At one point, I say “videos” when I mean “episodes”. This has been corrected in the transcript.
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Nose That Ran Away. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Nose2. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Nose2. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is another story about a nose. We had a previous one on the podcast called The Monk’s Nose. You can listen to The Monk’s Nose at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Nose. Actually, I even put in a small reference to this episode in the story.
This story was recommended to me by a listener of the podcast. So thank you so much, Mouhoubi, for commenting and recommending it! I hope I pronounced your name right. This story is by Nikolai Gogol. He is a Russian author. It’s very funny and very strange, so my favourite kind of story. If you do know any short stories that are good to adapt, please let me know. You can comment on any of the episodes and recommend me stories you like.
Unfortunately, I can only adapt stories that are in the public domain, so stories that are not copyrighted. Usually this means the author has to have died at least seventy years ago. So this limits the stories quite a bit, unfortunately.
So I’ll just go through some words that are in today’s story.
A city council is an organisation that governs a city, that runs a city. They make decisions about rubbish, buildings, where to build libraries, what shops to open, and so on.
A servant is someone who works for someone else, usually at their home. For example they might clean, cook, look after animals and so on. They were very common in the past. Old British houses often had a whole group of servants who worked there.
A major is a person high up in the army. So they work for the army. A major controls other soldiers and they usually control a few hundred soldiers. It is a respected position.
A carriage was a method of transport used in the past. Before cars were invented, people used things similar to cars, but horses moved them, or donkeys moved them. So you sat in the back, like in a car, and someone sat on the front and guided the horses, who pulled the carriage. You can still ride on carriages in some places. For example, in Central Park in New York there are tourist carriages. I actually saw a carriage in the street the other day because they were filming a historical TV show in my town.
If something is impressive it makes you say “Wow!”. For example, you may see a really impressive landscape, an impressive piece of art, an impressive acrobatic feat, and someone might impress you with their behaviour or skills. It’s always a good thing.
High class is someone who comes from the upper classes, or behaves like they come from the upper classes. So high class means you dress well, you eat good food, you eat politely, you always say “please” and “thank you”, and so on. It contrasts with low class people.
A gossip magazine is a magazine that is not really filled with any truth. They are filled with fantastical stories, news about celebrities, and generally shocking and interesting things. Gossip magazines are very popular in the UK, for example Hello Magazine, OK!, and Chat Magazine. They’re generally quite stupid but they can be fun to read sometimes. They’re the kind of thing you take to the beach when you want something easy to read.
Digestion. When you digest your food it means you’ve eaten something and your body now needs to break apart the food and take out all the nutrients.
A witch is a bad, bad woman who uses magic.
Finally, stretch. Stretch is when you pull something apart and it gets harder and harder. You can stretch out a piece of chewing gum, cheese on pizza can be very stretchy, and before you exercise you should stretch your body, you should stretch your legs and your arms and your back, and so on.
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support us on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5 you get an extra story every month. You can support us at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Nose That Ran Away
On Rise Street in St. Petersburg lived a man called Ivan Jakovlevitch. Ivan was a barber, but not a particularly good one. People always said, ‘Be careful of that Ivan. He makes men bleed.’
One day Ivan Jakovlevitch woke up early and went to eat breakfast with his wife. She was taking fresh bread out of the oven, and it smelled amazing.
‘Today, my dear wife,’ he said, ‘I will not have coffee. I will have fresh bread with onions.’
‘Eat the bread if you want to, idiot. Then there will be more coffee for me.’
Ivan prepared the onions and cut open the bread. He cut it in half. But inside there was not just delicious bread, but something white and hard-looking. He pulled it out, and saw that it was a nose.
‘What it this?!’ Ivan said, and dropped the nose on the table. But worse than that, it was not just any nose. It was a nose he knew.
‘Whose nose did you cut off?’ shouted his wife. ‘You are a terrible barber, but this is really too much! Your customers told me that you hold their noses when you shave them. Now look what has happened!’
Ivan realised whose nose it was. It was Kovaloff’s. Kovaloff was a member of the City Council. Ivan shaved him every Wednesday and Sunday.
