The Beggar

By Anton Chekov

The Beggar Introduction

The beggar is the storey of a beggar's transformation into a good person. A woman's behaviour compelled him to give up alcohol and live a good life.

The Beggar Summary

The storey of Lushkoff, a beggar, is told in 'The Beggar.' While begging, he met Sergei, an advocate who employed him.Sergei asked him to cut wood at his home. He asked the cook show him the shed where the wood was stored. The beggar was too weak and under the influence of alcohol . He couldn't even stand on his own. Olga, who was still the cook, informed Sergei that the wood had been chopped. Sergei was relieved that the man was employed and paid him 50 copecks for chopping the wood. He asked him to come on the first of every month for it. He occasionally asked him to shovel the snow, stack the wood in the shed, or dust the rugs. He would pay between 20 and 40 copecks and once gave him his old trousers as well.

When Sergei shifted, he employed a beggar to help him transport his belongings. Sergei felt satisfied that his efforts in reforming a drunkard had paid off because the beggar had changed because he was sober that day. Sergei asked his name, offered him better work, and shook hands with him because he could read and write. Lushkoff the beggar was never seen again after that day.

Sergei spotted Lushkoff two years later while purchasing a ticket outside a theatre. Lushkoff was dressed nicely and was purchasing a ticket for the gallery area. Sergei was delighted to see him and called him. Lushkoff was now employed as a notary, earning 35 Roubles per month. He thanked Sergei for his kindness in getting him out of the pit. Lushkoff told Sergei that he had changed not for him, but for his cook, Olga. She would scold him, weep for him, and chop the wood for him. Lushkoff was changed by her actions. He then went to the theatre with this.

The Beggar Lesson Explanation

“KIND sir, have pity; turn your attention to a poor, hungry man! For three days I have had nothing to eat; I haven’t five copecks for a lodging, I swear it before God. For eight years I was a village schoolteacher and then I lost my place through intrigues. I fell a victim to calumny. It is a year now since I have had anything to do.”

  • Copecks: Russian coin equal to one-hundredth of a rouble
  • Intrigues: make secret plans to do something illicit or detrimental to someone
  • Calumny: the making of false and defamatory statements about someone in order to damage his/her reputation

A man was begging for alms. He stated that he hadn't eaten anything for three days. He didn't even have five copecks to pay for a hotel room for the night. He swore by God that he was telling the truth. He had worked as a schoolteacher in a village for eight years before being fired due to a conspiracy of his colleagues. He had been unemployed for a year.

The advocate, Sergei, looked at the ragged, fawn-coloured overcoat of the suppliant, at his dull, drunken eyes, at the red spot on either cheek, and it seemed to him as if he had seen this man somewhere before.

  • Suppliant: a person making a humble plea to someone in power or authority

The beggar's light brown coat drew the attention of an advocate named Sergei. The beggar's eyes were dull and drunken. On both of his cheeks, there were red spots. Sergei had a feeling he'd seen the man before.

“I have now had an offer of a position in the province of Kaluga,” the mendicant went on, “but I haven’t the money to get there. Help me kindly; I am ashamed to ask, but — I am obliged to
by circumstances.”

  • Mendicant: beggar
  • obliged to: compelled, forced

The beggar went on to say that he had been offered a job in the Russian state of Kaluga. He lacked the funds to travel to the location. He needed help, but he was ashamed to ask for it, but his circumstances forced him to.

Sergei’s eyes fell on the man’s overshoes, one of which was high and the other low, and he suddenly remembered something.

Sergei noticed the man's shoes, which had varying heel sizes. He remembered something.

“Look here, it seems to me I met you the day before yesterday in Sadovya Street,” he said; “but you told me then that you were a student who had been expelled, and not a village schoolteacher. Do you remember?”

He stated to have seen the same beggar on Sadovya street the day before the previous day. The beggar then stated that he was a student who had been expelled from the institution, not a schoolteacher. He inquired of the beggar whether he remembered it.

“N-no, that can’t be so,” mumbled the beggar, taken aback. “I am a village schoolteacher, and if you like I can show you my papers.”

The beggar was shocked and stated softly that this was not possible. He asserted that he was a schoolteacher and could provide documentation to prove it.

