Part 3 out of 4
a snappish, choleric Lady Bountiful, at another a humble parasite on a
wealthy skinflint merchant, then a private secretary to a goggle-eyed
gentleman, with his hair cut in the English style, then she promoted him
to the post of something between butler and buffoon to a dog-fancier....
In short, Fate drove poor Tihon to drink drop by drop to the dregs the
bitter poisoned cup of a dependent existence. He had been, in his time,
the sport of the dull malignity and the boorish pranks of slothful
masters. How often, alone in his room, released at last 'to go in
peace,' after a mob of visitors had glutted their taste for horseplay at
his expense, he had vowed, blushing with shame, chill tears of despair
in his eyes, that he would run away in secret, would try his luck in the
town, would find himself some little place as clerk, or die once for all
of hunger in the street! But, in the first place, God had not given him
strength of character; secondly, his timidity unhinged him; and thirdly,
how could he get himself a place? whom could he ask? 'They'll never give
it me,' the luckless wretch would murmur, tossing wearily in his bed,
'they'll never give it me!' And the next day he would take up the same
degrading life again. His position was the more painful that, with all
her care, nature had not troubled to give him the smallest share of the
gifts and qualifications without which the trade of a buffoon is almost
impossible. He was not equal, for instance, to dancing till he dropped,
in a bearskin coat turned inside out, nor making jokes and cutting
capers in the immediate vicinity of cracking whips; if he was turned out
in a state of nature into a temperature of twenty degrees below
freezing, as often as not, he caught cold; his stomach could not digest
brandy mixed with ink and other filth, nor minced funguses and
toadstools in vinegar. There is no knowing what would have become of
Tihon if the last of his patrons, a contractor who had made his fortune,
had not taken it into his head in a merry hour to inscribe in his will:
'And to Zyozo (Tihon, to wit) Nedopyuskin, I leave in perpetual
possession, to him and his heirs, the village of Bezselendyevka,
lawfully acquired by me, with all its appurtenances.' A few days later
this patron was taken with a fit of apoplexy after gorging on sturgeon
soup. A great commotion followed; the officials came and put seals on
The relations arrived; the will was opened and read; and they called for
Nedopyuskin: Nedopyuskin made his appearance. The greater number of the
party knew the nature of Tihon Ivanitch's duties in his patron's
household; he was greeted with deafening shouts and ironical
congratulations. 'The landowner; here is the new owner!' shouted the
other heirs. 'Well, really this,' put in one, a noted wit and humourist;
'well, really this, one may say... this positively is... really what
one may call... an heir-apparent!' and they all went off into shrieks.
For a long while Nedopyuskin could not believe in his good fortune. They
showed him the will: he flushed, shut his eyes, and with a despairing
gesture he burst into tears. The chuckles of the party passed into a
deep unanimous roar. The village of Bezselendyevka consisted of only
twenty-two serfs, no one regretted its loss keenly; so why not get some
fun out of it? One of the heirs from Petersburg, an important man, with
a Greek nose and a majestic expression of face, Rostislav Adamitch
Shtoppel, went so far as to go up to Nedopyuskin and look haughtily at
him over his shoulder. 'So far as I can gather, honoured sir,' he
observed with contemptuous carelessness, 'you enjoyed your position in
the household of our respected Fedor Fedoritch, owing to your obliging
readiness to wait on his diversions?' The gentleman from Petersburg
expressed himself in a style insufferably refined, smart, and correct.
Nedopyuskin, in his agitation and confusion, had not taken in the
unknown gentleman's words, but the others were all quiet at once; the
wit smiled condescendingly. Mr. Shtoppel rubbed his hands and repeated
his question. Nedopyuskin raised his eyes in bewilderment and opened his
mouth. Rostislav Adamitch puckered his face up sarcastically.
'I congratulate you, my dear sir, I congratulate you,' he went on: 'it's
true, one may say, not everyone would have consented to gain his daily
bread in such a fashion; but _de guslibus non est disputandum_,
that is, everyone to his taste.... Eh?'
Someone at the back uttered a rapid, decorous shriek of admiration and
'Tell us,' pursued Mr. Shtoppel, much encouraged by the smiles of the
whole party, 'to what special talent are you indebted for your
good-fortune? No, don't be bashful, tell us; we're all here, so to
speak, _en famille_. Aren't we, gentlemen, all here _en famille_?'
The relation to whom Rostislav Adamitch chanced to turn with this
question did not, unfortunately, know French, and so he confined himself
to a faint grunt of approbation. But another relation, a young man, with
patches of a yellow colour on his forehead, hastened to chime in, 'Wee,
wee, to be sure.'
'Perhaps,' Mr. Shtoppel began again, 'you can walk on your hands, your
legs raised, so to say, in the air?'
Nedopyuskin looked round in agony: every face wore a taunting smile,
every eye was moist with delight.
'Or perhaps you can crow like a cock?'
A loud guffaw broke out on all sides, and was hushed at once, stifled by
'Or perhaps on your nose you can....'
'Stop that!' a loud harsh voice suddenly interrupted Rostislav Adamitch;
'I wonder you're not ashamed to torment the poor man!'
Everyone looked round. In the doorway stood Tchertop-hanov. As a cousin
four times removed of the deceased contractor, he too had received a
note of invitation to the meeting of the relations. During the whole
time of reading the will he had kept, as he always did, haughtily apart
from the others.
'Stop that!' he repeated, throwing his head back proudly.
Mr. Shtoppel turned round quickly, and seeing a poorly dressed,
unattractive-looking man, he inquired of his neighbour in an undertone
(caution's always a good thing):
'Tchertop-hanov--he's no great shakes,' the latter whispered in his ear.
Rostislav Adamitch assumed a haughty air.
'And who are you to give orders?' he said through his nose, drooping his
eyelids scornfully; 'who may you be, allow me to inquire?--a queer fish,
upon my word!'
Tchertop-hanov exploded like gunpowder at a spark. He was choked with
'Ss--ss--ss!' he hissed like one possessed, and all at once he
thundered: 'Who am I? Who am I? I'm Panteley Tchertop-hanov, of the
ancient hereditary nobility; my forefathers served the Tsar: and who may
Rostislav Adamitch turned pale and stepped back. He had not expected
'I--I--a fish indeed!'
