The Lottery Ticket
by Anton Chekhov
IVAN DMITRITCH, a middle-class man who lived with his
family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied
with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the
"I forgot to look at the newspaper today,"
his wife said to him as she cleared the table. "Look and see whether
the list of drawings is there."
"Yes, it is," said Ivan Dmitritch;
"but hasn't your ticket lapsed?"
"No; I took the interest on Tuesday."
"What is the number?"
"Series 9,499, number 26."
"All right . . . we will look . . . 9,499 and
Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck, and
would not, as a rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning
numbers, but now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was
before his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of
numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his scepticism, no
further than the second line from the top, his eye was caught by the
figure 9,499! Unable to believe his eyes, he hurriedly dropped the paper
on his knees without looking to see the number of the ticket, and, just as
though some one had given him a douche of cold water, he felt an agreeable
chill in the pit of the stomach; tingling and terrible and sweet!
"Masha, 9,499 is there!" he said in a
His wife looked at his astonished and panic-stricken
face, and realized that he was not joking.
"9,499?" she asked, turning pale and
dropping the folded tablecloth on the table.
"Yes, yes . . . it really is there!"
"And the number of the ticket?"
"Oh, yes! There's the number of the ticket too.
But stay . . . wait! No, I say! Anyway, the number of our series is there!
Anyway, you understand. . . ."
Looking at his wife, Ivan Dmitritch gave a broad,
senseless smile, like a baby when a bright object is shown it. His wife
smiled too; it was as pleasant to her as to him that he only mentioned the
series, and did not try to find out the number of the winning ticket. To
torment and tantalize oneself with hopes of possible fortune is so sweet,
"It is our series," said Ivan Dmitritch,
after a long silence. "So there is a probability that we have won.
It's only a probability, but there it is!"
"Well, now look!"
"Wait a little. We have plenty of time to be
disappointed. It's on the second line from the top, so the prize is
seventy-five thousand. That's not money, but power, capital! And in a
minute I shall look at the list, and there -- 26! Eh? I say, what if we
really have won?"
The husband and wife began laughing and staring at
one another in silence. The possibility of winning bewildered them; they
could not have said, could not have dreamed, what they both needed that
seventy-five thousand for, what they would buy, where they would go. They
thought only of the figures 9,499 and 75,000 and pictured them in their
imagination, while somehow they could not think of the happiness itself
which was so possible.
Ivan Dmitritch, holding the paper in his hand, walked
several times from corner to corner, and only when he had recovered from
the first impression began dreaming a little.
"And if we have won," he said -- "why,
it will be a new life, it will be a transformation! The ticket is yours,
but if it were mine I should, first of all, of course, spend twenty-five
thousand on real property in the shape of an estate; ten thousand on
immediate expenses, new furnishing . . . travelling . . . paying debts,
and so on. . . . The other forty thousand I would put in the bank and get
interest on it."
"Yes, an estate, that would be nice," said
his wife, sitting down and dropping her hands in her lap.
"Somewhere in the Tula or Oryol provinces. . . .
In the first place we shouldn't need a summer villa, and besides, it would
always bring in an income."
And pictures came crowding on his imagination, each
more gracious and poetical than the last. And in all these pictures he saw
himself well-fed, serene, healthy, felt warm, even hot! Here, after eating
a summer soup, cold as ice, he lay on his back on the burning sand close
to a stream or in the garden under a lime-tree. . . . It is hot. . . . His
little boy and girl are crawling about near him, digging in the sand or
catching ladybirds in the grass. He dozes sweetly, thinking of nothing,
and feeling all over that he need not go to the office today, tomorrow, or
the day after. Or, tired of lying still, he goes to the hayfield, or to
the forest for mushrooms, or watches the peasants catching fish with a
net. When the sun sets he takes a towel and soap and saunters to the
bathing-shed, where he undresses at his leisure, slowly rubs his bare
chest with his hands, and goes into the water. And in the water, near the
opaque soapy circles, little fish flit to and fro and green water-weeds
nod their heads. After bathing there is tea with cream and milk rolls. . .
. In the evening a walk or _vint_ with the neighbours.
"Yes, it would be nice to buy an estate,"
said his wife, also dreaming, and from her face it was evident that she
was enchanted by her thoughts.
