- The Grasshopper
Olga Ivanovna was twenty-two, Dymov was
thirty-one. They got on splendidly together when they were
married. Olga Ivanovna hung all her drawing-room walls with her
own and other people's sketches, in frames and without frames,
and near the piano and furniture arranged picturesque corners
with Japanese parasols, easels, daggers, busts, photographs, and
rags of many colours. . . . In the dining-room she papered the
walls with peasant woodcuts, hung up bark shoes and sickles,
stood in a corner a scythe and a rake, and so achieved a
dining-room in the Russian style. In her bedroom she draped the
ceiling and the walls with dark cloths to make it like a cavern,
hung a Venetian lantern over the beds, and at the door set a
figure with a halberd. And every one thought that the young
people had a very charming little home.
When she got up at eleven o'clock every morning, Olga Ivanovna
played the piano or, if it were sunny, painted something in
oils. Then between twelve and one she drove to her dressmaker's.
As Dymov and she had very little money, only just enough, she
and her dressmaker were often put to clever shifts to enable her
to appear constantly in new dresses and make a sensation with
them. Very often out of an old dyed dress, out of bits of tulle,
lace, plush, and silk, costing nothing, perfect marvels were
created, something bewitching -- not a dress, but a dream. From
the dressmaker's Olga Ivanovna usually drove to some actress of
her acquaintance to hear the latest theatrical gossip, and
incidentally to try and get hold of tickets for the first night
of some new play or for a benefit performance. From the
actress's she had to go to some artist's studio or to some
exhibition or to see some celebrity -- either to pay a visit or
to give an invitation or simply to have a chat. And everywhere
she met with a gay and friendly welcome, and was assured that
she was good, that she was sweet, that she was rare. . . . Those
whom she called great and famous received her as one of
themselves, as an equal, and predicted with one voice that, with
her talents, her taste, and her intelligence, she would do great
things if she concentrated herself. She sang, she played the
piano, she painted in oils, she carved, she took part in amateur
performances; and all this not just anyhow, but all with talent,
whether she made lanterns for an illumination or dressed up or
tied somebody's cravat -- everything she did was exceptionally
graceful, artistic, and charming. But her talents showed
themselves in nothing so clearly as in her faculty for quickly
becoming acquainted and on intimate terms with celebrated
people. No sooner did any one become ever so little celebrated,
and set people talking about him, than she made his
acquaintance, got on friendly terms the same day, and invited
him to her house. Every new acquaintance she made was a
veritable fte for her. She adored celebrated people, was proud
of them, dreamed of them every night. She craved for them, and
never could satisfy her craving. The old ones departed and were
forgotten, new ones came to replace them, but to these, too, she
soon grew accustomed or was disappointed in them, and began
eagerly seeking for fresh great men, finding them and seeking
for them again. What for?
Between four and five she dined at home with her husband. His
simplicity, good sense, and kind-heartedness touched her and
moved her up to enthusiasm. She was constantly jumping up,
impulsively hugging his head and showering kisses on it.
"You are a clever, generous man, Dymov," she used to say, "but
you have one very serious defect. You take absolutely no
interest in art. You don't believe in music or painting."
"I don't understand them," he would say mildly. "I have spent
all my life in working at natural science and medicine, and I
have never had time to take an interest in the arts."
"But, you know, that's awful, Dymov!"
"Why so? Your friends don't know anything of science or
medicine, but you don't reproach them with it. Every one has his
own line. I don't understand landscapes and operas, but the way
I look at it is that if one set of sensible people devote their
whole lives to them, and other sensible people pay immense sums
for them, they must be of use. I don't understand them, but not
understanding does not imply disbelieving in them."
"Let me shake your honest hand!"
After dinner Olga Ivanovna would drive off to see her friends,
then to a theatre or to a concert, and she returned home after
midnight. So it was every day.
On Wednesdays she had "At Homes." At these "At Homes" the
hostess and her guests did not play cards and did not dance, but
entertained themselves with various arts. An actor from the
Dramatic Theatre recited, a singer sang, artists sketched in the
albums of which Olga Ivanovna had a great number, the
violoncellist played, and the hostess herself sketched, carved,
sang, and played accompaniments. In the intervals between the
recitations, music, and singing, they talked and argued about
literature, the theatre, and painting. There were no ladies, for
Olga Ivanovna considered all ladies wearisome and vulgar except
actresses and her dressmaker. Not one of these entertainments
passed without the hostess starting at every ring at the bell,
and saying, with a triumphant expression, "It is he," meaning by
"he," of course, some new celebrity. Dymov was not in the
drawing-room, and no one remembered his existence. But exactly
at half-past eleven the door leading into the dining-room
opened, and Dymov would appear with his good-natured, gentle
smile and say, rubbing his hands:
"Come to supper, gentlemen."
They all went into the dining-room, and every time found on the
table exactly the same things: a dish of oysters, a piece of ham
or veal, sardines, cheese, caviare, mushrooms, vodka, and two
decanters of wine.
"My dear mitre d'htel!" Olga Ivanovna would say, clasping her
hands with enthusiasm, "you are simply fascinating! My friends,
look at his forehead! Dymov, turn your profile. Look! he has the
face of a Bengal tiger and an expression as kind and sweet as a
gazelle. Ah, the darling!"
The visitors ate, and, looking at Dymov, thought, "He really is
a nice fellow"; but they soon forgot about him, and went on
talking about the theatre, music, and painting.
The young people were happy, and their life flowed on without a
The third week of their honeymoon was spent, however, not quite
happily -- sadly, indeed. Dymov caught erysipelas in the
hospital, was in bed for six days, and had to have his beautiful
black hair cropped. Olga Ivanovna sat beside him and wept
bitterly, but when he was better she put a white handkerchief on
his shaven head and began to paint him as a Bedouin. And they
were both in good spirits. Three days after he had begun to go
back to the hospital he had another mischance.
"I have no luck, little mother," he said one day at dinner. "I
had four dissections to do today, and I cut two of my fingers at
one. And I did not notice it till I got home."
Olga Ivanovna was alarmed. He smiled, and told her that it did
not matter, and that he often cut his hands when he was
"I get absorbed, little mother, and grow careless."
Olga Ivanovna dreaded symptoms of blood-poisoning, and prayed
about it every night, but all went well. And again life flowed
on peaceful and happy, free from grief and anxiety. The present
was happy, and to follow it spring was at hand, already smiling
in the distance, and promising a thousand delights. There would
be no end to their happiness. In April, May and June a summer
villa a good distance out of town; walks, sketching, fishing,
nightingales; and then from July right on to autumn an artist's
tour on the Volga, and in this tour Olga Ivanovna would take
part as an indispensable member of the society. She had already
had made for her two travelling dresses of linen, had bought
paints, brushes, canvases, and a new palette for the journey.
Almost every day Ryabovsky visited her to see what progress she
was making in her painting; when she showed him her painting, he
used to thrust his hands deep into his pockets, compress his
lips, sniff, and say:
"Ye -- es . . . ! That cloud of yours is screaming: it's not in
the evening light. The foreground is somehow chewed up, and
there is something, you know, not the thing. . . . And your
cottage is weighed down and whines pitifully. That corner ought
to have been taken more in shadow, but on the whole it is not
bad; I like it."
And the more incomprehensible he talked, the more readily Olga
Ivanovna understood him.