“Have done with lying! You called yourself a student and even told me what you had been expelled for. Don’t you remember?”

Sergei stated that he had told enough lies. He went on to say that the beggar told him he was a student and even told him why he had been expelled from his institution.

Sergei flushed and turned from the ragged creature with an expression of disgust.

  • Disgust: a feeling of revulsion or strong disapproval aroused by something unpleasant or offensive

Sergei became angered and turned away from the beggar.

“This is dishonesty, my dear sir!” he cried angrily. “This is swindling — I shall send the police for you, damn you!”

  • Swindling: cheating a person of money

He screamed that the beggar was a liar. He was a dishonest person, and Sergei would take him in to the cops.

“Sir!” he said, laying his hand on his heart, “the fact is I was lying! I am neither a student nor a schoolteacher. All that was fiction. Formerly I sang in a Russian choir and was sent away for drunkenness. But what else can I do? I can’t get along without lying. No one will give me anything when I tell the truth, what can I do?”

  • Fiction: falsehood

The beggar agreed he was lying. He wasn't a student or a teacher. He was a singer in a Russian group who was fired because of his drinking problem. People would not give him alms if he told the truth, so he lied.

“What can you do? You ask what you can do?” cried Sergei, coming close to him. “Work! That’s what you can do!
You must work!”

Sergei screamed at him and told him that instead of lying, he could work.

“Work — yes. I know that myself; but where can I find work?”

The beggar stated that he was aware that he needed to work but that there was no work available to him.

“How would you like to chop wood for me?”

Sergei approached him and asked if he could chop wood for him.

“I wouldn’t refuse to do that, but in these days even skilled wood-cutters find themselves sitting without bread.”

The beggar desired to chop wood but stated that even skilled wood cutters were unemployed, so who would hire him?

“Will you come and chop wood for me?”

Sergei approached him about a job.

“Yes sir, I will.”

The beggar responded by offering to chop wood for him.

“Very well; we’ll soon find out.”
Sergei hastened along, rubbing his hands. He called his cook out of the kitchen.

  • Hastened: walked hurriedly

Sergei stated that his willingness to work would be assessed shortly. He walked away, rubbing his hands, and summoned the chef from the kitchen.

“Here, Olga,” he said, “take this gentleman into the wood-shed and let him chop wood.”

He asked Olga to takes the man to the woodshed and let him to chop wood.

The scarecrow of a beggar shrugged his shoulders, as if in perplexity, and went irresolutely after the cook. It was obvious from his gait that he had not consented to go and chop wood because he was hungry and wanted work, but simply from pride and shame and because he had been trapped by his own words. It was obvious, too, that his strength had been undermined by vodka and that he was unhealthy and did not feel the slightest inclination for toil.

  • Perplexity: state of being puzzled; bewilderment
  • Irresolutely: hesitantly; undecidedly
  • Gait: walk
  • Inclination: interest
  • toil: hard work

The beggar had the appearance of a scarecrow. His reluctance to go to the shed was expressed by his shrugging shoulders. He hesitantly followed the cook. He was hesitant because he was hungry and, while he wanted to work, he did not have the energy to do so. He had to go to work, as he had promised Sergei. He didn't feel strong enough because he was under the influence of alcohol and wasn't in good enough shape to do laborious work.

Sergei hurried into the dining-room. From its windows one could see the woodshed and everything that went on in the yard. Standing at the window, Sergei saw the cook and the beggar come out into the yard by the back door and make their way across the dirty snow to the shed. Olga glared wrathfully at her companion, shoved him aside with her elbow, unlocked the shed, and angrily banged the door.

  • Wrathfully: with hatred
  • shoved him aside: pushed him

Sergei entered the dining room to gaze out the window. He had a good view of the woodshed and the yard. In the yard, he noticed the cook and the beggar. They made their way to the shed. Olga, the cook, stared angrily at the beggar, pushed him with her elbow, and shut the door.

Next he saw the pseudo-teacher seat himself on a log and become lost in thought with his red cheeks resting on his fists. The woman flung down an axe at his feet, spat angrily, and, judging from the expression of her lips, began to scold him. The beggar irresolutely pulled a billet of wood towards him, set it up between his feet, and tapped it feebly with the axe. The billet wavered and fell down. The beggar again pulled it to him, blew on his freezing hands, and tapped it with his axe cautiously, as if afraid of hitting his overshoe or of cutting off his finger; the stick of wood again fell to the ground.

