The Nose


On the 25th March, 18—, a very strange oc­cur­rence took place in St Pe­ters­burg. On the As­cen­sion Av­enue there lived a bar­ber of the name of Ivan Jakovle­vitch. He had lost his fam­ily name, and on his sign-board, on which was de­picted the head of a gen­tle­man with one cheek soaped, the only in­scrip­tion to be read was, “Blood-let­ting done here.”

On this par­tic­u­lar morn­ing he awoke pretty early. Be­com­ing aware of the smell of fresh-baked bread, he sat up a lit­tle in bed, and saw his wife, who had a spe­cial par­tial­ity for cof­fee, in the act of tak­ing some fresh-baked bread out of the oven.

“To-day, Prasskovna Os­sipovna,” he said, “I do not want any cof­fee; I should like a fresh loaf with onions.”

“The block­head may eat bread only as far as I am con­cerned,” said his wife to her­self; “then I shall have a chance of get­ting some cof­fee.” And she threw a loaf on the table.

For the sake of pro­pri­ety, Ivan Jakovle­vitch drew a coat over his shirt, sat down at the table, shook out some salt for him­self, pre­pared two onions, as­sumed a se­ri­ous ex­pres­sion, and began to cut the bread. After he had cut the loaf in two halves, he looked, and to his great as­ton­ish­ment saw some­thing whitish stick­ing in it. He care­fully poked round it with his knife, and felt it with his fin­ger.

“Quite firmly fixed!” he mur­mured in his beard. “What can it be?”

He put in his fin­ger, and drew out—a nose!

Ivan Jakovle­vitch at first let his hands fall from sheer as­ton­ish­ment; then he rubbed his eyes and began to feel it. A nose, an ac­tual nose; and, more­over, it seemed to be the nose of an ac­quain­tance! Alarm and ter­ror were de­picted in Ivan’s face; but these feel­ings were slight in com­par­i­son with the dis­gust which took pos­ses­sion of his wife.

“Whose nose have you cut off, you mon­ster?” she screamed, her face red with anger. “You scoundrel! You tip­pler! I my­self will re­port you to the po­lice! Such a ras­cal! Many cus­tomers have told me that while you were shav­ing them, you held them so tight by the nose that they could hardly sit still.”

But Ivan Jakovle­vitch was more dead than alive; he saw at once that this nose could be­long to no other than to Ko­val­off, a mem­ber of the Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mit­tee whom he shaved every Sun­day and Wednes­day.

“Stop, Prasskovna Os­sipovna! I will wrap it in a piece of cloth and place it in the cor­ner. There it may re­main for the pre­sent; later on I will take it away.”

“No, not there! Shall I en­dure an am­pu­tated nose in my room? You un­der­stand noth­ing ex­cept how to strop a razor. You know noth­ing of the du­ties and oblig­a­tions of a re­spectable man. You vagabond! You good-for-noth­ing! Am I to un­der­take all re­spon­si­bil­ity for you at the po­lice-of­fice? Ah, you soap-smearer! You block­head! Take it away where you like, but don’t let it stay under my eyes!”

Ivan Jakovle­vitch stood there flab­ber­gasted. He thought and thought, and knew not what he thought.

“The devil knows how that hap­pened!” he said at last, scratch­ing his head be­hind his ear. “Whether I came home drunk last night or not, I re­ally don’t know; but in all prob­a­bil­ity this is a quite ex­tra­or­di­nary oc­cur­rence, for a loaf is some­thing baked and a nose is some­thing dif­fer­ent. I don’t un­der­stand the mat­ter at all.” And Ivan Jakovle­vitch was silent. The thought that the po­lice might find him in un­law­ful pos­ses­sion of a nose and ar­rest him, robbed him of all pres­ence of mind. Al­ready he began to have vi­sions of a red col­lar with sil­ver braid and of a sword—and he trem­bled all over.

At last he fin­ished dress­ing him­self, and to the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of the em­phatic ex­hor­ta­tions of his spouse, he wrapped up the nose in a cloth and is­sued into the street.

He in­tended to lose it some­where—ei­ther at some­body’s door, or in a pub­lic square, or in a nar­row alley; but just then, in order to com­plete his bad luck, he was met by an ac­quain­tance, who show­ered in­quiries upon him. “Hullo, Ivan Jakovle­vitch! Whom are you going to shave so early in the morn­ing?” etc., so that he could find no suit­able op­por­tu­nity to do what he wanted. Later on he did let the nose drop, but a sen­try bore down upon him with his hal­berd, and said, “Look out! You have let some­thing drop!” and Ivan Jakovle­vitch was obliged to pick it up and put it in his pocket.

A feel­ing of de­spair began to take pos­ses­sion of him; all the more as the streets be­came more thronged and the mer­chants began to open their shops. At last he re­solved to go to the Isaac Bridge, where per­haps he might suc­ceed in throw­ing it into the Neva.

But my con­science is a lit­tle un­easy that I have not yet given any de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about Ivan Jakovle­vitch, an es­timable man in many ways.

Like every hon­est Russ­ian trades­man, Ivan Jakovle­vitch was a ter­ri­ble drunk­ard, and al­though he shaved other peo­ple’s faces every day, his own was al­ways un­shaved. His coat (he never wore an over­coat) was quite mot­tled, i.e. it had been black, but be­come brown­ish-yel­low; the col­lar was quite shiny, and in­stead of the three but­tons, only the threads by which they had been fas­tened were to be seen.

Ivan Jakovle­vitch was a great cynic, and when Ko­val­off, the mem­ber of the Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mit­tee, said to him, as was his cus­tom while being shaved, “Your hands al­ways smell, Ivan Jakovle­vitch!” the lat­ter an­swered, “What do they smell of?” “I don’t know, my friend, but they smell very strong.” Ivan Jakovle­vitch after tak­ing a pinch of snuff would then, by way of reprisals, set to work to soap him on the cheek, the upper lip, be­hind the ears, on the chin, and every­where.

This wor­thy man now stood on the Isaac Bridge. At first he looked round him, then he leant on the rail­ings of the bridge, as though he wished to look down and see how many fish were swim­ming past, and se­cretly threw the nose, wrapped in a lit­tle piece of cloth, into the water. He felt as though a ton weight had been lifted off him, and laughed cheer­fully. In­stead, how­ever, of going to shave any of­fi­cials, he turned his steps to a build­ing, the sign-board of which bore the leg­end “Teas served here,” in order to have a glass of punch, when sud­denly he per­ceived at the other end of the bridge a po­lice in­spec­tor of im­pos­ing ex­te­rior, with long whiskers, three-cor­nered hat, and sword hang­ing at his side. He nearly fainted; but the po­lice in­spec­tor beck­oned to him with his hand and said, “Come here, my dear sir.”