‘Stop, my dear wife! I will put the nose in some paper, finish my breakfast, and then take it away.’
‘No you will not! I will not have a nose in my kitchen. Well, noses are fine, but a nose without a body, that I will not have in my kitchen! Take it away, you idiot!’
So Ivan put the nose in paper and took it outside. He thought about it. How could he have taken the nose? He was drunk last night, but he did not see Kovaloff, and anyway, how did the nose get into the bread?
Ivan could not bring the nose back to Kovaloff. The man must be very angry, and he would probably shout at Ivan. And then everyone would know that Ivan was a bad barber, and he would lose all his customers. No, he had to get rid of the nose.
He tried to drop it in the street, but a city guard said, ‘Hey there, you’ve dropped something!’ and gave him the nose.
So Ivan kept walking, until he arrived at Isaac Bridge. He looked over the side of the bridge. He pretended to watch the fish in the water below. Then, when nobody was looking, he dropped the nose into the water. He felt much better, and laughed, and went back home to eat his bread with onions.
Kovaloff, the member of the City Council, woke up early that morning. He went and looked in his hand mirror, and was shocked. His nose was gone! He asked his servant to bring some water and a towel, and he rubbed his eyes. But still, his nose was not there! Where his nose had been, there was just smooth skin.
You should know something about Kovaloff. He calls himself Major Kovaloff, but he is not a major. He was simply a City Council member. But because he had worked abroad, he thought he was very clever and important, so he called himself Major.
He used to always say to a certain shopkeeper, ‘Listen. Go to my house in Sadovaia Street and ask, “Does Major Kovaloff live here?” Any child will tell you yes.’
So we will call him Major Kovaloff, although he is not a major.
The Major could not believe what had happened. He thought his mirror might be broken. So he went out into the street to find a better one. He covered his face with a handkerchief, to hide where his nose no longer was. He went into a sweet shop and looked in the mirror, and sure enough, there was nothing there.
‘How horrible!’ said Kovaloff. ‘I really do look like a monster.’
When Kovaloff went back into the street, he saw a carriage coming down the road. It stopped, and a man in uniform walked out. But no, it was not a man! It was his nose!
The nose, in its bright and impressive uniform, looked around, said hello to some people, and then got back into the carriage. It did not see Kovaloff at all.
Kovaloff nearly went mad. He ran after the carriage, which was going to the market. He looked all around the market for the nose, and finally found it in a bakery. It was carefully looking at bread.
‘Excuse me, sir,’ said Kovaloff kindly.
‘What do you want?’ asked the nose.
‘It seems to me… You are going the wrong way, if you understand me. You should be somewhere else right now. Well, I think you can understand me.’
‘I do not. Explain what you mean.’
‘Well, sir, I am a major! A major cannot walk around without a nose. You know, I know several ladies of high class: Mrs. Tchektyriev, for example. So you must understand—’
‘I understand nothing. Explain what you mean!’
‘You are my nose!’ said Kovaloff.
‘You are wrong, dear sir. I am myself. Looking at your uniform, you are on a very different level to me, so I do not think we could know each other.’ With that, the nose left.
Kovaloff felt hopeless. Without his nose he could not work, but more importantly, he could not talk to beautiful girls! He could not talk to the several ladies of high class that he knew! They would laugh at him!
He stood there, shocked, for a few minutes, and then tried to find the nose. But it had already left the market.
Then, Kovaloff had an idea. He jumped into a carriage and said, ‘Take me to the police!’
But then he thought. This matter did not affect the police, but they worked quickly. Much more quickly than any other service. But what if the nose left the city? Then the police would search and search and find nothing. So Kovaloff had a better idea.
‘Quick, idiot! Take me to the advertising office!’
They drove to the advertising office. Inside, a grey-haired man stood at a desk, holding a pen and counting coins.
‘Who takes advertisements here?!’ shouted Kovaloff.
‘I do,’ said the grey-haired man.
