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The Nose (part 6)

The final part of a story by this Russian writer.  You can read the original here.


The world is replete with utter nonsense.  Sometimes it is a matter of not even the slightest plausibility: suddenly that very nose, which had travelled around at the rank of state councillor and caused such an uproar in the city, turned up as if nothing at all had occurred back in its old place, that is to say, exactly between the two cheeks of Major Kovalev.  This took place on the seventh of April.  He woke up and looked by chance in a mirror and saw – the nose!  He seized it with his hand – it was there indeed!  "Joy, o joy!"  said Kovalev ecstatically, and almost lurched around the entire room barefoot dancing the trepak before Ivan entered and interrupted him.   He ordered Ivan to let him have an hour to himself to wash up, and as he washed, he took another look in the mirror: the nose!  Drying himself off with a washcloth, he took another look in the mirror: the nose!

"Look, Ivan.  I seem to have gotten a pimple on my nose," he said and thought to himself: "Oh, it would be awful if Ivan were to say: no, my lord; not only is there no pimple, there's also no nose!"

But Ivan said:

"There's no pimple whatsoever!  Your nose is clean!"

"Good, dammit!" said the Major to himself and snapped his fingers.  At that very moment, the barber Ivan Yakovlevich appeared at the door looking as frightened as a cat who just had been flogged for stealing some lard.

"Tell me straight out: are your hands clean?"  Kovalev yelled over to him from afar.


"You're lying!"

"They're clean, I swear to you, sir!"

"Be careful, then."

Kovalev sat down.  Ivan Yakovlevich closed his handkerchief, and in a single moment, with the help of a shaving brush, turned his entire beard and cheeks to cream such as is available on merchants' name days.

"Now look at that!"  said Ivan Yakovlevich to himself, looking again at the nose, and then turning his head to the other side and looking at it askew.   "There it is, how wonderful! True, it seems," he went on and looked at the nose for a long time.  Finally very lightly, with carefulness that you can only imagine, he lifted two fingers in order to catch it at the tip.  Such was the system of Ivan Yakovlevich. 

"Hey, hey, hey, be careful now!" shouted Kovalev.

Ivan Yakovlevich did indeed drop his hands: he was dumbfounded and embarrassed as he had never been embarrassed before.  Finally he began tickling below the beard very carefully with the razor, and although this position was very uncomfortable and he had no means of supporting himself on the olfactory part of the body, he somehow managed, leaning his rough thumb in the middle of Kovalev's cheek and against his lower gums, to overcome all obstacles and finish the shave.

When it was all done, Kovalev ran off that very minute to get dressed, hailed a coachman and made directly for the bakery.  Entering, he called out while still far off, "Lad, a cup of hot chocolate!" and immediately looked at himself once again in the mirror: and the nose was there!  He merrily turned back and with a satirical countenance gazed, occasionally squinting, at two soldiers, one of whom had a nose no bigger than a vest button.  Then he went to the offices of the department where there were some concerns about the vice-gubernatorial spot and, in the event of failure, the executor's.  As he passed through the foyer, he again took a look in the mirror: the nose was there!  Then he rode off to see another collegiate assessor, or major, one famed for his mockery whose pointed barbs Kovalev would often answer with, "Well, well, I know you, you old sarcast!"  On the way over he thought: "If the major doesn't convulse in laughter upon seeing me, then that's a true sign that everything that could be is in its place."  But the collegiate assessor was fine.  "Alright, alright, dammit!" Kovalev thought to himself.  On the road he bumped into the wife of the state councillor Podtochina and her daughter, bowed to them, and was met with joyous exclamations; perhaps here again everything was fine, no damage done.  He remained speaking with them for a very long time, and, purposefully pulling out his snuff box, for a long while proceeded to stuff his nose from both entryways as he repeated to himself: "Here you go, women, as they say, a clucky bunch. All the same, I will not marry your daughter.  That's all there is to it, par amour – pardon me!"  And after that Major Kovalev would go out strolling as if nothing had happened – on Nevsky avenue, in the theaters, everywhere.  And the nose, also as if nothing had happened, sat in its spot on his face, not even with the appearance of wanting to separate on the side.  And from that time on Major Kovalev was always seen to be in a good mood, smiling, paying unabashed attention to all the pretty ladies, and even stopping one time at a store in the Great Gostiny Dvor and buying himself a medal ribbon for who knows what reason, as he himself had never been a knight in any order.  

And such a story occurred in the northern capital of our expansive land!  Only now, taking into consideration everything, do we see that it contains a lot of the improbable and implausible.  We are not even talking about the extremely bizarre supernatural separation of the nose and its appearance in various locations as a state councillor – but how did Kovalev not catch on that it was forbidden to make an announcement about the nose through the newspaper office?   Here I do not mean that I found the announcement expensive; that's nonsense, and I have never counted myself among the greedy.  But it was unpleasant, awkward, and simply not good!  And also how did the nose simply turn up in the baked bread, and how about Ivan Yakovlevich himself?   No, this I do not at all understand, not in the slightest ... Yet what is strangest and unclearest of all is how authors could even select plots such as these.  I admit that this is utterly incomprehensible, that's just what it is ... No, no, I don't understand at all.  First of all, there is absolutely no benefit to our homeland; and in the second place ... well, in the second place there is also no benefit.  I simply do not know what this is ...

And anyway, in all this, of course,  one could assume one thing, or a second, or a third; one could even ... well, aren't there here and there some absurdities?  And yet in all this when you think about it, there is something there.  No matter what anyone says, such events do take place in this world – rarely, but they do.

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