Ivan Jakovle­vitch, know­ing how a gen­tle­man should be­have, took his hat off quickly, went to­wards the po­lice in­spec­tor and said, “I hope you are in the best of health.”

“Never mind my health. Tell me, my friend, why you were stand­ing on the bridge.”

“By heaven, gra­cious sir, I was on the way to my cus­tomers, and only looked down to see if the river was flow­ing quickly.”

“That is a lie! You won’t get out of it like that. Con­fess the truth.”

“I am will­ing to shave Your Grace two or even three times a week gratis,” an­swered Ivan Jakovle­vitch.

“No, my friend, don’t put your­self out! Three bar­bers are busy with me al­ready, and reckon it a high ho­n­our that I let them show me their skill. Now then, out with it! What were you doing there?”

Ivan Jakovle­vitch grew pale. But here the strange episode van­ishes in mist, and what fur­ther hap­pened is not known.


Ko­val­off, the mem­ber of the Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mit­tee, awoke fairly early that morn­ing, and made a dron­ing noise—“Brr! Brr!”—through his lips, as he al­ways did, though he could not say why. He stretched him­self, and told his valet to give him a lit­tle mir­ror which was on the table. He wished to look at the heat-boil which had ap­peared on his nose the pre­vi­ous evening; but to his great as­ton­ish­ment, he saw that in­stead of his nose he had a per­fectly smooth va­cancy in his face. Thor­oughly alarmed, he or­dered some water to be brought, and rubbed his eyes with a towel. Sure enough, he had no longer a nose! Then he sprang out of bed, and shook him­self vi­o­lently! No, no nose any more! He dressed him­self and went at once to the po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent.

But be­fore pro­ceed­ing fur­ther, we must cer­tainly give the reader some in­for­ma­tion about Ko­val­off, so that he may know what sort of a man this mem­ber of the Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mit­tee re­ally was. These com­mit­tee-men, who ob­tain that title by means of cer­tifi­cates of learn­ing, must not be com­pared with the com­mit­tee-men ap­pointed for the Cau­ca­sus dis­trict, who are of quite a dif­fer­ent kind. The learned com­mit­tee-man—but Rus­sia is such a won­der­ful coun­try that when one com­mit­tee-man is spo­ken of all the oth­ers from Riga to Kam­schatka refer it to them­selves. The same is also true of all other ti­tled of­fi­cials. Ko­val­off had been a Cau­casian com­mit­tee-man two years pre­vi­ously, and could not for­get that he had oc­cu­pied that po­si­tion; but in order to en­hance his own im­por­tance, he never called him­self “com­mit­tee-man” but “Major.”

“Lis­ten, my dear,” he used to say when he met an old woman in the street who sold shirt-fronts; “go to my house in Sadovaia Street and ask ‘Does Major Ko­val­off live here?’ Any child can tell you where it is.”

Ac­cord­ingly we will call him for the fu­ture Major Ko­val­off. It was his cus­tom to take a daily walk on the Neff­sky Av­enue. The col­lar of his shirt was al­ways re­mark­ably clean and stiff. He wore the same style of whiskers as those that are worn by gov­er­nors of dis­tricts, ar­chi­tects, and reg­i­men­tal doc­tors; in short, all those who have full red cheeks and play a good game of whist. These whiskers grow straight across the cheek to­wards the nose.

Major Ko­val­off wore a num­ber of seals, on some of which were en­graved ar­mo­r­ial bear­ings, and oth­ers the names of the days of the week. He had come to St Pe­ters­burg with the view of ob­tain­ing some po­si­tion cor­re­spond­ing to his rank, if pos­si­ble that of vice-gov­er­nor of a province; but he was pre­pared to be con­tent with that of a bailiff in some de­part­ment or other. He was, more­over, not dis­in­clined to marry, but only such a lady who could bring with her a dowry of two hun­dred thou­sand rou­bles. Ac­cord­ingly, the reader can judge for him­self what his sen­sa­tions were when he found in his face, in­stead of a fairly sym­met­ri­cal nose, a broad, flat va­cancy.

To in­crease his mis­for­tune, not a sin­gle droshky was to be seen in the street, and so he was obliged to pro­ceed on foot. He wrapped him­self up in his cloak, and held his hand­ker­chief to his face as though his nose bled. “But per­haps it is all only my imag­i­na­tion; it is im­pos­si­ble that a nose should drop off in such a silly way,” he thought, and stepped into a con­fec­tioner’s shop in order to look into the mir­ror.

For­tu­nately no cus­tomer was in the shop; only small shop-boys were clean­ing it out, and putting chairs and ta­bles straight. Oth­ers with sleepy faces were car­ry­ing fresh cakes on trays, and yes­ter­day’s news­pa­pers stained with cof­fee were still lying about. “Thank God no one is here!” he said to him­self. “Now I can look at my­self leisurely.”

He stepped gin­gerly up to a mir­ror and looked.

“What an in­fer­nal face!” he ex­claimed, and spat with dis­gust. “If there were only some­thing there in­stead of the nose, but there is ab­solutely noth­ing.”

He bit his lips with vex­a­tion, left the con­fec­tioner’s, and re­solved, quite con­trary to his habit, nei­ther to look nor smile at any­one on the street. Sud­denly he halted as if rooted to the spot be­fore a door, where some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary hap­pened. A car­riage drew up at the en­trance; the car­riage door was opened, and a gen­tle­man in uni­form came out and hur­ried up the steps. How great was Ko­val­off’s ter­ror and as­ton­ish­ment when he saw that it was his own nose!

At this ex­tra­or­di­nary sight, every­thing seemed to turn round with him. He felt as though he could hardly keep up­right on his legs; but, though trem­bling all over as though with fever, he re­solved to wait till the nose should re­turn to the car­riage. After about two min­utes the nose ac­tu­ally came out again. It wore a gold-em­broi­dered uni­form with a stiff, high col­lar, trousers of chamois leather, and a sword hung at its side. The hat, adorned with a plume, showed that it held the rank of a state-coun­cil­lor. It was ob­vi­ous that it was pay­ing “duty-calls.” It looked round on both sides, called to the coach­man “Drive on,” and got into the car­riage, which drove away.

Poor Ko­val­off nearly lost his rea­son. He did not know what to think of this ex­tra­or­di­nary pro­ce­dure. And in­deed how was it pos­si­ble that the nose, which only yes­ter­day he had on his face, and which could nei­ther walk nor drive, should wear a uni­form. He ran after the car­riage, which for­tu­nately had stopped a short way off be­fore the Grand Bazar of Moscow. He hur­ried to­wards it and pressed through a crowd of beg­gar-women with their faces bound up, leav­ing only two open­ings for the eyes, over whom he had for­merly so often made merry.

