2012年12月2日 星期日

胡適譯《短篇小說》契訶夫 CHEKHOV的評價 Rothschild's Fiddle/A Work of Art

胡適翻譯過契訶夫的《一件美術品》Rothschild's Fiddle/A Work of Art 

胡適日記全集, 第 6卷 1930-33
1930.8.14 讀 1916 C. E Beechofer 翻譯的俄國戲劇  序中說"Chekov 不是大作家是新聞記者 作品沒永恆的重要  "
胡適嘆"蓋棺定論真不容易" 

hc按: 提到的兩部契訶夫的劇本 似乎都收入 Penguin   Classics 之 CHEKHOV: PLAYS (1954 起)

翻譯不容易,要抓住原著感人的關口更不容易,像是「最後一課」、「柏林之圍」、「梅呂裏」、「決鬥」、「二漁夫」、「殺父母的兒子」、「苦惱」、「米格兒」等,都是令人一唱三嘆的好小說。


短篇小說. 第一集 / 胡適譯
上海 : 亞東圖書館, 民14[1925] 八版


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短篇小說. 第一集 / 胡適譯 上海 : 亞東圖書館 , 民14[1925]
館藏地 索書號 條碼 狀態 說明
總圖5F楊雲萍文庫 (洽櫃臺調閱) 815.7 8189 1925 v.1 [鄰近架位館藏]

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出版項
臺北市 : 臺北書局, 民國45
稽核項
120面 ; 19公分.
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胡适译短篇小说
長沙市 : 岳麓書社, 1987 第1版
台大此書為外文系1993年買的


1919年出版的胡適譯《短篇小說》第一集﹐或可作為其嘗試漢語改革的一個標本。
該書共收十一篇小說和一篇論文。其中﹐用文言翻譯的小說有三篇﹐其餘是白話。論文的語言也是白話。這個比例﹐說明胡適當時已明顯傾向于白話寫作。
他在該書“譯者自序”中說﹐這些小說“不是一時譯的﹐所以有幾篇是用文言譯的﹐現在也來不及改譯了”。如果來得及﹐看來胡適是希望把他譯的短篇小說全部用白話文字提供給讀者。介紹外國名家的名著﹐如都德的《最後一課》﹑莫泊桑的《梅呂哀》﹑契訶夫的《一件美術品》﹑高爾基的《他的情人》﹐等等﹐另外加上論文來作解說。
胡 適說過﹐他極想提倡短篇小說。當時國內短篇小說大概尚未脫離初學階段﹐很多文人不大懂短篇小說是什麼樣子﹐該怎麼寫﹐似乎不夠長篇的小說就是短篇小說﹐而 且有個基本模式。諸如“某生﹐某處人﹐幼負異才……一日﹐游某園﹐遇一女郎﹐睨之﹐天人也……”﹐被胡適斥為“爛調小說”。
《奏樂的小孩》(Henry) Austin Dobson (1840-1921)

The child musician

He had played for his lordship's levee,
He had played for her ladyship's whim,
Till the poor little head was heavy,
And the poor little brain would swim.
And the face grew peaked and eerie,
And the large eyes strange and bright,
And they said -- too late -- "He is weary!
He shall rest for, at least, To-night!"
But at dawn, when the birds were waking,
As they watched in the silent room,
With the sound of a strained cord breaking,
A something snapped in the gloom.
'T was a string of his violoncello,
And they heard him stir in his bed:
-- "Make room for a tired little fellow, Kind God! --"
was the last that he said.


****

A Work of Art by Anton Chekhov
(1860-1904)