Tchertop-hanov darted forward; Shtoppel bounded away in great
perturbation, the others rushed to meet the exasperated nobleman.
'A duel, a duel, a duel, at once, across a handkerchief!' shouted the
enraged Panteley, 'or beg my pardon--yes, and his too....'
'Pray beg his pardon!' the agitated relations muttered all round
Shtoppel; 'he's such a madman, he'd cut your throat in a minute!'
'I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon, I didn't know,' stammered
Shtoppel; 'I didn't know....'
'And beg his too!' vociferated the implacable Panteley.
'I beg your pardon too,' added Rostislav Adamitch, addressing
Nedopyuskin, who was shaking as if he were in an ague.
Tchertop-hanov calmed down; he went up to Tihon Ivanitch, took him by
the hand, looked fiercely round, and, as not one pair of eyes ventured
to meet his, he walked triumphantly amid profound silence out of the
room, with the new owner of the lawfully acquired village of
From that day they never parted again. (The village of Bezselendyevka
was only seven miles from Bezsonovo.) The boundless gratitude of
Nedopyuskin soon passed into the most adoring veneration. The weak,
soft, and not perfectly stainless Tihon bowed down in the dust before
the fearless and irreproachable Panteley. 'It's no slight thing,' he
thought to himself sometimes, 'to talk to the governor, look him
straight in the face.... Christ have mercy on us, doesn't he look at
He marvelled at him, he exhausted all the force of his soul in his
admiration of him, he regarded him as an extraordinary man, as clever,
as learned. And there's no denying that, bad as Tchertop-hanov's
education might be, still, in comparison with Tihon's education, it
might pass for brilliant. Tchertop-hanov, it is true, had read little
Russian, and knew French very badly--so badly that once, in reply to the
question of a Swiss tutor: '_Vous parlez francais, monsieur?_' he
answered: '_Je ne comprehend_' and after a moment's thought, he
added _pa_; but any way he was aware that Voltaire had once
existed, and was a very witty writer, and that Frederick the Great, king
of Prussia, had been distinguished as a great military commander. Of
Russian writers he respected Derzhavin, but liked Marlinsky, and called
Ammalat-Bek the best of the pack....
A few days after my first meeting with the two friends, I set off for
the village of Bezsonovo to see Panteley Eremyitch. His little house
could be seen a long way off; it stood out on a bare place, half a mile
from the village, on the 'bluff,' as it is called, like a hawk on a
ploughed field. Tchertop-hanov's homestead consisted of nothing more
than four old tumble-down buildings of different sizes--that is, a
lodge, a stable, a barn, and a bath-house. Each building stood apart by
itself; there was neither a fence round nor a gate to be seen. My
coachman stopped in perplexity at a well which was choked up and had
almost disappeared. Near the barn some thin and unkempt puppies were
mangling a dead horse, probably Orbassan; one of them lifted up the
bleeding nose, barked hurriedly, and again fell to devouring the bare
ribs. Near the horse stood a boy of seventeen, with a puffy, yellow
face, dressed like a Cossack, and barelegged; he looked with a
responsible air at the dogs committed to his charge, and now and then
gave the greediest a lash with his whip.
'Is your master at home?' I inquired.
'The Lord knows!' answered the lad; 'you'd better knock.'
I jumped out of the droshky, and went up to the steps of the lodge.
Mr. Tchertop-hanov's dwelling presented a very cheerless aspect; the
beams were blackened and bulging forward, the chimney had fallen off,
the corners of the house were stained with damp, and sunk out of the
perpendicular, the small, dusty, bluish windows peeped out from under
the shaggy overhanging roof with an indescribably morose expression:
some old vagrants have eyes that look like that. I knocked; no one
responded. I could hear, however, through the door some sharply uttered
'A, B, C; there now, idiot!' a hoarse voice was saying: 'A, B, C, D...
no! D, E, E, E!... Now then, idiot!'
I knocked a second time.
The same voice shouted: 'Come in; who's there?'...
I went into the small empty hall, and through the open door I saw
Tchertop-hanov himself. In a greasy oriental dressing-gown, loose
trousers, and a red skull-cap, he was sitting on a chair; in one hand he
gripped the face of a young poodle, while in the other he was holding a
piece of bread just above his nose.
'Ah!' he pronounced with dignity, not stirring from his seat: 'delighted
to see you. Please sit down. I am busy here with Venzor.... Tihon
Ivanitch,' he added, raising his voice, 'come here, will you? Here's a
'I'm coming, I'm coming,' Tihon Ivanitch responded from the other room.
'Masha, give me my cravat.'
Tchertop-hanov turned to Venzor again and laid the piece of bread on his
nose. I looked round. Except an extending table much warped with
thirteen legs of unequal length, and four rush chairs worn into hollows,
there was no furniture of any kind in the room; the walls, which had
been washed white, ages ago, with blue, star-shaped spots, were peeling
off in many places; between the windows hung a broken tarnished
looking-glass in a huge frame of red wood. In the corners stood
pipestands and guns; from the ceiling hung fat black cobwebs.
'A, B, C, D,' Tchertop-hanov repeated slowly, and suddenly he cried
furiously: '_E! E! E! E!_... What a stupid brute!...'
But the luckless poodle only shivered, and could not make up his mind to
open his mouth; he still sat wagging his tail uneasily and wrinkling up
his face, blinked dejectedly, and frowned as though saying to himself:
'Of course, it's just as you please!'
'There, eat! come! take it!' repeated the indefatigable master.
'You've frightened him,' I remarked.
'Well, he can get along, then!'
He gave him a kick. The poor dog got up softly, dropped the bread off
his nose, and walked, as it were, on tiptoe to the hall, deeply wounded.
And with good reason: a stranger calling for the first time, and to
treat him like that!
The door from the next room gave a subdued creak, and Mr. Nedopyuskin
came in, affably bowing and smiling.
I got up and bowed.
'Don't disturb yourself, don't disturb yourself,' he lisped.
We sat down. Tchertop-hanov went into the next room.
