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A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev

Part 4 out of 4

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to him; you see, he's no scholar.' (The clerk on duty was silent again
for a while.) 'But what do you say?' he added, simpering; 'is it well
written?'

'Very well written.'

'It wasn't composed, I must confess, by me. Konstantin is the great one
for that.'

'What?... Do you mean the orders have first to be composed among you?'

'Why, how else could we do? Couldn't write them off straight without
making a fair copy.'

'And what salary do you get?' I inquired.

'Thirty-five roubles, and five roubles for boots.'

'And are you satisfied?'

'Of course I am satisfied. It's not everyone can get into an office
like ours. It was God's will, in my case, to be sure; I'd an uncle who
was in service as a butler.'

'And you're well-off?'

'Yes, sir. Though, to tell the truth,' he went on, with a sigh, 'a
place at a merchant's, for instance, is better for the likes of us. At
a merchant's they're very well off. Yesterday evening a merchant came
to us from Venev, and his man got talking to me.... Yes, that's a good
place, no doubt about it; a very good place.'

'Why? Do the merchants pay more wages?'

'Lord preserve us! Why, a merchant would soon give you the sack if you
asked him for wages. No, at a merchant's you must live on trust and on
fear. He'll give you food, and drink, and clothes, and all. If you give
him satisfaction, he'll do more.... Talk of wages, indeed! You don't
need them.... And a merchant, too, lives in plain Russian style, like
ourselves; you go with him on a journey--he has tea, and you have it;
what he eats, you eat. A merchant ... one can put up with; a merchant's
a very different thing from what a gentleman is; a merchant's not
whimsical; if he's out of temper, he'll give you a blow, and there it
ends. He doesn't nag nor sneer.... But with a gentleman it's a woeful
business! Nothing's as he likes it--this is not right, and that he
can't fancy. You hand him a glass of water or something to eat: "Ugh,
the water stinks! positively stinks!" You take it out, stay a minute
outside the door, and bring it back: "Come, now, that's good; this
doesn't stink now." And as for the ladies, I tell you, the ladies are
something beyond everything!... and the young ladies above all!...'

'Fedyushka!' came the fat man's voice from the office.

The clerk went out quickly. I drank a glass of tea, lay down on the
sofa, and fell asleep. I slept for two hours.

When I woke, I meant to get up, but I was overcome by laziness; I
closed my eyes, but did not fall asleep again. On the other side of the
partition, in the office, they were talking in subdued voices.
Unconsciously I began to listen.

'Quite so, quite so, Nikolai Eremyitch,' one voice was saying; 'quite
so. One can't but take that into account; yes, certainly!... Hm!' (The
speaker coughed.)

'You may believe me, Gavrila Antonitch,' replied the fat man's voice:
'don't I know how things are done here? Judge for yourself.'

'Who does, if you don't, Nikolai Eremyitch? you're, one may say, the
first person here. Well, then, how's it to be?' pursued the voice I did
not recognise; 'what decision are we to come to, Nikolai Eremyitch?
Allow me to put the question.'

'What decision, Gavrila Antonitch? The thing depends, so to say, on
you; you don't seem over anxious.'

'Upon my word, Nikolai Eremyitch, what do you mean? Our business is
trading, buying; it's our business to buy. That's what we live by,
Nikolai Eremyitch, one may say.'

'Eight roubles a measure,' said the fat man emphatically.

A sigh was audible.

'Nikolai Eremyitch, sir, you ask a heavy price.' 'Impossible, Gavrila
Antonitch, to do otherwise; I speak as before God Almighty;
impossible.'

Silence followed.

I got up softly and looked through a crack in the partition. The fat
man was sitting with his back to me. Facing him sat a merchant, a man
about forty, lean and pale, who looked as if he had been rubbed with
oil. He was incessantly fingering his beard, and very rapidly blinking
and twitching his lips.

'Wonderful the young green crops this year, one may say,' he began
again; 'I've been going about everywhere admiring them. All the way
from Voronezh they've come up wonderfully, first-class, one may say.'

'The crops are pretty fair, certainly,' answered the head-clerk; 'but
you know the saying, Gavrila Antonitch, autumn bids fair, but spring
may be foul.'

'That's so, indeed, Nikolai Eremyitch; all is in God's hands; it's the
absolute truth what you've just remarked, sir.... But perhaps your
visitor's awake now.'

The fat man turned round ... listened....

'No, he's asleep. He may, though....'

He went to the door.

'No, he's asleep,' he repeated and went back to his place.

'Well, so what are we to say, Nikolai Eremyitch?' the merchant began
again; 'we must bring our little business to a conclusion.... Let it be
so, Nikolai Eremyitch, let it be so,' he went on, blinking incessantly;
'two grey notes and a white for your favour, and there' (he nodded in
the direction of the house), 'six and a half. Done, eh?'

'Four grey notes,' answered the clerk.

'Come, three, then.'

'Four greys, and no white.'

'Three, Nikolai Eremyitch.'

'Three and a half, and not a farthing less.'

'Three, Nikolai Eremyitch.'

'You're not talking sense, Gavrila Antonitch.'

'My, what a pig-headed fellow!' muttered the merchant. 'Then I'd better
arrange it with the lady herself.'

'That's as you like,' answered the fat man; 'far better, I should say.
Why should you worry yourself, after all?... Much better, indeed!'

'Well, well! Nikolai Eremyitch. I lost my temper for a minute! That was
nothing but talk.'

'No, really, why?...'

'Nonsense, I tell you.... I tell you I was joking. Well, take your
three and a half; there's no doing anything with you.'

'I ought to have got four, but I was in too great a hurry--like an
ass!' muttered the fat man.

'Then up there at the house, six and a half, Nikolai Eremyitch; the
corn will be sold for six and a half?'

'Six and a half, as we said already.'

'Well, your hand on that then, Nikolai Eremyitch' (the merchant clapped
his outstretched fingers into the clerk's palm). 'And good-bye, in
God's name!' (The merchant got up.) 'So then, Nikolai Eremyitch, sir,
I'll go now to your lady, and bid them send up my name, and so I'll say
to her, "Nikolai Eremyitch," I'll say, "has made a bargain with me for
six and a half."'

'That's what you must say, Gavrila Antonitch.'

'And now, allow me.'

The merchant handed the manager a small roll of notes, bowed, shook his
head, picked up his hat with two fingers, shrugged his shoulders, and,
with a sort of undulating motion, went out, his boots creaking after
the approved fashion. Nikolai Eremyitch went to the wall, and, as far
as I could make out, began sorting the notes handed him by the
merchant. A red head, adorned with thick whiskers, was thrust in at the
door.

'Well?' asked the head; 'all as it should be?'

'Yes.'

'How much?'

The fat man made an angry gesture with his hand, and pointed to my
room.

'Ah, all right!' responded the head, and vanished.

The fat man went up to the table, sat down, opened a book, took out a
reckoning frame, and began shifting the beads to and fro as he counted,
using not the forefinger but the third finger of his right hand, which
has a much more showy effect.

The clerk on duty came in.

'What is it?'

'Sidor is here from Goloplek.'

'Oh! ask him in. Wait a bit, wait a bit.... First go and look whether
the strange gentleman's still asleep, or whether he has waked up.'

The clerk on duty came cautiously into my room. I laid my head on my
game-bag, which served me as a pillow, and closed my eyes.

'He's asleep,' whispered the clerk on duty, returning to the counting-
house.

The fat man muttered something.

'Well, send Sidor in,' he said at last.

I got up again. A peasant of about thirty, of huge stature, came in--a
red-cheeked, vigorous-looking fellow, with brown hair, and a short
curly beard. He crossed himself, praying to the holy image, bowed to
the head-clerk, held his hat before him in both hands, and stood erect.

'Good day, Sidor,' said the fat man, tapping with the reckoning beads.

'Good-day to you, Nikolai Eremyitch.'

'Well, what are the roads like?'

'Pretty fair, Nikolai Eremyitch. A bit muddy.' (The peasant spoke
slowly and not loud.)

'Wife quite well?'

'She's all right!'

The peasant gave a sigh and shifted one leg forward. Nikolai Eremyitch
put his pen behind his ear, and blew his nose.

'Well, what have you come about?' he proceeded to inquire, putting his
check handkerchief into his pocket.

'Why, they do say, Nikolai Eremyitch, they're asking for carpenters
from us.'

'Well, aren't there any among you, hey?'

'To be sure there are, Nikolai Eremyitch; our place is right in the
woods; our earnings are all from the wood, to be sure. But it's the
busy time, Nikolai Eremyitch. Where's the time to come from?'

'The time to come from! Busy time! I dare say, you're so eager to work
for outsiders, and don't care to work for your mistress.... It's all
the same!'

'The work's all the same, certainly, Nikolai Eremyitch ... but....'

'Well?'

'The pay's ... very....'

'What next! You've been spoiled; that's what it is. Get along with
you!'

'And what's more, Nikolai Eremyitch, there'll be only a week's work,
but they'll keep us hanging on a month. One time there's not material
enough, and another time they'll send us into the garden to weed the
path.'

'What of it? Our lady herself is pleased to give the order, so it's
useless you and me talking about it.'

Sidor was silent; he began shifting from one leg to the other.

Nikolai Eremyitch put his head on one side, and began busily playing
with the reckoning beads.

'Our ... peasants ... Nikolai Eremyitch....' Sidor began at last,
hesitating over each word; 'sent word to your honour ... there is ...
see here....' (He thrust his big hand into the bosom of his coat, and
began to pull out a folded linen kerchief with a red border.)

'What are you thinking of? Goodness, idiot, are you out of your
senses?' the fat man interposed hurriedly. 'Go on; go to my cottage,'
he continued, almost shoving the bewildered peasant out; 'ask for my
wife there ... she'll give you some tea; I'll be round directly; go on.
For goodness' sake, I tell you, go on.'