  • Billet: here, a thick piece of wood
  • Feebly: weakly

Then he noticed the beggar, who had pretended to be a teacher, sitting on a log of wood. He sat with his fists on his cheeks. Olga scolded him and threw the axe at him. The beggar drew the piece of wood towards him, placed it between his feet, and struck it with the axe weakly. The wood shook and felt. He pulled it up again, tried to warm his hands by blowing into them, and tapped the wood with the axe once more. He took care not to step on his shoes or cut his finger. The wood began to fall once more.

Sergei’s anger had vanished and he now began to feel a little sorry and ashamed of himself for having set a spoiled, drunken, perhaps sick man to work at menial labour in the cold.

  • menial labour: an unskilled, inferior job

Sergei was no longer angered at the beggar. He felt sorry and ashamed for putting the poor man to work in such cold weather despite the fact that he was not physically capable of doing so.

An hour later Olga came in and announced that the wood had all been chopped.

After an hour, Olga returned to Sergei and told him that all of the wood had been chopped.

“Good! Give him half a rouble,” said Sergei. “If he wants to he can come back and cut wood on the first day of each month. We can always find work for him.”

Sergei was relieved that the beggar had completed the task. He told Olga to pay him half a Rouble. He added that she could tell him to come every month on the first to cut wood. They might be able to find him some work.

On the first of the month the waif made his appearance and again earned half a rouble, although he could barely stand on his legs. From that day on he often appeared in the yard and every time work was found for him. Now he would shovel snow, now put the wood-shed in order, now beat the dust out of rugs and mattresses. Every time he received from twenty to forty copecks, and once, even a pair of old trousers were sent out to him.

  • Waif: a homeless person
  • Shovel: remove snow with a shovel (a tool resembling a spade with a broad blade and typically upturned sides)

The beggar arrived on the first of the month and was given half a Rouble despite being heavily drunk and unable to stand on his own. He frequently went there for work. He would do odd jobs like shovelling snow, stacking wood in the shed, and beating the rugs to remove dust for 20 – 40 Copecks. Sergei once gave him a pair of trousers as well.

When Sergei moved into another house he hired him to help in the packing and hauling of the furniture. This time the waif was sober, gloomy, and silent. He hardly touched the furniture, and walked behind the wagons hanging his head, not even making a pretence of appearing busy. He only shivered in the cold and became embarrassed when the carters jeered at him for his idleness, his feebleness, and his tattered, fancy overcoat. After the moving was over Sergei sent for him.

  • Hauling: transporting
  • Pretence: to show something which actually does not exist
  • jeered at him: made fun of him

Sergei moved to a new house and hired a beggar to help him move items such as furniture. The man was no longer under the influence of alcohol. He was depressed and kept quiet. He didn't do much to help move the furniture. He just walked behind the vans with his head down, not even pretending to be busy. He shivered from the cold and appeared embarrassed when other workers mocked him for being idle, weak, and laughed at his ripped overcoat. Sergei called the beggar when the work was finished.

“Well, I am happy that my words have taken effect,’” he said, handing him a rouble. “Here’s for your pains. I see you are sober and have no objection to work. What is your name?’”

Sergei expressed his delight at witnessing the beggar's transformation as a result of his scoldings. He gave him a Rouble for his efforts and inquired about his name, as he had stopped drinking and was willing to work as well.


The beggar introduced himself as Lushkoff.

“Well, Lushkoff, I can now offer you some other, cleaner employment. Can you write?’”
Sergei wanted to offer him better work and asked if he could write.

“I can.”

Lushkoff responded that he, too, could write.

“Then take this letter to a friend of mine tomorrow and you will be given some copying to do. Work hard, don’t drink, and remember what I have said to you. Goodbye!”

Sergei handed him a letter that he was supposed to deliver to a friend of his. Sergei's friend would give Lushkoff copying work. He told him to work hard. They parted ways.

Pleased at having put a man on the right path, Sergei tapped Lushkoff kindly on the shoulder and even gave him his hand at parting. Lushkoff took the letter, and from that day forth came no more to the yard for work.

