The Lady With The Dog Short Story

4.9
(8)

The Lady with the Dog by Anton Chekhov is a touching short story of forbidden love and self-discovery set against societal norms, exploring the complexities of human emotions and relationships. Here is a retelling:

People were talking about a new person spotted walking on the promenade—a woman with a dog. Dmitri Dmitrich Gurov had been in Yalta for two weeks and had gotten used to the place.

He also started paying attention to new arrivals. Sitting outside at Vernet’s café, he noticed a young woman wearing a toque walking by; she was blonde and not very tall, followed by a white Pomeranian.

He saw her again in the municipal park and the town square, several times a day. She was always alone, wearing the same toque, with the Pomeranian following her. No one knew who she was, so they just called her “the lady with the dog.”

Gurov thought, “If she’s here without her husband and any friends, it might be a good idea to meet her.”

He was under forty, had a twelve-year-old daughter, and two sons in school. He had been persuaded to marry during his second year of college, and now his wife looked almost twice his age.

She was tall, with dark eyebrows, dignified, and considered herself intellectual. She liked to read, didn’t use the “hard sign” at the end of words in her letters, and called him Dimitri instead of Dmitri.

Although he secretly thought she was superficial, narrow-minded, and unfashionable, he was intimidated by her and didn’t like being at home. He had been unfaithful to her for a long time, which is probably why he didn’t think highly of women, calling them the “lesser race.”

He believed his tough experiences allowed him to call them what he wanted, but he couldn’t have lived without women. He felt awkward and reserved around men but comfortable and at ease with women, knowing exactly what to say and do.

He even felt fine being silent around them. There was a certain charm about him that attracted women and won their affection. He knew this and was drawn to them by some mysterious force.

Gurov had learned the hard way that every new romantic adventure, which at first seemed exciting and simple, usually turned into a complicated mess, especially in Moscow where people are hesitant and slow to act.

But whenever he met an attractive woman, he forgot all his past lessons, felt a zest for life, and everything seemed easy and fun again.

One evening, while dining at the restaurant in the park, the lady with the toque walked in and sat nearby. Her look, walk, clothes, and hairstyle made it clear to him that she was upper-class, married, and new and bored in Yalta.

He ignored the rumors about loose morals in Yalta, knowing they were mostly made up by people who wished they could have such adventures themselves.

But when she sat close to him, he remembered tales of quick flings and mountain excursions and the idea of a fleeting affair with a woman whose name he didn’t even know suddenly intrigued him.

He tried to get the Pomeranian’s attention by snapping his fingers and wagging his finger at it when it came over. The dog growled at him, and he did it again.

The woman looked at him, then quickly looked away, blushing.

“He doesn’t bite,” she said, blushing. “May I give him a bone?” he asked. With her approval, he added in a friendly tone, “How long have you been in Yalta?”
“I’ve been here about five days.”
“And I’m already in my second week.”

They didn’t speak for a bit.

“The days fly by, but it’s so dull here,” she said, without looking at him.
“People always say they’re bored here.

You never hear complaints in remote places like Belyev or Zhizdra, but come here, and it’s all ‘So dull! So dusty!’ You’d think they were missing Grenada.”

She laughed. Then, they continued eating quietly, like strangers. But after dinner, they left together, engaging in the light, playful conversation of those who feel free and easy, indifferent to where they go or what they discuss.

They commented on the unusual light over the sea—the water was a soft, tender purple, with moonlight casting a golden path across it. They mentioned how warm it was after the hot day.

Gurov shared that he was from Moscow, worked in a bank though he was actually a philologist, had once trained to sing for a private opera but gave it up, and that he owned two houses in Moscow.

From her, he learned she had grown up in Petersburg but had been living in S. for two years since her marriage, planned to stay in Yalta for another month, and her husband, who needed a rest too, might join her.

She couldn’t clearly explain whether her husband was on the gubernia council or the Zemstvo board, which she found amusing. He also found out her name was Anna Sergeyevna.