'You have been for some time in our neighbourhood,' began Nedopyuskin in
a subdued voice, coughing discreetly into his hand, and holding his
fingers before his lips from a feeling of propriety.
'I came last month.'
We were silent for a little.
'Lovely weather we are having just now,' resumed Nedopyuskin, and he
looked gratefully at me as though I were in some way responsible for the
weather: 'the corn, one may say, is doing wonderfully.'
I nodded in token of assent. We were silent again.
'Panteley Eremyitch was pleased to hunt two hares yesterday,'
Nedopyuskin began again with an effort, obviously wishing to enliven the
conversation; 'yes, indeed, very big hares they were, sir.'
'Has Mr. Tchertop-hanov good hounds?'
'The most wonderful hounds, sir!' Nedopyuskin replied, delighted; 'one
may say, the best in the province, indeed.' (He drew nearer to me.)
'But, then, Panteley Eremyitch is such a wonderful man! He has only to
wish for anything--he has only to take an idea into his head--and before
you can look round, it's done; everything, you may say, goes like
clockwork. Panteley Eremyitch, I assure you....'
Tchertop-hanov came into the room. Nedopyuskin smiled, ceased speaking,
and indicated him to me with a glance which seemed to say, 'There, you
will see for yourself.' We fell to talking about hunting.
'Would you like me to show you my leash?' Tchertop-hanov asked me; and,
not waiting for a reply, he called Karp.
A sturdy lad came in, in a green nankin long coat, with a blue collar
and livery buttons.
'Tell Fomka,' said Tchertop-hanov abruptly, 'to bring in Ammalat and
Saiga, and in good order, do you understand?'
Karp gave a broad grin, uttered an indefinite sound, and went away.
Fomka made his appearance, well combed and tightly buttoned up, in
boots, and with the hounds. From politeness, I admired the stupid beasts
(harriers are all exceedingly stupid). Tchertop-hanov spat right into
Ammalat's nostrils, which did not, however, apparently afford that dog
the slightest satisfaction. Nedopyuskin, too, stroked Ammalat from
behind. We began chatting again. By degrees Tchertop-hanov unbent
completely, and no longer stood on his dignity nor snorted defiantly;
the expression of his face changed. He glanced at me and at
'Hey!' he cried suddenly; 'why should she sit in there alone? Masha! hi,
Masha! come in here!'
Some one stirred in the next room, but there was no answer.
'Ma-a-sha!' Tchertop-hanov repeated caressingly; 'come in here. It's all
right, don't be afraid.'
The door was softly opened, and I caught sight of a tall and slender
girl of twenty, with a dark gypsy face, golden-brown eyes, and hair
black as pitch; her large white teeth gleamed between full red lips. She
had on a white dress; a blue shawl, pinned close round her throat with a
gold brooch, half hid her slender, beautiful arms, in which one could
see the fineness of her race. She took two steps with the bashful
awkwardness of some wild creature, stood still, and looked down.
'Come, let me introduce,' said Panteley Eremyitch; 'wife she is not, but
she's to be respected as a wife.'
Masha flushed slightly, and smiled in confusion. I made her a low bow. I
thought her very charming. The delicate falcon nose, with distended,
half-transparent nostrils; the bold sweep of her high eyebrows, the
pale, almost sunken cheeks--every feature of her face denoted wilful
passion and reckless devilry. From under the coil of her hair two rows
of little shining hairs ran down her broad neck--a sign of race and
She went to the window and sat down. I did not want to increase her
embarrassment, and began talking with Tchertop-hanov. Masha turned her
head slyly, and began peeping from under her eyelids at me stealthily,
shyly, and swiftly. Her glance seemed to flash out like a snake's sting.
Nedopyuskin sat beside her, and whispered something in her ear. She
smiled again. When she smiled, her nose slightly puckered up, and her
upper lip was raised, which gave her face something of the expression of
a cat or a lion....
'Oh, but you're one of the "hands off!" sort,' I thought, in my turn
stealing a look at her supple frame, her hollow breast, and her quick,
'Masha,' Tchertop-hanov asked, 'don't you think we ought to give our
visitor some entertainment, eh?'
'We've got some jam,' she replied.
'Well, bring the jam here, and some vodka, too, while you're about it.
And, I say, Masha,' he shouted after her, 'bring the guitar in too.'
'What's the guitar for? I'm not going to sing.'
'I don't want to.'
'Oh, nonsense; you'll want to when....'
'What?' asked Masha, rapidly knitting her brows.
'When you're asked,' Tchertop-hanov went on, with some embarrassment.
She went out, soon came back with jam and vodka, and again sat by the
window. There was still a line to be seen on her forehead; the two
eyebrows rose and drooped like a wasp's antennae.... Have you ever
noticed, reader, what a wicked face the wasp has? 'Well,' I thought,
'I'm in for a storm.' The conversation flagged. Nedopyuskin shut up
completely, and wore a forced smile; Tchertop-hanov panted, turned red,
and opened his eyes wide; I was on the point of taking leave....
Suddenly Masha got up, flung open the window, thrust out her head, and
shouted lustily to a passing peasant woman, 'Aksinya!' The woman
started, and tried to turn round, but slipped down and flopped heavily
on to a dung-heap. Masha threw herself back and laughed merrily;
Tchertop-hanov laughed too; Nedopyuskin shrieked with delight. We all
revived. The storm had passed off in one flash of lightning... the air
was clear again.
Half-an-hour later, no one would have recognised us; we were chatting
and frolicking like children. Masha was the merriest of all;
Tchertop-hanov simply could not take his eyes off her. Her face grew
paler, her nostrils dilated, her eyes glowed and darkened at the same
time. It was a wild creature at play. Nedopyuskin limped after her on
his short, fat little legs, like a drake after a duck. Even Venzor
crawled out of his hiding-place in the hall, stood a moment in the
doorway, glanced at us, and suddenly fell to jumping up into the air and
barking. Masha flitted into the other room, fetched the guitar, flung
off the shawl from her shoulders, seated herself quickly, and, raising
her head, began singing a gypsy song. Her voice rang out, vibrating like
a glass bell when it is struck; it flamed up and died away.... It filled
the heart with sweetness and pain.... Tchertop-hanov fell to dancing.
