The Nose


On March 25th there took place, in Petersburg, an extraordinarily strange occurrence. The barber Ivan Yakovlevich, who lives on Voznesensky Avenue (his family name has been lost and even on his signboard, where a gentleman is depicted with a lathered cheek and the inscription “Also bloodletting,” there is nothing else)—the barber Ivan Yakovlevich woke up rather early and smelled fresh bread. Raising himself slightly in bed he saw his spouse, a rather respectable lady who was very fond of drinking coffee, take some newly baked loaves out of the oven.

“I won’t have any coffee to-day, Praskovya Osipovna,” said Ivan Yakovlevich. “Instead, I would like to eat a bit of hot bread with onion.” (That is to say, Ivan Yakovlevich would have liked both the one and the other, but he knew that it was quite impossible to demand two things at once, for Praskovya Osipovna very much disliked such whims.) “Let the fool eat the bread; all the better for me,” the wife thought to herself, “there will be an extra cup of coffee left.” And she threw a loaf onto the table.

For the sake of propriety Ivan Yakovlevich put a tailcoat on over his shirt and, sitting down at the table, poured out some salt, got two onions ready, picked up a knife and, assuming a meaningful expression, began to slice the bread. Having cut the loaf in two halves, he looked inside and to his astonishment saw something white. Ivan Yakovlevich poked it carefully with the knife and felt it with his finger. “Solid!” he said to himself. “What could it be?”

He stuck in his finger and extracted—a nose! Ivan Yakovlevich was dumbfounded. He rubbed his eyes and felt the object: a nose, a nose indeed, and a familiar one at that. Ivan Yakovlevich’s face expressed horror. But this horror was nothing compared to the indignation which seized his spouse.

“You beast, where did you cut off a nose?” she shouted angrily. “Scoundrel! drunkard! I’ll report you to the police myself. What a ruffian! I have already heard from three people that you jerk their noses about so much when shaving that it’s a wonder they stay in place.”

But Ivan Yakovlevich was more dead than alive. He recognized the nose as that of none other than Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov, whom he shaved every Wednesday and Sunday.

“Hold on, Praskovya Osipovna! I shall put it in a corner, after I’ve wrapped it in a rag: let it lie there for a while, and later I’ll take it away.”

“I won’t even hear of it. That I should allow a cut-off nose to lie about in my room? You dry stick! All he knows is how to strop his razor, but soon he’ll be in no condition to carry out his duty, the rake, the villain! Am I to answer for you to the police? You piece of filth, you blockhead! Away with it! Away! Take it anywhere you like! Out of my sight with it!”

Ivan Yakovlevich stood there as though bereft of senses. He thought and thought—and really did not know what to think. “The devil knows how it happened,” he said at last, scratching behind his ear with his hand. “Was I drunk or wasn’t I when I came home yesterday, I really can’t say. Whichever way you look at it, this is an impossible occurrence. After all, bread is something baked, and a nose is something altogether different. I can’t make it out at all.”

Ivan Yakovlevich fell silent. The idea that the police might find the nose in his possession and bring a charge against him drove him into a complete frenzy. He was already visualizing the scarlet collar, beautifully embroidered with silver, the saber—and he trembled all over. At last he got out his underwear and boots, pulled on all these tatters and, followed by rather weighty exhortations from Praskovya Osipovna, wrapped the nose in a rag and went out into the street.

He wanted to shove it under something somewhere, either into the hitching-post by the gate—or just drop it as if by accident and then turn off into a side street. But as bad luck would have it, he kept running into people he knew, who at once would ask him, “Where are you going?” or “Whom are you going to

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