From Rothschild’s Fiddle by Anton Chekhov, 1894:
The town was small, worse than a village, and in it lived almost none but old people, who died so rarely it was even annoying. And in the hospital and jail there was very little demand for coffins. In short, business was bad. If Yakov Ivanov had been a coffin-maker in the provincial capital, he would most likely have had a house of his own and been called Yakov Matveich; but in this wretched little town he was simply called Yakov, his street nickname for some reason was “Bronzy,” and he lived a poor life, like a simple peasant, in a little old cottage with only one room, and that room housed himself, Marfa, the stove, the double bed, the coffins, the workbench, and all his chattels.
Yakov made good, sturdy coffins. For peasants and tradesmen he made them his own size and was never once mistaken, because no one anywhere, not even in the jail, was taller or stronger than he, though he was now seventy years old. For gentlefolk and women he worked to measure, and for that he used an iron ruler. He accepted orders for children’s coffins very reluctantly, and made them straight off without measurements, scornfully, and, taking the money for his work, would say each time:
“I confess, I don’t like messing with trifles.”
Besides his craft, he also earned a little money playing the fiddle.The Prose of the Day series, curated by editors, contributors, and supporters of Decameron journal, showcases examples of particularly excellent prose. To suggest an entry, email the excerpt and your reasons for calling it excellent to email@example.com.