‘I want to put an advertisement in the newspaper—’
The man pointed, and Kovaloff saw that there was a long queue of people. But the queue did not move, as the man was counting coins. Finally, the man finished counting his coins, and the queue moved, but it moved very slowly. People wanted to sell carriages, horses and mirrors, and they spent much time discussing the details of the advertisements.
Kovaloff could not wait any longer. ‘Sir, please allow me to—I am in a great hurry.’
‘In a moment, in a moment! Yes, that will be two rubles. In a moment! Sorry, that’s three rubles. In a moment!’
Finally, Kovaloff got to the front of the queue.
‘What do you want?’
‘I have been robbed! I want to put an advertisement to say, “If you find the thief, I will reward you.” ’
‘What is your name, please?’
‘Why do you want my name? I know several ladies of high class: Mrs. Tchektyriev and Mrs. Podtotchina, for example. I don’t want them to hear about this. You can just write “Major”.’
‘And what was stolen?’
‘I don’t understand. How can your nose have been stolen?’
‘I don’t know myself. But now it walks around as a City Council member. I cannot live without my nose, you understand. Every Thursday I visit Mrs. Tchektyriev. And I also know Mrs. Podtotchina, who has a very pretty daughter. How can I see them without my nose?’
The grey-haired man sighed and said, ‘No, I cannot put in this advertisement.’
‘Because the newspaper will look bad. Everyone will come and put in strange advertisements. “Oh, my hair has been stolen! Oh, my foot has been stolen!” The newspaper will be full of lies. No, I cannot put in your advertisement.’
‘But my nose really has been stolen! I will show you.’
So Kovaloff took off the handkerchief and showed the man.
‘Yes, that is very strange,’ he said. ‘Your face is completely flat. I can’t believe it.’
‘So? Will you put the advertisement in the newspaper?’
‘I can, but I don’t know how that will help you. You know, you should take it to one of those gossip magazines. They love stories like this. You could make a lot of money.’
‘I do not need money! I am a major!’
Kovaloff felt even more hopeless than before, but he did not give up. He went to the police station. He was sure they would help him.
However, the policeman was cold towards him. First, he said that the afternoon was a bad time to come in with a problem. After all, they had just eaten lunch, and they were busy digesting their food and relaxing. Additionally, the policeman said that good people do not have their noses stolen.
Kovaloff, now very angry, went home. He sat in his study and thought. Was he dreaming? But it was all too real to be a dream. Was he drunk? No, he could not remember drinking anything very strong. Finally, he thought that it must be magic.
‘And who would want to use magic on me? It must have been Mrs. Podtotchina! She wants me to marry her daughter, and she says this every time I see her. I have told her many times that I am too young to marry. After all, I am only thirty-seven! And now she is angry at me, so she hired a witch.’
It made sense. It could not have been Ivan Jakovlevitch. The man shaved him on Wednesday, and for all of Thursday Kovaloff’s nose was there. And if the nose had been cut off, he would have felt pain, surely.
At that moment, Kovaloff’s servant came in and said, ‘There is a policeman here to see you.’
Kovaloff quickly covered his face with the handkerchief and invited the man in.
‘You have lost your nose?’ said the policeman.
‘It has been found.’
‘Really? How, and where?’
‘It was getting into a carriage going to Riga. It had a passport with the name of a City Council member. It was strange. I thought it really was a member of the council at first. But then I put on my glasses, and saw that it was a nose.’
‘Where is it now?’
‘I have it here! I knew that you needed it, so I brought it with me. We believe that it was a barber who gave him the passport, a man called Ivan Jakovlevitch. You will be happy to know that he is now in prison. Here is your nose, without any damage.’
The policeman took the nose out of his pocket. It was inside some paper.
‘Yes, yes, that is it!’
The policeman left, and Kovaloff looked at the nose happily. He felt such a great happiness that he sang to himself for a few minutes.
But nothing can last forever. Kovaloff began to think, and realised that he still had a great problem. How could he put his nose back on his face?
Carefully, he placed the nose on his face. But it did not stay on. So he tried breathing on it, but that did not work either.
