For the Global Thinker

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Little Trick

A beautiful short story that highlights Chekhov's creativity...

The Little Trick 
By Anton Chekhov

It was winter and I was with Nadyenka.  We had a toboggan ready to go down a steep hill.
"Let's go down, Nadyenka," I asked her.  "Just one time.  I promise that it's safe."  She looked at me and I could see the terror in her eyes.  She was afraid.  The hill seemed too steep to control the toboggan, and I knew that she didn't want to go.

"Please come!" I said.  "There's no need to be afraid."  She finally gave in, but I could see that she was very scared, so I held on to her tight.  Off we went, down the hill.  The cold air hit us in the face, it whistled in our ears, and bit at our ears.  Faster and faster we went.  We were almost out of control.  Just when it appeared that we would lose control, I said in a low voice, "I love you Nadya."

The Toboggan began to slow down and we finally stopped at the base of the hill.  No longer was the cold wind hitting us straight on.We survived the trip.  Nadya's face was white and she was barely breathing.  I helped her to her feet.

"I wouldn't do that again for anything!" she said.  "Not for anything in the world!  We nearly killed ourselves!"  After a few minutes, she began to look at me.  She was questioning whether or not I spoke those four words.  She took my arm and we walked a little bit, talking casually.  But still, when she looked at me I could tell that she wanted so badly to know whether or not I spoke to her during the toboggan ride.  I wasn't going to say a word about it.

"Let's take one more ride," she said to me.  "Are you sure?" I asked.  I was playing with her.  I knew the reason why she wanted to go for another ride, and it was not because she enjoyed tobogganing.  Up the hill we marched, then as we were sailing down the hill, just at the moment when we were almost out of control, I said in a low voice, "I love you, Nadyenka!"

When the toboggan stopped, she looked back up the hill, then at me.  She seemed puzzled.  She wanted to know, but could not bring herself to ask me the question.  And on her face it was written: Did he say those words to me or was it the wind?  The mystery was getting to her.

"Do you think we should go home?" I asked.
"Well, I like tobogganing.  Let's go again."  I could tell by the fear in her eyes that it was not the tobogganing that kept her here.  Again we went down, again we almost lost control and again I said in low voice, "I love you Nadya!"

The next morning I received a note, which said, "If you are going tobogganing again today, I would like to join you."  So again the rush of cold air and the "I love Nadya."  She still could not tell whether it was I or whether it was the wind.  Each day for weeks we went up together and I played with her.

One day she decided to go down the hill alone.  I wondered what would happen without me to whisper to her.  Down the hill she went and when she finally stopped, I couldn't tell from her expression whether or not she received an answer.

Winter ended, and with  it the tobogganing.  No longer would Nadya hear the words, "I love you."  I went to Petersburg that summer, and never saw her again.  Nadyenka married and had children.  She did not forget the time we went tobogganing together long ago, and that the wind carried to her the words, "I love you Nadyenka."

It may have been the happiest, most beautiful moment in her life.  Even now, I cannot understand why I said those words to her, nor why I played the little trick.

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