Sasha Smirnov, the only son of his mother, holding under his arm, something wrapped up in No. 223 of the Financial News, assumed a sentimental expression, and went into Dr. Koshelkov’s consultingroom.
“Ah, dear lad!” was how the doctor greeted him. “Well! how are we feeling? What good news have you for me?”
Sasha blinked, laid his hand on his heart and said in an agitated voice: “Mamma sends her greetings to you, Ivan Nikolaevitch, and told me to thank you.… I am the only son of my mother and you have saved my life…you have brought me through a dangerous illness and…we do not know how to thank you.”
“Nonsense, lad!” said the doctor, highly delighted. “I only did what anyone else would have done in my place.”
“I am the only son of my mother…we are poor people and cannot of course repay you, and.… we are quite ashamed, doctor, although, however, mamma and I…the only son of my mother, earnestly beg you to accept in token of our gratitude…this object, which…An object of great value, an antique bronze.… A rare work of art.”
“You shouldn’t!” said the doctor, frowning. “What’s this for!”
“No, please do not refuse,” Sasha went on muttering as he unpacked the parcel. “You will wound mamma and me by refusing.… It’s a fine thing…an antique bronze.… It was left us by my deceased father and we have kept it as a precious souvenir. My father used to buy antique bronzes and sell them to connoisseurs…Mamma and I keep on the business now.…”
Sasha undid the object and put it solemnly on the table. It was a not very tall candelabra of old bronze and artistic workmanship. It consisted of a group: on the pedestal stood two female figures in the costume of Eve and in attitudes for the description of which I have neither the courage nor the fitting temperament. The figures were smiling coquettishly and altogether looked as though, had it not been for the necessity of supporting the candlestick, they would have skipped off the pedestal and have indulged in an orgy such as is improper for the reader even to imagine.
Looking at the present, the doctor slowly scratched behind his ear, cleared his throat and blew his nose irresolutely.
“Yes, it certainly is a fine thing,” he muttered, “but…how shall I express it?…it’s…h’m…it’s not quite for family reading. It’s not simply decolleté but beyond anything, dash it all.…”
“How do you mean?”
“The serpent-tempter himself could not have invented anything worse.… Why, to put such a phantasmagoria on the table would be defiling the whole flat.”
“What a strange way of looking at art, doctor!” said Sasha, offended. “Why, it is an artistic thing, look at it! There is so much beauty and elegance that it fills one’s soul with a feeling of reverence and brings a lump into one’s throat! When one sees anything so beautiful one forgets everything earthly.… Only look, how much movement, what an atmosphere, what expression!”
“I understand all that very well, my dear boy,” the doctor interposed, “but you know I am a family man, my children run in here, ladies come in.”
“Of course if you look at it from the point of view of the crowd,” said Sasha, “then this exquisitely artistic work may appear in a certain light.… But, doctor, rise superior to the crowd, especially as you will wound mamma and me by refusing it. I am the only son of my mother, you have saved my life.… We are giving you the thing most precious to us and…and I only regret that I have not the pair to present to you.…”
“Thank you, my dear fellow, I am very grateful…Give my respects to your mother but really consider, my children run in here, ladies come.… However, let it remain! I see there’s no arguing with you.”
“And there is nothing to argue about,” said Sasha, relieved. “Put the candlestick here, by this vase. What a pity we have not the pair to it! It is a pity! Well, good-bye, doctor.”
After Sasha’s departure the doctor looked for a long time at the candelabra, scratched behind his ear and meditated.
