The Lottery Ticket
by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904)
Approximate Word Count: 1978
Ivan Dmitritch, a middle-class man who lived with his family on an
income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with
his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the
"I forgot to look at the newspaper today," his wife said to him as
she cleared the table. "Look and see whether the list of drawings
"Yes, it is," said Ivan Dmitritch; "but hasn't your ticket lapsed?"
"No; I took the interest on Tuesday."
"What is the number?"
"Series 9,499, number 26."
"All right . . . we will look . . . 9,499 and 26."
Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck, and would not, as a
rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning numbers, but
now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was before
his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of
numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his scepticism,
no further than the second line from the top, his eye was caught by
the figure 9,499! Unable to believe his eyes, he hurriedly dropped
the paper on his knees without looking to see the number of the
ticket, and, just as though some one had given him a douche of cold
water, he felt an agreeable chill in the pit of the stomach;
tingling and terrible and sweet!
"Masha, 9,499 is there!" he said in a hollow voice.
His wife looked at his astonished and panicstricken face, and
realized that he was not joking.
"9,499?" she asked, turning pale and dropping the folded tablecloth
on the table.
"Yes, yes . . . it really is there!"
"And the number of the ticket?"
"Oh yes! There's the number of the ticket too. But stay . . . wait!
No, I say! Anyway, the number of our series is there! Anyway, you
Looking at his wife, Ivan Dmitritch gave a broad, senseless smile,
like a baby when a bright object is shown it. His wife smiled too;
it was as pleasant to her as to him that he only mentioned the
series, and did not try to find out the number of the winning
ticket. To torment and tantalize oneself with hopes of possible
fortune is so sweet, so thrilling!
"It is our series," said Ivan Dmitritch, after a long silence. "So
there is a probability that we have won. It's only a probability,
but there it is!"
"Well, now look!"
"Wait a little. We have plenty of time to be disappointed. It's on
the second line from the top, so the prize is seventy-five
thousand. That's not money, but power, capital! And in a minute I
shall look at the list, and there--26! Eh? I say, what if we really
The husband and wife began laughing and staring at one another in
silence. The possibility of winning bewildered them; they could not
have said, could not have dreamed, what they both needed that
seventy-five thousand for, what they would buy, where they would
go. They thought only of the figures 9,499 and 75,000 and pictured
them in their imagination, while somehow they could not think of
the happiness itself which was so possible.
Ivan Dmitritch, holding the paper in his hand, walked several times
from corner to corner, and only when he had recovered from the
first impression began dreaming a little.
"And if we have won," he said--"why, it will be a new life, it will
be a transformation! The ticket is yours, but if it were mine I
should, first of all, of course, spend twenty-five thousand on real
property in the shape of an estate; ten thousand on immediate
expenses, new furnishing . . . travelling . . . paying debts, and
so on. . . . The other forty thousand I would put in the bank and
get interest on it."
"Yes, an estate, that would be nice," said his wife, sitting down
and dropping her hands in her lap.
"Somewhere in the Tula or Oryol provinces. . . . In the first place
we shouldn't need a summer villa, and besides, it would always
bring in an income."
And pictures came crowding on his imagination, each more gracious
and poetical than the last. And in all these pictures he saw
himself well-fed, serene, healthy, felt warm, even hot! Here, after
eating a summer soup, cold as ice, he lay on his back on the
burning sand close to a stream or in the garden under a lime-tree.
. . . It is hot. . . . His little boy and girl are crawling about
near him, digging in the sand or catching ladybirds in the grass.
He dozes sweetly, thinking of nothing, and feeling all over that he
need not go to the office today, tomorrow, or the day after. Or,
tired of lying still, he goes to the hayfield, or to the forest for
mushrooms, or watches the peasants catching fish with a net. When
the sun sets he takes a towel and soap and saunters to the bathing
shed, where he undresses at his leisure, slowly rubs his bare chest
with his hands, and goes into the water. And in the water, near the
opaque soapy circles, little fish flit to and fro and green
water-weeds nod their heads. After bathing there is tea with cream
and milk rolls. . . . In the evening a walk or vint with the
"Yes, it would be nice to buy an estate," said his wife, also
dreaming, and from her face it was evident that she was enchanted
by her thoughts.