Sidor went away.

'Ugh!... what a bear!' the head clerk muttered after him, shaking his
head, and set to work again on his reckoning frame.

Suddenly shouts of 'Kuprya! Kuprya! there's no knocking down Kuprya!'
were heard in the street and on the steps, and a little later there
came into the counting-house a small man of sickly appearance, with an
extraordinarily long nose and large staring eyes, who carried himself
with a great air of superiority. He was dressed in a ragged little old
surtout, with a plush collar and diminutive buttons. He carried a
bundle of firewood on his shoulder. Five house-serfs were crowding
round him, all shouting, 'Kuprya! there's no suppressing Kuprya!
Kuprya's been turned stoker; Kuprya's turned a stoker!' But the man in
the coat with the plush collar did not pay the slightest attention to
the uproar made by his companions, and was not in the least out of
countenance. With measured steps he went up to the stove, flung down
his load, straightened himself, took out of his tail-pocket a snuff-
box, and with round eyes began helping himself to a pinch of dry
trefoil mixed with ashes. At the entrance of this noisy party the fat
man had at first knitted his brows and risen from his seat, but, seeing
what it was, he smiled, and only told them not to shout. 'There's a
sportsman,' said he, 'asleep in the next room.' 'What sort of
sportsman?' two of them asked with one voice.

'A gentleman.'

'Ah!'

'Let them make a row,' said the man with the plush collar, waving his
arms; 'what do I care, so long as they don't touch me? They've turned
me into a stoker....'

'A stoker! a stoker!' the others put in gleefully.

'It's the mistress's orders,' he went on, with a shrug of his
shoulders; 'but just you wait a bit ... they'll turn you into
swineherds yet. But I've been a tailor, and a good tailor too, learnt
my trade in the best house in Moscow, and worked for generals ... and
nobody can take that from me. And what have you to boast of?... What?
you're a pack of idlers, not worth your salt; that's what you are! Turn
me off! I shan't die of hunger; I shall be all right; give me a
passport. I'd send a good rent home, and satisfy the masters. But what
would you do? You'd die off like flies, that's what you'd do!'

'That's a nice lie!' interposed a pock-marked lad with white eyelashes,
a red cravat, and ragged elbows. 'You went off with a passport sharp
enough, but never a halfpenny of rent did the masters see from you, and
you never earned a farthing for yourself, you just managed to crawl
home again and you've never had a new rag on you since.'

'Ah, well, what could one do! Konstantin Narkizitch,' responded Kuprya;
'a man falls in love--a man's ruined and done for! You go through what
I have, Konstantin Narkizitch, before you blame me!'

'And you picked out a nice one to fall in love with!--a regular
fright.'

'No, you must not say that, Konstantin Narkizitch.'

'Who's going to believe that? I've seen her, you know; I saw her with
my own eyes last year in Moscow.'

'Last year she had gone off a little certainly,' observed Kuprya.

'No, gentlemen, I tell you what,' a tall, thin man, with a face spotted
with pimples, a valet probably, from his frizzed and pomatumed head,
remarked in a careless and disdainful voice; 'let Kuprya Afanasyitch
sing us his song. Come on, now; begin, Kuprya Afanasyitch.

'Yes! yes!' put in the others. 'Hoorah for Alexandra! That's one for
Kuprya; 'pon my soul ... Sing away, Kuprya!... You're a regular brick,
Alexandra!' (Serfs often use feminine terminations in referring to a
man as an expression of endearment.) 'Sing away!'

'This is not the place to sing,' Kuprya replied firmly; 'this is the
manor counting-house.'

'And what's that to do with you? you've got your eye on a place as
clerk, eh?' answered Konstantin with a coarse laugh. 'That's what it
is!'

'Everything rests with the mistress,' observed the poor wretch.

'There, that's what he's got his eye on! a fellow like him! oo! oo! a!'

And they all roared; some rolled about with merriment. Louder than all
laughed a lad of fifteen, probably the son of an aristocrat among the
house-serfs; he wore a waistcoat with bronze buttons, and a cravat of
lilac colour, and had already had time to fill out his waistcoat.

'Come tell us, confess now, Kuprya,' Nikolai Eremyitch began
complacently, obviously tickled and diverted himself; 'is it bad being
stoker? Is it an easy job, eh?'

'Nikolai Eremyitch,' began Kuprya, 'you're head-clerk among us now,
certainly; there's no disputing that, no; but you know you have been in
disgrace yourself, and you too have lived in a peasant's hut.'

'You'd better look out and not forget yourself in my place,' the fat
man interrupted emphatically; 'people joke with a fool like you; you
ought, you fool, to have sense, and be grateful to them for taking
notice of a fool like you.'

'It was a slip of the tongue, Nikolai Eremyitch; I beg your pardon....'

'Yes, indeed, a slip of the tongue.'

The door opened and a little page ran in.

'Nikolai Eremyitch, mistress wants you.'

'Who's with the mistress?' he asked the page.

'Aksinya Nikitishna, and a merchant from Venev.'

'I'll be there this minute. And you, mates,' he continued in a
persuasive voice, 'better move off out of here with the newly-appointed
stoker; if the German pops in, he'll make a complaint for certain.'

The fat man smoothed his hair, coughed into his hand, which was almost
completely hidden in his coat-sleeve, buttoned himself, and set off
with rapid strides to see the lady of the manor. In a little while the
whole party trailed out after him, together with Kuprya. My old friend,
the clerk-on duty, was left alone. He set to work mending the pens, and
dropped asleep in his chair. A few flies promptly seized the
opportunity and settled on his mouth. A mosquito alighted on his
forehead, and, stretching its legs out with a regular motion, slowly
buried its sting into his flabby flesh. The same red head with whiskers
showed itself again at the door, looked in, looked again, and then came
into the office, together with the rather ugly body belonging to it.

'Fedyushka! eh, Fedyushka! always asleep,' said the head.

The clerk on duty opened his eyes and got up from his seat.

'Nikolai Eremyitch has gone to the mistress?'

'Yes, Vassily Nikolaevitch.'

'Ah! ah!' thought I; 'this is he, the head cashier.'

The head cashier began walking about the room. He really slunk rather
than walked, and altogether resembled a cat. An old black frock-coat
with very narrow skirts hung about his shoulders; he kept one hand in
his bosom, while the other was for ever fumbling about his high, narrow
horse-hair collar, and he turned his head with a certain effort. He
wore noiseless kid boots, and trod very softly.

'The landowner, Yagushkin, was asking for you to-day,' added the clerk
on duty.

'Hm, asking for me? What did he say?'

'Said he'd go to Tyutyurov this evening and would wait for you. "I want
to discuss some business with Vassily Nikolaevitch," said he, but what
the business was he didn't say; "Vassily Nikolaevitch will know," says
he.'

'Hm!' replied the head cashier, and he went up to the window.

'Is Nikolai Eremyitch in the counting-house?' a loud voice was heard
asking in the outer room, and a tall man, apparently angry, with an
irregular but bold and expressive face, and rather clean in his dress,
stepped over the threshold.

'Isn't he here?' he inquired, looking rapidly round.

'Nikolai Eremyitch is with the mistress,' responded the cashier. 'Tell
me what you want, Pavel Andreitch; you can tell me.... What is it you
want?'

'What do I want? You want to know what I want?' (The cashier gave a
sickly nod.) 'I want to give him a lesson, the fat, greasy villain, the
scoundrelly tell-tale!... I'll give him a tale to tell!'

Pavel flung himself into a chair.

'What are you saying, Pavel Andreitch! Calm yourself.... Aren't you
ashamed? Don't forget whom you're talking about, Pavel Andreitch!'
lisped the cashier.

'Forget whom I'm talking about? What do I care for his being made head-
clerk? A fine person they've found to promote, there's no denying that!
They've let the goat loose in the kitchen garden, you may say!'

'Hush, hush, Pavel Andreitch, hush! drop that ... what rubbish are you
talking?'

'So Master Fox is beginning to fawn? I will wait for him,' Pavel said
with passion, and he struck a blow on the table. 'Ah, here he's
coming!' he added with a look at the window; 'speak of the devil. With
your kind permission!' (He, got up.)

Nikolai Eremyitch came into the counting-house. His face was shining
with satisfaction, but he was rather taken aback at seeing Pavel
Andreitch.

'Good day to you, Nikolai Eremyitch,' said Pavel in a significant tone,
advancing deliberately to meet him.

The head-clerk made no reply. The face of the merchant showed itself in
the doorway.

'What, won't you deign to answer me?' pursued Pavel. 'But no ... no,'
he added; 'that's not it; there's no getting anything by shouting and
abuse. No, you'd better tell me in a friendly way, Nikolai Eremyitch;
what do you persecute me for? what do you want to ruin me for? Come,
speak, speak.'

'This is no fit place to come to an understanding with you,' the head-
clerk answered in some agitation, 'and no fit time. But I must say I
wonder at one thing: what makes you suppose I want to ruin you, or that
I'm persecuting you? And if you come to that, how can I persecute you?
You're not in my counting-house.'

'I should hope not,' answered Pavel; 'that would be the last straw! But
why are you hum-bugging, Nikolai Eremyitch?... You understand me, you
know.'

'No, I don't understand.'

'No, you do understand.'

'No, by God, I don't understand!'

'Swearing too! Well, tell us, since it's come to that: have you no fear
of God? Why can't you let the poor girl live in peace? What do you want
of her?'

'Whom are you talking of?' the fat man asked with feigned amazement.

'Ugh! doesn't know; what next? I'm talking of Tatyana. Have some fear
of God--what do you want to revenge yourself for? You ought to be
ashamed: a married man like you, with children as big as I am; it's a
very different thing with me.... I mean marriage: I'm acting straight-
forwardly.'