“It’s a superb thing, there’s no denying it,” he thought, “and it would be a pity to throw it away.… But it’s impossible for me to keep it.… H’m!…Here’s a problem! To whom can I make a present of it, or to what charity can I give it?”
After long meditation he thought of his good friend, the lawyer Uhov, to whom he was indebted for the management of legal business.
“Excellent,” the doctor decided, “it would be awkward for him as a friend to take money from me, and it will be very suitable for me to present him with this. I will take him the devilish thing! Luckily he is a bachelor and easy-going.”
Without further procrastination the doctor put on his hat and coat, took the candelabra and went off to Uhov’s.
“How are you, friend!” he said, finding the lawyer at home. “I’ve come to see you…to thank you for your efforts.… You won’t take money so you must at least accept this thing here.… See, my dear fellow.… The thing is magnificent!”
On seeing the bronze the lawyer was moved to indescribable delight.
“What a specimen!” he chuckled. “Ah, deuce take it, to think of them imagining such a thing, the devils! Exquisite! Ravishing! Where did you get hold of such a delightful thing?”
After pouring out his ecstasies the lawyer looked timidly towards the door and said: “Only you must carry off your present, my boy.… I can’t take it.…”
“Why?” cried the doctor, disconcerted.
“Why…because my mother is here at times, my clients…besides I should be ashamed for my servants to see it.”
“Nonsense! Nonsense! Don’t you dare to refuse!” said the doctor, gesticulating. “It’s piggish of you! It’s a work of art!… What movement…what expression! I won’t even talk of it! You will offend me!”
“If one could plaster it over or stick on fig-leaves…”
But the doctor gesticulated more violently than before, and dashing out of the flat went home, glad that he had succeeded in getting the present off his hands.
When he had gone away the lawyer examined the candelabra, fingered it all over, and then, like the doctor, racked his brains over the question what to do with the present.
“It’s a fine thing,” he mused, “and it would be a pity to throw it away and improper to keep it. The very best thing would be to make a present of it to someone.… I know what! I’ll take it this evening to Shashkin, the comedian. The rascal is fond of such things, and by the way it is his benefit tonight.”
No sooner said than done. In the evening the candelabra, carefully wrapped up, was duly carried to Shashkin’s. The whole evening the comic actor’s dressing-room was besieged by men coming to admire the present; dressing-room was filled with the hum of enthusiasm and laughter like the neighing of horses. If one of the actresses approached the door and asked: “May I come in?” the comedian’s husky voice was heard at once: “No, no, my dear, I am not dressed!”
After the performance the comedian shrugged his shoulders, flung up his hands and said: “Well what am I to do with the horrid thing? Why, I live in a private flat! Actresses come and see me! It’s not a photograph that you can put in a drawer!”
“You had better sell it, sir,” the hairdresser who was disrobing the actor advised him. “There’s an old woman living about here who buys antique bronzes. Go and enquire for Madame Smirnov…everyone knows her.”
The actor followed his advice.… Two days later the doctor was sitting in his consulting-room, and with his finger to his brow was meditating on the acids of the bile. All at once the door opened and Sasha Smirnov flew into the room. He was smiling, beaming, and his whole figure was radiant with happiness. In his hands he held something wrapped up in newspaper.
“Doctor!” he began breathlessly, “imagine my delight! Happily for you we have succeeded in picking up the pair to your candelabra! Mamma is so happy.… I am the only son of my mother, you saved my life.…”
And Sasha, all of a tremor with gratitude, set the candelabra before the doctor. The doctor opened his mouth, tried to say something, but said nothing: he could not speak.



