From the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Anton Chekhov, in full Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (born Jan. 29 [Jan. 17, Old Style], 1860, Taganrog, Russia—died July 14/15 [July 1/2], 1904, Badenweiler, Ger.), major Russian playwright and master of the modern short story. He was a literary artist of laconic precision who probed below the surface of life, laying bare the secret motives of his characters. Chekhov’s best plays and short stories lack complex plots and neat solutions. Concentrating on apparent trivialities, they create a special kind of atmosphere, sometimes termed haunting or lyrical. Chekhov described the Russian life of his time using a deceptively simple technique devoid of obtrusive literary devices, and he is regarded as the outstanding representative of the late 19th-century Russian realist school.”
A Woman’s Revenge
Someone rang the bell. Nadezhda Petrovna, the lady of the house in which this story took place, stood up from the couch and hurried to the door.
“It must be my husband,” she thought. But upon opening the door, it was not her husband that she saw. Before her stood a tall, handsome man in an expensive bear fur coat and gold eye glasses. His forehead was knitted and sleepy eyes looked out at the world indifferently.
“What do you want?” asked Nadezhda Petrovna.
“I am a doctor, madam. Someone sent for me. Uhh … the Chelobitevs … are you the Chelobitevs?”
“We are the Chelobitevs, but … for God’s sake, excuse us, doctor. My husband had an abscess and a fever. He sent you a letter, but you took so long to come that he lost all patience and went to the dentist.”
“Huh. He could have gone to the dentist without bothering me.” The doctor frowned. A minute passed in silence.
“I am sorry, doctor, that we troubled you and made you come for nothing. Excuse us.”
Another minute passed in silence. Nadezhda Petrovna scratched the back of her head. I don’t understand what he’s waiting for, she thought, looking at the door.
“Let me go. Don’t delay me, madam,” the doctor mumbled. “Time is money, you know.”
“Well, I … that is … I’m not keeping you ….”
“But madam, I can’t go, I haven’t been paid for my trouble.”
“For your trouble! Oh, yes,” Nadezhda Petrovna stammered, blushing deeply. “You’re right. You need to be paid for the visit, that’s true. You went to the trouble to come. But doctor, this is very embarrassing. When my husband left the house he took all our money with him. There’s absolutely no money in the house.”
“Hmm. That’s strange. How can that be? I can’t wait for your husband. Maybe if you look you can find something. The amount, actually, is insignificant.”
“But I assure you, my husband took everything. This is embarrassing. I would never put myself through something like this for a rouble. It’s a stupid situation.”
“It’s strange to me that the public looks at a physician’s difficulties as it does. It’s strange, by God. As if we aren’t people, as if our difficulties are nothing. After all, I came to your house, I took the time. I was inconvenienced.”
“And I understand this very well. But you’ll agree that there are times when there isn’t a kopeck in the house!”
“Ah, what’s that to me? You, madam, are simply being naive and illogical. Not to pay a fellow. This is very unfortunate. You take advantage of the fact that I am not able to take you to court, and so without ceremony, by God …. It’s more than just strange!”
The doctor was silent. He was ashamed of mankind. Nadezhda Petrovna blushed. She felt strange.
“Okay!” she said abruptly. “Wait. I’ll send to the shopkeeper and see if he’ll let me have some money. I’ll pay you.”
Nadezhda Petrovna went to the living room and sat down to write a note to the storekeeper. The doctor took off his coat, went into the living room, and collapsed into a chair. They both waited in silence for an answer from the shopkeeper. After a couple of minutes a reply came. Nadezhda took a rouble from the envelope and gave it to the doctor. The doctor’s eyes got big.
“You are joking, madam,” he said, putting the rouble on the table. “My man servant might take a rouble, but I … no-o, excuse me!”
“How much do you need?”
“Usually I take ten. From you, however, I will take five, if you like.”
“Well, you just go right ahead and see if you get five from me. I don’t have any money for you.”
“Send to the shopkeeper. If he’s able to give you a rouble, maybe he’ll give you five. Isn’t it all the same? I beg you, madam, not to delay me. Never delay me.”
“Please, doctor. You’re not being courteous, if…. Don’t be impudent! No, you are rude, uncivil. Do you understand? You are vile!” Nadezhda Petrovna turned to the window and bit her lip. Big tears fell from her eyes. Scoundrel! Bastard! she thought. He laughs. Laughs! He’s not able to understand my horror at this annoying situation. Well, he can just wait. The devil! After thinking it over, she turned her face to the doctor. And now there was an expression of suffering and entreaty on her face.
“Doctor!” she said in a quiet, pleading voice. “Doctor, if you had a heart, if you wanted to understand, you would not have tormented me about this money. All this torment and torture.”
Nadezhda Petrovna squeezed her temples as if she was squeezing a spring. Strands of her hair spilled onto her shoulders.
“As it is, I suffer from my ignoramus of a husband. I must bear these terrible, difficult surroundings, and on top of that, to have to take the insults of an educated man. My God! It’s unbearable!”
“But you must understand, madam, the special conditions of our profession.”
But the doctor’s speech was interrupted. Nadezhda Petrovna staggered and fell senseless into his outstretched arms. Her head inclined against his shoulder.
“There, by the fireplace, doctor,” she whispered after a minute. “Closer … I will tell you everything … everything.”
After an hour the doctor left the Chelobitev’s apartment. He was annoyed, ashamed, and pleased.
The hell with it, he thought, sitting down in his carriage. You should never take a lot of money with you when you leave the house. You don’t know what you’re going to run into!