Today’s story is 2557 words and can be found here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/098.html
As we’ve seen, Chekhov is good at creating new and interesting characters. Today has made an another unique creation, a chatty, happy-go-lucky 70 year old mayor. Typically his older men have been tired and forlorn, the exception being Terenty from A Day in the Country. “…the mayor fell into a little tripping trot, waved his hands, and, taking a run, slid along the ice in his huge golosh boots up to the very door.” His playful style is contrasted to the stories he tells of enduring the cold and how it made him “turn as cruel as the frost oneself.” He gives examples starting as an orphan boy guiding an elderly lady through the city to becoming a fishmonger and family man. He concludes with “The frost makes one spiteful and drives one to drink.” The governor and bishop follow up with their own personal examples of being in the cold. I wasn’t sure where the story was headed, but I liked that it ended with the three older men being magnanimous, by giving the police officer mulled wine. And then the governor lets the band end their playing early and rewards them with some beer or vodka. Although the frost was cold, these powerful men have warm hearts.
Today’s story revolves around a fête in the small town of N— which was almost cancelled due to extremely cold weather but continued as planned after urging from the townsfolk. The story starts like a bad joke when a mayor, a governor, and a bishop all begin telling war stories about how they have experienced colder temperatures in the past. The millionaire mayor in particular, who was known for his verbosity, recounted numerous stories about his past and interactions with the cold. “Reminiscences followed” by all three men forcing them to think of the absurdity of the present fête wherein the trumpeters were playing in the cold while the children skated in freezing conditions. Reflections on the “helplessness of man, of his sufferings and his patience” eventually got the better of them as they began to dole out the mulled wine and spirits to warm themselves and those around them. The story was a bit disappointing although I could easily picture the scene with the three old men swapping stories. Overall this was a mediocre story that like the cold they described will not be missed.