'How am I to blame in that, Pavel Andreitch? The mistress won't permit
you to marry; it's her seignorial will! What have I to do with it?'

'Why, haven't you been plotting with that old hag, the housekeeper, eh?
Haven't you been telling tales, eh? Tell me, aren't you bringing all
sorts of stories up against the defenceless girl? I suppose it's not
your doing that she's been degraded from laundrymaid to washing dishes
in the scullery? And it's not your doing that she's beaten and dressed
in sackcloth?... You ought to be ashamed, you ought to be ashamed--an
old man like you! You know there's a paralytic stroke always hanging
over you.... You will have to answer to God.'

'You're abusive, Pavel Andreitch, you're abusive.... You shan't have a
chance to be insolent much longer.'

Pavel fired up.

'What? You dare to threaten me?' he said passionately. 'You think I'm
afraid of you. No, my man, I'm not come to that! What have I to be
afraid of?... I can make my bread everywhere. For you, now, it's
another thing! It's only here you can live and tell tales, and
filch....'

'Fancy the conceit of the fellow!' interrupted the clerk, who was also
beginning to lose patience; 'an apothecary's assistant, simply an
apothecary's assistant, a wretched leech; and listen to him--fie upon
you! you're a high and mighty personage!'

'Yes, an apothecary's assistant, and except for this apothecary's
assistant you'd have been rotting in the graveyard by now.... It was
some devil drove me to cure him,' he added between his teeth.

'You cured me?... No, you tried to poison me; you dosed me with aloes,'
the clerk put in.

'What was I to do if nothing but aloes had any effect on you?'

'The use of aloes is forbidden by the Board of Health,' pursued
Nikolai. 'I'll lodge a complaint against you yet.... You tried to
compass my death--that was what you did! But the Lord suffered it not.'

'Hush, now, that's enough, gentlemen,' the cashier was beginning....

'Stand off!' bawled the clerk. 'He tried to poison me! Do you
understand that?'

'That's very likely.... Listen, Nikolai Eremyitch,' Pavel began in
despairing accents. 'For the last time, I beg you.... You force me to
it--can't stand it any longer. Let us alone, do you hear? or else, by
God, it'll go ill with one or other of us--I mean with you!'

The fat man flew into a rage.

'I'm not afraid of you!' he shouted; 'do you hear, milksop? I got the
better of your father; I broke his horns--a warning to you; take care!'

'Don't talk of my father, Nikolai Eremyitch.'

'Get away! who are you to give me orders?'

'I tell you, don't talk of him!'

'And I tell you, don't forget yourself.... However necessary you think
yourself, if our lady has a choice between us, it's not you'll be kept,
my dear! None's allowed to mutiny, mind!' (Pavel was shaking with
fury.) 'As for the wench, Tatyana, she deserves ... wait a bit, she'll
get something worse!'

Pavel dashed forward with uplifted fists, and the clerk rolled heavily
on the floor.

'Handcuff him, handcuff him,' groaned Nikolai Eremyitch....

I won't take upon myself to describe the end of this scene; I fear I
have wounded the reader's delicate susceptibilities as it is.

The same day I returned home. A week later I heard that Madame
Losnyakov had kept both Pavel and Nikolai in her service, but had sent
away the girl Tatyana; it appeared she was not wanted.

XII

BIRYUK

I was coming back from hunting one evening alone in a racing droshky. I
was six miles from home; my good trotting mare galloped bravely along
the dusty road, pricking up her ears with an occasional snort; my weary
dog stuck close to the hind-wheels, as though he were fastened there. A
tempest was coming on. In front, a huge, purplish storm-cloud slowly
rose from behind the forest; long grey rain-clouds flew over my head
and to meet me; the willows stirred and whispered restlessly. The
suffocating heat changed suddenly to a damp chilliness; the darkness
rapidly thickened. I gave the horse a lash with the reins, descended a
steep slope, pushed across a dry water-course overgrown with brushwood,
mounted the hill, and drove into the forest. The road ran before me,
bending between thick hazel bushes, now enveloped in darkness; I
advanced with difficulty. The droshky jumped up and down over the hard
roots of the ancient oaks and limes, which were continually intersected
by deep ruts--the tracks of cart wheels; my horse began to stumble. A
violent wind suddenly began to roar overhead; the trees blustered; big
drops of rain fell with slow tap and splash on the leaves; there came a
flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. The rain fell in torrents. I
went on a step or so, and soon was forced to stop; my horse foundered;
I could not see an inch before me. I managed to take refuge somehow in
a spreading bush. Crouching down and covering my face, I waited
patiently for the storm to blow over, when suddenly, in a flash of
lightning, I saw a tall figure on the road. I began to stare intently
in that direction--the figure seemed to have sprung out of the ground
near my droshky.

'Who's that?' inquired a ringing voice.

'Why, who are you?'

'I'm the forester here.'

I mentioned my name.

'Oh, I know! Are you on your way home?'

'Yes. But, you see, in such a storm....'

'Yes, there is a storm,' replied the voice.

A pale flash of lightning lit up the forester from head to foot; a
brief crashing clap of thunder followed at once upon it. The rain
lashed with redoubled force.

'It won't be over just directly,' the forester went on.

'What's to be done?'

'I'll take you to my hut, if you like,' he said abruptly.

'That would be a service.'

'Please to take your seat'

He went up to the mare's head, took her by the bit, and pulled her up.
We set off. I held on to the cushion of the droshky, which rocked 'like
a boat on the sea,' and called my dog. My poor mare splashed with
difficulty through the mud, slipped and stumbled; the forester hovered
before the shafts to right and to left like a ghost. We drove rather a
long while; at last my guide stopped. 'Here we are home, sir,' he
observed in a quiet voice. The gate creaked; some puppies barked a
welcome. I raised my head, and in a flash of lightning I made out a
small hut in the middle of a large yard, fenced in with hurdles. From
the one little window there was a dim light. The forester led his horse
up to the steps and knocked at the door. 'Coming, coming!' we heard in
a little shrill voice; there was the patter of bare feet, the bolt
creaked, and a girl of twelve, in a little old smock tied round the
waist with list, appeared in the doorway with a lantern in her hand.

'Show the gentleman a light,' he said to her 'and I will put your
droshky in the shed.'

The little girl glanced at me, and went into the hut. I followed her.

The forester's hut consisted of one room, smoky, low-pitched, and
empty, without curtains or partition. A tattered sheepskin hung on the
wall. On the bench lay a single-barrelled gun; in the corner lay a heap
of rags; two great pots stood near the oven. A pine splinter was
burning on the table flickering up and dying down mournfully. In the
very middle of the hut hung a cradle, suspended from the end of a long
horizontal pole. The little girl put out the lantern, sat down on a
tiny stool, and with her right hand began swinging the cradle, while
with her left she attended to the smouldering pine splinter. I looked
round--my heart sank within me: it's not cheering to go into a
peasant's hut at night. The baby in the cradle breathed hard and fast.

'Are you all alone here?' I asked the little girl.

'Yes,' she uttered, hardly audibly.

'You're the forester's daughter?'

'Yes,' she whispered.

The door creaked, and the forester, bending his head, stepped across
the threshold. He lifted the lantern from the floor, went up to the
table, and lighted a candle.

'I dare say you're not used to the splinter light?' said he, and he
shook back his curls.

I looked at him. Rarely has it been my fortune to behold such a comely
creature. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and in marvellous proportion.
His powerful muscles stood out in strong relief under his wet homespun
shirt. A curly, black beard hid half of his stern and manly face; small
brown eyes looked out boldly from under broad eyebrows which met in the
middle. He stood before me, his arms held lightly akimbo.

I thanked him, and asked his name.

'My name's Foma,' he answered, 'and my nickname's Biryuk' (_i.e._
wolf). [Footnote: The name Biryuk is used in the Orel province to
denote a solitary, misanthropic man.--_Author's Note_.]

'Oh, you're Biryuk.'

I looked with redoubled curiosity at him. From my Yermolai and others I
had often heard stories about the forester Biryuk, whom all the
peasants of the surrounding districts feared as they feared fire.
According to them there had never been such a master of his business in
the world before. 'He won't let you carry off a handful of brushwood;
he'll drop upon you like a fall of snow, whatever time it may be, even
in the middle of the night, and you needn't think of resisting him--
he's strong, and cunning as the devil.... And there's no getting at him
anyhow; neither by brandy nor by money; there's no snare he'll walk
into. More than once good folks have planned to put him out of the
world, but no--it's never come off.'

That was how the neighbouring peasants spoke of Biryuk.

'So you're Biryuk,' I repeated; 'I've heard talk of you, brother. They
say you show no mercy to anyone.'

'I do my duty,' he answered grimly; 'it's not right to eat the master's
bread for nothing.'

He took an axe from his girdle and began splitting splinters.

'Have you no wife?' I asked him.

'No,' he answered, with a vigorous sweep of the axe.

'She's dead, I suppose?'

'No ... yes ... she's dead,' he added, and turned away. I was silent;
he raised his eyes and looked at me.

'She ran away with a travelling pedlar,' he brought out with a bitter
smile. The little girl hung her head; the baby waked up and began
crying; the little girl went to the cradle. 'There, give it him,' said
Biryuk, thrusting a dirty feeding-bottle into her hand. 'Him, too, she
abandoned,' he went on in an undertone, pointing to the baby. He went
up to the door, stopped, and turned round.

'A gentleman like you,' he began, 'wouldn't care for our bread, I dare
say, and except bread, I've--'

'I'm not hungry.'

'Well, that's for you to say. I would have heated the samovar, but I've
no tea.... I'll go and see how your horse is getting on.'

He went out and slammed the door. I looked round again, the hut struck
me as more melancholy than ever. The bitter smell of stale smoke choked
my breathing unpleasantly. The little girl did not stir from her place,
and did not raise her eyes; from time to time she jogged the cradle,
and timidly pulled her slipping smock up on to shoulder; her bare legs
hung motionless.