There were only a few peo­ple in front of the Bazar. Ko­val­off was so ag­i­tated that he could de­cide on noth­ing, and looked for the nose every­where. At last he saw it stand­ing be­fore a shop. It seemed half buried in its stiff col­lar, and was at­ten­tively in­spect­ing the wares dis­played.

“How can I get at it?” thought Ko­val­off. “Every­thing—the uni­form, the hat, and so on—show that it is a state-coun­cil­lor. How the deuce has that hap­pened?”

He began to cough dis­creetly near it, but the nose paid him not the least at­ten­tion.

“Ho­n­ourable sir,” said Ko­val­off at last, pluck­ing up courage, “ho­n­ourable sir.”

“What do you want?” asked the nose, and turned round.

“It seems to me strange, most re­spected sir—you should know where you be­long—and I find you all of a sud­den—where? Judge your­self.”

“Par­don me, I do not un­der­stand what you are talk­ing about. Ex­plain your­self more dis­tinctly.”

“How shall I make my mean­ing plainer to him?” Then pluck­ing up fresh courage, he con­tin­ued, “Nat­u­rally—be­sides I am a Major. You must admit it is not be­fit­ting that I should go about with­out a nose. An old ap­ple-woman on the As­cen­sion Bridge may carry on her busi­ness with­out one, but since I am on the look out for a post; be­sides in many houses I am ac­quainted with ladies of high po­si­tion—Madame Tchek­tyriev, wife of a state-coun­cil­lor, and many oth­ers. So you see—I do not know, ho­n­ourable sir, what you——” (here the Major shrugged his shoul­ders). “Par­don me; if one re­gards the mat­ter from the point of view of duty and ho­n­our—you will your­self un­der­stand——”

“I un­der­stand noth­ing,” an­swered the nose. “I re­peat, please ex­plain your­self more dis­tinctly.”

“Ho­n­ourable sir,” said Ko­val­off with dig­nity, “I do not know how I am to un­der­stand your words. It seems to me the mat­ter is as clear as pos­si­ble. Or do you wish—but you are after all my own nose!”

The nose looked at the Major and wrin­kled its fore­head. “There you are wrong, re­spected sir; I am my­self. Be­sides, there can be no close re­la­tions be­tween us. To judge by the but­tons of your uni­form, you must be in quite a dif­fer­ent de­part­ment to mine.” So say­ing, the nose turned away.

Ko­val­off was com­pletely puz­zled; he did not know what to do, and still less what to think. At this mo­ment he heard the pleas­ant rustling of a lady’s dress, and there ap­proached an el­derly lady wear­ing a quan­tity of lace, and by her side her grace­ful daugh­ter in a white dress which set off her slen­der fig­ure to ad­van­tage, and wear­ing a light straw hat. Be­hind the ladies marched a tall lackey with long whiskers.

Ko­val­off ad­vanced a few steps, ad­justed his cam­bric col­lar, arranged his seals which hung by a lit­tle gold chain, and with smil­ing face fixed his eyes on the grace­ful lady, who bowed lightly like a spring flower, and raised to her brow her lit­tle white hand with trans­par­ent fin­gers. He smiled still more when he spied under the brim of her hat her lit­tle round chin, and part of her cheek faintly tinted with rose-colour. But sud­denly he sprang back as though he had been scorched. He re­mem­bered that he had noth­ing but an ab­solute blank in place of a nose, and tears started to his eyes. He turned round in order to tell the gen­tle­man in uni­form that he was only a state-coun­cil­lor in ap­pear­ance, but re­ally a scoundrel and a ras­cal, and noth­ing else but his own nose; but the nose was no longer there. He had had time to go, doubt­less in order to con­tinue his vis­its.

His dis­ap­pear­ance plunged Ko­val­off into de­spair. He went back and stood for a mo­ment under a colon­nade, look­ing round him on all sides in hope of per­ceiv­ing the nose some­where. He re­mem­bered very well that it wore a hat with a plume in it and a gold-em­broi­dered uni­form; but he had not no­ticed the shape of the cloak, nor the colour of the car­riages and the horses, nor even whether a lackey stood be­hind it, and, if so, what sort of liv­ery he wore. More­over, so many car­riages were pass­ing that it would have been dif­fi­cult to recog­nise one, and even if he had done so, there would have been no means of stop­ping it.

The day was fine and sunny. An im­mense crowd was pass­ing to and fro in the Neff­sky Av­enue; a var­ie­gated stream of ladies flowed along the pave­ment. There was his ac­quain­tance, the Privy Coun­cil­lor, whom he was ac­cus­tomed to style “Gen­eral,” es­pe­cially when strangers were pre­sent. There was Iary­gin, his in­ti­mate friend who al­ways lost in the evenings at whist; and there an­other Major, who had ob­tained the rank of com­mit­tee-man in the Cau­ca­sus, beck­oned to him.

“Go to the deuce!” said Ko­val­off sotto voce. “Hi! coach­man, drive me straight to the su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice.” So say­ing, he got into a droshky and con­tin­ued to shout all the time to the coach­man “Drive hard!”

“Is the po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent at home?” he asked on en­ter­ing the front hall.

“No, sir,” an­swered the porter, “he has just gone out.”

“Ah, just as I thought!”

“Yes,” con­tin­ued the porter, “he has only just gone out; if you had been a mo­ment ear­lier you would per­haps have caught him.”

Ko­val­off, still hold­ing his hand­ker­chief to his face, re-en­tered the droshky and cried in a de­spair­ing voice “Drive on!”

“Where?” asked the coach­man.

“Straight on!”

“But how? There are cross-roads here. Shall I go to the right or the left?”

This ques­tion made Ko­val­off re­flect. In his sit­u­a­tion it was nec­es­sary to have re­course to the po­lice; not be­cause the af­fair had any­thing to do with them di­rectly but be­cause they acted more promptly than other au­thor­i­ties. As for de­mand­ing any ex­pla­na­tion from the de­part­ment to which the nose claimed to be­long, it would, he felt, be use­less, for the an­swers of that gen­tle­man showed that he re­garded noth­ing as sa­cred, and he might just as likely have lied in this mat­ter as in say­ing that he had never seen Ko­val­off.

But just as he was about to order the coach­man to drive to the po­lice-sta­tion, the idea oc­curred to him that this ras­cally scoundrel who, at their first meet­ing, had be­haved so dis­loy­ally to­wards him, might, prof­it­ing by the delay, quit the city se­cretly; and then all his search­ing would be in vain, or might last over a whole month. Fi­nally, as though vis­ited with a heav­enly in­spi­ra­tion, he re­solved to go di­rectly to an ad­ver­tise­ment of­fice, and to ad­ver­tise the loss of his nose, giv­ing all its dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics in de­tail, so that any­one who found it might bring it at once to him, or at any rate in­form him where it lived. Hav­ing de­cided on this course, he or­dered the coach­man to drive to the ad­ver­tise­ment of­fice, and all the way he con­tin­ued to punch him in the back—“Quick, scoundrel! quick!”