Nedopyuskin stamped and swung his legs in tune. Masha was all a-quiver,
like birch-bark in the fire; her delicate fingers flew playfully over
the guitar, her dark-skinned throat slowly heaved under the two rows of
amber. All at once she would cease singing, sink into exhaustion, and
twang the guitar, as it were involuntarily, and Tchertop-hanov stood
still, merely working his shoulders and turning round in one place,
while Nedopyuskin nodded his head like a Chinese figure; then she would
break out into song like a mad thing, drawing herself up and holding up
her head, and Tchertop-hanov again curtsied down to the ground, leaped
up to the ceiling, spun round like a top, crying 'Quicker!...'
'Quicker, quicker, quicker!' Nedopyuskin chimed in, speaking very fast.
It was late in the evening when I left Bezsonovo....
THE END OF TCHERTOP-HANOV
It was two years after my visit that Panteley Eremyitch's troubles
began--his real troubles. Disappointments, disasters, even misfortunes
he had had before that time, but he had paid no attention to them, and
had risen superior to them in former days. The first blow that fell upon
him was the most heartrending for him. Masha left him.
What induced her to forsake his roof, where she seemed to be so
thoroughly at home, it is hard to say. Tchertop-hanov to the end of his
days clung to the conviction that a certain young neighbour, a retired
captain of Uhlans, named Yaff, was at the root of Masha's desertion. He
had taken her fancy, according to Panteley Eremyitch, simply by
constantly curling his moustaches, pomading himself to excess, and
sniggering significantly; but one must suppose that the vagrant gypsy
blood in Masha's veins had more to do with it. However that may have
been, one fine summer evening Masha tied up a few odds and ends in a
small bundle, and walked out of Tchertop-hanov's house.
For three days before this she had sat crouched up in a corner, huddled
against the wall, like a wounded fox, and had not spoken a word to any
one; she had only turned her eyes about, and twitched her eyebrows, and
faintly gnashed her teeth, and moved her arms as though she were
wrapping herself up. This mood had come upon her before, but had never
lasted long: Tchertop-hanov knew that, and so he neither worried himself
nor worried her. But when, on coming in from the kennels, where, in his
huntsman's words, the last two hounds 'had departed,' he met a servant
girl who, in a trembling voice, informed him that Marya Akinfyevna sent
him her greetings, and left word that she wished him every happiness,
but she was not coming back to him any more; Tchertop-hanov, after
reeling round where he stood and uttering a hoarse yell, rushed at once
after the runaway, snatching up his pistol as he went.
He overtook her a mile and a half from his house, near a birch wood, on
the high-road to the district town. The sun was sinking on the horizon,
and everything was suddenly suffused with purple glow--trees, plants,
and earth alike.
'To Yaff! to Yaff!' groaned Tchertop-hanov directly he caught sight of
Masha. 'Going to Yaff!' he repeated, running up to her, and almost
stumbling at every step.
Masha stood still, and turned round facing him.
She stood with her back to the light, and looked all black, as though
she had been carved out of dark wood; only the whites of her eyes stood
out like silvery almonds, but the eyes themselves--the pupils--were
darker than ever.
She flung her bundle aside, and folded her arms. 'You are going to Yaff,
wretched girl!' repeated Tchertop-hanov, and he was on the point of
seizing her by the shoulder, but, meeting her eyes, he was abashed, and
stood uneasily where he was.
'I am not going to Mr. Yaff, Panteley Eremyitch,' replied Masha in soft,
even tones; 'it's only I can't live with you any longer.'
'Can't live with me? Why not? Have I offended you in some way?'
Masha shook her head. 'You've not offended me in any way, Panteley
Eremyitch, only my heart is heavy in your house.... Thanks for the past,
but I can't stay--no!'
Tchertop-hanov was amazed; he positively slapped his thighs, and bounced
up and down in his astonishment.
'How is that? Here she's gone on living with me, and known nothing but
peace and happiness, and all of a sudden--her heart's heavy! and she
flings me over! She goes and puts a kerchief on her head, and is gone.
She received every respect, like any lady.'
'I don't care for that in the least,' Masha interrupted.
'Don't care for it? From a wandering gypsy to turn into a lady, and she
doesn't care for it! How don't you care for it, you low-born slave? Do
you expect me to believe that? There's treachery hidden in
He began frowning again.
'There's no treachery in my thoughts, and never has been,' said Masha in
her distinct, resonant voice; 'I've told you already, my heart was
'Masha!' cried Tchertop-hanov, striking himself a blow on the chest with
his fist; 'there, stop it; hush, you have tortured me... now, it's
enough! O my God! think only what Tisha will say; you might have pity on
him, at least!'
'Remember me to Tihon Ivanitch, and tell him...'
Tchertop-hanov wrung his hands. 'No, you are talking nonsense--you are
not going! Your Yaff may wait for you in vain!'
'Mr. Yaff,' Masha was beginning....
'A fine _Mister_ Yaff!' Tchertop-hanov mimicked her. 'He's an
underhand rascal, a low cur--that's what he is--and a phiz like an
For fully half-an-hour Tchertop-hanov was struggling with Masha. He came
close to her, he fell back, he shook his fists at her, he bowed down
before her, he wept, he scolded.
...'I can't,' repeated Masha; 'I am so sad at heart... devoured by
Little by little her face assumed such an indifferent, almost drowsy
expression, that Tchertop-hanov asked her if they had not drugged her
'It's weariness,' she said for the tenth time.
'Then what if I kill you?' he cried suddenly, and he pulled the pistol
out of his pocket.
Masha smiled; her face brightened.
'Well, kill me, Panteley Eremyitch; as you will; but go back, I won't.'
'You won't come back?' Tchertop-hanov cocked the pistol.
'I won't go back, my dearie. Never in my life will I go back. My word is
Tchertop-hanov suddenly thrust the pistol into her hand, and sat down on
'Then, you kill me! Without you I don't care to live. I have grown
loathsome to you--and everything's loathsome for me!'
Masha bent down, took up her bundle, laid the pistol on the grass, its
mouth away from Tchertop-hanov, and went up to him.
