The Black Monk and Other Stories - Anton Pavlovich Chekhov - ebook

The Black Monk and Other Stories ebook

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov



This is a story about psychological and spiritual health, about true happiness, about loneliness and about genius. The main character finds complete spiritual harmony and happiness only in a state of mental illness, when he sees hallucinations in the form of a mysterious Black Monk, with whom you can talk for hours about the eternal, true, truly valuable. This is definitely one of the best works of Anton Pavlovich on the topic of madness and, at the same time, quite a calm, emotional and touching story about the life of one „simple” genius.

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Liczba stron: 332

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The Black Monk

On the Way

A Family Council

At Home

In Exile

Rothschild's Fiddle

A Father

Two Tragedies


At the Manor

An Event

Ward No. 6


Andrei Vasilyevitch Kovrin, Magister, had worn himself out, and unsettled his nerves. He made no effort to undergo regular treatment; but only incidentally, over a bottle of wine, spoke to his friend the doctor; and his friend the doctor advised him to spend all the spring and summer in the country. And in the nick of time came a long letter from Tánya Pesótsky, asking him to come and stay with her father at Borisovka. He decided to go.

But first (it was in April) he travelled to his own estate, to his native Kovrinka, and spent three weeks in solitude; and only when the fine weather came drove across the country to his former guardian and second parent, Pesótsky, the celebrated Russian horti-culturist. From Kovrinka to Borisovka, the home of the Pesótskys, was a distance of some seventy versts, and in the easy, springed calêche the drive along the roads, soft in springtime, promised real enjoyment.

The house at Borisovka was, large, faced with a colonnade, and adorned with figures of lions with the plaster falling off. At the door stood a servant in livery. The old park, gloomy and severe, laid out in English fashion, stretched for nearly a verst from the house down to the river, and ended there in a steep clay bank covered with pines whose bare roots resembled shaggy paws. Below sparkled a deserted stream; overhead the snipe circled about with melancholy cries–all, in short, seemed to invite a visitor to sit down and write a ballad. But the gardens and orchards, which together with the seed-plots occupied some eighty acres, inspired very different feelings. Even in the worst of weather they were bright and joy-inspiring. Such wonderful roses, lilies, camelias, such tulips, such a host of flowering plants of every possible kind and colour, from staring white to sooty black,–such a wealth of blossoms Kovrin had never seen before. The spring was only beginning, and the greatest rareties were hidden under glass; but already enough bloomed in the alleys and beds to make up an empire of delicate shades. And most charming of all was it in the early hours of morning, when dewdrops glistened on every petal and leaf.

In childhood the decorative part of the garden, called contemptuously by Pesótsky “the rubbish,” had produced on Kovrin a fabulous impression. What miracles of art, what studied monstrosities, what monkeries of nature! Espaliers of fruit trees, a pear tree shaped like a pyramidal poplar, globular oaks and lindens, apple-tree houses, arches, monograms, candelabra–even the date 1862 in plum trees, to commemorate the year in which Pesótsky first engaged in the art of gardening. There were stately, symmetrical trees, with trunks erect as those of palms, which after examination proved to be gooseberry or currant trees. But what most of all enlivened the garden and gave it its joyous tone was the constant movement of Pesótsky’s gardeners. From early morning to late at night, by the trees, by the bushes, in the alleys, and on the beds swarmed men as busy as ants, with barrows, spades, and watering-pots.

Kovrin arrived at Borisovka at nine o’clock. He found Tánya and her father in great alarm. The clear starlight night foretold frost, and the head gardener, Ivan Karlitch, had gone to town, so that there was no one who could be relied upon. At supper they spoke only of the impending frost; and it was decided that Tánya should not go to bed at all, but should inspect the gardens at one o’clock and see if all were in order, while Yegor Semiónovitch should rise at three o’clock, or even earlier.

Kovrin sat with Tánya all the evening, and after midnight accompanied her to the garden. The air already smelt strongly of burning. In the great orchard, called “the commercial,” which every year brought Yegor Semiónovitch thousands of roubles profit, there already crept along the ground the thick, black, sour smoke which was to clothe the young leaves and save the plants. The trees were marshalled like chessmen in straight rows–like ranks of soldiers; and this pedantic regularity, together with the uniformity of height, made the garden seem monotonous and even tiresome. Kovrin and Tánya walked up and down the alleys, and watched the fires of dung, straw, and litter; but seldom met the workmen, who wandered in the smoke like shadows. Only the cherry and plum trees and a few apple trees were in blossom, but the whole garden was shrouded in smoke, and it was only when they reached the seed-plots that Kovrin was able to breathe.