'What's your name?' I asked her.

'Ulita,' she said, her mournful little face drooping more than ever.

The forester came in and sat down on the bench.

'The storm 's passing over,' he observed, after a brief silence; 'if
you wish it, I will guide you out of the forest.'

I got up; Biryuk took his gun and examined the firepan.

'What's that for?' I inquired.

'There's mischief in the forest.... They're cutting a tree down on
Mares' Ravine,' he added, in reply to my look of inquiry.

'Could you hear it from here?'

'I can hear it outside.'

We went out together. The rain had ceased. Heavy masses of storm-cloud
were still huddled in the distance; from time to time there were long
flashes of lightning; but here and there overhead the dark blue sky was
already visible; stars twinkled through the swiftly flying clouds. The
outline of the trees, drenched with rain, and stirred by the wind,
began to stand out in the darkness. We listened. The forester took off
his cap and bent his head.... 'Th ... there!' he said suddenly, and he
stretched out his hand: 'see what a night he's pitched on.' I had heard
nothing but the rustle of the leaves. Biryuk led the mare out of the
shed. 'But, perhaps,' he added aloud, 'this way I shall miss him.'
'I'll go with you ... if you like?' 'Certainly,' he answered, and he
backed the horse in again; 'we'll catch him in a trice, and then I'll
take you. Let's be off.' We started, Biryuk in front, I following him.
Heaven only knows how he found out his way, but he only stopped once or
twice, and then merely to listen to the strokes of the axe. 'There,' he
muttered, 'do you hear? do you hear?' 'Why, where?' Biryuk shrugged his
shoulders. We went down into the ravine; the wind was still for an
instant; the rhythmical strokes reached my hearing distinctly. Biryuk
glanced at me and shook his head. We went farther through the wet
bracken and nettles. A slow muffled crash was heard....

'He's felled it,' muttered Biryuk. Meantime the sky had grown clearer
and clearer; there was a faint light in the forest. We clambered at
last out of the ravine.

'Wait here a little,' the forester whispered to me. He bent down, and
raising his gun above his head, vanished among the bushes. I began
listening with strained attention. Across the continual roar of the
wind faint sounds from close by reached me; there was a cautious blow
of an axe on the brushwood, the crash of wheels, the snort of a
horse....

'Where are you off to? Stop!' the iron voice of Biryuk thundered
suddenly. Another voice was heard in a pitiful shriek, like a trapped
hare.... _A struggle was beginning._

'No, no, you've made a mistake,' Biryuk declared panting; 'you're not
going to get off....' I rushed in the direction of the noise, and ran
up to the scene of the conflict, stumbling at every step. A felled tree
lay on the ground, and near it Biryuk was busily engaged holding the
thief down and binding his hands behind his back with a kerchief. I
came closer. Biryuk got up and set him on his feet. I saw a peasant
drenched with rain, in tatters, and with a long dishevelled beard. A
sorry little nag, half covered with a stiff mat, was standing by,
together with a rough cart. The forester did not utter a word; the
peasant too was silent; his head was shaking.

'Let him go,' I whispered in Biryuk's ears; 'I'll pay for the tree.'

Without a word Biryuk took the horse by the mane with his left hand; in
his right he held the thief by the belt. 'Now turn round, you rat!' he
said grimly.

'The bit of an axe there, take it,' muttered the peasant.

'No reason to lose it, certainly,' said the forester, and he picked up
the axe. We started. I walked behind.... The rain began sprinkling
again, and soon fell in torrents. With difficulty we made our way to
the hut. Biryuk pushed the captured horse into the middle of the yard,
led the peasant into the room, loosened the knot in the kerchief, and
made him sit down in a corner. The little girl, who had fallen asleep
near the oven, jumped up and began staring at us in silent terror. I
sat down on the locker.

'Ugh, what a downpour!' remarked the forester; 'you will have to wait
till it's over. Won't you lie down?'

'Thanks.'

'I would have shut him in the store loft, on your honour's account,' he
went on, indicating the peasant; 'but you see the bolt--'

'Leave him here; don't touch him,' I interrupted.

The peasant stole a glance at me from under his brows. I vowed inwardly
to set the poor wretch free, come what might. He sat without stirring
on the locker. By the light of the lantern I could make out his worn,
wrinkled face, his overhanging yellow eyebrows, his restless eyes, his
thin limbs.... The little girl lay down on the floor, just at his feet,
and again dropped asleep. Biryuk sat at the table, his head in his
hands. A cricket chirped in the corner ... the rain pattered on the
roof and streamed down the windows; we were all silent.

'Foma Kuzmitch,' said the peasant suddenly in a thick, broken voice;
'Foma Kuzmitch!'

'What is it?'

'Let me go.'

Biryuk made no answer.

'Let me go ... hunger drove me to it; let me go.'

'I know you,' retorted the forester severely; 'your set's all alike--
all thieves.'

'Let me go,' repeated the peasant. 'Our manager ... we 're ruined,
that's what it is--let me go!'

'Ruined, indeed!... Nobody need steal.'

'Let me go, Foma Kuzmitch.... Don't destroy me. Your manager, you know
yourself, will have no mercy on me; that's what it is.'

Biryuk turned away. The peasant was shivering as though he were in the
throes of fever. His head was shaking, and his breathing came in broken
gasps.

'Let me go,' he repeated with mournful desperation. 'Let me go; by God,
let me go! I'll pay; see, by God, I will! By God, it was through
hunger!... the little ones are crying, you know yourself. It's hard for
us, see.'

'You needn't go stealing, for all that.'

'My little horse,' the peasant went on, 'my poor little horse, at least
... our only beast ... let it go.'

'I tell you I can't. I'm not a free man; I'm made responsible. You
oughtn't to be spoilt, either.'

'Let me go! It's through want, Foma Kuzmitch, want--and nothing else--
let me go!'

'I know you!'

'Oh, let me go!'

'Ugh, what's the use of talking to you! sit quiet, or else you'll catch
it. Don't you see the gentleman, hey?'

The poor wretch hung his head.... Biryuk yawned and laid his head on
the table. The rain still persisted. I was waiting to see what would
happen.

Suddenly the peasant stood erect. His eyes were glittering, and his
face flushed dark red. 'Come, then, here; strike yourself, here,' he
began, his eyes puckering up and the corners of his mouth dropping;
'come, cursed destroyer of men's souls! drink Christian blood, drink.'

The forester turned round.

'I'm speaking to you, Asiatic, blood-sucker, you!'

'Are you drunk or what, to set to being abusive?' began the forester,
puzzled. 'Are you out of your senses, hey?'

'Drunk! not at your expense, cursed destroyer of souls--brute, brute,
brute!'

'Ah, you----I'll show you!'

'What's that to me? It's all one; I'm done for; what can I do without a
home? Kill me--it's the same in the end; whether it's through hunger or
like this--it's all one. Ruin us all--wife, children ... kill us all at
once. But, wait a bit, we'll get at you!'

Biryuk got up.

'Kill me, kill me,' the peasant went on in savage tones; 'kill me;
come, come, kill me....' (The little girl jumped up hastily from the
ground and stared at him.) 'Kill me, kill me!'

'Silence!' thundered the forester, and he took two steps forward.

'Stop, Foma, stop,' I shouted; 'let him go.... Peace be with him.'

'I won't be silent,' the luckless wretch went on. 'It's all the same--
ruin anyway--you destroyer of souls, you brute; you've not come to ruin
yet.... But wait a bit; you won't have long to boast of; they'll wring
your neck; wait a bit!'

Biryuk clutched him by the shoulder. I rushed to help the peasant....

'Don't touch him, master!' the forester shouted to me.

I should not have feared his threats, and already had my fist in the
air; but to my intense amazement, with one pull he tugged the kerchief
off the peasant's elbows, took him by the scruff of the neck, thrust
his cap over his eyes, opened the door, and shoved him out.

'Go to the devil with your horse!' he shouted after him; 'but mind,
next time....'

He came back into the hut and began rummaging in the corner.

'Well, Biryuk,' I said at last, 'you've astonished me; I see you're a
splendid fellow.'

'Oh, stop that, master,' he cut me short with an air of vexation;
'please don't speak of it. But I'd better see you on your way now,' he
added; 'I suppose you won't wait for this little rain....'

In the yard there was the rattle of the wheels of the peasant's cart.

'He's off, then!' he muttered; 'but next time!'

Half-an-hour later he parted from me at the edge of the wood.

XIII

TWO COUNTRY GENTLEMEN

I have already had the honour, kind readers, of introducing to you
several of my neighbours; let me now seize a favourable opportunity (it
is always a favourable opportunity with us writers) to make known to
you two more gentlemen, on whose lands I often used to go shooting--
very worthy, well-intentioned persons, who enjoy universal esteem in
several districts.

