A. Chekhov -
The Lady with a Dog
A week had passed since they had made acquaintance. It was a
holiday. It was sultry indoors, while in the street the wind
whirled the dust round and round, and blew people's hats off. It
was a thirsty day, and Gurov often went into the pavilion, and
pressed Anna Sergeyevna to have syrup and water or an ice. One
did not know what to do with oneself.
In the evening when the wind had dropped a little, they went out
on the groyne to see the steamer come in. There were a great
many people walking about the harbour; they had gathered to
welcome some one, bringing bouquets. And two peculiarities of a
well-dressed Yalta crowd were very conspicuous: the elderly
ladies were dressed like young ones, and there were great
numbers of generals.
Owing to the roughness of the sea, the steamer arrived late,
after the sun had set, and it was a long time turning about
before it reached the groyne. Anna Sergeyevna looked through her
lorgnette at the steamer and the passengers as though looking
for acquaintances, and when she turned to Gurov her eyes were
shining. She talked a great deal and asked disconnected
questions, forgetting next moment what she had asked; then she
dropped her lorgnette in the crush.
The festive crowd began to disperse; it was too dark to see
people's faces. The wind had completely dropped, but Gurov and
Anna Sergeyevna still stood as though waiting to see some one
else come from the steamer. Anna Sergeyevna was silent now, and
sniffed the flowers without looking at Gurov.
"The weather is better this evening," he said. "Where shall we
go now? Shall we drive somewhere?"
She made no answer.
Then he looked at her intently, and all at once put his arm
round her and kissed her on the lips, and breathed in the
moisture and the fragrance of the flowers; and he immediately
looked round him, anxiously wondering whether any one had seen
"Let us go to your hotel," he said softly. And both walked
The room was close and smelt of the scent she had bought at the
Japanese shop. Gurov looked at her and thought: "What different
people one meets in the world!" From the past he preserved
memories of careless, good-natured women, who loved cheerfully
and were grateful to him for the happiness he gave them, however
brief it might be; and of women like his wife who loved without
any genuine feeling, with superfluous phrases, affectedly,
hysterically, with an expression that suggested that it was not
love nor passion, but something more significant; and of two or
three others, very beautiful, cold women, on whose faces he had
caught a glimpse of a rapacious expression -- an obstinate
desire to snatch from life more than it could give, and these
were capricious, unreflecting, domineering, unintelligent women
not in their first youth, and when Gurov grew cold to them their
beauty excited his hatred, and the lace on their linen seemed to
him like scales.
But in this case there was still the diffidence, the angularity
of inexperienced youth, an awkward feeling; and there was a
sense of consternation as though some one had suddenly knocked
at the door. The attitude of Anna Sergeyevna -- "the lady with
the dog" -- to what had happened was somehow peculiar, very
grave, as though it were her fall -- so it seemed, and it was
strange and inappropriate. Her face dropped and faded, and on
both sides of it her long hair hung down mournfully; she mused
in a dejected attitude like "the woman who was a sinner" in an
"It's wrong," she said. "You will be the first to despise me
There was a water-melon on the table. Gurov cut himself a slice
and began eating it without haste. There followed at least half
an hour of silence.
Anna Sergeyevna was touching; there was about her the purity of
a good, simple woman who had seen little of life. The solitary
candle burning on the table threw a faint light on her face, yet
it was clear that she was very unhappy.
"How could I despise you?" asked Gurov. "You don't know what you
"God forgive me," she said, and her eyes filled with tears.
"You seem to feel you need to be forgiven."
"Forgiven? No. I am a bad, low woman; I despise myself and don't
attempt to justify myself. It's not my husband but myself I have
deceived. And not only just now; I have been deceiving myself
for a long time. My husband may be a good, honest man, but he is
a flunkey! I don't know what he does there, what his work is,
but I know he is a flunkey! I was twenty when I was married to
him. I have been tormented by curiosity; I wanted something
better. 'There must be a different sort of life,' I said to
myself. I wanted to live! To live, to live! . . . I was fired by
curiosity . . . you don't understand it, but, I swear to God, I
could not control myself; something happened to me: I could not
be restrained. I told my husband I was ill, and came here. . . .
And here I have been walking about as though I were dazed, like
a mad creature; . . . and now I have become a vulgar,
contemptible woman whom any one may despise."
Gurov felt bored already, listening to her. He was irritated by
the nave tone, by this remorse, so unexpected and inopportune;
but for the tears in her eyes, he might have thought she was
jesting or playing a part.
"I don't understand," he said softly. "What is it you want?"
She hid her face on his breast and pressed close to him.