'Ah, my dearie, why torture yourself? Don't you know what we gypsy girls
are? It's our nature; you must make up your mind to it. When there comes
weariness the divider, and calls the soul away to strange, distant
parts, how is one to stay here? Don't forget your Masha; you won't find
such another sweetheart, and I won't forget you, my dearie; but our life
'I loved you, Masha,' Tchertop-hanov muttered into the fingers in which
he had buried his face....
'And I loved you, little friend Panteley Eremyitch.'
'I love you, I love you madly, senselessly--and when I think now that
you, in your right senses, without rhyme or reason, are leaving me like
this, and going to wander over the face of the earth--well, it strikes
me that if I weren't a poor penniless devil, you wouldn't be throwing me
At these words Masha only laughed.
'And he used to say I didn't care for money,' she commented, and she
gave Tchertop-hanov a vigorous thump on the shoulder.
He jumped up on to his feet.
'Come, at least you must let me give you some money--how can you go like
this without a halfpenny? But best of all: kill me! I tell you plainly:
kill me once for all!'
Masha shook her head again. 'Kill you? Why get sent to Siberia, my
Tchertop-hanov shuddered. 'Then it's only from that--from fear of penal
He rolled on the grass again.
Masha stood over him in silence. 'I'm sorry for you, dear,' she said
with a sigh: 'you're a good fellow... but there's no help for it:
She turned away and took two steps. The night had come on by now, and
dim shadows were closing in on all sides. Tchertop-hanov jumped up
swiftly and seized Masha from behind by her two elbows.
'You are going away like this, serpent, to Yaff!'
'Good-bye!' Masha repeated sharply and significantly; she tore herself
away and walked off.
Tchertop-hanov looked after her, ran to the place where the pistol was
lying, snatched it up, took aim, fired.... But before he touched the
trigger, his arm twitched upwards; the ball whistled over Masha's head.
She looked at him over her shoulder without stopping, and went on,
swinging as she walked, as though in defiance of him.
He hid his face--and fell to running.
But before he had run fifty paces he suddenly stood still as though
turned to stone. A well-known, too well-known voice came floating to
him. Masha was singing. 'It was in the sweet days of youth,' she sang:
every note seemed to linger plaintive and ardent in the evening air.
Tchertop-hanov listened intently. The voice retreated and retreated; at
one moment it died away, at the next it floated across, hardly audible,
but still with the same passionate glow.
'She does it to spite me,' thought Tchertop-hanov; but at once he
moaned, 'oh, no! it's her last farewell to me for ever,'--and he burst
into floods of tears.
* * * * *
The next day he appeared at the lodgings of Mr. Yaff, who, as a true man
of the world, not liking the solitude of the country, resided in the
district town, 'to be nearer the young ladies,' as he expressed it.
Tchertop-hanov did not find Yaff; he had, in the words of his valet, set
off for Moscow the evening before.
'Then it is so!' cried Tchertop-hanov furiously; 'there was an
arrangement between them; she has run away with him... but wait a bit!'
He broke into the young cavalry captain's room in spite of the
resistance of the valet. In the room there was hanging over the sofa a
portrait in oils of the master, in the Uhlan uniform. 'Ah, here you are,
you tailless ape!' thundered Tchertop-hanov; he jumped on to the sofa,
and with a blow of his fist burst a big hole in the taut canvas.
'Tell your worthless master,' he turned to the valet, 'that, in the
absence of his own filthy phiz, the nobleman Tchertop-hanov put a hole
through the painted one; and if he cares for satisfaction from me, he
knows where to find the nobleman Tchertop-hanov! or else I'll find him
out myself! I'll fetch the rascally ape from the bottom of the sea!'
Saying these words, Tchertop-hanov jumped off the sofa and majestically
But the cavalry captain Yaff did not demand satisfaction from
him--indeed, he never met him anywhere--and Tchertop-hanov did not think
of seeking his enemy out, and no scandal followed. Masha herself soon
after this disappeared beyond all trace. Tchertop-hanov took to drink;
however, he 'reformed' later. But then a second blow fell upon him.
This was the death of his bosom friend Tihon Ivanovitch Nedopyuskin. His
health had begun to fail two years before his death: he began to suffer
from asthma, and was constantly dropping asleep, and on waking up could
not at once come to himself; the district doctor maintained that this
was the result of 'something rather like fits.' During the three days
which preceded Masha's departure, those three days when 'her heart was
heavy,' Nedopyuskin had been away at his own place at Bezselendyevka: he
had been laid up with a severe cold. Masha's conduct was consequently
even more unexpected for him; it made almost a deeper impression on him
than on Tchertop-hanov himself. With his natural sweetness and
diffidence, he gave utterance to nothing but the tenderest sympathy with
his friend, and the most painful perplexity... but it crushed and made
havoc of everything in him. 'She has torn the heart out of me,' he would
murmur to himself, as he sat on his favourite checked sofa and twisted
his fingers. Even when Tchertop-hanov had got over it, he, Nedopyuskin,
did not recover, and still felt that 'there was a void within him.'
'Here,' he would say, pointing to the middle of his breast above his
stomach. In that way he lingered on till the winter. When the frosts
came, his asthma got better, but he was visited by, not 'something
rather like a fit' this time, but a real unmistakable fit. He did not
lose his memory at once; he still knew Tchertop-hanov and his friend's
cry of despair, 'How can you desert me, Tisha, without my consent, just
as Masha did?' He even responded with faltering, uncertain tongue,
'O--P--a--ey--E--e--yitch, I will o--bey you.'