胡適譯 洛斯奇爾的提琴 收入《短篇小說》第二集 中的這篇 之前他讀過十幾次 越讀越覺得他可愛(1923年7月13)
胡適譯《短篇小說》第二集
這篇 幾年中 他讀過十幾次
不知道是否根據此文翻譯的

[Translated by Marian Fell, Russian Silhouettes: More Stories of Russian Life, copyright 1915, Charles Scribner's Sons. As reprinted in the Norton Critical Edition paperback, Anton Chekhov's Short Stories, selected and edited by Ralph E. Matlaw, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-09002-7, PZ3.C3985Cg 1979 [PG3456.A15] 891.7'3'3, 78-17052, pages 97-106. The translation of this story used in the Great Books discussion group I is superior, but is copyrighted by Ronald Hingley and so not given here.]

By Anton Chekhov


Rothschild's Fiddle


IT WAS  a tiny town, worse than a village, inhabited chiefly by old people who so seldom died that it was really vexatious.  Very few coffins were needed for the hospital and the jail; in a word, business was bad.  If Yakov Ivanov had been a maker of coffins in the county  town, he would probably have owned a house of his own by now, and would have been called Mr. Ivanov, but here in this little place he was simply called Yakov, and for some reason his nickname was Bronze.  He lived as poorly as any common peasant in a little old hut of one room, in which he and Martha, and the stove, and a double bed, and the coffins, and his joiner's bench, and all the necessities of housekeeping were stowed away. 
The coffins made by Yakov were serviceable and strong. For the peasants and townsfolk he made them to fit himself and never went wrong, for, although he was seventy years old, there was no man, not even in the prison, any taller or stouter than he was. For the gentry and for women he made them to measure, using an iron yardstick for the purpose. He was always very reluctant to take orders for children's coffins, and made them contemptuously without taking any measurements at all, always saying when he was paid for them:
"The fact is, I don't like to be bothered with trifles."
Beside what he received for his work as a joiner, he added a little to his income by playing the violin. There was a Jewish orchestra in the town that played for weddings, led by the tinsmith Moses Shakess, who took more than half of its earnings for himself. As Yakov played the fiddle extremely well, especially Russian songs, Shakess used sometimes to invite him to play in his orchestra for the sum of fifty kopeks a day, not including the presents he might receive from the guests. Whenever Bronze took his seat in the orchestra, the first thing that happened to him was that his face grew red, and the perspiration streamed from it, for the air was always hot, and reeking of garlic to the point of suffocation. Then his fiddle would begin to moan, and a double bass would croak hoarsely into his right ear, and a flute would weep into his left. This flute was played by a gaunt, red-bearded Jew with a network of red and blue veins on his face, who bore the name of a famous rich man, Rothschild. This confounded Jew always contrived to play even the merriest tunes sadly. For no obvious reason Yakov little by little began to conceive a feeling of hatred and contempt for all Jews, and especially for Rothschild. He quarrelled with him and abused him in ugly language, and once even tried to beat him, but Rothschild took offense at this, and cried with a fierce look:
"If I had not always respected you for your music, I should have thrown you out of the window long ago!"
Then he burst into tears. So after that Bronze was not often invited to play in the orchestra, and was only called upon in cases of dire necessity, when one of the Jews was missing.
Yakov was never in a good humor, because he always had to endure the most terrible losses. For instance, it was a sin to work on a Sunday or a holiday, and Monday was always a bad day, so in that way there were about two hundred days a year in which he was compelled to sit with his hands folded in his lap. That was a great loss to him. If any one in town had a wedding without music, or if Shakess did not ask him to play, there was another loss. The police inspector had lain ill with consumption for two years while Yakov impatiently waited for him to die, and then had gone to take a cure in the city and had died there, which of course had meant another loss of at least ten rubles, as the coffin would have been an expensive one lined with brocade.
The thought of his losses worried Yakov at night more than at any other time, so he used to lay his fiddle at his side on the bed, and when those worries came trooping into his brain he would touch the strings, and the fiddle would give out a sound in the darkness, and Yakov's heart would feel lighter.
Last year on the sixth of May, Martha suddenly fell ill. The old woman breathed with difficulty, staggered in her walk, and felt terribly thirsty. Nevertheless, she got up that morning, lit the stove, and even went for the water. When evening came she went to bed. Yakov played his fiddle all day. When it grew quite dark, because he had nothing better to do, he took the book in which he kept an account of his losses, and began adding up the total for the year. They amounted to more than a thousand rubles. He was so shaken by this discovery that he threw the counting board on the floor and trampled in under foot. Then he picked it up again and rattled it once more for a long time, heaving as he did so sighs both deep and long. His face grew purple, and perspiration dripped from his brow. He was thinking that if those thousand rubles he had lost had been in the bank then, he would have had at least forty rubles interest by the end of the year. So those forty rubles were still another loss! In a word, wherever he turned he found losses and nothing but losses.