Ivan Dmitritch pictured to himself autumn with its
rains, its cold evenings, and its St. Martin's summer. At that season he
would have to take longer walks about the garden and beside the river, so
as to get thoroughly chilled, and then drink a big glass of vodka and eat
a salted mushroom or a soused cucumber, and then -- drink another. . . .
The children would come running from the kitchen-garden, bringing a carrot
and a radish smelling of fresh earth. . . . And then, he would lie
stretched full length on the sofa, and in leisurely fashion turn over the
pages of some illustrated magazine, or, covering his face with it and
unbuttoning his waistcoat, give himself up to slumber.
The St. Martin's summer is followed by cloudy, gloomy
weather. It rains day and night, the bare trees weep, the wind is damp and
cold. The dogs, the horses, the fowls -- all are wet, depressed, downcast.
There is nowhere to walk; one can't go out for days together; one has to
pace up and down the room, looking despondently at the grey window. It is
Ivan Dmitritch stopped and looked at his wife.
"I should go abro ad, you know, Masha," he
And he began thinking how nice it would be in late
autumn to go abroad somewhere to the South of France . . . to Italy . . .
. to India!
"I should certainly go abroad too," his
wife said. "But look at the number of the ticket!"
"Wait, wait! . . ."
He walked about the room and went on thinking. It
occurred to him: what if his wife really did go abroad? It is pleasant to
travel alone, or in the society of light, careless women who live in the
present, and not such as think and talk all the journey about nothing but
their children, sigh, and tremble with dismay over every farthing. Ivan
Dmitritch imagined his wife in the train with a multitude of parcels,
baskets, and bags; she would be sighing over something, complaining that
the train made her head ache, that she had spent so much money. . . . At
the stations he would continually be having to run for boiling water,
bread and butter. . . . She wouldn't have dinner because of its being too
dear. . . .
"She would begrudge me every farthing," he
thought, with a glance at his wife. "The lottery ticket is hers, not
mine! Besides, what is the use of her going abroad? What does she want
there? She would shut herself up in the hotel, and not let me out of her
sight. . . . I know!"
And for the first time in his life his mind dwelt on
the fact that his wife had grown elderly and plain, and that she was
saturated through and through with the smell of cooking, while he was
still young, fresh, and healthy, and might well have got married again.
"Of course, all that is silly nonsense," he
thought; "but . . . why should she go abroad? What would she make of
it? And yet she would go, of course. . . . I can fancy . . . In reality it
is all one to her, whether it is Naples or Klin. She would only be in my
way. I should be dependent upon her. I can fancy how, like a regular
woman, she will lock the money up as soon as she gets it. . . . She will
hide it from me. . . . She will look after her relations and grudge me
Ivan Dmitritch thought of her relations. All those
wretched brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles would come crawling
about as soon as they heard of the winning ticket, would begin whining
like beggars, and fawning upon them with oily, hypocritical smiles.
Wretched, detestable people! If they were given anything, they would ask
for more; while if they were refused, they would swear at them, slander
them, and wish them every kind of misfortune.
Ivan Dmitritch remembered his own relations, and
their faces, at which he had looked impartially in the past, struck him
now as repulsive and hateful.
"They are such reptiles!" he thought.
And his wife's face, too, struck him as repulsive and
hateful. Anger surged up in his heart against her, and he thought
"She knows nothing about money, and so she is
stingy. If she won it she would give me a hundred roubles, and put the
rest away under lock and key."
And he looked at his wife, not with a smile now, but
with hatred. She glanced at him too, and also with hatred and anger. She
had her own daydreams, her own plans, her own reflections; she understood
perfectly well what her husband's dreams were. She knew who would be the
first to try and grab her winnings.
"It's very nice making daydreams at other
people's expense!" is what her eyes expressed. "No, don't you
Her husband understood her look; hatred began
stirring again in his breast, and in order to annoy his wife he glanced
quickly, to spite her at the fourth page on the newspaper and read out
"Series 9,499, number 46! Not 26!"
Hatred and hope both disappeared at once, and it
began immediately to seem to Ivan Dmitritch and his wife that their rooms
were dark and small and low-pitched, that the supper they had been eating
was not doing them good, but lying heavy on their stomachs, that the
evenings were long and wearisome. . . .
"What the devil's the meaning of it?" said
Ivan Dmitritch, beginning to be ill-humoured. "Wherever one steps
there are bits of paper under one's feet, crumbs, husks. The rooms are
never swept! One is simply forced to go out. Damnation take my soul
entirely! I shall go and hang myself on the first aspen-tree!"