This did not, however, prevent him from dying the same day, without
waiting for the district doctor, who (on seeing the hardly cold body)
found nothing left for him to do, but with a melancholy recognition of
the instability of all things mortal, to ask for 'a drop of vodka and a
snack of fish.' As might have been anticipated, Tihon Ivanitch had
bequeathed his property to his revered patron and generous protector,
Panteley Eremyitch Tchertop-hanov; but it was of no great benefit to the
revered patron, as it was shortly after sold by public auction, partly
in order to cover the expense of a sepulchral monument, a statue, which
Tchertop-hanov (and one can see his father's craze coming out in him
here) had thought fit to put up over the ashes of his friend. This
statue, which was to have represented an angel praying, was ordered by
him from Moscow; but the agent recommended to him, conceiving that
connoisseurs in sculpture were not often to be met with in the
provinces, sent him, instead of an angel, a goddess Flora, which had for
many years adorned one of those neglected gardens near Moscow, laid out
in the days of Catherine. He had an excellent reason for doing so, since
this statue, though highly artistic, in the rococo style, with plump
little arms, tossing curls, a wreath of roses round the bare bosom, and
a serpentine figure, was obtained by him, the agent, for nothing. And so
to this day the mythological goddess stands, with one foot elegantly
lifted, above the tomb of Tihon Ivanovitch, and with a genuinely
Pompadour simper, gazes at the calves and sheep, those invariable
visitors of our village graveyards, as they stray about her.
On the loss of his faithful friend, Tchertop-hanov again took to drink,
and this time far more seriously. Everything went utterly to the bad
with him. He had no money left for sport; the last of his meagre fortune
was spent; the last of his few servants ran away. Panteley Eremyitch's
isolation became complete: he had no one to speak a word to even, far
less to open his heart to. His pride alone had suffered no diminution.
On the contrary, the worse his surroundings became, the more haughty and
lofty and inaccessible he was himself. He became a complete misanthrope
in the end. One distraction, one delight, was left him: a superb grey
horse, of the Don breed, named by him Malek-Adel, a really wonderful
This horse came into his possession in this fashion.
As he was riding one day through a neighbouring village, Tchertop-hanov
heard a crowd of peasants shouting and hooting before a tavern. In the
middle of the crowd stalwart arms were continually rising and falling in
exactly the same place.
'What is happening there?' he asked, in the peremptory tone peculiar to
him, of an old peasant woman who was standing on the threshold of her
hut. Leaning against the doorpost as though dozing, the old woman stared
in the direction of the tavern. A white-headed urchin in a print smock,
with a cypress-wood cross on his little bare breast, was sitting with
little outstretched legs, and little clenched fists between her bast
slippers; a chicken close by was chipping at a stale crust of rye-bread.
'The Lord knows, your honour,' answered the old woman. Bending forward,
she laid her wrinkled brown hand on the child's head. 'They say our lads
are beating a Jew.'
'A Jew? What Jew?'
'The Lord knows, your honour. A Jew came among us; and where he's come
from--who knows? Vassya, come to your mammy, sir; sh, sh, nasty brute!'
The old woman drove away the chicken, while Vassya clung to her
'So, you see, they're beating him, sir.'
'Why beating him? What for?'
'I don't know, your honour. No doubt, he deserves it. And, indeed, why
not beat him? You know, your honour, he crucified Christ!'
Tchertop-hanov uttered a whoop, gave his horse a lash on the neck with
the riding-whip, flew straight towards the crowd, and plunging into it,
began with the same riding-whip thrashing the peasants to left and to
right indiscriminately, shouting in broken tones: 'Lawless brutes!
lawless brutes! It's for the law to punish, and not pri-vate per-sons!
The law! the law! the law!'
Before two minutes had passed the crowd had beaten a retreat in various
directions; and on the ground before the tavern door could be seen a
small, thin, swarthy creature, in a nankin long coat, dishevelled and
mangled... a pale face, rolling eyes, open mouth.... What was it?...
deadly terror, or death itself?
'Why have you killed this Jew?' Tchertop-hanov shouted at the top of his
voice, brandishing his riding-whip menacingly.
The crowd faintly roared in response. One peasant was rubbing his
shoulder, another his side, a third his nose.
'You're pretty free with your whip!' was heard in the back rows.
'Why have you killed the Jew, you christened Pagans?' repeated
But, at this point, the creature lying on the ground hurriedly jumped on
to its feet, and, running up to Tchertop-hanov, convulsively seized hold
of the edge of the saddle.
'Alive!' was heard in the background.
'He's a regular cat!'
'Your ex-shelency, defend me, save me!' the unhappy Jew was faltering
meanwhile, his whole body squeezed up against Tchertop-hanov's foot; 'or
they will murder me, they will murder me, your ex-shelency!'
'What have they against you?' asked Tchertop-hanov.
'I can't tell, so help me God! Some cow hereabouts died... so they
suspect me... but I...' 'Well, that we'll go into later!'
Tchertop-hanov interrupted; 'but now, you hold on to the saddle and
follow me. And you!' he added, turning to the crowd,' do you know
me?--I'm the landowner Panteley Tchertop-hanov. I live at
Bezsonovo,--and so you can take proceedings against me, when you think
fit--and against the Jew too, while you're about it!'
'Why take proceedings?' said a grey-bearded, decent-looking peasant,
bowing low, the very picture of an ancient patriarch. (He had been no
whit behind the others in belabouring the Jew, however). 'We know your
honour, Panteley Eremyitch, well; we thank your honour humbly for
teaching us better!'
'Why take proceedings?' chimed in the others.
'As to the Jew, we'll take it out of him another day! He won't escape
us! We shall be on the look-out for him.'
Tchertop-hanov pulled his moustaches, snorted, and went home at a
walking pace, accompanied by the Jew, whom he had delivered from his
persecutors just as he had once delivered Tihon Nedopyuskin.
A few days later the one groom who was left to Tchertop-hanov announced
that someone had come on horseback and wanted to speak to him.
Tchertop-hanov went out on to the steps and recognised the Jew, riding a
splendid horse of the Don breed, which stood proud and motionless in the
middle of the courtyard. The Jew was bareheaded; he held his cap under
his arm, and had thrust his feet into the stirrup-straps, not into the
stirrups themselves; the ragged skirts of his long coat hung down on
both sides of the saddle. On seeing Tchertop-hanov, he gave a smack with
his lips, and ducked down with a twitch of the elbows and a bend of the
legs. Tchertop-hanov, however, not only failed to respond to his
greeting, but was even enraged by it; he was all on fire in a minute: a
scurvy Jew dare to ride a magnificent horse like that!... It was
'Hi, you Ethiopian fright!' he shouted; 'get off at once, if you don't
want to be flung off into the mud!'