‘Stay there, idiot!’ he shouted.
The nose fell onto the table and made a strange noise. He tried several times to put it on, but it did not work.
He called for the finest doctor in St. Petersburg, a man with a great black beard and a healthy wife. The doctor ate fresh apples every morning, and cleaned his teeth very carefully, using five different toothbrushes.
The doctor arrived and inspected Kovaloff’s face. He pushed, smelled and stretched it, and he did not seem happy with the results.
‘No, I cannot put the nose back on. If I try to, it will only make it worse.’
‘But how can I live without a nose? This evening I have been invited to two parties. I know several ladies of high class, Mrs. Tchektyriev and Mrs. Podtotchina. Although after what Mrs. Podtotchina did, I don’t know if I will go to her party. But please, there must be a way to put the nose back on! Even if I have to take it off at night, that will be fine. I will pay you well.’
The doctor looked insulted. ‘Believe me. I do not do my work for money. I only take money because my patients want to give me money. It is an art that I do. I could replace your nose, but really, it would only make it worse. Let nature help you. Wash your face often with cold water. As for the nose, you could put it in a bottle and sell it. I would buy it, if the price is not too high.’
‘No, no, I will not sell it. Get out!’
The doctor left, and Kovaloff returned to his thoughts. The next day, he wrote a letter to Mrs. Podtotchina, asking why she had done this to him. However, Mrs. Podtotchina replied with a very confused letter. She had not heard anything about his nose, or anybody’s nose, and she would never use magic. She also asked him again whether he wanted to marry her daughter.
So Kovaloff decided that it was not Mrs. Podtotchina who stole his nose. He did not know who did it, and by now, he did not care.
Naturally, the story of Kovaloff’s nose spread around the city of St. Petersburg. People added many magical details. Some said that Kovaloff’s nose walked along a certain street every morning. So every day, a large group of people went there to look for the nose. One time, people said that the nose was inside a certain shop. Many people came to see it and the police had to take them away. A businessman put chairs next to the windows, and people could pay to stand on them and look inside. But the nose was not there.
The nose grew more famous, but Kovaloff never lost it again.
One day, Kovaloff woke up and found the nose on his face. Somehow, it had returned to the right place.
Kovaloff went to look in a mirror, and said, ‘Oh! It has really happened!’
He asked his servant to bring him a bowl of water, and he washed his face. And his nose was still there!
Then he called for the barber, Ivan Jakovlevitch. He looked like a scared cat.
‘Are your hands clean?’ asked Kovaloff.
‘Yes, sir. Perfectly clean.’
‘Good. Come and shave me.’
Ivan prepared Kovaloff’s face for shaving. As usual, he held Kovaloff’s nose with two fingers.
‘Uh-uh! Be careful!’
Ivan Jakovlevitch let go of the nose, and turned red all over. He began to shave very carefully, never touching his nose again. Finally, he finished shaving.
Kovaloff then dressed himself and went about his day. He saw many people, and every time he made sure to mention his nose.
Finally, he saw Mrs. Podtotchina and her daughter. They talked for a long time, and he said, ‘Yes, you still want me to marry, don’t you? Well, it won’t work! I’m still very young, you know. Although your daughter is very beautiful.’
Kovaloff returned to his normal life and the stories of the nose died down, and never again did it run away.
Now, wasn’t that a strange story? Even in Russia, such things can happen. But there are many facts that are strange in this story. Not only did the nose disappear, but it pretended to be a City Council member. Even stranger: how did Kovaloff think he could make an advertisement about the nose? It is simply not right. A man like Kovaloff should know this.
Another question: how did the nose end up in Ivan Jakovlevitch’s loaf of bread? I simply don’t understand!
But the biggest question is this: how can authors write about such things? It is not right to write about a nose running away, even if it is funny. I simply cannot understand it. These stories do not bring any advantages to the country, although they do not hurt it, either.
Well well, I suppose it is not so strange. These things do really happen, even though many people say they don’t. They happen very rarely, but they do happen. Actually, I heard of a monk in Japan who had a similar situation…
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