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Expensive Lesson-by Anton Chekhov-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Expensive Lesson

Written by:Anton Chekhov

Category:Fiction, Short Stories, Short Novel,Classics

Page 1:

FOR a cultivated man to be ignorant of foreign languages is a great inconvenience. Vorotov became acutely conscious of it when, after taking his degree, he began upon a piece of research work.

“It’s awful,” he said, breathing hard (although he was only twenty-six he was fat, heavy, and suffered from shortness of breath).

“It’s awful! Without languages I’m like a bird without wings. I might just as well give up the work.”

And he made up his mind at all costs to overcome his innate laziness, and to learn French and German; and began to look out for a teacher.

One winter noon, as Vorotov was sitting in his study at work, the servant told him that a young lady was inquiring for him.

“Ask her in,” said Vorotov.

And a young lady elaborately dressed in the last fashion walked in. She introduced herself as a teacher of French, Alice Osipovna Enquête, and told Vorotov that she had been sent to him by one of his friends.

“Delighted! Please sit down,” said Vorotov, breathing hard and putting his hand over the collar of his nightshirt (to breathe more freely he always wore a nightshirt at work instead of a stiff linen one with collar). “It was Pyotr Sergeitch sent you? Yes, yes . . . I asked him about it. Delighted!”

As he talked to Mdlle. Enquête he looked at her shyly and with curiosity. She was a genuine Frenchwoman, very elegant and still quite young. Judging from her pale, languid face, her short curly hair, and her unnaturally slim waist, she might have been eighteen; but looking at her broad, well-developed shoulders, the elegant lines of her back and her severe eyes, Vorotov thought that she was not less than three-and-twenty and might be twenty-five; but then again he began to think she was not more than eighteen. Her face looked as cold and business-like as the face of a person who has come to speak about money. She did not once smile or frown, and only once a look of perplexity flitted over her face when she learnt that she was not required to teach children, but a stout grown-up man.

“So, Alice Osipovna,” said Vorotov, “we’ll have a lesson every evening from seven to eight. As regards your terms — a rouble a lesson — I’ve nothing to say against that. By all means let it be a rouble. . . .”

And he asked her if she would not have some tea or coffee, whether it was a fine day, and with a good-natured smile, stroking the baize of the table, he inquired in a friendly voice who she was, where she had studied, and what she lived on.

With a cold, business-like expression, Alice Osipovna answered that she had completed her studies at a private school and had the diploma of a private teacher, that her father had died lately of scarlet fever, that her mother was alive and made artificial flowers; that she, Mdlle. Enquête, taught in a private school till dinnertime, and after dinner was busy till evening giving lessons in different good families.

She went away leaving behind her the faint fragrance of a woman’s clothes. For a long time afterwards Vorotov could not settle to work, but, sitting at the table stroking its green baize surface, he meditated.

“It’s very pleasant to see a girl working to earn her own living,” he thought. “On the other hand, it’s very unpleasant to think that poverty should not spare such elegant and pretty girls as Alice Osipovna, and that she, too, should have to struggle for existence. It’s a sad thing!”

Having never seen virtuous Frenchwomen before, he reflected also that this elegantly dressed young lady with her well-developed shoulders and exaggeratedly small waist in all probability followed another calling as well as giving French lessons.

The next evening when the clock pointed to five minutes to seven, Mdlle. Enquête appeared, rosy from the frost. She opened Margot, which she had brought with her, and without introduction began:

“French grammar has twenty-six letters. The first letter is called A, the second B . . .”

“Excuse me,” Vorotov interrupted, smiling. “I must warn you, mademoiselle, that you must change your method a little in my case. You see, I know Russian, Greek, and Latin well. . . . I’ve studied comparative philology, and I think we might omit Margot and pass straight to reading some author.”

And he explained to the French girl how grown-up people learn languages.

“A friend of mine,” he said, “wanting to learn modern languages, laid before him the French, German, and Latin gospels, and read them side by side, carefully analysing each word, and would you believe it, he attained his object in less than a year. Let us do the same. We’ll take some author and read him.”

The French girl looked at him in perplexity. Evidently the suggestion seemed to her very naïve and ridiculous. If this strange proposal had been made to her by a child, she would certainly have been angry and have scolded it, but as he was a grown-up man and very stout and she could not scold him, she only shrugged her shoulders hardly perceptibly and said:

“As you please.”

Vorotov rummaged in his bookcase and picked out a dog’s-eared French book.

Filed in: Anton Chekhov, Classics, Fiction, Short Novel, Short Stories

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