I met Chekhov in Moscow at the end of 1895. At that time we saw each other only in passing, and I would not even bring up those encounters except to recall several of his characteristic phrases.

“Do you write a great deal?” he once asked me.

I answered that I had written little.

“What you are doing is wrong,” he said, his deep, chesty baritone exuding an almost gloomy air. “You should work, you know—work without stopping, your entire life.”

Chekhov fell silent. Then, without any apparent connection, he added: “In my opinion, after one finishes a story, one should cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we writers lie most of all.”

After those fleeting exchanges we did not see each other again until the spring of 1899. Having come to Yalta for several days, I met Chekhov one evening walking along the embankment.

“Why have you not come to see me?” he said. “Visit me tomorrow without fail.”

“At what time?” I asked.

“In the morning, around eight.”

Seeing the surprise…