Ivan Dmitritch pictured to himself autumn with its rains, its cold
evenings, and its St. Martin's summer. At that season he would have
to take longer walks about the garden and beside the river, so as
to get thoroughly chilled, and then drink a big glass of vodka and
eat a salted mushroom or a soused cucumber, and then--drink
another. . . . The children would come running from the
kitchen-garden, bringing a carrot and a radish smelling of fresh
earth. . . . And then, he would lie stretched full length on the
sofa, and in leisurely fashion turn over the pages of some
illustrated magazine, or, covering his face with it and unbuttoning
his waistcoat, give himself up to slumber.
The St. Martin's summer is followed by cloudy, gloomy weather. It
rains day and night, the bare trees weep, the wind is damp and
cold. The dogs, the horses, the fowls--all are wet, depressed,
downcast. There is nowhere to walk; one can't go out for days
together; one has to pace up and down the room, looking
despondently at the grey window. It is dreary!
Ivan Dmitritch stopped and looked at his wife.
"I should go abroad, you know, Masha," he said.
And he began thinking how nice it would be in late autumn to go
abroad somewhere to the South of France ... to Italy ... to
"I should certainly go abroad too," his wife said. "But look at the
number of the ticket!"
"Wait, wait! ..."
He walked about the room and went on thinking. It occurred to him:
what if his wife really did go abroad? It is pleasant to travel
alone, or in the society of light, careless women who live in the
present, and not such as think and talk all the journey about
nothing but their children, sigh, and tremble with dismay over
every farthing. Ivan Dmitritch imagined his wife in the train with
a multitude of parcels, baskets, and bags; she would be sighing
over something, complaining that the train made her head ache, that
she had spent so much money.... At the stations he would
continually be having to run for boiling water, bread and butter.
...She wouldn't have dinner because of its being too dear....
"She would begrudge me every farthing," he thought, with a glance
at his wife. "The lottery ticket is hers, not mine! Besides, what
is the use of her going abroad? What does she want there? She would
shut herself up in the hotel, and not let me out of her sight.... I know!"
And for the first time in his life his mind dwelt on the fact that
his wife had grown elderly and plain, and that she was saturated
through and through with the smell of cooking, while he was still
young, fresh, and healthy, and might well have got married again.
"Of course, all that is silly nonsense," he thought; "but...why
should she go abroad? What would she make of it? And yet she would
go, of course.... I can fancy.... In reality it is all one to
her, whether it is Naples or Klin. She would only be in my way. I
should be dependent upon her. I can fancy how, like a regular
woman, she will lock the money up as soon as she gets it.... She
will look after her relations and grudge me every farthing."
Ivan Dmitritch thought of her relations. All those wretched
brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles would come crawling about
as soon as they heard of the winning ticket, would begin whining
like beggars, and fawning upon them with oily, hypocritical smiles.
Wretched, detestable people! If they were given anything, they
would ask for more; while if they were refused, they would swear at
them, slander them, and wish them every kind of misfortune.
Ivan Dmitritch remembered his own relations, and their faces, at
which he had looked impartially in the past, struck him now as
repulsive and hateful.
"They are such reptiles!" he thought.
And his wife's face, too, struck him as repulsive and hateful.
Anger surged up in his heart against her, and he thought
"She knows nothing about money, and so she is stingy. If she won it
she would give me a hundred roubles, and put the rest away under
lock and key."
And he looked at his wife, not with a smile now, but with hatred.
She glanced at him too, and also with hatred and anger. She had her
own daydreams, her own plans, her own reflections; she understood
perfectly well what her husband's dreams were. She knew who would
be the first to try to grab her winnings.
"It's very nice making daydreams at other people's expense!" is
what her eyes expressed. "No, don't you dare!"
Her husband understood her look; hatred began stirring again in his
breast, and in order to annoy his wife he glanced quickly, to spite
her at the fourth page on the newspaper and read out triumphantly:
"Series 9,499, number 46! Not 26!"
Hatred and hope both disappeared at once, and it began immediately
to seem to Ivan Dmitritch and his wife that their rooms were dark
and small and low-pitched, that the supper they had been eating was
not doing them good, but Lying heavy on their stomachs, that the
evenings were long and wearisome. . . .
"What the devil's the meaning of it?" said Ivan Dmitritch,
beginning to be ill-humored. 'Wherever one steps there are bits of
paper under one's feet, crumbs, husks. The rooms are never swept!
One is simply forced to go out. Damnation take my soul entirely! I
shall go and hang myself on the first aspen-tree!"
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