Today’s story is only 1008 words: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/023.html
This is a satirical story about affected societal airs and how people can turn on a dime when it serves their interest. In this case, a colonel’s wife’s longwinded outrage, bolstered by the hotel-keeper’s stories of unseemly and shocking behavior, doesn’t matter once the marital status of the “scoundrel” guest is revealed. The daughters, whom the madame claims she wants to protect in the opening paragraph, are instantly disposable. Like she can’t wait to marry either one of them off to any single man regardless of what harm may come to them. She tells her daughter, “Why, whatever he may be, we ought not to despise him. . . . There’s something good in everyone.” An opinion she clearly did not have at the beginning.
On a side note, there was this weird expression in the story: “his United States had split at every seam!” It is referring to a man’s pants splitting open, but I wonder if it is a bad OCR scan or if it is a unique Russian expression. A quick Google search only brought me to this story. But who knows, maybe this story is the only known translation of a popular saying.
Today’s story is about opportunity in obscenity…at least for Madame Nashatyrin, the wife of a colonel and mother of two daughters who happens to be staying in a hotel room next to a patron who is a particularly obnoxious guest. In the beginning Madame Nashatyrin lashes out at the inn-keeper to complain about the obscenities being yelled by their neighbor. They are so distasteful that they apparently “make one’s ears blush!” We are given a taste of his character when the guest begins to speak loudly about a particular incident wherein someone rips their jeans while playing pool (“his United States had split at every seam!” ??). The inn-keeper has tried various means to get rid of the unwelcome tenant and has more than enough justification (he is behind 3-months on rent). Alas, the inn-keeper does not confront his guest because he is worried he might be punched and told to “put that in your pipe and smoke it.” The guest has a name (Hannibal Ivanitch) but we never meet him. Most of his poor behavior stems from over-indulgence in alcohol (a recurrent Chekhov theme). When he is not drunk, he is quite the gentleman and apparently spends his time repenting and writing letters to his parents. Ah…therein lies the opportunity. All he needs is a good woman…a good influence! Madame Nashatyrin springs into action insisting that the inn-keeper invite Hannibal to lunch with her and her eligible daughters. We never get to see the result of this introduction but knowing Chekhov, I am confident the daughter’s dismal fate will play out in a future story.