"Yakov!" cried Martha unexpectedly, "I am dying!"
He looked round at his wife. Her face was flushed with fever and looked unusually joyful and bright. Bronze was troubled, for he had been accustomed to seeing her pale and timid and unhappy. It seemed to him that she was actually dead, and glad to have left this hut, and the coffins, and Yakov at last. She was staring at the ceiling, with her lips moving as if she saw her deliverer Death approaching and were whispering with him.
The dawn was just breaking and the eastern sky was glowing with a faint radiance. As he stared at the old woman it somehow seemed to Yakov that he had never once spoken a tender word to her or pitied her; that he had never thought of buying her a kerchief or of bringing her back some sweets from a wedding. On the contrary, he had shouted at her and abused her for his losses, and had shaken his fist at her. It was true he had never beaten her, but he had frightened her no less, and she had been paralyzed with fear every time he had scolded her. Yes, and he had not allowed her to drink tea because his losses were heavy enough as it was, so she had had to be content with hot water. Now he understood why her face looked so strangely happy, and horror overwhelmed him.
As soon as it was light he borrowed a horse from a neighbor and took Martha to the hospital. As there were not many patients, he had not to wait very long--only about three hours. To his great satisfaction it was not the doctor who was receiving the sick that day, but his assistant, Maxim Nikolaich, an old man of whom it was said that although he quarreled and drank, he knew more than the doctor did.
"Good morning, Your Honor," said Yakov leading his old woman into the office. "Excuse us for intruding upon you with our trifling affairs. As you see, this subject has fallen ill. My life's friend, if you will allow me to use the expression----"
Knitting his gray eyebrows and stroking his whiskers, the doctor's assistant fixed his eyes on the old woman. She was sitting all in a heap on a low stool, and with her thin, long-nosed face and her open mouth, she looked like a thirsty bird.
"Well, well-yes--" said the doctor slowly, heaving a sigh. "This is a case of influenza and possibly fever; there is typhoid in town. What's to be done? The old woman has lived her span of years, thank God. How old is she?"
"She lacks one year of being seventy, Your Honor."
"Well, well, she has lived long. There must come an end to everything."
"You are certainly right, Your Honor," said Yakov, smiling out of politeness. "And we thank you sincerely for your kindness, but allow me to suggest to you that even an insect dislikes to die!"
"Never mind if it does!" answered the doctor, as if the life or death of the old woman lay in his hands. "I'll tell you what you must do, my good man. Put a cold bandage around her head, and give her two of these powders a day. Now then, good-bye! Bonjour!"
Yakov saw by the expression on the doctor's face that it was too late now for powders. He realized clearly that Martha must die very soon, if not today, then tomorrow. He touched the doctor's elbow gently, blinked, and whispered:
"She ought to be cupped, doctor!"
"I haven't time, I haven't time, my good man. Take your old woman and go, in God's name. Good-bye."
"Please, please, cup her, doctor!" begged Yakov. "You know yourself that if she had a pain in her stomach, powders and drops would do her good, but she has a cold! The first thing to do when one catches cold is to let some blood, doctor!"
But the doctor had already sent for the next patient, and a woman leading a little boy came into the room.
"Go along, go along!" he cried to Yakov, frowning. "It's no use making a fuss!"
"Then at least put some leeches on her! Let me pray to God for you for the rest of my life!"
The doctor's temper flared up and he shouted:
"Don't say another word to me, blockhead!"
Yakov lost his temper, too, and flushed hotly, but he said nothing and, silently taking Martha's arm, led her out of the office. Only when they were once more seated in their wagon did he look fiercely and mockingly at the hospital and say:
"They're a pretty lot in there, they are! That doctor would have cupped a rich man, but he even begrudged a poor one a leech. The pig!"
When they returned to the hut, Martha stood for nearly ten minutes supporting herself by the stove. She felt that if she lay down Yakov would begin to talk to her about his losses, and would scold her for lying down and not wanting to work. Yakov contemplated her sadly, thinking that tomorrow was St. John the Baptist's day, and day after tomorrow was St. Nicholas the Wonder-Worker's day, and that the following day would be Sunday, and the day after that would be Monday, a bad day for work. So he would not be able to work for four days, and as Martha would probably die on one of these days, the coffin would have to be made at once. He took his iron yardstick in hand, went up to the old woman, and measured her. Then she lay down, and he crossed himself and went to work on the coffin.
When the task was completed Bronze put on his spectacles and wrote in his book:
"For 1 coffin for Martha Ivanov--2 rubles, 40 kopeks."
He sighed. All day the old woman lay silent with closed eyes, but toward evening, when the daylight began to fade, she suddenly called the old man to her side.
"Do you remember, Yakov?" she asked. "Do you remember how fifty years ago God gave us a little baby with curly golden hair? Do you remember how you and I used to sit on the bank of the river and sing songs under the willow tree?" Then with a bitter smile she added: "The baby died."
Yakov racked his brains, but for the life of him he could not recall the child or the willow tree.