First I will describe to you the retired General-major Vyatcheslav
Ilarionovitch Hvalinsky. Picture to yourselves a tall and once slender
man, now inclined to corpulence, but not in the least decrepit or even
elderly, a man of ripe age; in his very prime, as they say. It is true
the once regular and even now rather pleasing features of his face
have undergone some change; his cheeks are flabby; there are close
wrinkles like rays about his eyes; a few teeth are not, as Saadi,
according to Pushkin, used to say; his light brown hair--at least, all
that is left of it--has assumed a purplish hue, thanks to a composition
bought at the Romyon horse-fair of a Jew who gave himself out as an
Armenian; but Vyatcheslav Ilarionovitch has a smart walk and a ringing
laugh, jingles his spurs and curls his moustaches, and finally speaks
of himself as an old cavalry man, whereas we all know that really old
men never talk of being old. He usually wears a frock-coat buttoned up
to the top, a high cravat, starched collars, and grey sprigged trousers
of a military cut; he wears his hat tilted over his forehead, leaving
all the back of his head exposed. He is a good-natured man, but of
rather curious notions and principles. For instance, he can never treat
noblemen of no wealth or standing as equals. When he talks to them, he
usually looks sideways at them, his cheek pressed hard against his
stiff white collar, and suddenly he turns and silently fixes them with
a clear stony stare, while he moves the whole skin of his head under
his hair; he even has a way of his own in pronouncing many words; he
never says, for instance: 'Thank you, Pavel Vasilyitch,' or 'This way,
if you please, Mihalo Ivanitch,' but always 'Fanks, Pa'l 'Asilitch,' or
''Is wy, please, Mil' 'Vanitch.' With persons of the lower grades of
society, his behaviour is still more quaint; he never looks at them at
all, and before making known his desires to them, or giving an order,
he repeats several times in succession, with a puzzled, far-away air:
'What's your name?... what, what's your name?' with extraordinary sharp
emphasis on the first word, which gives the phrase a rather close
resemblance to the call of a quail. He is very fussy and terribly
close-fisted, but manages his land badly; he had chosen as overseer on
his estate a retired quartermaster, a Little Russian, and a man of
really exceptional stupidity. None of us, though, in the management of
land, has ever surpassed a certain great Petersburg dignitary, who,
having perceived from the reports of his steward that the cornkilns in
which the corn was dried on his estate were often liable to catch fire,
whereby he lost a great deal of grain, gave the strictest orders that
for the future they should not put the sheaves in till the fire had
been completely put out! This same great personage conceived the
brilliant idea of sowing his fields with poppies, as the result of an
apparently simple calculation; poppy being dearer than rye, he argued,
it is consequently more profitable to sow poppy. He it was, too, who
ordered his women serfs to wear tiaras after a pattern bespoken from
Moscow; and to this day the peasant women on his lands do actually wear
the tiaras, only they wear them over their skull-caps.... But let us
return to Vyatcheslav Ilarionovitch. Vyatcheslav Ilarionovitch is a
devoted admirer of the fair sex, and directly he catches sight of a
pretty woman in the promenade of his district town, he is promptly off
in pursuit, but falls at once into a sort of limping gait--that is the
remarkable feature of the case. He is fond of playing cards, but only
with people of a lower standing; they toady him with 'Your Excellency'
in every sentence, while he can scold them and find fault to his
heart's content. When he chances to play with the governor or any
official personage, a marvellous change comes over him; he is all nods
and smiles; he looks them in the face; he seems positively flowing with
honey.... He even loses without grumbling. Vyatcheslav Ilarionovitch
does not read much; when he is reading he incessantly works his
moustaches and eyebrows up and down, as if a wave were passing from
below upwards over his face. This undulatory motion in Vyatcheslav
Ilarionovitch's face is especially marked when (before company, of
course) he happens to be reading the columns of the _Journal des
Debats_. In the assemblies of nobility he plays a rather important
part, but on grounds of economy he declines the honourable dignity of
marshal. 'Gentlemen,' he usually says to the noblemen who press that
office upon him, and he speaks in a voice filled with condescension and
self-sufficiency: 'much indebted for the honour; but I have made up my
mind to consecrate my leisure to solitude.' And, as he utters these
words, he turns his head several times to right and to left, and then,
with a dignified air, adjusts his chin and his cheek over his cravat.
In his young days he served as adjutant to some very important person,
whom he never speaks of except by his Christian name and patronymic;
they do say he fulfilled other functions than those of an adjutant;
that, for instance, in full parade get-up, buttoned up to the chin, he
had to lather his chief in his bath--but one can't believe everything
one hears. General Hvalinsky is not, however, fond of talking himself
about his career in the army, which is certainly rather curious; it
seems that he had never seen active service. General Hvalinsky lives in
a small house alone; he has never known the joys of married life, and
consequently he still regards himself as a possible match, and indeed a
very eligible one. But he has a house-keeper, a dark-eyed, dark-browed,
plump, fresh-looking woman of five-and-thirty with a moustache; she
wears starched dresses even on week-days, and on Sundays puts on muslin
sleeves as well. Vyatcheslav Ilarionovitch is at his best at the large
invitation dinners given by gentlemen of the neighbourhood in honour of
the governor and other dignitaries: then he is, one may say, in his
natural element. On these occasions he usually sits, if not on the
governor's right hand, at least at no great distance from him; at the
beginning of dinner he is more disposed to nurse his sense of personal
dignity, and, sitting back in his chair, he loftily scans the necks and
stand-up collars of the guests, without turning his head, but towards
the end of the meal he unbends, begins smiling in all directions (he
had been all smiles for the governor from the first), and sometimes
even proposes the toast in honour of the fair sex, the ornament of our
planet, as he says. General Hvalinsky shows to advantage too at all
solemn public functions, inspections, assemblies, and exhibitions; no
one in church goes up for the benediction with such style. Vyatcheslav
Ilarionovitch's servants are never noisy and clamorous on the breaking
up of assemblies or in crowded thoroughfares; as they make a way for
him through the crowd or call his carriage, they say in an agreeable
guttural baritone: 'By your leave, by your leave allow General
Hvalinsky to pass,' or 'Call for General Hvalinsky's carriage.' ...
Hvalinsky's carriage is, it must be admitted, of a rather queer design,
and the footmen's liveries are rather threadbare (that they are grey,
with red facings, it is hardly necessary to remark); his horses too
have seen a good deal of hard service in their time; but Vyatcheslav
Ilarionovitch has no pretensions to splendour, and goes so far as to
think it beneath his rank to make an ostentation of wealth. Hvalinsky
has no special gift of eloquence, or possibly has no opportunity of
displaying his rhetorical powers, as he has a particular aversion, not
only for disputing, but for discussion in general, and assiduously
avoids long conversation of all sorts, especially with young people.
This was certainly judicious on his part; the worst of having to do
with the younger generation is that they are so ready to forget the
proper respect and submission due to their superiors. In the presence
of persons of high rank Hvalinsky is for the most part silent, while
with persons of a lower rank, whom to judge by appearances he despises,
though he constantly associates with them, his remarks are sharp and
abrupt, expressions such as the following occurring incessantly:
'That's a piece of folly, what you're saying now,' or 'I feel myself
compelled, sir, to remind you,' or 'You ought to realise with whom you
are dealing,' and so on. He is peculiarly dreaded by post-masters,
officers of the local boards, and superintendents of posting stations.
He never entertains any one in his house, and lives, as the rumour
goes, like a screw. For all that, he's an excellent country gentleman,
'An old soldier, a disinterested fellow, a man of principle, _vieux
grognard_,' his neighbours say of him. The provincial prosecutor alone
permits himself to smile when General Hvalinsky's excellent and solid
qualities are referred to before him--but what will not envy drive men
to!...

However, we will pass now to another landed proprietor.

Mardary Apollonitch Stegunov has no sort of resemblance to Hvalinsky; I
hardly think he has ever served under government in any capacity, and
he has never been reckoned handsome. Mardary Apollonitch is a little,
fattish, bald old man of a respectable corpulence, with a double chin
and little soft hands. He is very hospitable and jovial; lives, as the
saying is, for his comfort; summer and winter alike, he wears a striped
wadded dressing-gown. There's only one thing in which he is like
General Hvalinsky; he too is a bachelor. He owns five hundred souls.
Mardary Apollonitch's interest in his estate is of a rather superficial
description; not to be behind the age, he ordered a threshing-machine
from Butenop's in Moscow, locked it up in a barn, and then felt his
mind at rest on the subject. Sometimes on a fine summer day he would
have out his racing droshky, and drive off to his fields, to look at
the crops and gather corn-flowers. Mardary Apollonitch's existence is
carried on in quite the old style. His house is of an old-fashioned
construction; in the hall there is, of course, a smell of kvas, tallow
candles, and leather; close at hand, on the right, there is a sideboard
with pipes and towels; in the dining-room, family portraits, flies, a
great pot of geraniums, and a squeaky piano; in the drawing-room, three
sofas, three tables, two looking-glasses, and a wheezy clock of
tarnished enamel with engraved bronze hands; in the study, a table
piled up with papers, and a bluish-coloured screen covered with
pictures cut out of various works of last century; a bookcase full of
musty books, spiders, and black dust; a puffy armchair; an Italian
window; a sealed-up door into the garden.... Everything, in short, just
as it always is. Mardary Apollonitch has a multitude of servants, all
dressed in the old-fashioned style; in long blue full coats, with high
collars, shortish pantaloons of a muddy hue, and yellow waistcoats.
They address visitors as 'father.' His estate is under the
superintendence of an agent, a peasant with a beard that covers the
whole of his sheepskin; his household is managed by a stingy, wrinkled
old woman, whose face is always tied up in a cinnamon-coloured
handkerchief. In Mardary Apollonitch's stable there are thirty horses
of various kinds; he drives out in a coach built on the estate, that
weighs four tons. He receives visitors very cordially, and entertains
them sumptuously; in other words, thanks to the stupefying powers of
our national cookery, he deprives them of all capacity for doing
anything but playing preference. For his part, he never does anything,
and has even given up reading the _Dream-book_. But there are a good
many of our landed gentry in Russia exactly like this. It will be
asked: 'What is my object in talking about him?...' Well, by way of
answering that question, let me describe to you one of my visits at
Mardary Apollonitch's.

I arrived one summer evening at seven o'clock. An evening service was
only just over; the priest, a young man, apparently very timid, and
only lately come from the seminary, was sitting in the drawing-room
near the door, on the extreme edge of a chair. Mardary Apollonitch
received me as usual, very cordially; he was genuinely delighted to see
any visitor, and indeed he was the most good-natured of men altogether.
The priest got up and took his hat.

