Today’s story is around 1500 words. http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/013.html
We have another overly excited character, overreacting to a situation and being worse off for it. What’s interesting is that Chekov ends the story as a whodunit. Asking the readers to solve the slanderer mystery. I’m not sure if there is an answer, but I’m thinking it was Marfa, the cook, trying to save face after the hurtful comments her employer used about her. Like Clue or a cozy closed room murder mystery, the wedding guests are defined by their occupations. Similar to The Death of a Government Clerk, Chekhov has a man obsessively trying to undo perceived damage and making matters much worse. Of course, Shakespeare’s line “thou protest too much, methinks,” might have made any of the guests believe that the schoolmaster and his cook were getting it on.
In this story, Chekhov introduces us to more characters than in any other story to-date. They are all lined up for us to devour…many only identified by their profession. My rough count produced 15 total characters. Why? The story definitely has a ring of Clue and I re-read it a few times to see if I was missing the candlestick that might point in the direction of the slanderer. My first thought was definitely Marfa, the cook. She has everything to gain by such a slander and little to lose unless she be found out. The problem is she may lack access to the right people to make the message contagious. Rather, I think we are seeing a recurrent theme of Chekhov manifest in the overly concerned Ahineev. In The Death of a Government Clerk such over-concern contributed to an untimely death. Here, I think Chekhov is making a point, as Travis suggests, that over expression of a fact is enough to cast doubt on its validity. Despite his best intentions, Ahineev was enough to infect the minds of his guests with self-slander…or as Chekhov quotes, “man proposes, but God disposes…”