"You are dreaming," he said.
The priest came and administered the Sacrament and Extreme Unction. Then Martha began muttering unintelligibly, and toward morning she died.
The neighboring old women washed her and dressed her, and laid her in her coffin. To avoid paying the deacon, Yakov read the psalms over her himself, and her grave cost him nothing as the watchman of the cemetery was his cousin. Four peasants carried the coffin to the grave, not for money but for love. The old women, the beggars, and two village idiots followed the body, and the people whom they passed on the way crossed themselves devoutly. Yakov was very glad that everything had passed off so nicely and decently and cheaply, without giving offense to any one. As he said farewell to Martha for the last time he touched the coffin with his hand and thought:
"That's a fine job!"
But walking homeward from the cemetery he was seized with great distress. He felt ill, his breath was burning hot, his legs grew weak, and he longed for a drink. Beside this, a thousand thoughts came crowding into his head. He remembered again that he had never once pitied Martha or said a tender word to her. The fifty years of their life together lay stretched far, far behind him, and somehow, during all that time, he had never once thought about her at all or noticed her more than if she had been a dog or a cat. And vet she had lit the stove every day, and had cooked and baked and fetched water and chopped wood, and when he had come home drunk from a wedding she had hung his fiddle reverently on a nail each time, and had silently put him to bed with a timid, anxious look on her face.
But here came Rothschild toward him, bowing and scraping and smiling.
"I have been looking for you, uncle!" he said. "Moses Shakess presents his compliments and wants you to go to him at once."
Yakov did not feel in a mood to do anything. He wanted to crv.
"Leave me alone!" he exclaimed, and walked on.
"Oh, how can you say that?" cried Rothschild, running beside him in alarm. "Moses will be very angry. He wants you to come at once!"
Yakov was disgusted by the panting of the Jew, by his blinking eves, and by the quantities of reddish freckles on his face. He looked with aversion at his long green coat and at the whole of his frail, delicate figure.
"What do you mean by pestering me, garlic?" he shouted. "Get away!"
The Jew grew angry and shouted back:
"Don't yell at me like that or I'll send you flying over that fence!"
"Get out of my sight!" bellowed Yakov, shaking his fist at him. "There's no living in the same town with mangy curs like you!"
Rothschild was petrified with terror. He sank to the ground and waved his hands over his head as if to protect himself from falling blows; then he jumped up and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. As he ran he leaped and waved his arms, and his long, gaunt back could be seen quivering. The little boys were delighted at what had happened, and ran after him screaming: "Jew, Jew!" The dogs also joined barking in the chase. Somebody laughed and then whistled, at which the dogs barked louder and more vigorously than ever.
Then one of them must have bitten Rothschild, for a piteous, despairing scream rent the air.
Yakov walked across the common to the edge of the town without knowing where he was going, and the little boys shouted after him. "There goes old man Bronze! There goes old man Bronze!" He found himself by the river where the snipe were darting about with shrill cries, and the ducks were quacking and swimming to and fro. The sun was shining fiercely and the water was sparkling so brightly that it was painful to look at. Yakov struck into a path that led along the riverbank. lIe came to a stout, red-checked woman just leaving a bath-house. "Aha, you otter, you!" he thought. Not far from the bath-house some little boys were fishing for crabs with pieces of meat. When they saw Yakov they shouted mischievously: "Old man Bronze! Old man Bronze!" But there before him stood an ancient, spreading willow tree with a massive trunk, and a crow's nest among its branches. Suddenly there flashed across Yakov's memory with all the vividness of life a little child with golden curls, and the willow of which Martha had spoken. Yes, this was the same tree, so green and peaceful and sad. How old it had grown, poor thing!
He sat down at its foot and thought of the past. On the opposite shore, where that meadow now was, there had stood in those days a wood of tall birch-trees, and that bare hill on the horizon yonder had been covered with the blue bloom of an ancient pine forest. And sailboats had plied the river then, but now all lay smooth and still, and only one little birch-tree was left on the opposite bank, a graceful young thing, like a girl, while on the river there swam only ducks and geese. It was hard to believe that boats had once sailed there. It even seemed to him that there were fewer geese now than there had been. Yakov shut his eyes, and one by one white geese came flying toward him, an endless flock.
