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Martyrs-by Anton Chekhov-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Martyrs

Written by:Anton Chekhov

Category:Fiction, ClassicsShort novel, Short stories

Page 1:

LIZOTCHKA KUDRINSKY, a young married lady who had many admirers, was suddenly taken ill, and so seriously that her husband did not go to his office, and a telegram was sent to her mamma at Tver. This is how she told the story of her illness:

“I went to Lyesnoe to auntie’s. I stayed there a week and then I went with all the rest to cousin Varya’s. Varya’s husband is a surly brute and a despot (I’d shoot a husband like that), but we had a very jolly time there. To begin with I took part in some private theatricals. It was A Scandal in a Respectable Family. Hrustalev acted marvellously! Between the acts I drank some cold, awfully cold, lemon squash, with the tiniest nip of brandy in it. Lemon squash with brandy in it is very much like champagne. . . . I drank it and I felt nothing. Next day after the performance I rode out on horseback with that Adolf Ivanitch. It was rather damp and there was a strong wind. It was most likely then that I caught cold. Three days later I came home to see how my dear, good Vassya was getting on, and while here to get my silk dress, the one that has little flowers on it. Vassya, of course, I did not find at home. I went into the kitchen to tell Praskovya to set the samovar, and there I saw on the table some pretty little carrots and turnips like playthings. I ate one little carrot and well, a turnip too. I ate very little, but only fancy, I began having a sharp pain at once — spasms . . . spasms . . . spasms . . . ah, I am dying. Vassya runs from the office. Naturally he clutches at his hair and turns white. They run for the doctor. . . . Do you understand, I am dying, dying.”

The spasms began at midday, before three o’clock the doctor came, and at six Lizotchka fell asleep and slept soundly till two o’clock in the morning.

It strikes two. . . . The light of the little night lamp filters scantily through the pale blue shade. Lizotchka is lying in bed, her white lace cap stands out sharply against the dark background of the red cushion. Shadows from the blue lamp-shade lie in patterns on her pale face and her round plump shoulders. Vassily Stepanovitch is sitting at her feet. The poor fellow is happy that his wife is at home at last, and at the same time he is terribly alarmed by her illness.

“Well, how do you feel, Lizotchka?” he asks in a whisper, noticing that she is awake.

“I am better,” moans Lizotchka. “I don’t feel the spasms now, but there is no sleeping. . . . I can’t get to sleep!”

“Isn’t it time to change the compress, my angel?”

Lizotchka sits up slowly with the expression of a martyr and gracefully turns her head on one side. Vassily Stepanovitch with reverent awe, scarcely touching her hot body with his fingers, changes the compress. Lizotchka shrinks, laughs at the cold water which tickles her, and lies down again.

“You are getting no sleep, poor boy!” she moans.

“As though I could sleep!”

“It’s my nerves, Vassya, I am a very nervous woman. The doctor has prescribed for stomach trouble, but I feel that he doesn’t understand my illness. It’s nerves and not the stomach, I swear that it is my nerves. There is only one thing I am afraid of, that my illness may take a bad turn.”

“No, Lizotchka, no, to-morrow you will be all right!”

“Hardly likely! I am not afraid for myself. . . . I don’t care, indeed, I shall be glad to die, but I am sorry for you! You’ll be a widower and left all alone.”

Vassitchka rarely enjoys his wife’s society, and has long been used to solitude, but Lizotchka’s words agitate him.

“Goodness knows what you are saying, little woman! Why these gloomy thoughts?”

“Well, you will cry and grieve, and then you will get used to it. You’ll even get married again.”

The husband clutches his head.

“There, there, I won’t!” Lizotchka soothes him, “only you ought to be prepared for anything.”

“And all of a sudden I shall die,” she thinks, shutting her eyes.

And Lizotchka draws a mental picture of her own death, how her mother, her husband, her cousin Varya with her husband, her relations, the admirers of her “talent” press round her death bed, as she whispers her last farewell. All are weeping. Then when she is dead they dress her, interestingly pale and dark-haired, in a pink dress (it suits her) and lay her in a very expensive coffin on gold legs, full of flowers. There is a smell of incense, the candles splutter. Her husband never leaves the coffin, while the admirers of her talent cannot take their eyes off her, and say: “As though living! She is lovely in her coffin!” The whole town is talking of the life cut short so prematurely. But now they are carrying her to the church. The bearers are Ivan Petrovitch, Adolf Ivanitch, Varya’s husband, Nikolay Semyonitch, and the black-eyed student who had taught her to drink lemon squash with brandy. It’s only a pity there’s no music playing. After the burial service comes the leave-taking. The church is full of sobs, they bring the lid with tassels, and . . . Lizotchka is shut off from the light of day for ever, there is the sound of hammering nails. Knock, knock, knock.

Lizotchka shudders and opens her eyes.

“Vassya, are you here?” she asks. “I have such gloomy thoughts. Goodness, why am I so unlucky as not to sleep. Vassya, have pity, do tell me something!”

“What shall I tell you ?”

“Something about love,” Lizotchka says languidly. “Or some anecdote about Jews. . . .”

Vassily Stepanovitch, ready for anything if only his wife will be cheerful and not talk about death, combs locks of hair over his ears, makes an absurd face, and goes up to Lizotchka.

“Does your vatch vant mending?” he asks.

“It does, it does,” giggles Lizotchka, and hands him her gold watch from the little table. “Mend it.”

Vassya takes the watch, examines the mechanism for a long time, and wriggling and shrugging, says: “She can not be mended . . . in vun veel two cogs are vanting. . . .”

Filed in: Anton Chekhov, Short Novel, Short Stories

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