Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To I. L. Shtcheglov.

MELIHOVO, March 9, 1892.

. . . Yes, such men as Ratchinsky are very rare in this world. I understand your enthusiasm, my dear fellow. After the suffocation one feels in the proximity of A. and B. — and the world is full of them — Ratchinsky with his ideas, his humanity, and his purity, seems like a breath of spring. I am ready to lay down my life for Ratchinsky; but, dear friend — allow me that “but” and don’t be vexed — I would not send my children to his school. Why? I received a religious education in my childhood — with church singing, with reading of the “apostles” and the psalms in church, with regular attendance at matins, with obligation to assist at the altar and ring the bells. And, do you know, when I think now of my childhood, it seems to me rather gloomy. I have no religion now. Do you know, when my brothers and I used to stand in the middle of the church and sing the trio “May my prayer be exalted,” or “The Archangel’s Voice,” everyone looked at us with emotion and envied our parents, but we at that moment felt like little convicts. Yes, dear boy! Ratchinsky I understand, but the children who are trained by him I don’t know. Their souls are dark for me. If there is joy in their souls, then they are happier than I and my brothers, whose childhood was suffering.

It is nice to be a lord. There is plenty of room, it’s warm, people are not continually pulling at the bell; and it is easy to descend from one’s lordship and serve as concierge or porter. My estate, sir, cost thirteen thousand, and I have only paid a third, the rest is a debt which will keep me long years on the chain.

Come and see me, Jean, together with Suvorin. Make a plan with him. I have such a garden! Such a naive courtyard, such geese! Write a little oftener.


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