3:16 pm - Sunday January 20, 4588

The Head of Gardener’s Story- by Anton Chekhov-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name: The Head of Gardener’s Story

Written by: Anton Chekhov

Category:Fiction, Short Stories, fairytales

Page 1:

A SALE of flowers was taking place in Count N.’s greenhouses. The purchasers were few in number — a landowner who was a neighbor of mine, a young timber-merchant, and myself. While the workmen were carrying out our magnificent purchases and packing them into the carts, we sat at the entry of the greenhouse and chatted about one thing and another. It is extremely pleasant to sit in a garden on a still April morning, listening to the birds, and watching the flowers brought out into the open air and basking in the sunshine.

The head-gardener, Mihail Karlovitch, a venerable old man with a full shaven face, wearing a fur waistcoat and no coat, superintended the packing of the plants himself, but at the same time he listened to our conversation in the hope of hearing something new. He was an intelligent, very good-hearted man, respected by everyone. He was for some reason looked upon by everyone as a German, though he was in reality on his father’s side Swedish, on his mother’s side Russian, and attended the Orthodox church. He knew Russian, Swedish, and German. He had read a good deal in those languages, and nothing one could do gave him greater pleasure than lending him some new book or talking to him, for instance, about Ibsen.

He had his weaknesses, but they were innocent ones: he called himself the head gardener, though there were no under-gardeners; the expression of his face was unusually dignified and haughty; he could not endure to be contradicted, and liked to be listened to with respect and attention.

“That young fellow there I can recommend to you as an awful rascal,” said my neighbor, pointing to a laborer with a swarthy, gipsy face, who drove by with the water-barrel. “Last week he was tried in the town for burglary and was acquitted; they pronounced him mentally deranged, and yet look at him, he is the picture of health. Scoundrels are very often acquitted nowadays in Russia on grounds of abnormality and aberration, yet these acquittals, these unmistakable proofs of an indulgent attitude to crime, lead to no good. They demoralize the masses, the sense of justice is blunted in all as they become accustomed to seeing vice unpunished, and you know in our age one may boldly say in the words of Shakespeare that in our evil and corrupt age virtue must ask forgiveness of vice.”

“That’s very true,” the merchant assented. “Owing to these frequent acquittals, murder and arson have become much more common. Ask the peasants.”

Mihail Karlovitch turned towards us and said:

“As far as I am concerned, gentlemen, I am always delighted to meet with these verdicts of not guilty. I am not afraid for morality and justice when they say ‘Not guilty,’ but on the contrary I feel pleased. Even when my conscience tells me the jury have made a mistake in acquitting the criminal, even then I am triumphant. Judge for yourselves, gentlemen; if the judges and the jury have more faith in man than in evidence, material proofs, and speeches for the prosecution, is not that faith in man in itself higher than any ordinary considerations? Such faith is only attainable by those few who understand and feel Christ.”

“A fine thought,” I said.

“But it’s not a new one. I remember a very long time ago I heard a legend on that subject. A very charming legend,” said the gardener, and he smiled. “I was told it by my grandmother, my father’s mother, an excellent old lady. She told me it in Swedish, and it does not sound so fine, so classical, in Russian.”

But we begged him to tell it and not to be put off by the coarseness of the Russian language. Much gratified, he deliberately lighted his pipe, looked angrily at the laborers, and began:

“There settled in a certain little town a solitary, plain, elderly gentleman called Thomson or Wilson — but that does not matter; the surname is not the point. He followed an honorable profession: he was a doctor. He was always morose and unsociable, and only spoke when required by his profession. He never visited anyone, never extended his acquaintance beyond a silent bow, and lived as humbly as a hermit. The fact was, he was a learned man, and in those days learned men were not like other people. They spent their days and nights in contemplation, in reading and in healing disease, looked upon everything else as trivial, and had no time to waste a word. The inhabitants of the town understood this, and tried not to worry him with their visits and empty chatter. They were very glad that God had sent them at last a man who could heal diseases, and were proud that such a remarkable man was living in their town. ‘He knows everything,’ they said about him.

“But that was not enough. They ought to have also said, ‘He loves everyone.’ In the breast of that learned man there beat a wonderful angelic heart. Though the people of that town were strangers and not his own people, yet he loved them like children, and did not spare himself for them. He was himself ill with consumption, he had a cough, but when he was summoned to the sick he forgot his own illness he did not spare himself and, gasping for breath, climbed up the hills however high they might be. He disregarded the sultry heat and the cold, despised thirst and hunger. He would accept no money and strange to say, when one of his patients died, he would follow the coffin with the relations, weeping.

Filed in: Anton Chekhov, Fairytales, Fiction, Short Stories

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