“Yes, sir!” an­swered the coach­man, lash­ing his shaggy horse with the reins.

At last they ar­rived, and Ko­val­off, out of breath, rushed into a lit­tle room where a grey-haired of­fi­cial, in an old coat and with spec­ta­cles on his nose, sat at a table hold­ing his pen be­tween his teeth, count­ing a heap of cop­per coins.

“Who takes in the ad­ver­tise­ments here?” ex­claimed Ko­val­off.

“At your ser­vice, sir,” an­swered the grey-haired func­tionary, look­ing up and then fas­ten­ing his eyes again on the heap of coins be­fore him.

“I wish to place an ad­ver­tise­ment in your paper——”

“Have the kind­ness to wait a minute,” an­swered the of­fi­cial, putting down fig­ures on paper with one hand, and with the other mov­ing two balls on his cal­cu­lat­ing-frame.

A lackey, whose sil­ver-laced coat showed that he served in one of the houses of the no­bil­ity, was stand­ing by the table with a note in his hand, and speak­ing in a lively tone, by way of show­ing him­self so­cia­ble. “Would you be­lieve it, sir, this lit­tle dog is re­ally not worth twenty-four kopecks, and for my own part I would not give a far­thing for it; but the count­ess is quite gone upon it, and of­fers a hun­dred rou­bles’ re­ward to any­one who finds it. To tell you the truth, the tastes of these peo­ple are very dif­fer­ent from ours; they don’t mind giv­ing five hun­dred or a thou­sand rou­bles for a poo­dle or a pointer, pro­vided it be a good one.”

The of­fi­cial lis­tened with a se­ri­ous air while count­ing the num­ber of let­ters con­tained in the note. At ei­ther side of the table stood a num­ber of house­keep­ers, clerks and porters, car­ry­ing notes. The writer of one wished to sell a barouche, which had been brought from Paris in 1814 and had been very lit­tle used; oth­ers wanted to dis­pose of a strong droshky which wanted one spring, a spir­ited horse sev­en­teen years old, and so on. The room where these peo­ple were col­lected was very small, and the air was very close; but Ko­val­off was not af­fected by it, for he had cov­ered his face with a hand­ker­chief, and be­cause his nose it­self was heaven knew where.

“Sir, allow me to ask you—I am in a great hurry,” he said at last im­pa­tiently.

“In a mo­ment! In a mo­ment! Two rou­bles, twenty-four kopecks—one minute! One rou­ble, sixty-four kopecks!” said the grey-haired of­fi­cial, throw­ing their notes back to the house­keep­ers and porters. “What do you wish?” he said, turn­ing to Ko­val­off.

“I wish—” an­swered the lat­ter, “I have just been swin­dled and cheated, and I can­not get hold of the per­pe­tra­tor. I only want you to in­sert an ad­ver­tise­ment to say that who­ever brings this scoundrel to me will be well re­warded.”

“What is your name, please?”

“Why do you want my name? I have many lady friends—Madame Tchek­tyriev, wife of a state-coun­cil­lor, Madame Pod­totchina, wife of a Colonel. Heaven for­bid that they should get to hear of it. You can sim­ply write ‘com­mit­tee-man,’ or, bet­ter, ‘Major.’”

“And the man who has run away is your serf.”

“Serf! If he was, it would not be such a great swin­dle! It is the nose which has ab­sconded.”

“H’m! What a strange name. And this Mr Nose has stolen from you a con­sid­er­able sum?”

“Mr Nose! Ah, you don’t un­der­stand me! It is my own nose which has gone, I don’t know where. The devil has played a trick on me.”

“How has it dis­ap­peared? I don’t un­der­stand.”

“I can’t tell you how, but the im­por­tant point is that now it walks about the city it­self a state-coun­cil­lor. That is why I want you to ad­ver­tise that who­ever gets hold of it should bring it as soon as pos­si­ble to me. Con­sider; how can I live with­out such a promi­nent part of my body? It is not as if it were merely a lit­tle toe; I would only have to put my foot in my boot and no one would no­tice its ab­sence. Every Thurs­day I call on the wife of M. Tchek­tyriev, the state-coun­cil­lor; Madame Pod­totchina, a Colonel’s wife who has a very pretty daugh­ter, is one of my ac­quain­tances; and what am I to do now? I can­not ap­pear be­fore them like this.”

The of­fi­cial com­pressed his lips and re­flected. “No, I can­not in­sert an ad­ver­tise­ment like that,” he said after a long pause.

“What! Why not?”

“Be­cause it might com­pro­mise the paper. Sup­pose every­one could ad­ver­tise that his nose was lost. Peo­ple al­ready say that all sorts of non­sense and lies are in­serted.”

“But this is not non­sense! There is noth­ing of that sort in my case.”

“You think so? Lis­ten a minute. Last week there was a case very like it. An of­fi­cial came, just as you have done, bring­ing an ad­ver­tise­ment for the in­ser­tion of which he paid two rou­bles, sixty-three kopecks; and this ad­ver­tise­ment sim­ply an­nounced the loss of a black-haired poo­dle. There did not seem to be any­thing out of the way in it, but it was re­ally a satire; by the poo­dle was meant the cashier of some es­tab­lish­ment or other.”

“But I am not talk­ing of a poo­dle, but my own nose; i.e. al­most my­self.”

“No, I can­not in­sert your ad­ver­tise­ment.”

“But my nose re­ally has dis­ap­peared!”

“That is a mat­ter for a doc­tor. There are said to be peo­ple who can pro­vide you with any kind of nose you like. But I see that you are a witty man, and like to have your lit­tle joke.”

“But I swear to you on my word of ho­n­our. Look at my face your­self.”

“Why put your­self out?” con­tin­ued the of­fi­cial, tak­ing a pinch of snuff. “All the same, if you don’t mind,” he added with a touch of cu­rios­ity, “I should like to have a look at it.”

The com­mit­tee-man re­moved the hand­ker­chief from be­fore his face.

“It cer­tainly does look odd,” said the of­fi­cial. “It is per­fectly flat like a freshly fried pan­cake. It is hardly cred­i­ble.”

“Very well. Are you going to hes­i­tate any more? You see it is im­pos­si­ble to refuse to ad­ver­tise my loss. I shall be par­tic­u­larly obliged to you, and I shall be glad that this in­ci­dent has pro­cured me the plea­sure of mak­ing your ac­quain­tance.” The Major, we see, did not even shrink from a slight hu­mil­i­a­tion.