Back in his room, he thought about her, confident they would meet again the next day. It seemed unavoidable. As he prepared for bed, he reflected on how recently she must have been a schoolgirl, like his own daughter, shy and reserved in her laughter and conversation with a stranger—probably her first experience being alone where men could approach her, knowing they had a hidden agenda she could easily guess.

He remembered her slender neck and her fine grey eyes.
“And yet, there’s something sad about her,” he thought as he drifted off to sleep.

A week had gone by since they first met. It was a holiday, and while inside was stuffy, outside, the dust swirled in the air, and hats were flying off heads.

The day was scorching, driving Gurov to keep visiting the café to buy fruit drinks and ice creams for Anna Sergeyevna to help them cool down.

In the evening, as the wind calmed, they walked to the pier to watch the steamer come in. The place was crowded with people, some holding flowers, waiting for friends. Two things stood out: the older women dressing too young for their age and an unusual number of generals milling about.

Due to the rough sea, the steamer was late, arriving after sunset, and taking a while to dock. Anna Sergeyevna looked through her binoculars at the steamer and its passengers, as if searching for someone she knew.

Turning to Gurov, her eyes sparkled. She talked a lot, asked rapid questions, and then immediately forgot what she wanted to know. In the crowd, she even lost her binoculars.

As the crowd thinned and features blurred in the dimming light, Anna Sergeyevna became quiet, occasionally smelling her flowers but not looking at Gurov.

“It’s turning into a nice evening,” he said. “What do you want to do? We could take a drive.”

She didn’t answer.

He stared at her, then suddenly hugged her and kissed her. He was enveloped by the scent and moisture of the flowers. He quickly looked around, worried they had been seen.

“Let’s go to your room,” he whispered. And they hurried off.

Her room was hot and smelled of a perfume she had bought from a Japanese store. Gurov thought about the unpredictable encounters life brings. He remembered women who were cheerful and grateful for their fleeting moments of happiness with him.

Then there were others, like his wife, who seemed insincere or overly dramatic during intimacy. There were also a few beautiful but cold women, whose beauty only repulsed him as their relationship cooled.

But with Anna Sergeyevna, the awkwardness and timidity of inexperience were still there. She seemed to think of their affair as something very serious, as if she had done something terribly wrong, which he found strange and unsettling.

“It isn’t right,” she said. “You’ll never respect me again.”

A watermelon sat on the table. Gurov cut a slice and ate it slowly. They sat in silence for a long while.

Anna Sergeyevna seemed genuinely innocent and naïve, a contrast to her heavy heart visible even in the dim candlelight.

“Why would I lose respect for you?” Gurov asked. “You’re being too hard on yourself.”

“May God forgive me,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “It’s horrible.”

“You don’t need to justify yourself.”

“How can I? I feel like a terrible person, and it’s not my husband I’ve betrayed, but myself. I’ve been deceiving myself for a long time. My husband might be decent, but he’s a nobody. I married him young, craving something more, a different kind of life. I was curious…you won’t understand, but I couldn’t hold back anymore, nothing could stop me. I told my husband I was sick and came here… And now, I’ve turned into someone I despise.”

Gurov listened, bored. Her naivety and guilt were so unexpected. If not for her tears, he might have thought she was joking.

“I don’t understand,” he said softly. “What do you want?”

She pressed her face into his chest.

“Believe me, please believe me,” she said. “I love everything pure and honest. I’ve never liked vice. I don’t know what came over me. People say they’re tricked by the devil, and I feel the devil has tricked me too.”

“Let’s not worry about it now,” he murmured.

He looked into her wide, scared eyes, kissed her, and spoke to her with gentle, loving words. Slowly, she calmed down, and soon, they found themselves laughing together once more.

A bit later, when they stepped outside, the promenade was deserted. The town and its cypresses seemed lifeless, but the sea continued its relentless roar as it crashed onto the shore. A lone fishing boat bobbed on the waves, its lamp flickering lazily.

They caught a carriage and headed to Oreanda.

“I saw your name on the board in the hall just now,” Gurov mentioned. “Von Diederitz. Is your husband German?”

“No, his grandfather was, I believe, but he’s Orthodox.”

Arriving at Oreanda, they sat on a bench near the church, gazing at the sea without speaking. Yalta was barely visible through the morning haze, and white clouds lay still over the mountaintops.