“I remember when I was a child sneezing from the smoke,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, “but to this day I cannot understand how smoke saves plants from the frost.”

“Smoke is a good substitute when there are no clouds,” answered Tánya.

“But what do you want the clouds for?”

“In dull and cloudy weather we have no morning frosts.”

“Is that so?” said Kovrin.

He laughed and took Tánya by the hand. Her broad, very serious, chilled face; her thick, black eyebrows; the stiff collar on her jacket which prevented her from moving her head freely; her dress tucked up out of the dew; and her whole figure, erect and slight, pleased him.

“Heavens! how she has grown!” he said to himself. “When I was here last time, five years ago, you were quite a child. You were thin, long-legged, and untidy, and wore a short dress, and I used to tease you. What a change in five years!”

“Yes, five years!” sighed Tánya. “A lot of things have happened since then. Tell me, Andrei, honestly,” she said, looking merrily into his face, “do you feel that you have got out of touch with us? But why do I ask? You are a man, you live your own interesting life, you... Some estrangement is natural. But whether that is so or not, Andrusha, I want you now to look on us as your own. We have a right to that.”

“I do, already, Tánya.”

“Your word of honour?”

“My word of honour.”

“You were surprised that we had so many of your photographs. But surely you know how my father adores you, worships you. You are a scholar, and not an ordinary man; you have built up a brilliant career, and he is firmly convinced that you turned out a success because he educated you. I do not interfere with his delusion. Let him believe it!”

Already dawn. The sky paled, and the foliage and clouds of smoke began to show themselves more clearly. The nightingale sang, and from the fields came the cry of quails.

“It is time for bed!” said Tánya. “It is cold too.” She took Kovrin by the hand. “Thanks, Andrusha, for coming. We are cursed with most uninteresting acquaintances, and not many even of them. With us it is always garden, garden, garden, and nothing else. Trunks, timbers,” she laughed, “pippins, rennets, budding, pruning, grafting... All our life goes into the garden, we never even dream of anything but apples and pears. Of course this is all very good and useful, but sometimes I cannot help wishing for change. I remember when you used to come and pay us visits, and when you came home for the holidays, how the whole house grew fresher and brighter, as if someone had taken the covers off the furniture; I was then a very little girl, but I understood...”

Tánya spoke for a time, and spoke with feeling. Then suddenly it came into Kovrin’s head that during the summer he might become attached to this little, weak, talkative being, that he might get carried away, fall in love–in their position what was more probable and natural? The thought pleased him, amused him, and as he bent down to the kind, troubled face, he hummed to himself Pushkin’s couplet:

“Oniégin; I will not conceal That I love Tatyana madly.”

By the time they reached the house Yegor Semiónovitch had risen. Kovrin felt no desire to sleep; he entered into conversation with the old man, and returned with him to the garden. Yegor Semiónovitch was tall, broad-shouldered, and fat. He suffered from shortness of breath, yet walked so quickly that it was difficult to keep up with him. His expression was always troubled and hurried, and he seemed to be thinking that if he were a single second late everything would be destroyed.

“There, brother, is a mystery for you!” he began, stopping to recover breath. “On the surface of the ground, as you see, there is frost, but raise the thermometer a couple of yards on your stick, and it is quite warm... Why is that?”

“I confess I don’t know,” said Kovrin, laughing.

“No!... You can’t know everything... The biggest brain cannot comprehend everything. You are still engaged with your philosophy?”

“Yes,... I am studying psychology, and philosophy generally.”

“And it doesn’t bore you?”

“On the contrary, I couldn’t live without it.”

“Well, God grant...” began Yegor Semiónovitch, smoothing his big whiskers thoughtfully. “Well, God grant... I am very glad for your sake, brother, very glad...”

Suddenly he began to listen, and making a terrible face, ran off the path and soon vanished among the trees in a cloud of smoke.

“Who tethered this horse to the tree?” rang out a despairing voice. “Which of you thieves and murderers dared to tether this horse to the apple tree? My God, my God! Ruined, ruined, spoiled, destroyed! The garden is ruined, the garden is destroyed! My God!”

When he returned to Kovrin his face bore an expression of injury and impotence.

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