"Believe me, believe me, I beseech you . . ." she said. "I love
a pure, honest life, and sin is loathsome to me. I don't know
what I am doing. Simple people say: 'The Evil One has beguiled
me.' And I may say of myself now that the Evil One has beguiled
"Hush, hush! . . ." he muttered.
He looked at her fixed, scared eyes, kissed her, talked softly
and affectionately, and by degrees she was comforted, and her
gaiety returned; they both began laughing.
Afterwards when they went out there was not a soul on the
sea-front. The town with its cypresses had quite a deathlike
air, but the sea still broke noisily on the shore; a single
barge was rocking on the waves, and a lantern was blinking
sleepily on it.
They found a cab and drove to Oreanda.
"I found out your surname in the hall just now: it was written
on the board -- Von Diderits," said Gurov. "Is your husband a
"No; I believe his grandfather was a German, but he is an
Orthodox Russian himself."
At Oreanda they sat on a seat not far from the church, looked
down at the sea, and were silent. Yalta was hardly visible
through the morning mist; white clouds stood motionless on the
mountain-tops. The leaves did not stir on the trees,
grasshoppers chirruped, and the monotonous hollow sound of the
sea rising up from below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal
sleep awaiting us. So it must have sounded when there was no
Yalta, no Oreanda here; so it sounds now, and it will sound as
indifferently and monotonously when we are all no more. And in
this constancy, in this complete indifference to the life and
death of each of us, there lies hid, perhaps, a pledge of our
eternal salvation, of the unceasing movement of life upon earth,
of unceasing progress towards perfection. Sitting beside a young
woman who in the dawn seemed so lovely, soothed and spellbound
in these magical surroundings -- the sea, mountains, clouds, the
open sky -- Gurov thought how in reality everything is beautiful
in this world when one reflects: everything except what we think
or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the higher
aims of our existence.
A man walked up to them -- probably a keeper -- looked at them
and walked away. And this detail seemed mysterious and
beautiful, too. They saw a steamer come from Theodosia, with its
lights out in the glow of dawn.
"There is dew on the grass," said Anna Sergeyevna, after a
"Yes. It's time to go home."
They went back to the town.
Then they met every day at twelve o'clock on the sea-front,
lunched and dined together, went for walks, admired the sea. She
complained that she slept badly, that her heart throbbed
violently; asked the same questions, troubled now by jealousy
and now by the fear that he did not respect her sufficiently.
And often in the square or gardens, when there was no one near
them, he suddenly drew her to him and kissed her passionately.
Complete idleness, these kisses in broad daylight while he
looked round in dread of some one's seeing them, the heat, the
smell of the sea, and the continual passing to and fro before
him of idle, well-dressed, well-fed people, made a new man of
him; he told Anna Sergeyevna how beautiful she was, how
fascinating. He was impatiently passionate, he would not move a
step away from her, while she was often pensive and continually
urged him to confess that he did not respect her, did not love
her in the least, and thought of her as nothing but a common
woman. Rather late almost every evening they drove somewhere out
of town, to Oreanda or to the waterfall; and the expedition was
always a success, the scenery invariably impressed them as grand
They were expecting her husband to come, but a letter came from
him, saying that there was something wrong with his eyes, and he
entreated his wife to come home as quickly as possible. Anna
Sergeyevna made haste to go.
"It's a good thing I am going away," she said to Gurov. "It's
the finger of destiny!"
She went by coach and he went with her. They were driving the
whole day. When she had got into a compartment of the express,
and when the second bell had rung, she said:
"Let me look at you once more . . . look at you once again.
She did not shed tears, but was so sad that she seemed ill, and
her face was quivering.
"I shall remember you . . . think of you," she said. "God be
with you; be happy. Don't remember evil against me. We are
parting forever -- it must be so, for we ought never to have
met. Well, God be with you."
The train moved off rapidly, its lights soon vanished from
sight, and a minute later there was no sound of it, as though
everything had conspired together to end as quickly as possible
that sweet delirium, that madness. Left alone on the platform,
and gazing into the dark distance, Gurov listened to the chirrup
of the grasshoppers and the hum of the telegraph wires, feeling
as though he had only just waked up. And he thought, musing,
that there had been another episode or adventure in his life,
and it, too, was at an end, and nothing was left of it but a
memory. . . . He was moved, sad, and conscious of a slight
remorse. This young woman whom he would never meet again had not
been happy with him; he was genuinely warm and affectionate with
her, but yet in his manner, his tone, and his caresses there had
been a shade of light irony, the coarse condescension of a happy
man who was, besides, almost twice her age. All the time she had
called him kind, exceptional, lofty; obviously he had seemed to
her different from what he really was, so he had unintentionally
deceived her. . . .
Here at the station was already a scent of autumn; it was a cold
"It's time for me to go north," thought Gurov as he left the
platform. "High time!"