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No Smoking on the Train

An Excerpt from Dostoevsky's The Idiot (1869)
“It’s a stupid story and can be told in two words,” began the general complacently. “Two years ago—yes, nearly two, just after the opening of the new railway—I was already in civilian dress then and busy about an affair of great importance in connection with my giving up the service. I took a first-class ticket, went in, sat down, and began to smoke. Or rather I went on smoking, for I had lighted my cigar before. I was alone in the compartment. Smoking is not prohibited, nor was it allowed; it was sort of half allowed, as it usually is. Of course it depends on the person. The window was down.

“Just before the whistle sounded, two ladies with a lapdog seated themselves just opposite me. They were late. One of them was dressed in gorgeous style in light blue; the other more soberly in black silk with a cape. They were nice-looking, had a disdainful air, and talked in English. I took no notice, of course, and went on smoking. I did hesitate, but I went on smoking close to the window, for the window was open. The lapdog was lying on the pale blue lady’s knee. It was a tiny creature no bigger than my fist, black with white paws, quite a curiosity. It had a silver collar with a motto on it. I did nothing. But I noticed the ladies seemed annoyed, at my cigar, no doubt. One of them stared at me through her tortoise-shell lorgnette. I did nothing again, for they said nothing. If they’d said anything, warned me, asked me—there is such a thing as language after all! But they were silent. … Suddenly, without the slightest preface—I assure you without the slightest, as though she had suddenly taken leave of her sense—the pale blue one snatched the cigar out of my hand and flung it out of the window. The train was racing alone. I gazed at her aghast. A savage woman, yes, positively a woman of quite a savage type; yet a plump, comfortable-looking, tall, fair woman, with rosy cheeks (too rosy, in fact). Her eyes glared at me. Without uttering a word and with extraordinary courtesy, the most perfect, the most refined courtesy, I delicately picked up the lapdog by the collar in two fingers and flung it out of the window after the cigar! It uttered one squeal. The train was still racing on.”

“You are a monster!” exclaimed Nastasya Filippovna, laughing and clapping her hands like a child.

“Bravo, bravo!” cried Ferdyshtchenko.

Pititsyn too smiled, though he had also been extremely put out by the general’s entrance. Even Kolya laughed and cried “Bravo!” too.

“And I was right, perfectly right,” the triumphant general continued warmly.” For if cigars are forbidden in a railway carriage, dogs are even more so.”