“It cer­tainly is not dif­fi­cult to ad­ver­tise it,” replied the of­fi­cial; “but I don’t see what good it would do you. How­ever, if you lay so much stress on it, you should apply to some­one who has a skil­ful pen, so that he may de­scribe it as a cu­ri­ous, nat­ural freak, and pub­lish the ar­ti­cle in the North­ern Bee” (here he took an­other pinch) “for the ben­e­fit of youth­ful read­ers” (he wiped his nose), “or sim­ply as a mat­ter wor­thy of arous­ing pub­lic cu­rios­ity.”

The com­mit­tee-man felt com­pletely dis­cour­aged. He let his eyes fall ab­sent-mind­edly on a daily paper in which the­atri­cal per­for­mances were ad­ver­tised. Read­ing there the name of an ac­tress whom he knew to be pretty, he in­vol­un­tar­ily smiled, and his hand sought his pocket to see if he had a blue ticket—for in Ko­val­off’s opin­ion su­pe­rior of­fi­cers like him­self should not take a lesser-priced seat; but the thought of his lost nose sud­denly spoilt every­thing.

The of­fi­cial him­self seemed touched at his dif­fi­cult po­si­tion. De­sir­ing to con­sole him, he tried to ex­press his sym­pa­thy by a few po­lite words. “I much re­gret,” he said, “your ex­tra­or­di­nary mishap. Will you not try a pinch of snuff? It clears the head, ban­ishes de­pres­sion, and is a good pre­ven­tive against hæmor­rhoids.”

So say­ing, he reached his snuff-box out to Ko­val­off, skil­fully con­ceal­ing at the same time the cover, which was adorned with the por­trait of some lady or other.

This act, quite in­no­cent in it­self, ex­as­per­ated Ko­val­off. “I don’t un­der­stand what you find to joke about in the mat­ter,” he ex­claimed an­grily. “Don’t you see that I lack pre­cisely the es­sen­tial fea­ture for tak­ing snuff? The devil take your snuff-box. I don’t want to look at snuff now, not even the best, cer­tainly not your vile stuff!”

So say­ing, he left the ad­ver­tise­ment of­fice in a state of pro­found ir­ri­ta­tion, and went to the com­mis­sary of po­lice. He ar­rived just as this dig­ni­tary was re­clin­ing on his couch, and say­ing to him­self with a sigh of sat­is­fac­tion, “Yes, I shall make a nice lit­tle sum out of that.”

It might be ex­pected, there­fore, that the com­mit­tee-man’s visit would be quite in­op­por­tune.

This po­lice com­mis­sary was a great pa­tron of all the arts and in­dus­tries; but what he liked above every­thing else was a cheque. “It is a thing,” he used to say, “to which it is not easy to find an equiv­a­lent; it re­quires no food, it does not take up much room, it stays in one’s pocket, and if it falls, it is not bro­ken.”

The com­mis­sary ac­corded Ko­val­off a fairly frigid re­cep­tion, say­ing that the af­ter­noon was not the best time to come with a case, that na­ture re­quired one to rest a lit­tle after eat­ing (this showed the com­mit­tee-man that the com­mis­sary was ac­quainted with the apho­risms of the an­cient sages), and that re­spectable peo­ple did not have their noses stolen.

The last al­lu­sion was too di­rect. We must re­mem­ber that Ko­val­off was a very sen­si­tive man. He did not mind any­thing said against him as an in­di­vid­ual, but he could not en­dure any re­flec­tion on his rank or so­cial po­si­tion. He even be­lieved that in come­dies one might allow at­tacks on ju­nior of­fi­cers, but never on their se­niors.

The com­mis­sary’s re­cep­tion of him hurt his feel­ings so much that he raised his head proudly, and said with dig­nity, “After such in­sult­ing ex­pres­sions on your part, I have noth­ing more to say.” And he left the place.

He reached his house quite wea­ried out. It was al­ready grow­ing dark. After all his fruit­less search, his room seemed to him melan­choly and even ugly. In the vestibule he saw his valet Ivan stretched on the leather couch and amus­ing him­self by spit­ting at the ceil­ing, which he did very clev­erly, hit­ting every time the same spot. His ser­vant’s equa­nim­ity en­raged him; he struck him on the fore­head with his hat, and said, “You good-for-noth­ing, you are al­ways play­ing the fool!”

Ivan rose quickly and has­tened to take off his mas­ter’s cloak.

Once in his room, the Major, tired and de­pressed, threw him­self in an arm­chair and, after sigh­ing a while, began to so­lil­o­quise:

“In heaven’s name, why should such a mis­for­tune be­fall me? If I had lost an arm or a leg, it would be less in­sup­port­able; but a man with­out a nose! Devil take it!—what is he good for? He is only fit to be thrown out of the win­dow. If it had been taken from me in war or in a duel, or if I had lost it by my own fault! But it has dis­ap­peared in­ex­plic­a­bly. But no! it is im­pos­si­ble,” he con­tin­ued after re­flect­ing a few mo­ments, “it is in­cred­i­ble that a nose can dis­ap­pear like that—quite in­cred­i­ble. I must be dream­ing, or suf­fer­ing from some hal­lu­ci­na­tion; per­haps I swal­lowed, by mis­take in­stead of water, the brandy with which I rub my chin after being shaved. That fool of an Ivan must have for­got­ten to take it away, and I must have swal­lowed it.”

In order to find out whether he were re­ally drunk, the Major pinched him­self so hard that he un­vol­un­tar­ily ut­tered a cry. The pain con­vinced him that he was quite wide awake. He walked slowly to the look­ing-glass and at first closed his eyes, hop­ing to see his nose sud­denly in its proper place; but on open­ing them, he started back. “What a hideous sight!” he ex­claimed.

It was re­ally in­com­pre­hen­si­ble. One might eas­ily lose a but­ton, a sil­ver spoon, a watch, or some­thing sim­i­lar; but a loss like this, and in one’s own dwelling!

After con­sid­er­ing all the cir­cum­stances, Major Ko­val­off felt in­clined to sup­pose that the cause of all his trou­ble should be laid at the door of Madame Pod­totchina, the Colonel’s wife, who wished him to marry her daugh­ter. He him­self paid her court read­ily, but al­ways avoided com­ing to the point. And when the lady one day told him point-blank that she wished him to marry her daugh­ter, he gen­tly drew back, de­clar­ing that he was still too young, and that he had to serve five years more be­fore he would be forty-two. This must be the rea­son why the lady, in re­venge, had re­solved to bring him into dis­grace, and had hired two sor­cer­esses for that ob­ject. One thing was cer­tain—his nose had not been cut off; no one had en­tered his room, and as for Ivan Jakovle­vitch—he had been shaved by him on Wednes­day, and dur­ing that day and the whole of Thurs­day his nose had been there, as he knew and well re­mem­bered. More­over, if his nose had been cut off he would nat­u­rally have felt pain, and doubt­less the wound would not have healed so quickly, nor would the sur­face have been as flat as a pan­cake.