The air was motionless, only the crickets chirped, and the sea’s ceaseless, deep roar reached them, speaking of tranquility, of the eternal rest that awaits us all. The sea had sounded the same long before Yalta or Oreanda existed, and it would continue its indifferent, hollow roar long after they were gone.

Perhaps in this continuous indifference to life and death, one finds the key to our ultimate redemption, to the life force of our planet, always moving toward perfection.

Sitting next to a young woman who looked so beautiful in the early morning light, captivated by the magical beauty of the sea, mountains, clouds, and the vast sky, Gurov reflected that truly, everything in the world is beautiful, except our own thoughts and deeds when we lose sight of life’s higher purposes and our dignity as human beings.

A figure approached them—likely a watchman—looked their way, and then moved on. Even this had its own mysterious beauty. The steamer from Feodosia was visible in the distance, illuminated by the dawn, its lights now dim.

“There’s dew on the grass,” Anna Sergeyevna broke the silence.

“Yes. It’s time to go back.”

And they returned to the town.

From then on, they saw each other daily around noon on the promenade, sharing meals, taking strolls, and enjoying the sea together. She spoke of her insomnia and heart palpitations, repeatedly asking the same questions, oscillating between jealousy and the fear that he didn’t truly respect her.

Often, when they were alone in the square or the park, he would pull her close and kiss her with passion.

This complete relaxation, these daytime kisses filled with both excitement and the fear of being caught, the warmth, the scent of the sea, and the presence of leisurely, affluent people constantly entering their view, seemed to rejuvenate him.

He lavished Anna Sergeyevna with compliments, expressing his desire with fervent passion, rarely leaving her side, while she remained contemplative, pressing him to admit that he didn’t respect her, didn’t love her at all, and saw her as just another woman.

Almost every evening, they ventured out of town to Oreanda, the waterfall, or another picturesque site, each trip enhancing their experience with its breathtaking views.

All the while, they awaited her husband’s arrival, but instead, a letter came. He wrote of troubles with his eyes and begged her to return home as soon as possible. Anna Sergeyevna quickly prepared for her departure.

“It’s probably for the best that I’m leaving,” she said to Gurov, seeing it as destiny’s hand.

She left Yalta by coach, and he accompanied her to the train station. The journey took nearly a whole day. As she boarded the express train, after the second bell, she asked:

“Let me look at you one last time… just one more look.”

She didn’t cry but looked sorrowful and unwell, her cheek muscles twitching.

“I’ll think of you constantly,” she said. “May God watch over you. Remember me fondly. We must part forever; it was wrong for us to have met. Goodbye—may God bless you.”

The train quickly left the station, its lights fading into the distance, and soon, even the sound of it was gone, as if everything conspired to end this sweet, fleeting madness as swiftly as possible.

Standing alone on the platform, staring into the night, Gurov listened to the chirping of the crickets and the buzzing of the telegraph wires, feeling as though he had just awakened.

He realized this was yet another adventure in his life, now ended, leaving behind only a memory. He felt moved, sad, and slightly remorseful. This young woman, whom he would never see again, had not truly been happy with him.

Though he had been kind and affectionate, there was always a hint of irony in his actions, a condescending tolerance typical of a fortunate man, and he was nearly twice her age.

She had called him good, exceptional, noble. Clearly, he had seemed different to her than he truly was; in essence, he had unintentionally deceived her.

The air carried a hint of autumn, and the evening was cool.

“It’s time for me to head north, too,” Gurov thought as he left the platform. “Indeed, it’s high time.”

Upon returning to Moscow, Gurov found the city on the cusp of winter, with daily heating of stoves and darkness lingering as the children drank their morning tea, necessitating the brief lighting of a lamp.

The onset of frost and the first snowfall brought a refreshing change, transforming the scenery into a picturesque landscape that invigorated one’s spirits and evoked youthful memories.

The familiar sight of frost-covered lime trees and birches offered a comforting contrast to the distant cypresses and palms, erasing the haunting memories of mountains and the sea.

