Madeleine Jeanne Lemaire, “A Gallant Suitor And His Beautiful Lady”
“Why don’t you drink some water,” Zoya counseled.
I walked up and down beside the sofa. I pressed my finger to my throat. Again, I hiccuped. Ma Chère, I was in a terrible bind! Zoya got up and went to the box. I followed. I opened the door to the box for her, hiccuped, and ran to the bar. I drank five glasses of water. The hiccups seemed to have settled down. I smoked a cigarette and headed for the box. Zoya’s brother stood and offered me his seat, a seat beside my Zoya. I sat down and immediately I hiccuped. Five minutes passed, but then I hiccuped again—a strange wheezy hiccup. I got up and went to stand by the door of the box. It is better, ma chère, to hiccup by the door rather than into the ear of a woman one loves! I hiccuped. The schoolboy in the neighboring box looked at me and laughed loudly…Cursing the impertinent schoolboy, I hiccuped again. Laughter came from the neighboring boxes.
“Encore!” hissed the schoolboy.
“What the hell is going on!” Colonel Pepsinov muttered in my ear. “You could have stayed home to hiccup, sir!”
Zoya blushed. Once again I hiccuped, and then I ran out of the box, my fists fiercely clenched. I paced up and down the hallway. I paced, and paced, and paced—and I hiccuped. The things I ate and drank to make the hiccups go away! At the beginning of the fourth act, I called it quits. I went home…
The next evening, I went to dine with the Pepsinovs, as was my habit. Zoya didn’t come down to dinner. She sent a message that she couldn’t see me. She was ill. Colonel Pepsinov gave a long speech about how certain young men do not know how to behave in public…
“Would you have given your daughter, if you had one,” Pepsinov said to me after dinner, “to a man who permits himself to engage in public belching? Well, sir?”
“I would,” I muttered.
“Then you’d be making a mistake, sir!”
That was the end of Zoya. She couldn’t forgive the hiccups. I was done for.
—Anton Chekhov, “A Confession Or, Olya, Zhenya, Zoya (A Letter)”
I’m not feelin’ too good myself…