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Return of the Exiled Saratoga Trunk
In Anton Chekhov’s interior bedroom at his Melikhovo house, one’s attention is involuntarily drawn to the bulky, travel worn trunk, as it looks very distinguished. Moreover, it is a Saratoga Trunk to be exact. The interior of the leatherette suitcase turns out to be equipped with several unusual construction "features." It keeps its shape through a woven basket, whereas in the back it is reinforced with wooden slats for rigidity. A worthy trunk...
The impressive size of the trunk and its unwillingness to bend under any circumstances was the cause of some misfortune. It was because of precisely these qualities that this unfortunate trunk once had a narrow brush with exile to Siberia.
The fact is that this trunk was Chekhov’s travel companion on his trip to Sakhalin Island in 1890; it was purchased by his brother Mikhail, who later presented it to Anton Chekhov as he was about to leave. Moreover, on the way to the Volga river, this enameled cloth wonder of a trunk started falling down. Furthermore, it proved to have a number of unpleasant characteristics.
"My trunk, my dear little chest, proved to be impractical for travel: it takes up too much space, pushes to the side, rattles, and, what is most important, it is about - to break into pieces. Good people told me: "Do not take trunks with you on a long journey!” Yet, I only took this good advice halfway though. Well? I shall leave my trunk in Tomsk and leave it there, and in its place I bought some sort of nasty piece of leather that has the only convenience that it gets thrown down on the bottom of the carriage wherever, " - wrote Chekhov to Alexey Sergeevich Suvorin, the publisher of the newspaper, “Novoye Vremya” ("New Times”).
So, for failing to “lay prostrate as a slave to fashion" the trunk was given a life sentence in Tomsk. Yet, fate was kind to it, and salvation came in the person of … an assistant to the chief of police.
Moreover, the visit of this official with a long moustache, made Chekhov feel uneasy for a while. What could have been the reason for this local police official to visit Chekhov at eleven in the evening? There was, however, no reason to worry about, as this police officer was a lover of literature and an admirer of Anton Chekhov, and, in addition, he was keen on writing himself during his leisure time.
Furthermore, he decided to show Chekhov to his creation – a drama... Chekhov awaited the composition of this police officer and laughed when he "arrived ...as if in Mecca in order to pay homage before Mohammed."
Chekhov was lucky. The police official had not brought his drama with him. Nevertheless, requesting some vodka, he retold his story aloud, and then opening up, shared a love story and boasted about a gold ingot. To his own misfortune, the uniformed provincial novelist said something that by the fall would be in St. Petersburg. “Surely,” he said, with an air of great meaning – “say, and we, provincials, have some business in the capital!” boasting, in general.
Anton Pavlovich was not taken aback – asked the "colleague" to drop off his suitcase-trunk in St. Petersburg and give it to the newspaper "New Times". How it must have put the soul of Chekhov at ease to know that he did not abandon his friend in exile in Tomsk. How the police officer, perhaps, must have cursed himself ...
The admirer of Chekhov and his talent complied with the request, and the inconvenient "travel companion" returned to its owner, to remain unused and endure its uselessness. It could only remember the accomplishments of the past. Anyway, a third of the way to Sakhalin Chekhov traveled with his trunk – no joke! On the train, on the boat, riding on horses together on the journey they had experienced bad weather, rivers flooding, and the rattling of carriages ...
In its second life, the trunk was given to the Chekhov’s wife, Olga Leonardovna Knipper-Chekhova. She used it to store theatrical props during her numerous tours.
After her death, according to the will, the suitcase-trunk wound up in Melikhovo. As a venerable witness of Chekhov's journey to Sakhalin. It has earned its place at the Museum.