'Wait a bit, wait a bit, father,' said Mardary Apollonitch, not yet
leaving go of my hand; 'don't go ... I have sent for some vodka for
you.'

'I never drink it, sir,' the priest muttered in confusion, blushing up
to his ears.

'What nonsense!' answered Mardary Apollonitch; 'Mishka! Yushka! vodka
for the father!'

Yushka, a tall, thin old man of eighty, came in with a glass of vodka
on a dark-coloured tray, with a few patches of flesh-colour on it, all
that was left of the original enamel.

The priest began to decline.

'Come, drink it up, father, no ceremony; it's too bad of you,' observed
the landowner reproachfully.

The poor young man had to obey.

'There, now, father, you may go.'

The priest took leave.

'There, there, that'll do, get along with you....'

'A capital fellow,' pursued Mardary Apollonitch, looking after him, 'I
like him very much; there's only one thing--he's young yet. But how are
you, my dear sir?... What have you been doing? How are you? Let's come
out on to the balcony--such a lovely evening.'

We went out on the balcony, sat down, and began to talk. Mardary
Apollonitch glanced below, and suddenly fell into a state of tremendous
excitement.

'Whose hens are those? whose hens are those?' he shouted: 'Whose are
those hens roaming about in the garden?... Whose are those hens? How
many times I've forbidden it! How many times I've spoken about it!'

Yushka ran out.

'What disorder!' protested Mardary Apollonitch; 'it's horrible!'

The unlucky hens, two speckled and one white with a topknot, as I still
remember, went on stalking tranquilly about under the apple-trees,
occasionally giving vent to their feelings in a prolonged clucking,
when suddenly Yushka, bareheaded and stick in hand, with three other
house-serfs of mature years, flew at them simultaneously. Then the fun
began. The hens clucked, flapped their wings, hopped, raised a
deafening cackle; the house-serfs ran, tripping up and tumbling over;
their master shouted from the balcony like one possessed: 'Catch 'em,
catch 'em, catch 'em, catch 'em, catch 'em, catch 'em, catch 'em!'

At last one servant succeeded in catching the hen with the topknot,
tumbling upon her, and at the very same moment a little girl of eleven,
with dishevelled hair, and a dry branch in her hand, jumped over the
garden-fence from the village street.

'Ah, we see now whose hens!' cried the landowner in triumph. 'They're
Yermil, the coachman's, hens! he's sent his Natalka to chase them
out.... He didn't send his Parasha, no fear!' the landowner added in a
low voice with a significant snigger. 'Hey, Yushka! let the hens alone;
catch Natalka for me.'

But before the panting Yushka had time to reach the terrified little
girl the house-keeper suddenly appeared, snatched her by the arm, and
slapped her several times on the back....

'That's it! that's it!' cried the master, 'tut-tut-tut!... And carry
off the hens, Avdotya,' he added in a loud voice, and he turned with a
beaming face to me; 'that was a fine chase, my dear sir, hey?--I'm in a
regular perspiration: look.'

And Mardary Apollonitch went off into a series of chuckles.

We remained on the balcony. The evening was really exceptionally fine.

Tea was served us.

'Tell me,' I began, 'Mardary Apollonitch: are those your peasants'
huts, out there on the highroad, above the ravine?'

'Yes ... why do you ask?'

'I wonder at you, Mardary Apollonitch? It's really sinful. The huts
allotted to the peasants there are wretched cramped little hovels;
there isn't a tree to be seen near them; there's not a pond even;
there's only one well, and that's no good. Could you really find no
other place to settle them?... And they say you're taking away the old
hemp-grounds, too?'

'And what is one to do with this new division of the lands?' Mardary
Apollonitch made answer. 'Do you know I've this re-division quite on my
mind, and I foresee no sort of good from it. And as for my having taken
away the hemp-ground, and their not having dug any ponds, or what not--
as to that, my dear sir, I know my own business. I'm a plain man--I go
on the old system. To my ideas, when a man's master--he's master; and
when he's peasant--he's peasant. ... That's what I think about it.'

To an argument so clear and convincing there was of course no answer.

'And besides,' he went on, 'those peasants are a wretched lot; they're
in disgrace. Particularly two families there; why, my late father--God
rest his soul--couldn't bear them; positively couldn't bear them. And
you know my precept is: where the father's a thief, the son's a thief;
say what you like.... Blood, blood--oh, that's the great thing!'

Meanwhile there was a perfect stillness in the air. Only rarely there
came a gust of wind, which, as it sank for the last time near the
house, brought to our ears the sound of rhythmically repeated blows,
seeming to come from the stable. Mardary Apollonitch was in the act of
lifting a saucer full of tea to his lips, and was just inflating his
nostrils to sniff its fragrance--no true-born Russian, as we all know,
can drink his tea without this preliminary--but he stopped short,
listened, nodded his head, sipped his tea, and laying the saucer on the
table, with the most good-natured smile imaginable, he murmured as
though involuntarily accompanying the blows: 'Tchuki-tchuki-tchuk!
Tchuki-tchuk!'

'What is it?' I asked puzzled. 'Oh, by my order, they're punishing a
scamp of a fellow.... Do you happen to remember Vasya, who waits at the
sideboard?'

'Which Vasya?'

'Why, that waited on us at dinner just now. He with the long whiskers.'

The fiercest indignation could not have stood against the clear mild
gaze of Mardary Apollonitch.

'What are you after, young man? what is it?' he said, shaking his head.
'Am I a criminal or something, that you stare at me like that? "Whom he
loveth he chasteneth"; you know that.'

A quarter of an hour later I had taken leave of Mardary Apollonitch. As
I was driving through the village I caught sight of Vasya. He was
walking down the village street, cracking nuts. I told the coachman to
stop the horses and called him up.

'Well, my boy, so they've been punishing you to-day?' I said to him.

'How did you know?' answered Vasya.

'Your master told me.'

'The master himself?'

'What did he order you to be punished for?'

'Oh, I deserved it, father; I deserved it. They don't punish for
trifles among us; that's not the way with us--no, no. Our master's not
like that; our master ... you won't find another master like him in all
the province.'

'Drive on!' I said to the coachman.' There you have it, old Russia!' I
mused on my homeward way.

XIV

LEBEDYAN

One of the principal advantages of hunting, my dear readers, consists
in its forcing you to be constantly moving from place to place, which
is highly agreeable for a man of no occupation. It is true that
sometimes, especially in wet weather, it's not over pleasant to roam
over by-roads, to cut 'across country,' to stop every peasant you meet
with the question, 'Hey! my good man! how are we to get to Mordovka?'
and at Mordovka to try to extract from a half-witted peasant woman (the
working population are all in the fields) whether it is far to an inn
on the high-road, and how to get to it--and then when you have gone on
eight miles farther, instead of an inn, to come upon the deserted
village of Hudobubnova, to the great amazement of a whole herd of pigs,
who have been wallowing up to their ears in the black mud in the middle
of the village street, without the slightest anticipation of ever being
disturbed. There is no great joy either in having to cross planks that
dance under your feet; to drop down into ravines; to wade across boggy
streams: it is not over-pleasant to tramp twenty-four hours on end
through the sea of green that covers the highroads or (which God
forbid!) stay for hours stuck in the mud before a striped milestone
with the figures 22 on one side and 23 on the other; it is not wholly
pleasant to live for weeks together on eggs, milk, and the rye-bread
patriots affect to be so fond of.... But there is ample compensation
for all these inconveniences and discomforts in pleasures and
advantages of another sort. Let us come, though, to our story.

After all I have said above, there is no need to explain to the reader
how I happened five years ago to be at Lebedyan just in the very thick
of the horse-fair. We sportsmen may often set off on a fine morning
from our more or less ancestral roof, in the full intention of
returning there the following evening, and little by little, still in
pursuit of snipe, may get at last to the blessed banks of Petchora.
Besides, every lover of the gun and the dog is a passionate admirer of
the noblest animal in the world, the horse. And so I turned up at
Lebedyan, stopped at the hotel, changed my clothes, and went out to the
fair. (The waiter, a thin lanky youth of twenty, had already informed
me in a sweet nasal tenor that his Excellency Prince N----, who
purchases the chargers of the--regiment, was staying at their house;
that many other gentlemen had arrived; that some gypsies were to sing
in the evenings, and there was to be a performance of _Pan Tvardovsky_
at the theatre; that the horses were fetching good prices; and that
there was a fine show of them.)