All kinds of plans passed through his head: should he bring a legal ac­tion against the wife of a su­pe­rior of­fi­cer, or should he go to her and charge her openly with her treach­ery?

His re­flec­tions were in­ter­rupted by a sud­den light, which shone through all the chinks of the door, show­ing that Ivan had lit the wax-can­dles in the vestibule. Soon Ivan him­self came in with the lights. Ko­val­off quickly seized a hand­ker­chief and cov­ered the place where his nose had been the evening be­fore, so that his block­head of a ser­vant might not gape with his mouth wide open when he saw his mas­ter’s ex­tra­or­di­nary ap­pear­ance.

Scarcely had Ivan re­turned to the vestibule than a stranger’s voice was heard there.

“Does Major Ko­val­off live here?” it asked.

“Come in!” said the Major, ris­ing rapidly and open­ing the door.

He saw a po­lice of­fi­cial of pleas­ant ap­pear­ance, with grey whiskers and fairly full cheeks—the same who at the com­mence­ment of this story was stand­ing at the end of the Isaac Bridge. “You have lost your nose?” he asked.

“Ex­actly so.”

“It has just been found.”

“What—do you say?” stam­mered Major Ko­val­off.

Joy had sud­denly paral­ysed his tongue. He stared at the po­lice com­mis­sary on whose cheeks and full lips fell the flick­er­ing light of the can­dle.

“How was it?” he asked at last.

“By a very sin­gu­lar chance. It has been ar­rested just as it was get­ting into a car­riage for Riga. Its pass­port had been made out some time ago in the name of an of­fi­cial; and what is still more strange, I my­self took it at first for a gen­tle­man. For­tu­nately I had my glasses with me, and then I saw at once that it was a nose. I am short­sighted, you know, and as you stand be­fore me I can­not dis­tin­guish your nose, your beard, or any­thing else. My mother-in-law can hardly see at all.”

Ko­val­off was be­side him­self with ex­cite­ment. “Where is it? Where? I will has­ten there at once.”

“Don’t put your­self out. Know­ing that you need it, I have brought it with me. An­other sin­gu­lar thing is that the prin­ci­pal cul­prit in the mat­ter is a scoundrel of a bar­ber liv­ing in the As­cen­sion Av­enue, who is now safely locked up. I had long sus­pected him of drunk­en­ness and theft; only the day be­fore yes­ter­day he stole some but­tons in a shop. Your nose is quite un­in­jured.” So say­ing, the po­lice com­mis­sary put his hand in his pocket and brought out the nose wrapped up in paper.

“Yes, yes, that is it!” ex­claimed Ko­val­off. “Will you not stay and drink a cup of tea with me?”

“I should like to very much, but I can­not. I must go at once to the House of Cor­rec­tion. The cost of liv­ing is very high nowa­days. My mother-in-law lives with me, and there are sev­eral chil­dren; the el­dest is very hope­ful and in­tel­li­gent, but I have no means for their ed­u­ca­tion.”

After the com­mis­sary’s de­par­ture, Ko­val­off re­mained for some time plunged in a kind of vague reverie, and did not re­cover full con­scious­ness for sev­eral mo­ments, so great was the ef­fect of this un­ex­pected good news. He placed the re­cov­ered nose care­fully in the palm of his hand, and ex­am­ined it again with the great­est at­ten­tion.

“Yes, this is it!” he said to him­self. “Here is the heat-boil on the left side, which came out yes­ter­day.” And he nearly laughed aloud with de­light.

But noth­ing is per­ma­nent in this world. Joy in the sec­ond mo­ment of its ar­rival is al­ready less keen than in the first, is still fainter in the third, and fin­ishes by co­a­lesc­ing with our nor­mal men­tal state, just as the cir­cles which the fall of a peb­ble forms on the sur­face of water, grad­u­ally die away. Ko­val­off began to med­i­tate, and saw that his dif­fi­cul­ties were not yet over; his nose had been re­cov­ered, but it had to be joined on again in its proper place.

And sup­pose it could not? As he put this ques­tion to him­self, Ko­val­off grew pale. With a feel­ing of in­de­scrib­able dread, he rushed to­wards his dress­ing-table, and stood be­fore the mir­ror in order that he might not place his nose crookedly. His hands trem­bled.

Very care­fully he placed it where it had been be­fore. Hor­ror! It did not re­main there. He held it to his mouth and warmed it a lit­tle with his breath, and then placed it there again; but it would not hold.

“Hold on, you stu­pid!” he said.

But the nose seemed to be made of wood, and fell back on the table with a strange noise, as though it had been a cork. The Major’s face began to twitch fever­ishly. “Is it pos­si­ble that it won’t stick?” he asked him­self, full of alarm. But how­ever often he tried, all his ef­forts were in vain.

He called Ivan, and sent him to fetch the doc­tor who oc­cu­pied the finest flat in the man­sion. This doc­tor was a man of im­pos­ing ap­pear­ance, who had mag­nif­i­cent black whiskers and a healthy wife. He ate fresh ap­ples every morn­ing, and cleaned his teeth with ex­treme care, using five dif­fer­ent tooth-brushes for three-quar­ters of an hour daily.

The doc­tor came im­me­di­ately. After hav­ing asked the Major when this mis­for­tune had hap­pened, he raised his chin and gave him a fil­lip with his fin­ger just where the nose had been, in such a way that the Major sud­denly threw back his head and struck the wall with it. The doc­tor said that did not mat­ter; then, mak­ing him turn his face to the right, he felt the va­cant place and said “H’m!” then he made him turn it to the left and did the same; fi­nally he again gave him a fil­lip with his fin­ger, so that the Major started like a horse whose teeth are being ex­am­ined. After this ex­per­i­ment, the doc­tor shook his head and said, “No, it can­not be done. Rather re­main as you are, lest some­thing worse hap­pen. Cer­tainly one could re­place it at once, but I as­sure you the rem­edy would be worse than the dis­ease.”

“All very fine, but how am I to go on with­out a nose?” an­swered Ko­val­off. “There is noth­ing worse than that. How can I show my­self with such a vil­lain­ous ap­pear­ance? I go into good so­ci­ety, and this evening I am in­vited to two par­ties. I know sev­eral ladies, Madame Tchek­tyriev, the wife of a state-coun­cil­lor, Madame Pod­totchina—al­though after what she has done, I don’t want to have any­thing to do with her ex­cept through the agency of the po­lice. I beg you,” con­tin­ued Ko­val­off in a sup­pli­cat­ing tone, “find some way or other of re­plac­ing it; even if it is not quite firm, as long as it holds at all; I can keep it in place some­times with my hand, when­ever there is any risk. Be­sides, I do not even dance, so that it is not likely to be in­jured by any sud­den move­ment. As to your fee, be in no anx­i­ety about that; I can well af­ford it.”