Sergei was pleased that he had become a better man. He tapped Lushkoff on the shoulder and shook his hand. Lushkoff took the letter and never returned.

Two years went by. Then one evening, as Sergei was standing at the ticket window of a theatre paying for his seat, he noticed a little man beside him with a coat collar of curly fur and a worn sealskin cap. This little individual timidly asked the ticket seller for a seat in the gallery and paid for it in copper coins.

  • Timidly: in a shy or nervous way

Sergei was standing at the ticket window of a theatre one evening after two years. He was purchasing a ticket. He noticed Lushkoff standing beside him. He was well-dressed, wearing a coat with a fur collar and a cap made of seal skin. He was shy as he asked for a gallery seat ticket and paid for it with copper coins.

“Lushkoff, is that you?” cried Sergei, recognising in the little man his former wood-chopper. “How are you? What are you doing? How is everything with you?”

Sergei recognised Lushkoff and approached him. He inquired as to how he was, what he was up to, and how everything was going.

“All right. I am a notary now and am paid thirty-five roubles a month.”

  • Notary: a person authorized to perform certain legal formalities, especially to draw up or certify contracts, deeds, and other documents for use in other jurisdictions

Lushkoff responded that he was fine and that he worked as a notary. Every month, he was paid 35 Roubles.

“Thank Heaven! That’s fine! I am delighted for your sake. I am very, very glad, Lushkoff. You see, you are my godson, in a sense. I gave you a push along the right path, you know. Do you remember what a roasting I gave you, eh? I nearly had you sinking into the ground at my feet that day. Thank you, old man, for not forgetting my words.”

  • Godson: a boy or a man whom one promises to bring up
  • Roasting: here, scolding

Sergei was overjoyed and thanked God for rehabilitating the beggar. He stated that he considered Lushkoff to be his Godson because he was a changed man as a result of his scoldings. The beggar had been at his feet that day, pleading for mercy. He was relieved that Lushkoff had remembered his words.

“Thank you, too.” said Lushkoff. “If I hadn’t come to you then I might still have been calling
myself a teacher or a student to this day. Yes, by flying to your protection I dragged myself out of a pit.”

“I am very glad, indeed.”

Lushkoff thanked him and stated that if he hadn't met Sergei that day, he would have continued to lie and beg. He was grateful for Sergei's assistance in getting him out of the pit.

“Thank you for your kind words and deeds. I am very grateful to you and to your cook. God bless that good and noble woman! You spoke finely then, and I shall be indebted to you to my dying day; but, strictly speaking, it was your cook, Olga, who saved me.”

Sergei was thanked for his kindness. He expressed his appreciation to the cook. She was a lady of distinction. Despite Sergei's kindness, it was Olga who saved and reformed him.

“How is that?”

Sergei was asked how he felt about the truth.

“When I used to come to your house to chop wood she used to begin: ‘Oh, you sot, you! Oh, you miserable creature! There’s nothing for you but ruin.’ And then she would sit down opposite me and grow sad, look into my face and weep. ‘Oh, you unlucky man! There is no pleasure for you in this world and there will be none in the world to come. You drunkard! You will burn in hell. Oh, you unhappy one!’ And so she would carry on, you know, in that strain. I can’t tell you how much misery she suffered, how many tears she shed for my sake. But the chief thing was — she used to chop the wood for me. Do you know, sir, that I did not chop one single stick of wood for you? She did it all. Why this saved me, why I changed, why I stopped drinking at the sight of her I cannot explain. I only know that, owing to her words and
noble deeds, a change took place in my heart; she set me right and I shall never forget it. However, it is time to go now; there goes the bell.” Lushkoff bowed and departed to the gallery.

  • Sot: a habitual drunkard

Lushkoff went on to say that whenever he went to chop wood, Olga would scold him. She would be sad for him and cry for him. She was heartbroken for him and offered to chop all the wood for him. Her actions influenced him. The bell rang just then. Lushkoff bowed to Sergei and exited the theatre's gallery.

About the Author

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (29 January 1860 – 15 July 1904) was a Russian playwright and short-story writer who is regarded as one of the world's greatest writers. His work as a playwright resulted in four classics, and his best short stories are highly regarded by writers and critics. Chekhov was a doctor by profession.