to pay a thousand for a flat in Moscow; that is all true. But what if I depart from you sinners to another world — that is, give up the ghost? Then the ducal estate with the debts would seem to my parents in their green old age and to my sister such a burden that they would raise a wail to heaven.

I was completely cleaned out over the move.

Ah, if you could come and see us! In the first place it would be very delightful and interesting to see you; and in the second, your advice would save us from a thousand idiocies. You know we don’t understand a thing about it. Like Raspluev, all I know about agriculture is that the earth is black, and nothing more. Write. How is it best to sow clover? — among the rye, or among the spring wheat? . . .

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