“Be­lieve me,” an­swered the doc­tor in a voice which was nei­ther too high nor too low, but soft and al­most mag­netic, “I do not treat pa­tients from love of gain. That would be con­trary to my prin­ci­ples and to my art. It is true that I ac­cept fees, but that is only not to hurt my pa­tients’ feel­ings by re­fus­ing them. I could cer­tainly re­place your nose, but I as­sure you on my word of ho­n­our, it would only make mat­ters worse. Rather let Na­ture do her own work. Wash the place often with cold water, and I as­sure you that even with­out a nose, you will be just as well as if you had one. As to the nose it­self, I ad­vise you to have it pre­served in a bot­tle of spir­its, or, still bet­ter, of warm vine­gar mixed with two spoon­fuls of brandy, and then you can sell it at a good price. I would be will­ing to take it my­self, pro­vided you do not ask too much.”

“No, no, I shall not sell it at any price. I would rather it were lost again.”

“Ex­cuse me,” said the doc­tor, tak­ing his leave. “I hoped to be use­ful to you, but I can do noth­ing more; you are at any rate con­vinced of my good-will.” So say­ing, the doc­tor left the room with a dig­ni­fied air.

Ko­val­off did not even no­tice his de­par­ture. Ab­sorbed in a pro­found reverie, he only saw the edge of his snow-white cuffs emerg­ing from the sleeves of his black coat.

The next day he re­solved, be­fore bring­ing a for­mal ac­tion, to write to the Colonel’s wife and see whether she would not re­turn to him, with­out fur­ther dis­pute, that of which she had de­prived him.

The let­ter ran as fol­lows:

“To Madame Alexan­dra Pod­totchina,

“I hardly un­der­stand your method of ac­tion. Be sure that by adopt­ing such a course you will gain noth­ing, and will cer­tainly not suc­ceed in mak­ing me marry your daugh­ter. Be­lieve me, the story of my nose has be­come well known; it is you and no one else who have taken the prin­ci­pal part in it. Its un­ex­pected sep­a­ra­tion from the place which it oc­cu­pied, its flight and its ap­pear­ances some­times in the dis­guise of an of­fi­cial, some­times in proper per­son, are noth­ing but the con­se­quence of un­holy spells em­ployed by you or by per­sons who, like you, are ad­dicted to such ho­n­ourable pur­suits. On my part, I wish to in­form you, that if the above-men­tioned nose is not re­stored to-day to its proper place, I shall be obliged to have re­course to legal pro­ce­dure.

“For the rest, with all re­spect, I have the ho­n­our to be your hum­ble ser­vant,

“Pla­ton Ko­val­off.”

The reply was not long in com­ing, and was as fol­lows:

“Major Pla­ton Ko­val­off,—

“Your let­ter has pro­foundly as­ton­ished me. I must con­fess that I had not ex­pected such un­just re­proaches on your part. I as­sure you that the of­fi­cial of whom you speak has not been at my house, ei­ther dis­guised or in his proper per­son. It is true that Philippe Ivanovitch Potantchikoff has paid vis­its at my house, and though he has ac­tu­ally asked for my daugh­ter’s hand, and was a man of good breed­ing, re­spectable and in­tel­li­gent, I never gave him any hope.

“Again, you say some­thing about a nose. If you in­tend to imply by that that I wished to snub you, i.e. to meet you with a re­fusal, I am very as­ton­ished be­cause, as you well know, I was quite of the op­po­site mind. If after this you wish to ask for my daugh­ter’s hand, I should be glad to grat­ify you, for such has also been the ob­ject of my most fer­vent de­sire, in the hope of the ac­com­plish­ment of which, I re­main, yours most sin­cerely,

“Alexan­dra Pod­totchina.”

“No,” said Ko­val­off, after hav­ing repe­rused the let­ter, “she is cer­tainly not guilty. It is im­pos­si­ble. Such a let­ter could not be writ­ten by a crim­i­nal.” The com­mit­tee-man was ex­pe­ri­enced in such mat­ters, for he had been often of­fi­cially de­puted to con­duct crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions while in the Cau­ca­sus. “But then how and by what trick of fate has the thing hap­pened?” he said to him­self with a ges­ture of dis­cour­age­ment. “The devil must be at the bot­tom of it.”

Mean­while the ru­mour of this ex­tra­or­di­nary event had spread all over the city, and, as is gen­er­ally the case, not with­out nu­mer­ous ad­di­tions. At that pe­riod there was a gen­eral dis­po­si­tion to be­lieve in the mirac­u­lous; the pub­lic had re­cently been im­pressed by ex­per­i­ments in mag­net­ism. The story of the float­ing chairs in Ko­niouchen­naia Street was still quite re­cent, and there was noth­ing as­ton­ish­ing in hear­ing soon af­ter­wards that Major Ko­val­off’s nose was to be seen walk­ing every day at three o’clock on the Neff­sky Av­enue. The crowd of cu­ri­ous spec­ta­tors which gath­ered there daily was enor­mous. On one oc­ca­sion some­one spread a re­port that the nose was in Junker’s stores and im­me­di­ately the place was be­sieged by such a crowd that the po­lice had to in­ter­fere and es­tab­lish order. A cer­tain spec­u­la­tor with a grave, whiskered face, who sold cakes at a the­atre door, had some strong wooden benches made which he placed be­fore the win­dow of the stores, and oblig­ingly in­vited the pub­lic to stand on them and look in, at the mod­est charge of twenty-four kopecks. A vet­eran colonel, leav­ing his house ear­lier than usual ex­pressly for the pur­pose, had the great­est dif­fi­culty in el­bow­ing his way through the crowd, but to his great in­dig­na­tion he saw noth­ing in the store win­dow but an or­di­nary flan­nel waist­coat and a coloured lith­o­graph rep­re­sent­ing a young girl darn­ing a stock­ing, while an el­e­gant youth in a waist­coat with large lap­pels watched her from be­hind a tree. The pic­ture had hung in the same place for more than ten years. The colonel went off, growl­ing sav­agely to him­self, “How can the fools let them­selves be ex­cited by such id­i­otic sto­ries?”

Then an­other ru­mour got abroad, to the ef­fect that the nose of Major Ko­val­off was in the habit of walk­ing not on the Neff­sky Av­enue but in the Tau­ris Gar­dens. Some stu­dents of the Acad­emy of Surgery went there on pur­pose to see it. A high-born lady wrote to the keeper of the gar­dens ask­ing him to show her chil­dren this rare phe­nom­e­non, and to give them some suit­able in­struc­tion on the oc­ca­sion.