The Jew promptly obeyed, rolled off the horse like a sack, and keeping
hold of the rein with one hand, he approached Tchertop-hanov, smiling
'What do you want?' Panteley Eremyitch inquired with dignity.
'Your ex-shelency, deign to look what a horse!' said the Jew, never
ceasing to bow for an instant.
'Er... well... the horse is all right. Where did you get it from?
Stole it, I suppose?'
'How can you say that, your ex-shelency! I'm an honest Jew. I didn't
steal it, but I obtained it for your ex-shelency--really! And the
trouble, the trouble I had to get it? But, then, see what a horse it is!
There's not another horse like it to be found in all the Don country!
Look, your ex-shelency, what a horse it is! Here, kindly step this way!
Wo!... wo!... turn round, stand sideways! And we'll take off the
saddle. What do you think of him, your ex-shelency?'
'The horse is all right,' repeated Tchertop-hanov with affected
indifference, though his heart was beating like a sledge-hammer in his
breast. He was a passionate lover of 'horse-flesh,' and knew a good
thing when he saw it.
'Only take a look at him, your ex-shelency! Pat him on the neck! yes,
yes, he-he-he-he! like this, like this!'
Tchertop-hanov, with apparent reluctance, laid his hand on the horse's
neck, gave it a pat or two, then passed his fingers from the forelock
along the spine, and when he had reached a certain spot above the
kidneys, like a connoisseur, he lightly pressed that spot. The horse
instantly arched its spine, and looking round suspiciously at
Tchertop-hanov with its haughty black eye, snorted and moved its hind
The Jew laughed and faintly clapped his hands. 'He knows his master,
your ex-shelency, his master!'
'Don't talk nonsense,' Tchertop-hanov interrupted with vexation. 'To buy
this horse from you... I haven't the means, and as for presents, I not
only wouldn't take them from a Jew; I wouldn't take a present from
Almighty God Himself!'
'As though I would presume to offer you a present, mercy upon me!' cried
the Jew: 'you buy it, your ex-shelency... and as to the little sum--I
can wait for it.'
Tchertop-hanov sank into thought.
'What will you take for it?' he muttered at last between his teeth.
The Jew shrugged his shoulders.
'What I paid for it myself. Two hundred roubles.'
The horse was well worth twice---perhaps even three times that sum.
Tchertop-hanov turned away and yawned feverishly.
'And the money... when?' he asked, scowling furiously and not looking
at the Jew.
'When your ex-shelency thinks fit.'
Tchertop-hanov flung his head back, but did not raise his eyes. 'That's
no answer. Speak plainly, son of Herod! Am I to be under an obligation
to you, hey?'
'Well, let's say, then,' the Jew hastened to add, 'in six months' time...
Do you agree?'
Tchertop-hanov made no reply.
The Jew tried to get a look at his face. 'Do you agree? You permit him
to be led to your stable?'
'The saddle I don't want,' Tchertop-hanov blurted out abruptly. 'Take
the saddle--do you hear?'
'To be sure, to be sure, I will take it,' faltered the delighted Jew,
shouldering the saddle.
'And the money,' Tchertop-hanov pursued... 'in six months. And not two
hundred, but two hundred and fifty. Not a word! Two hundred and fifty, I
tell you! to my account.'
Tchertop-hanov still could not bring himself to raise his eyes. Never
had his pride been so cruelly wounded.
'It's plain, it's a present,' was the thought in his mind; 'he's brought
it out of gratitude, the devil!' And he would have liked to kiss the
Jew, and he would have liked to beat him.
'Your ex-shelency,' began the Jew, gaining a little courage, and
grinning all over his face, 'should, after the Russian fashion, take
from hand to hand....'
'What next? what an idea! A Hebrew... and Russian customs! Hey! you
there! Take the horse; lead him to the stable. And give him some oats.
I'll come myself and look after him. And his name is to be--Malek-Adel!'
Tchertop-hanov turned to go up the steps, but turning sharply back, and
running up to the Jew, he pressed his hand warmly. The latter was
bending down to kiss his hand, but Tchertop-hanov bounded back again,
and murmuring, 'Tell no one!' he vanished through the door.
From that very day the chief interest, the chief occupation, the chief
pleasure in the life of Tchertop-hanov, was Malek-Adel. He loved him as
he had not loved even Masha; he became more attached to him than even to
Nedopyuskin. And what a horse it was! All fire--simply explosive as
gunpowder--and stately as a boyar! Untiring, enduring, obedient,
whatever you might put him to; and costing nothing for his keep; he'd be
ready to nibble at the ground under his feet if there was nothing else.
When he stepped at a walking pace, it was like being lulled to sleep in
a nurse's arms; when he trotted, it was like rocking at sea; when he
galloped, he outstripped the wind! Never out of breath, perfectly sound
in his wind. Sinews of steel: for him to stumble was a thing never
recorded! To take a ditch or a fence was nothing to him--and what a
clever beast! At his master's voice he would run with his head in the
air; if you told him to stand still and walked away from him, he would
not stir; directly you turned back, a faint neigh to say, 'Here I am.'
And afraid of nothing: in the pitch-dark, in a snow-storm he would find
his way; and he would not let a stranger come near him for anything; he
would have had his teeth in him! And a dog dare never approach him; he
would have his fore-leg on his head in a minute! and that was the end of
the beast. A horse of proper pride, you might flourish a switch over him
as an ornament--but God forbid you touched him! But why say more?--a
perfect treasure, not a horse!
If Tchertop-hanov set to describing his Malek-Adel, he could not find
words to express himself. And how he petted and pampered him! His coat
shone like silver--not old, but new silver--with a dark polish on it; if
one passed one's hand over it, it was like velvet! His saddle, his
cloth, his bridle--all his trappings, in fact, were so well-fitted, in
such good order, so bright--a perfect picture! Tchertop-hanov
himself--what more can we say?--with his own hands plaited his
favourite's forelocks and mane, and washed his tail with beer, and even,
more than once, rubbed his hoofs with polish. Sometimes he would mount
Malek-Adel and ride out, not to see his neighbours--he avoided them, as
of old--but across their lands, past their homesteads... for them, poor
fools, to admire him from a distance! Or he would hear that there was to
be a hunt somewhere, that a rich landowner had arranged a meet in some
outlying part of his land: he would be off there at once, and would
canter in the distance, on the horizon, astounding all spectators by the
swiftness and beauty of his horse, and not letting any one come close to
him. Once some hunting landowner even gave chase to him with all his
suite; he saw Tchertop-hanov was getting away, and he began shouting
after him with all his might, as he galloped at full speed: 'Hey, you!