He was puzzled to know why he had never once been down to the river during the last forty or fifty years of his life, or, if he had been there, why he had never paid any attention to it. The stream was fine and large; he might have fished in it and sold the fish to the merchants and the government officials and the restaurant-keeper at the station, and put the money in the bank. He might have rowed in a boat from farm to farm and played on his fiddle. People of every rank would have paid him money to hear him. He might have tried to run a boat on the river, that would have been better than making coffins. Finally, he might have raised geese, and killed them, and sent them to Moscow in the winter. Why, the down alone would have brought him ten rubles a year! But he had missed all these chances and had done nothing. What losses were here! Ah, what terrible losses! And, oh, if he had only done all these things at the same time! If he had only fished, and played the fiddle, and sailed a boat, and raised geese, what capital he would have had by now! But he had not even dreamed of doing all this; his life had gone by without profit or pleasure. It had been lost for nothing, not even a trifle. Nothing was left ahead; behind lay only losses, and such terrible losses that he shuddered to think of them. But why shouldn't men live so as to avoid all this waste and these losses? Why, oh why, should those birch and pine forests have been felled? Why should those meadows be lying so deserted? Why did people always do exactly what they ought not to do? Why had Yakov scolded and growled and clenched his fists and hurt his wife's feelings all his life? Why, oh why, had he frightened and insulted that Jew just now? Why did people in general always interfere with one another? What losses resulted from this! What terrible losses! If it were not for envy and anger they would get great profit from one another.
All that evening and night Yakov dreamed of the child, of the willow tree, of the fish and the geese, of Martha with her profile like a thirsty bird, and of Rothschild's pale, piteous mien. Queer faces seemed to be moving toward him from all sides, muttering to him about his losses. He tossed from side to side, and got up five times during the night to play his fiddle.
He rose with difficulty next morning, and walked to the hospital. The same doctor's assistant ordered him to put cold bandages on his head, and gave him little powders to take; by his expression and the tone of his voice Yakov knew that the state of affairs was bad, and that no powders could save him now. As he walked home he reflected that one good thing would result from his death: he would no longer have to eat and drink and pay taxes, neither would he offend people anymore, and, as a man lies in his grave for hundreds of thousands of years, the sum of his profits would be immense. So, life to a man was a loss--death, a gain. Of course this reasoning was correct, but it was also distressingly sad. Why should the world be so strangely arranged that a man's life, which was only given to him once, must pass without profit?
He was not sorry then that he was going to die, but when he reached home, and saw his fiddle, his heart ached, and he regretted it deeply. He would not be able to take his fiddle with him into the grave, and now it would be left an orphan, and its fate would be that of the birch grove and the pine forest. Everything in the world had been lost, and would always be lost for ever. Yakov went out and sat on the threshold of his hut, clasping his fiddle to his breast. And as he thought of his life so full of waste and losses he began playing without knowing how piteous and touching his music was, and the tears streamed down his cheeks. And the more he thought the more sorrowfully sang his violin.
The latch clicked and Rothschild came in through the garden gate, and walked boldly halfway across the garden. Then he suddenly stopped, crouched down, and, probably from fear, began making signs with his hands as if he were trying to show on his fingers what time it was.
"Come on, don't be afraid!" said Yakov gently, beckoning him to advance. "Come on!"
With many mistrustful and fearful glances Rothschild went slowly up to Yakov, and stopped about two yards away.
"Please don't beat me!" he said with a ducking bow. "Moses Shakess has sent me to you again. 'Don't be afraid,' he said, 'go to Yakov,' says he, 'and say that we can't possibly manage without him.' There is a wedding next Thursday. Ye-es sir. Mr. Shapovalov is marrying his daughter to a very fine man. It will be an expensive wedding, ai, ai!" added the Jew with a wink.
"I can't go" said Yakov breathing hard. "I'm ill, brother."
And he began to play again, and the tears gushed out of his eyes over his fiddle. Rothschild listened intently with his head turned away and his arms folded on his breast. The startled, irresolute look on his face gradually gave way to one of suffering and grief. He cast up his eyes as if in an ecstasy of agony and murmured: "Okh-okh!" And the tears began to trickle slowly down his cheeks, and to drip over his green coat.
All day Yakov lay and suffered. When the priest came in the evening to administer the Sacrament he asked him if he could not think of any particular sin.
Struggling with his fading memories, Yakov recalled once more Martha's sad face, and the despairing cry of the Jew when the dog had bitten him. He murmured almost inaudibly:
"Give my fiddle to Rothschild."
''It shall be done," answered the priest.
So it happened that everyone in the little town began asking:
"Where did Rothschild get that good fiddle? Did he buy it or steal it or get it out of a pawnshop?"
Rothschild has long since abandoned his flute, and now only plays on the violin. The same mournful notes flow from under his bow that used to come from his flute, and when he tries to repeat what Yakov played as he sat on the threshold of his hut, the result is an air so plaintive and sad that everyone who hears him weeps, and he himself at last raises his eyes and murmurs: "Okh-okh!" And this new song has so delighted the town that the merchants and government officials vie with each other in getting Rothschild to come to their houses, and sometimes make him play it ten times in succession.





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