All these in­ci­dents were ea­gerly col­lected by the town wits, who just then were very short of anec­dotes adapted to amuse ladies. On the other hand, the mi­nor­ity of solid, sober peo­ple were very much dis­pleased. One gen­tle­man as­serted with great in­dig­na­tion that he could not un­der­stand how in our en­light­ened age such ab­sur­di­ties could spread abroad, and he was as­ton­ished that the Gov­ern­ment did not di­rect their at­ten­tion to the mat­ter. This gen­tle­man ev­i­dently be­longed to the cat­e­gory of those peo­ple who wish the Gov­ern­ment to in­ter­fere in every­thing, even in their daily quar­rels with their wives.

But here the course of events is again ob­scured by a veil.


Strange events hap­pen in this world, events which are some­times en­tirely im­prob­a­ble. The same nose which had mas­quer­aded as a state-coun­cil­lor, and caused so much sen­sa­tion in the town, was found one morn­ing in its proper place, i.e. be­tween the cheeks of Major Ko­val­off, as if noth­ing had hap­pened.

This oc­curred on 7th April. On awak­ing, the Major looked by chance into a mir­ror and per­ceived a nose. He quickly put his hand to it; it was there be­yond a doubt!

“Oh!” ex­claimed Ko­val­off. For sheer joy he was on the point of per­form­ing a dance bare­footed across his room, but the en­trance of Ivan pre­vented him. He told him to bring water, and after wash­ing him­self, he looked again in the glass. The nose was there! Then he dried his face with a towel and looked again. Yes, there was no mis­take about it!

“Look here, Ivan, it seems to me that I have a heat-boil on my nose,” he said to his valet.

And he thought to him­self at the same time, “That will be a nice busi­ness if Ivan says to me ‘No, sir, not only is there no boil, but your nose it­self is not there!’”

But Ivan an­swered, “There is noth­ing, sir; I can see no boil on your nose.”

“Good! Good!” ex­claimed the Major, and snapped his fin­gers with de­light.

At this mo­ment the bar­ber, Ivan Jakovle­vitch, put his head in at the door, but as timidly as a cat which has just been beaten for steal­ing lard.

“Tell me first, are your hands clean?” asked Ko­val­off when he saw him.

“Yes, sir.”

“You lie.”

“I swear they are per­fectly clean, sir.”

“Very well; then come here.”

Ko­val­off seated him­self. Jakovle­vitch tied a nap­kin under his chin, and in the twin­kling of an eye cov­ered his beard and part of his cheeks with a co­pi­ous creamy lather.

“There it is!” said the bar­ber to him­self, as he glanced at the nose. Then he bent his head a lit­tle and ex­am­ined it from one side. “Yes, it ac­tu­ally is the nose—re­ally, when one thinks——” he con­tin­ued, pur­su­ing his men­tal so­lil­o­quy and still look­ing at it. Then quite gen­tly, with in­fi­nite pre­cau­tion, he raised two fin­gers in the air in order to take hold of it by the ex­trem­ity, as he was ac­cus­tomed to do.

“Now then, take care!” Ko­val­off ex­claimed.

Ivan Jakovle­vitch let his arm fall and felt more em­bar­rassed than he had ever done in his life. At last he began to pass the razor very lightly over the Major’s chin, and al­though it was very dif­fi­cult to shave him with­out using the ol­fac­tory organ as a point of sup­port, he suc­ceeded, how­ever, by plac­ing his wrin­kled thumb against the Major’s lower jaw and cheek, thus over­com­ing all ob­sta­cles and bring­ing his task to a safe con­clu­sion.

When the bar­ber had fin­ished, Ko­val­off has­tened to dress him­self, took a droshky, and drove straight to the con­fec­tioner’s. As he en­tered it, he or­dered a cup of choco­late. He then stepped straight to the mir­ror; the nose was there!

He re­turned joy­fully, and re­garded with a satir­i­cal ex­pres­sion two of­fi­cers who were in the shop, one of whom pos­sessed a nose not much larger than a waist­coat but­ton.

After that he went to the of­fice of the de­part­ment where he had ap­plied for the post of vice-gov­er­nor of a province or Gov­ern­ment bailiff. As he passed through the hall of re­cep­tion, he cast a glance at the mir­ror; the nose was there! Then he went to pay a visit to an­other com­mit­tee-man, a very sar­cas­tic per­son­age, to whom he was ac­cus­tomed to say in an­swer to his raillery, “Yes, I know, you are the fun­ni­est fel­low in St Pe­ters­burg.”

On the way he said to him­self, “If the Major does not burst into laugh­ter at the sight of me, that is a most cer­tain sign that every­thing is in its ac­cus­tomed place.”

But the Major said noth­ing. “Very good!” thought Ko­val­off.

As he re­turned, he met Madame Pod­totchina with her daugh­ter. He ac­costed them, and they re­sponded very gra­ciously. The con­ver­sa­tion lasted a long time, dur­ing which he took more than one pinch of snuff, say­ing to him­self, “No, you haven’t caught me yet, co­quettes that you are! And as to the daugh­ter, I shan’t marry her at all.”

After that, the Major re­sumed his walks on the Neff­sky Av­enue and his vis­its to the the­atre as if noth­ing had hap­pened. His nose also re­mained in its place as if it had never quit­ted it. From that time he was al­ways to be seen smil­ing, in a good hu­mour, and pay­ing at­ten­tions to pretty girls.


Such was the oc­cur­rence which took place in the north­ern cap­i­tal of our vast em­pire. On con­sid­er­ing the ac­count care­fully we see that there is a good deal which looks im­prob­a­ble about it. Not to speak of the strange dis­ap­pear­ance of the nose, and its ap­pear­ance in dif­fer­ent places under the dis­guise of a coun­cil­lor of state, how was it that Ko­val­off did not un­der­stand that one can­not de­cently ad­ver­tise for a lost nose? I do not mean to say that he would have had to pay too much for the ad­ver­tise­ment—that is a mere tri­fle, and I am not one of those who at­tach too much im­por­tance to money; but to ad­ver­tise in such a case is not proper nor be­fit­ting.

An­other dif­fi­culty is—how was the nose found in the baked loaf, and how did Ivan Jakovle­vitch him­self—no, I don’t un­der­stand it at all!

But the most in­com­pre­hen­si­ble thing of all is, how au­thors can choose such sub­jects for their sto­ries. That re­ally sur­passes my un­der­stand­ing. In the first place, no ad­van­tage re­sults from it for the coun­try; and in the sec­ond place, no harm re­sults ei­ther.

All the same, when one re­flects well, there re­ally is some­thing in the mat­ter. What­ever may be said to the con­trary, such cases do occur—rarely, it is true, but now and then ac­tu­ally.

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