What You Usually Find in Novels

A Duke, a Duchess who used to be a beautiful young woman, the Baron who lives next door, a left-wing novelist, an impoverished nobleman, a foreign musician, various stupid butlers, nurses, and tutors, a German estate manager, a gentleman, and an heir from America.

All the characters are unremarkable, yet sympathetic and attractive people. The hero saves the heroine from a crazed horse; he is strong-willed and he shows his strong fists at every opportunity.

The sky is wide, the distances are vast and the vistas are broad, so broad that they are impossible to understand … this, in short, is Nature.

Friends are blond. Enemies are red-headed.

A rich uncle—liberal or conservative—according to circumstances. His death is more useful to the protagonist than his advice.

An aunt who lives in the remote provincial town of Tambov.

A doctor with a concerned expression on his face, who gives people hope for the coming health crisis. He has a walking stick with a bulb, and he is bald. And where there is a doctor, there are illnesses; arthritis caused by overwork, migraines, inflammation of the brain. A man wounded in a duel, and advice to go to the spa.

A servant who worked for the old masters and is ready to sacrifice everything for them. HE is a very witty fellow.

A dog that can do everything but talk, a parrot, and a nightingale. A dacha near Moscow and a mortgaged estate, somewhere in the South.

Electricity, which is stuck into the story for no reason.

A bag of Russian leather, a china set from Japan, an English leather saddle, a revolver that fires perfectly, an order on the lapel, and a feast of pineapples, champagne, truffles, and oysters.

Accidental overhearing, as a source of great discoveries.

A huge number of interjections, and of attempts to use technical terms whenever possible.

Small hints about important circumstances.

Very often, no conclusion.

Seven mortal sins at the beginning, and a wedding at the end.

The End.

One of some two hundred stories by Anton Chekhov that were published originally in periodicals in Russia in the 1880s-1900s but unpublished in English. Translated from the Russian by Peter Sekirin.

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