- The Grasshopper
On a still moonlight night in July Olga
Ivanovna was standing on the deck of a Volga steamer and looking
alternately at the water and at the picturesque banks. Beside
her was standing Ryabovsky, telling her the black shadows on the
water were not shadows, but a dream, that it would be sweet to
sink into forgetfulness, to die, to become a memory in the sight
of that enchanted water with the fantastic glimmer, in sight of
the fathomless sky and the mournful, dreamy shores that told of
the vanity of our life and of the existence of something higher,
blessed, and eternal. The past was vulgar and uninteresting, the
future was trivial, and that marvellous night, unique in a
lifetime, would soon be over, would blend with eternity; then,
And Olga Ivanovna listened alternately to Ryabovsky's voice and
the silence of the night, and thought of her being immortal and
never dying. The turquoise colour of the water, such as she had
never seen before, the sky, the river-banks, the black shadows,
and the unaccountable joy that flooded her soul, all told her
that she would make a great artist, and that somewhere in the
distance, in the infinite space beyond the moonlight, success,
glory, the love of the people, lay awaiting her. . . . When she
gazed steadily without blinking into the distance, she seemed to
see crowds of people, lights, triumphant strains of music, cries
of enthusiasm, she herself in a white dress, and flowers
showered upon her from all sides. She thought, too, that beside
her, leaning with his elbows on the rail of the steamer, there
was standing a real great man, a genius, one of God's elect. . .
. All that he had created up to the present was fine, new, and
extraordinary, but what he would create in time, when with
maturity his rare talent reached its full development, would be
astounding, immeasurably sublime; and that could be seen by his
face, by his manner of expressing himself and his attitude to
nature. He talked of shadows, of the tones of evening, of the
moonlight, in a special way, in a language of his own, so that
one could not help feeling the fascination of his power over
nature. He was very handsome, original, and his life, free,
independent, aloof from all common cares, was like the life of a
"It's growing cooler," said Olga Ivanovna, and she gave a
Ryabovsky wrapped her in his cloak, and said mournfully:
"I feel that I am in your power; I am a slave. Why are you so
He kept staring intently at her, and his eyes were terrible. And
she was afraid to look at him.
"I love you madly," he whispered, breathing on her cheek. "Say
one word to me and I will not go on living; I will give up art .
. ." he muttered in violent emotion. "Love me, love . . ."
"Don't talk like that," said Olga Ivanovna, covering her eyes.
"It's dreadful! How about Dymov?"
"What of Dymov? Why Dymov? What have I to do with Dymov? The
Volga, the moon, beauty, my love, ecstasy, and there is no such
thing as Dymov. . . . Ah! I don't know . . . I don't care about
the past; give me one moment, one instant!"
Olga Ivanovna's heart began to throb. She tried to think about
her husband, but all her past, with her wedding, with Dymov, and
with her "At Homes," seemed to her petty, trivial, dingy,
unnecessary, and far, far away. . . . Yes, really, what of Dymov?
Why Dymov? What had she to do with Dymov? Had he any existence
in nature, or was he only a dream?
"For him, a simple and ordinary man the happiness he has had
already is enough," she thought, covering her face with her
hands. "Let them condemn me, let them curse me, but in spite of
them all I will go to my ruin; I will go to my ruin! . . . One
must experience everything in life. My God! how terrible and how
"Well? Well?" muttered the artist, embracing her, and greedily
kissing the hands with which she feebly tried to thrust him from
her. "You love me? Yes? Yes? Oh, what a night! marvellous
"Yes, what a night!" she whispered, looking into his eyes, which
were bright with tears.
Then she looked round quickly, put her arms round him, and
kissed him on the lips.
"We are nearing Kineshmo!" said some one on the other side of
They heard heavy footsteps; it was a waiter from the
"Waiter," said Olga Ivanovna, laughing and crying with
happiness, "bring us some wine."
The artist, pale with emotion, sat on the seat, looking at Olga
Ivanovna with adoring, grateful eyes; then he closed his eyes,
and said, smiling languidly:
"I am tired."
And he leaned his head against the rail.