Gurov, a lifelong Muscovite, welcomed the crisp winter air and the routine of city life. As he donned his fur-lined coat and meandered through the streets of Moscow, the charm of his recent travels faded, replaced by the allure of Moscow’s vibrant life.

Engaging eagerly in the city’s bustling social scene, Gurov found himself once more immersed in a world of restaurants, clubs, and gatherings, surrounded by acquaintances and reveling in his social standing.

However, the expectation that Anna Sergeyevna would become a distant memory was unfulfilled. Winter deepened, and she remained vivid in his mind, her presence a constant shadow in his life, prompting a yearning to share his memories with someone. Yet, the confines of his home and social circles offered no outlet for his confessions, leaving him to grapple with his emotions alone.

Driven by an irresistible urge to see Anna Sergeyevna again, Gurov ventured to her town under the guise of a business trip. Arriving in S., he learned of her husband’s prominence in the community but found himself hesitant to approach directly, fearing the potential consequences.

His attempts to catch a glimpse of her or to connect through their shared past with the white Pomeranian proved futile, deepening his sense of frustration and isolation.

Haunted by the memories of their time together and the reality of their separation, Gurov’s resolve led him to an impulsive decision to seek her out, despite the uncertainty of the outcome and the introspection it provoked about the nature of his feelings and the transient encounters that marked his life.

Lying under the coarse, hospital-like blanket, Gurov scolded himself for his foolish pursuit of the lady with the dog, mocking the notion of adventure that had led him to this point. Remembering a theater poster he had seen earlier, he decided to attend the performance, hoping she might be there.

The theater was bustling with the typical provincial crowd, and amidst the anticipation for the show, Gurov scanned the audience for Anna Sergeyevna.

When he spotted her, his heart seized with the realization that she was integral to his happiness, her presence filling his life with both joy and sorrow. Observing her with a young man, presumably her husband, Gurov felt a mix of bitterness and scorn.

During the intermission, Gurov approached her. The shock and fear on her face at seeing him were palpable. A flurry of emotions passed between them in silence until she fled, with Gurov following.

They found themselves in a secluded staircase, where she expressed her fright and dismay at his unexpected appearance, questioning why he had come.

Despite her protests and the risk of being discovered, Gurov couldn’t help but kiss her, their mutual desire and despair mingling. She implored him to leave at once, promising to meet him in Moscow, confessing her unhappiness and longing for a life she feared she would never have. Their parting was swift, filled with silent promises and a shared understanding of the pain their love brought them.

Gurov left the theater alone, his mind a tumult of emotion, reflecting on the complex, clandestine relationship that bound him to Anna Sergeyevna, despite the societal norms and personal obligations that dictated their separate lives.

Anna Sergeyevna started visiting Gurov in Moscow, leaving her town under the guise of seeking medical advice, a story her husband only half believed. These secret meetings in Moscow remained unknown to anyone else.

On one winter day, after dropping his daughter at school, Gurov pondered the dual life he led—one public and filled with conventional deceits, the other private and sincere, holding all that was truly important to him.

This secret life was where he felt his true essence lived, away from the societal façade that everyone, including himself, maintained.

Arriving at the hotel where Anna Sergeyevna was waiting, Gurov found her anxious from the journey and the anticipation. Their reunion was intense, marked by a prolonged, emotional embrace. Yet, the joy of seeing each other was shadowed by the sadness of their situation, their love relegated to stolen moments in secrecy.

As they tried to comfort each other, Gurov caught sight of himself in the mirror, noting his greying hair and the signs of age, which made him reflect on the nature of their relationship.

He realized that only now, in his mature years, had he truly fallen in love. Their bond was deep, akin to that of a married couple or close friends who should have been together by fate, yet were kept apart by their circumstances.

They spoke at length about their future, yearning for a way to be together without deception or separation. Yet, despite their earnest discussions, a solution remained elusive, highlighting the complexity and difficulty of their situation.

They were left with the understanding that their struggle was far from over, and the path to a shared life was still obscured by challenges yet to be faced.

Also Read: A Story of Regret

Please rate this story!

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4.9 / 5. Vote count: 8

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Leave a Comment