was rummaging just on the off chance, just in
case. He had to open his wallet and take out
the sacred hundred-franc note.
The young lad in charge of the trolley took
the note, spent a long time smoothing it out, inquired more than once if Strokotov didn’t happen to have three francs about him, opened some
little box, fiddled about inside it with one finger,
handed a sandwich to a new customer, gave this
man his change—and began fumbling about
again, still holding onto the accursed hundred-franc note. trembling with impatience, Strokotov glanced with hatred at the intruder and
saw him suddenly quicken his pace and begin
O men, with sisters dear!
O men, with mothers and wives!
It is not linen you’re wearing out,
But human creatures’ lives!
—Thomas Hood, 1843
to gallop toward the train. Strokotov looked
round. The train was moving.
His heart lurched. Everything went black.
Clutching the cold, potbellied bottle of water
against his chest, Strokotov rushed toward
the train, grabbed hold, and leaped into the
“did you get the change?” the ladies yelled
out together, with one voice. They had been observing this whole scene through the window.
“How could i?” he replied sullenly. naive-
ly trying to change the subject, he then asked
in a businesslike voice, “did you remember
The ladies choked. They were so enraged
they couldn’t breathe. They couldn’t speak.
“Where?” said Kyate, recovering herself.
“Where are the hundred francs? Good God!
This is hell. it’s worse than being with a run-
She let out such wild cries that even little
Petya, who was used to everything and had
been observing this entertaining little scene
with curiosity, suddenly took fright and began
The old lady wanted to add her bit. She
waited a long time, then couldn’t wait any longer. She took umbrage.
“don’t shout like that,” she reprimanded
her daughter. “french people are listening. it’s
“to hell with your french people,” the
daughter snapped back. “This cretin leaves us
without a centime and it’s all the same to you.
you only care about looking good in the eyes
of the french. you’re wasting your time. you’ll
never get anything out of them except sale
étranger [foreign sale].”
Hearing unpleasant and entirely under-
standable words, a frenchman sitting beside
the other window took this sale étranger per-
sonally, flared his nostrils, took a deep breath,
snorted, and began—so it seemed—to com-
pose a retort.
“Stop it, Kyate!” said the old woman stern-
ly. “This is getting out of hand.”
But Kyate was neither listening nor hearing.
“He felt like a little Vichy water. and why
not? What do we care about money? So what if
he has to pay a hundred francs? What does his
wife matter? She can walk about naked as long
as he gets his Vichy.”
“Hold me back!” wheezed Kyate. “Hold
me back! i’m probably going to kill him.”
“Be quiet!” the old woman shouted hyster-
ically, and suddenly, to universal astonishment,
lifted up her leg and began to pull off her shoe.
She then slipped a hand down her stocking and
removed a piece of folded newspaper from be-
neath her heel. Everyone froze, silently watch-
ing in fear and wonder, the way people watch a
conjuror as he produces a live chicken from an
The old woman unfolded the newspaper
and took out a compressed hundred-franc note.