Find today’s 2180 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/069.html
It is interesting that this story is told in the past tense when Pasha “was younger and better-looking, and when her voice was stronger.” It seems like that line is a set up for things to go horribly wrong for the chorus girl, which they do. Confronted by an “adorer’s” wife, Pasha never lets it slip that the husband is hiding in the next room. She has a loyalty to the debtor who, we find out later, is undeserving of it. Manipulated by the admirer’s wife, Pasha gives her all of her valuable belongs. The sight of a noble lady begging is too much. “I ask you for the things! Give me the things!” The wife is not satisfied until she has everything of value that Pasha owns. In her mind, Pasha is the cause of her husband’s ruin and a threat to the livelihood of the family. Ashamed the husband misses Pasha’s sacrifice and the possibility he might not go jail due to her charity, only hating her for witnessing his wife’s humiliation. In a different light, this could be a complex scam on chorus girls ran by Mr. Kolpakov and his wife, but I doubt it. Their sincerity seemed too much. And for Pasha, she is wiser about human nature, and much poorer for the education.
We are introduced today to Pasha, the chorus girl, who lives among other chorus girls in a summer villa entertaining men in various states of marriage. The story is told in the past tense when Pasha “was younger and better-looking, and when her voice was stronger.” With her is Kolpakov, her adorer. It is intolerably hot and as Kolpakov waits in a foul mood for the heat to subside, there is an unexpected knock at Pasha’s door. Pasha answers the door as Kolpakov hides and a mysterious woman enters the narrative. She is a “lady in black with angry eyes and white slender fingers” who claims to be Kolpakov’s wife. Pasha is ashamed at her own appearance and drifts momentarily into thinking of what it would take to make her look “respectable” in front of this mysterious lady. The lady acts as if she owns the room upon entering moving freely about while continuing to pressure Pasha to reveal the truth about her relationship with Kolpakov. Pasha remains loyal to the undeserving Kolpakov, who is hiding in the next room, despite the pleas of his wife that his family will be ruined by his debt. Pasha eventually surrenders much of what others have given her since Kolpakov brought her only “sweet cakes.” She cannot bear the thought of the wife’s “little children standing in the street, crying with hunger.” Despite giving up most of her belongings (“I have nothing else left”), I found it interesting that she continued to defend Kolpakov stating he “is a highly educated, refined gentleman, so I’ve made him welcome. We are bound to make gentlemen welcome.” It is also interesting that Pasha stood up to Kolpakov’s wife (showing her “strong voice”) exclaiming, “and if you are a lady…his lawful wife, you should keep him to yourself. I should think so! I did not ask him to come; he came of himself.” Kolpakov is ambivalent to Pasha’s sacrifice and has an apparent awakening at the sound of his wife prostrating herself before Pasha on account of his debt. Absolving himself of all previous guilty pleasures, he shuns Pasha and leaves. She is left with the memory of analogous abuse from a former lover (a merchant) suggesting a pattern of abusive relationships. Pasha would undoubtedly survive repeated bouts of emotional abuse in the coming years, but I suspect this was the event that forever extinguished her once strong voice.