In the market square there were endless rows of carts drawn up, and
behind the carts, horses of every possible kind: racers, stud-horses,
dray horses, cart-horses, posting-hacks, and simple peasants' nags.
Some fat and sleek, assorted by colours, covered with striped horse-
cloths, and tied up short to high racks, turned furtive glances
backward at the too familiar whips of their owners, the horse-dealers;
private owners' horses, sent by noblemen of the steppes a hundred or
two hundred miles away, in charge of some decrepit old coachman and two
or three headstrong stable-boys, shook their long necks, stamped with
ennui, and gnawed at the fences; roan horses, from Vyatka, huddled
close to one another; race-horses, dapple-grey, raven, and sorrel, with
large hindquarters, flowing tails, and shaggy legs, stood in majestic
immobility like lions. Connoisseurs stopped respectfully before them.
The avenues formed by the rows of carts were thronged with people of
every class, age, and appearance; horse-dealers in long blue coats and
high caps, with sly faces, were on the look-out for purchasers;
gypsies, with staring eyes and curly heads, strolled up and down, like
uneasy spirits, looking into the horses' mouths, lifting up a hoof or a
tail, shouting, swearing, acting as go-betweens, casting lots, or
hanging about some army horse-contracter in a foraging-cap and military
cloak, with beaver collar. A stalwart Cossack rode up and down on a
lanky gelding with the neck of a stag, offering it for sale 'in one
lot,' that is, saddle, bridle, and all. Peasants, in sheepskins torn at
the arm-pits, were forcing their way despairingly through the crowd, or
packing themselves by dozens into a cart harnessed to a horse, which
was to be 'put to the test,' or somewhere on one side, with the aid of
a wily gypsy, they were bargaining till they were exhausted, clasping
each other's hands a hundred times over, each still sticking to his
price, while the subject of their dispute, a wretched little jade
covered with a shrunken mat, was blinking quite unmoved, as though it
was no concern of hers.... And, after all, what difference did it make
to her who was to have the beating of her? Broad-browed landowners,
with dyed moustaches and an expression of dignity on their faces, in
Polish hats and cotton overcoats pulled half-on, were talking
condescendingly with fat merchants in felt hats and green gloves.
Officers of different regiments were crowding everywhere; an
extraordinarily lanky cuirassier of German extraction was languidly
inquiring of a lame horse-dealer 'what he expected to get for that
chestnut.' A fair-haired young hussar, a boy of nineteen, was choosing
a trace-horse to match a lean carriage-horse; a post-boy in a low-
crowned hat, with a peacock's feather twisted round it, in a brown coat
and long leather gloves tied round the arm with narrow, greenish bands,
was looking for a shaft-horse. Coachmen were plaiting the horses'
tails, wetting their manes, and giving respectful advice to their
masters. Those who had completed a stroke of business were hurrying to
hotel or to tavern, according to their class.... And all the crowd were
moving, shouting, bustling, quarrelling and making it up again,
swearing and laughing, all up to their knees in the mud. I wanted to
buy a set of three horses for my covered trap; mine had begun to show
signs of breaking down. I had found two, but had not yet succeeded in
picking up a third. After a hotel dinner, which I cannot bring myself
to describe (even Aeneas had discovered how painful it is to dwell on
sorrows past), I repaired to a _cafe_ so-called, which was the evening
resort of the purchasers of cavalry mounts, horse-breeders, and other
persons. In the billiard-room, which was plunged in grey floods of
tobacco smoke, there were about twenty men. Here were free-and-easy
young landowners in embroidered jackets and grey trousers, with long
curling hair and little waxed moustaches, staring about them with
gentlemanly insolence; other noblemen in Cossack dress, with
extraordinarily short necks, and eyes lost in layers of fat, were
snorting with distressing distinctness; merchants sat a little apart on
the _qui-vive_, as it is called; officers were chatting freely among
themselves. At the billiard-table was Prince N----a young man of two-
and-twenty, with a lively and rather contemptuous face, in a coat
hanging open, a red silk shirt, and loose velvet pantaloons; he was
playing with the ex-lieutenant, Viktor Hlopakov.

The ex-lieutenant, Viktor Hlopakov, a little, thinnish, dark man of
thirty, with black hair, brown eyes, and a thick snub nose, is a
diligent frequenter of elections and horse-fairs. He walks with a skip
and a hop, waves his fat hands with a jovial swagger, cocks his cap on
one side, and tucks up the sleeves of his military coat, showing the
blue-black cotton lining. Mr. Hlopakov knows how to gain the favour of
rich scapegraces from Petersburg; smokes, drinks, and plays cards with
them; calls them by their Christian names. What they find to like in
him it is rather hard to comprehend. He is not clever; he is not
amusing; he is not even a buffoon. It is true they treat him with
friendly casualness, as a good-natured fellow, but rather a fool; they
chum with him for two or three weeks, and then all of a sudden do not
recognise him in the street, and he on his side, too, does not
recognise them. The chief peculiarity of Lieutenant Hlopakov consists
in his continually for a year, sometimes two at a time, using in season
and out of season one expression, which, though not in the least
humorous, for some reason or other makes everyone laugh. Eight years
ago he used on every occasion to say, "'Umble respecks and duty," and
his patrons of that date used always to fall into fits of laughter and
make him repeat ''Umble respecks and duty'; then he began to adopt a
more complicated expression: 'No, that's too, too k'essk'say,' and with
the same brilliant success; two years later he had invented a fresh
saying: '_Ne voo_ excite _voo_self _pa_, man of sin, sewn in a
sheepskin,' and so on. And strange to say! these, as you see, not
overwhelmingly witty phrases, keep him in food and drink and clothes.
(He has run through his property ages ago, and lives solely upon his
friends.) There is, observe, absolutely no other attraction about him;
he can, it is true, smoke a hundred pipes of Zhukov tobacco in a day,
and when he plays billiards, throws his right leg higher than his head,
and while taking aim shakes his cue affectedly; but, after all, not
everyone has a fancy for these accomplishments. He can drink, too ...
but in Russia it is hard to gain distinction as a drinker. In short,
his success is a complete riddle to me.... There is one thing, perhaps;
he is discreet; he has no taste for washing dirty linen away from home,
never speaks a word against anyone.

'Well,' I thought, on seeing Hlopakov, 'I wonder what his catchword is
now?'

The prince hit the white.

'Thirty love,' whined a consumptive marker, with a dark face and blue
rings under his eyes.

The prince sent the yellow with a crash into the farthest pocket.

'Ah!' a stoutish merchant, sitting in the corner at a tottering little
one-legged table, boomed approvingly from the depths of his chest, and
immediately was overcome by confusion at his own presumption. But
luckily no one noticed him. He drew a long breath, and stroked his
beard.

'Thirty-six love!' the marker shouted in a nasal voice.

'Well, what do you say to that, old man?' the prince asked Hlopakov.

'What! rrrrakaliooon, of course, simply rrrrakaliooooon!'

The prince roared with laughter.

'What? what? Say it again.'

'Rrrrrakaliooon!' repeated the ex-lieutenant complacently.

'So that's the catchword!' thought I.

The prince sent the red into the pocket.

'Oh! that's not the way, prince, that's not the way,' lisped a fair-
haired young officer with red eyes, a tiny nose, and a babyish, sleepy
face. 'You shouldn't play like that ... you ought ... not that way!'

'Eh?' the prince queried over his shoulder.

'You ought to have done it ... in a triplet.'

'Oh, really?' muttered the prince.

'What do you say, prince? Shall we go this evening to hear the
gypsies?' the young man hurriedly went on in confusion. 'Styoshka will
sing ... Ilyushka....'

The prince vouchsafed no reply.

'Rrrrrakaliooon, old boy,' said Hlopakov, with a sly wink of his left
eye.

And the prince exploded.

'Thirty-nine to love,' sang out the marker.

'Love ... just look, I'll do the trick with that yellow.' ... Hlopakov,
fidgeting his cue in his hand, took aim, and missed.

'Eh, rrrakalioon,' he cried with vexation.

The prince laughed again.

'What, what, what?'

'Your honour made a miss,' observed the marker. 'Allow me to chalk the
cue.... Forty love.'

'Yes, gentlemen,' said the prince, addressing the whole company, and
not looking at any one in particular; 'you know, Verzhembitskaya must
be called before the curtain to-night.'

'To be sure, to be sure, of course,' several voices cried in rivalry,
amazingly flattered at the chance of answering the prince's speech;
'Verzhembitskaya, to be sure....'

'Verzhembitskaya's an excellent actress, far superior to Sopnyakova,'
whined an ugly little man in the corner with moustaches and spectacles.
Luckless wretch! he was secretly sighing at Sopnyakova's feet, and the
prince did not even vouchsafe him a look.

'Wai-ter, hey, a pipe!' a tall gentleman, with regular features and a
most majestic manner--in fact, with all the external symptoms of a
card-sharper--muttered into his cravat.

A waiter ran for a pipe, and when he came back, announced to his
excellency that the groom Baklaga was asking for him.

'Ah! tell him to wait a minute and take him some vodka.'

'Yes, sir.'

Baklaga, as I was told afterwards, was the name of a youthful,
handsome, and excessively depraved groom; the prince loved him, made
him presents of horses, went out hunting with him, spent whole nights
with him.... Now you would not know this same prince, who was once a
rake and a scapegrace.... In what good odour he is now; how straight-
laced, how supercilious! How devoted to the government--and, above all,
so prudent and judicious!

However, the tobacco smoke had begun to make my eyes smart. After
hearing Hlopakov's exclamation and the prince's chuckle one last time
more, I went off to my room, where, on a narrow, hair-stuffed sofa
pressed into hollows, with a high, curved back, my man had already made
me up a bed.

The next day I went out to look at the horses in the stables, and began
with the famous horsedealer Sitnikov's. I went through a gate into a
yard strewn with sand. Before a wide open stable-door stood the
horsedealer himself--a tall, stout man no longer young, in a hareskin
coat, with a raised turnover collar. Catching sight of me, he moved
slowly to meet me, held his cap in both hands above his head, and in a
sing-song voice brought out:

'Ah, our respects to you. You'd like to have a look at the horses, may
be?'

'Yes; I've come to look at the horses.'

'And what sort of horses, precisely, I make bold to ask?'

'Show me what you have.'

'With pleasure.'

We went into the stable. Some white pug-dogs got up from the hay and
ran up to us, wagging their tails, and a long-bearded old goat walked
away with an air of dissatisfaction; three stable-boys, in strong but
greasy sheepskins, bowed to us without speaking. To right and to left,
in horse-boxes raised above the ground, stood nearly thirty horses,
groomed to perfection. Pigeons fluttered cooing about the rafters.

'What, now, do you want a horse for? for driving or for breeding?'
Sitnikov inquired of me.

'Oh, I'll see both sorts.'

'To be sure, to be sure,' the horsedealer commented, dwelling on each
syllable. 'Petya, show the gentleman Ermine.'

We came out into the yard.

'But won't you let them bring you a bench out of the hut?... You don't
want to sit down.... As you please.'

There was the thud of hoofs on the boards, the crack of a whip, and
Petya, a swarthy fellow of forty, marked by small-pox, popped out of
the stable with a rather well-shaped grey stallion, made it rear, ran
twice round the yard with it, and adroitly pulled it up at the right
place. Ermine stretched himself, snorted, raised his tail, shook his
head, and looked sideways at me.

