1887 / Russia: Anton Chekhov Runs the Numbers
Ivan Dmitritch, a middle class man who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the newspaper.
“I forgot to look at the newspaper today,” his wife said to him as she cleared the table. “Look and see whether the list of drawings is there.”
“Yes, it is,” said Ivan Dmitritch, “but hasn’t your ticket lapsed?”
“No, I took the interest on Tuesday.”
“What is the number?”
“Series 9,499, number 26.”
“All right… we will look… 9,499 and 26.”
Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck and would not, as a rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning numbers; but now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was before his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his skepticism, no further than the second line from the top, his eye was caught by the figure 9,499! Unable to believe his eyes, he hurriedly dropped the paper on his knees without looking to see the number of the ticket, and, just as though someone had given him a douche of cold water, he felt an agreeable chill in the pit of the stomach, tingling and terrible and sweet!
“Masha, 9,499 is there!” he said in a hollow voice.
His wife looked at his astonished and panic-stricken face and realized that he was not joking.
“9,499?” she asked, turning pale and dropping the folded tablecloth on the table.
“Yes, yes… it really is there!”
“And the number of the ticket?”
“Oh, yes! There’s the number of the ticket too. But stay… wait! No, I say! Anyway, the number of our series is there! Anyway, you understand….”
Looking at his wife, Ivan Dmitritch gave a broad, senseless smile, like a baby when a bright object is shown it. His wife smiled too; it was as pleasant to her as to him that he only mentioned the series and did not try to find out the number of the winning ticket. To torment and tantalize oneself with hopes of possible fortune is so sweet, so thrilling!
“It is our series,” said Ivan Dmitritch, after a long silence. “So there is a probability that we have won. It’s only a probability, but there it is!”
What the fuck Lapham’s Quarterly lolol I wonder if this was poor editing or just ridiculously intentional. I’m really hoping this is intentional.