Loshadin went in and out several times, clearing away the tea things; smacking his lips and sighing, he kept tramping round the table; at last he took his little lamp and went out, and, looking at his long, grey headed, bent figure from behind, Lyzhin thought: 'Just like a magician in an opera.' It was dark. The moon must have been behind the clouds, as the windows and the snow on the window-frames could be seen distinctly. 'Oo-oo-oo-oo!' sang the storm, 'Oo-oo- oo-oo!' 'Ho-o-ly sa-aints!' wailed a woman in the loft, or it sounded like it. 'Ho-o-ly sa-aints!' 'Boo-oof!' something outside banged against the wall. 'Trac!' The examining magistrate listened: there was no woman up there, it was the wind howling.
This quote is from the tale On Official Duty, and it evidences Chekhov's fascination with the trivialities of people's lives. The constable Loshadin, a stooped old man who suffers under his responsibility to the state, is both comic and pathetic. Although initially dismissive of the provincial peasants, the haughty magistrate seems affected by their superstitions: he is disturbed by strange noises during the night, which he thinks might be a woman in the loft. Although readers may laugh at the almost comic strip sound effects such as "Ho- o-ly sa-aints!" and "Boo-of!", Chekhov uses them to make a serious point. Ultimately, we cannot ignore the sense that the magistrate is troubled by the world around him and by the discontentment of those less fortunate than himself.