'A clever beast,' I thought.

'Give him his head, give him his head,' said Sitniker, and he stared at
me.

'What may you think of him?' he inquired at last.

'The horse's not bad--the hind legs aren't quite sound.'

'His legs are first-rate!' Sitnikov rejoined, with an air of
conviction;' and his hind-quarters ... just look, sir ... broad as an
oven--you could sleep up there.' 'His pasterns are long.'

'Long! mercy on us! Start him, Petya, start him, but at a trot, a trot
... don't let him gallop.'

Again Petya ran round the yard with Ermine. None of us spoke for a
little.

'There, lead him back,' said Sitnikov,' and show us Falcon.'

Falcon, a gaunt beast of Dutch extraction with sloping hind-quarters,
as black as a beetle, turned out to be little better than Ermine. He
was one of those beasts of whom fanciers will tell you that 'they go
chopping and mincing and dancing about,' meaning thereby that they
prance and throw out their fore-legs to right and to left without
making much headway. Middle-aged merchants have a great fancy for such
horses; their action recalls the swaggering gait of a smart waiter;
they do well in single harness for an after-dinner drive; with mincing
paces and curved neck they zealously draw a clumsy droshky laden with
an overfed coachman, a depressed, dyspeptic merchant, and his lymphatic
wife, in a blue silk mantle, with a lilac handkerchief over her head.
Falcon too I declined. Sitnikov showed me several horses.... One at
last, a dapple-grey beast of Voyakov breed, took my fancy. I could not
restrain my satisfaction, and patted him on the withers. Sitnikov at
once feigned absolute indifference.

"Well, does he go well in harness?" I inquired. (They never speak of a
trotting horse as "being driven.")

"Oh, yes," answered the horsedealer carelessly.

"Can I see him?"

"If you like, certainly. Hi, Kuzya, put Pursuer into the droshky!"

Kuzya, the jockey, a real master of horsemanship, drove three times
past us up and down the street. The horse went well, without changing
its pace, nor shambling; it had a free action, held its tail high, and
covered the ground well.

"And what are you asking for him?"

Sitnikov asked an impossible price. We began bargaining on the spot in
the street, when suddenly a splendidly-matched team of three posting-
horses flew noisily round the corner and drew up sharply at the gates
before Sitnikov's house. In the smart little sportsman's trap sat
Prince N----; beside him Hlopakov. Baklaga was driving ... and how he
drove! He could have driven them through an earring, the rascal! The
bay trace-horses, little, keen, black-eyed, black-legged beasts, were
all impatience; they kept rearing--a whistle, and off they would have
bolted! The dark-bay shaft-horse stood firmly, its neck arched like a
swan's, its breast forward, its legs like arrows, shaking its head and
proudly blinking.... They were splendid! No one could desire a finer
turn out for an Easter procession!

'Your excellency, please to come in!' cried Sitnikov.

The prince leaped out of the trap. Hlopakov slowly descended on the
other side.

'Good morning, friend ... any horses.'

'You may be sure we've horses for your excellency! Pray walk in....
Petya, bring out Peacock! and let them get Favourite ready too. And
with you, sir,' he went on, turning to me, 'we'll settle matters
another time.... Fomka, a bench for his excellency.'

From a special stable which I had not at first observed they led out
Peacock. A powerful dark sorrel horse seemed to fly across the yard
with all its legs in the air. Sitnikov even turned away his head and
winked.

'Oh, rrakalion!' piped Hlopakov; 'Zhaymsah (_j'aime ca_.)'

The prince laughed.

Peacock was stopped with difficulty; he dragged the stable-boy about
the yard; at last he was pushed against the wall. He snorted, started
and reared, while Sitnikov still teased him, brandishing a whip at him.

'What are you looking at? there! oo!' said the horsedealer with
caressing menace, unable to refrain from admiring his horse himself.

'How much?' asked the prince.

'For your excellency, five thousand.'

'Three.'

'Impossible, your excellency, upon my word.'

'I tell you three, rrakalion,' put in Hlopakov.

I went away without staying to see the end of the bargaining. At the
farthest corner of the street I noticed a large sheet of paper fixed on
the gate of a little grey house. At the top there was a pen-and-ink
sketch of a horse with a tail of the shape of a pipe and an endless
neck, and below his hoofs were the following words, written in an old-
fashioned hand:

'Here are for sale horses of various colours, brought to the Lebedyan
fair from the celebrated steppes stud of Anastasei Ivanitch Tchornobai,
landowner of Tambov. These horses are of excellent sort; broken in to
perfection, and free from vice. Purchasers will kindly ask for
Anastasei Ivanitch himself: should Anastasei Ivanitch be absent, then
ask for Nazar Kubishkin, the coachman. Gentlemen about to purchase,
kindly honour an old man.'

I stopped. 'Come,' I thought, 'let's have a look at the horses of the
celebrated steppes breeder, Mr. Tchornobai.'

I was about to go in at the gate, but found that, contrary to the
common usage, it was locked. I knocked.

'Who's there?... A customer?' whined a woman's voice.

'Yes.'

'Coming, sir, coming.'

The gate was opened. I beheld a peasant-woman of fifty, bareheaded, in
boots, and a sheepskin worn open.

'Please to come in, kind sir, and I'll go at once, and tell Anastasei
Ivanitch ... Nazar, hey, Nazar!'

'What?' mumbled an old man's voice from the stable.

'Get a horse ready; here's a customer.'

The old woman ran into the house.

'A customer, a customer,' Nazar grumbled in response; 'I've not washed
all their tails yet.'

'Oh, Arcadia!' thought I.

'Good day, sir, pleased to see you,' I heard a rich, pleasant voice
saying behind my back. I looked round; before me, in a long-skirted
blue coat, stood an old man of medium height, with white hair, a
friendly smile, and fine blue eyes.

'You want a little horse? By all means, my dear sir, by all means....
But won't you step in and drink just a cup of tea with me first?'

I declined and thanked him.

'Well, well, as you please. You must excuse me, my dear sir; you see
I'm old-fashioned.' (Mr. Tchornobai spoke with deliberation, and in a
broad Doric.) 'Everything with me is done in a plain way, you know....
Nazar, hey, Nazar!' he added, not raising his voice, but prolonging
each syllable. Nazar, a wrinkled old man with a little hawk nose and a
wedge-shaped beard, showed himself at the stable door.

'What sort of horses is it you're wanting, my dear sir?' resumed Mr.
Tchornobai.

'Not too expensive; for driving in my covered gig.'

'To be sure ... we have got them to suit you, to be sure.... Nazar,
Nazar, show the gentleman the grey gelding, you know, that stands at
the farthest corner, and the sorrel with the star, or else the other
sorrel--foal of Beauty, you know.'

Nazar went back to the stable.

'And bring them out by their halters just as they are,' Mr. Tchornobai
shouted after him. 'You won't find things with me, my good sir,' he
went on, with a clear mild gaze into my face, 'as they are with the
horse-dealers; confound their tricks! There are drugs of all sorts go
in there, salt and malted grains; God forgive them! But with me, you
will see, sir, everything's above-board; no underhandedness.'

The horses were led in; I did not care for them.

'Well, well, take them back, in God's name,' said Anastasei Ivanitch.
'Show us the others.'

Others were shown. At last I picked out one, rather a cheap one. We
began to haggle over the price. Mr. Tchornobai did not get excited; he
spoke so reasonably, with such dignity, that I could not help
'honouring' the old man; I gave him the earnest-money.

'Well, now,' observed Anastasei Ivanitch, 'allow me to give over the
horse to you from hand to hand, after the old fashion.... You will
thank me for him ... as sound as a nut, see ... fresh ... a true child
of the steppes! Goes well in any harness.'

He crossed himself, laid the skirt of his coat over his hand, took the
halter, and handed me the horse.

'You're his master now, with God's blessing.... And you still won't
take a cup of tea?'

'No, I thank you heartily; it's time I was going home.'

'That's as you think best.... And shall my coachman lead the horse
after you?'

'Yes, now, if you please.'

'By all means, my dear sir, by all means.... Vassily, hey, Vassily!
step along with the gentleman, lead the horse, and take the money for
him. Well, good-bye, my good sir; God bless you.'

'Good-bye, Anastasei Ivanitch.'

They led the horse home for me. The next day he turned out to be
broken-winded and lame. I tried having him put in harness; the horse
backed, and if one gave him a flick with the whip he jibbed, kicked,
and positively lay down. I set off at once to Mr. Tchornobai's. I
inquired: 'At home?'

'Yes.'

'What's the meaning of this?' said I; 'here you've sold me a broken-
winded horse.'

'Broken-winded?... God forbid!'

'Yes, and he's lame too, and vicious besides.'

'Lame! I know nothing about it: your coachman must have ill-treated him
somehow.... But before God, I--'

'Look here, Anastasei Ivanitch, as things stand, you ought to take him
back.'

'No, my good sir, don't put yourself in a passion; once gone out of the
yard, is done with. You should have looked before, sir.'

I understood what that meant, accepted my fate, laughed, and walked
off. Luckily, I had not paid very dear for the lesson.

Two days later I left, and in a week I was again at Lebedyan on my way
home again. In the _cafe_ I found almost the same persons, and again I
came upon Prince N----at billiards. But the usual change in the
fortunes of Mr. Hlopakov had taken place in this interval: the fair-
haired young officer had supplanted him in the prince's favours. The
poor ex-lieutenant once more tried letting off his catchword in my
presence, on the chance it might succeed as before; but, far from
smiling, the prince positively scowled and shrugged his shoulders. Mr.
Hlopakov looked downcast, shrank into a corner, and began furtively
filling himself a pipe....

END OF VOL. I.

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