The Dance Pianist (Chekhov)

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The Dance Pianist
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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A musician has been invited to play at a wedding. After a casual conversation with the host's daughter about serious music, he was pointed to his place. This offended the musician, he made a scandal and got his neck slapped for it.

The narrator was sitting in his room deep into the night, writing a custom-made feuilleton in verse. Suddenly, his roommate returned earlier than usual.

Peter Rublev — A former conservatory student with a pale face and sharp eyes.

The narrator asked what made Peter return from the wedding earlier than usual. Instead of answering, the neighbor went silently to his bed and tried to sleep, but he failed. The narrator watched his neighbor's actions and, unable to stand it, decided to talk to him. After suffering, Peter confessed that he had been punched in the neck. The narrator did not believe him - though Peter had been drinking, he had kept to the norms of decency in society.

The musician told him that he went to the Arbat to see his client, a retired lieutenant colonel, who was married to the count's illegitimate daughter. The wedding was their daughter and a certain merchant's son. Although the groom by status was not quite suitable as a husband for the daughter of a retired lieutenant colonel, nevertheless, the bride's family tried to pay no attention to this circumstance. When Peter came to the client, the wedding had already taken place. As usual, the musician went to the piano to begin to entertain the audience.

When he met the musician on the threshold, the retired lieutenant colonel reminded him that Pyotr should play the piano well and not abuse alcohol. Peter took his words calmly as he was used to such remarks.

While playing the musician heard somebody singing behind him. He turned around and saw the owner's daughter. Peter struck up a conversation with the girl and did not notice that he was carried away with the conversation. The girl impressed Peter with her knowledge of the works of serious composers. Some of the guests, noticing this, began to whisper to one another. At first, the musician didn't realize what was going on. He thought that there was something wrong with his appearance, so it did not bother the guests. But Peter and the lady did not have time to discuss music properly.

A respectable, fat lady approached the girl and whispered something in her ear. The young lady was horrified and immediately moved away from the musician. Peter became curious. Assuming that his tailscoat had burst on his back, the musician went to the front room to assess his appearance. His clothes, however, were fine. Before returning to the piano, Peter overheard a dialogue between an old lady and a footman discussing how the young lady had inexcusably spoken to the visiting musician, even though it was not her place to do so by status.

Our young lady... She saw a lad by the pianos and started to talk to him, as if he were a real..., and the lad was not a guest, but a musician...

The old lady remarked that, thanks to the intervention of the respectable lady, the girl's honor had been saved. Peter was shocked, but tried to remain calm. He tried to play it cool, but the indignation in his soul was still growing.

Peter became unbearably bitter at the thought of having his place in this society pointed out to him. He remembered how he had come to Moscow to become a composer and pianist, and instead ended up in musicians who played at weddings. Peter also recalled his roommate, who had to write custom feuilletons, and buddies who didn't become singers and artists. The musician did not notice how he drank a lot of vodka, which provoked him to violent behavior.

There was a commotion, and the frightened guests began to shout. Someone dragged Peter into the front room, put a fur coat on him, and hit him on the neck. After telling his neighbor about it, the musician began to laugh hysterically, and the neighbor tried to calm him down and heatedly said that there was no water in their room.