Here! Take what you like for your horse! I wouldn't grudge a thousand!
I'd give my wife, my children! Take my last farthing!'
Tchertop-hanov suddenly reined in Malek-Adel. The hunting gentleman flew
up to him. 'My dear sir!' he shouted, 'tell me what you want? My dear
'If you were the Tsar,' said Tchertop-hanov emphatically (and he had
never heard of Shakespeare), 'you might give me all your kingdom for my
horse; I wouldn't take it!' He uttered these words, chuckled, drew
Malek-Adel up on to his haunches, turned him in the air on his hind legs
like a top or teetotum, and off! He went like a flash over the stubble.
And the hunting man (a rich prince, they said he was) flung his cap on
the ground, threw himself down with his face in his cap, and lay so for
half an hour.
And how could Tchertop-hanov fail to prize his horse? Was it not thanks
to him, he had again an unmistakable superiority, a last superiority
over all his neighbours?
Meanwhile time went by, the day fixed for payment was approaching;
while, far from having two hundred and fifty roubles, Tchertop-hanov had
not even fifty. What was to be done? how could it be met? 'Well,' he
decided at last, 'if the Jew is relentless, if he won't wait any longer,
I'll give him my house and my land, and I'll set off on my horse, no
matter where! I'll starve before I'll give up Malek-Adel!' He was
greatly perturbed and even downcast; but at this juncture Fate, for the
first and last time, was pitiful and smiled upon him; some distant
kinswoman, whose very name was unknown to Tchertop-hanov, left him in
her will a sum immense in his eyes--no less than two thousand roubles!
And he received this sum in the very nick, as they say, of time; the day
before the Jew was to come. Tchertop-hanov almost went out of his mind
with joy, but he never even thought of vodka; from the very day
Malek-Adel came into his hands he had not touched a drop.
He ran into the stable and kissed his favourite on both sides of his
face above the nostrils, where the horse's skin is always so soft. 'Now
we shall not be parted!' he cried, patting Malek-Adel on the neck, under
his well-combed mane. When he went back into the house, he counted out
and sealed up in a packet two hundred and fifty roubles. Then, as he lay
on his back and smoked a pipe, he mused on how he would lay out the rest
of the money--what dogs he would procure, real Kostroma hounds, spot and
tan, and no mistake! He even had a little talk with Perfishka, to whom
he promised a new Cossack coat, with yellow braid on all the seams, and
went to bed in a blissful frame of mind.
He had a bad dream: he dreamt he was riding out, hunting, not on
Malek-Adel, but on some strange beast of the nature of a unicorn; a
white fox, white as snow, ran to meet him.... He tried to crack his
whip, tried to set the dogs on her--but instead of his riding-whip, he
found he had a wisp of bast in his hand, and the fox ran in front of
him, putting her tongue out at him. He jumped off, his unicorn stumbled,
he fell... and fell straight into the arms of a police-constable, who
was taking him before the Governor-General, and whom he recognised as
Tchertop-hanov waked up. The room was dark; the cocks were just crowing
for the second time.... Somewhere in the far, far distance a horse
neighed. Tchertop-hanov lifted up his head.... Once more a faint, faint
neigh was heard.
'That's Malek-Adel neighing!' was his thought.... 'It's his neigh. But
why so far away? Bless us and save us!... It can't be...'
Tchertop-hanov suddenly turned chill all over; he instantly leaped out
of bed, fumbled after his boots and his clothes, dressed himself, and,
snatching up the stable-door key from under his pillow, he dashed out
into the courtyard.
The stable was at the very end of the courtyard; one wall faced the open
country. Tchertop-hanov could not at once fit the key into the lock--his
hands were shaking--and he did not immediately turn the key.... He stood
motionless, holding his breath; if only something would stir inside!
'Malek! Malek!' he cried, in a low voice: the silence of death!
Tchertop-hanov unconsciously jogged the key; the door creaked and
opened.... So, it was not locked. He stepped over the threshold, and
again called his horse; this time by his full name, Malek-Adel! But no
response came from his faithful companion; only a mouse rustled in the
straw. Then Tchertop-hanov rushed into one of the three horse-boxes in
the stable in which Malek-Adel was put. He went straight to the
horse-box, though it was pitch-dark around.... Empty! Tchertop-hanov's
head went round; it seemed as though a bell was booming in his brain. He
tried to say something, but only brought out a sort of hiss; and
fumbling with his hands above, below, on all sides, breathless, with
shaking knees, he made his way from one horse-box to another... to a
third, full almost to the top with hay; stumbled against one wall, and
then the other; fell down, rolled over on his head, got up, and suddenly
ran headlong through the half-open door into the courtyard....
'Stolen! Perfishka! Perfishka! Stolen!' he yelled at the top of his
The groom Perfishka flew head-over-heels out of the loft where he slept,
with only his shirt on....
Like drunk men they ran against one another, the master and his solitary
servant, in the middle of the courtyard; like madmen they turned round
each other. The master could not explain what was the matter; nor could
the servant make out what was wanted of him. 'Woe! woe!' wailed
Tchertop-hanov. 'Woe! woe!' the groom repeated after him. 'A lantern!
here! light a lantern! Light! light!' broke at last from
Tchertop-hanov's fainting lips. Perfishka rushed into the house.
But to light the lantern, to get fire, was not easy; lucifer matches
were regarded as a rarity in those days in Russia; the last embers had
long ago gone out in the kitchen; flint and steel were not quickly
found, and they did not work well. Gnashing his teeth, Tchertop-hanov
snatched them out of the hands of the flustered Perfishka, and began
striking a light himself; the sparks fell in abundance, in still greater
abundance fell curses, and even groans; but the tinder either did not
catch or went out again, in spite of the united efforts of four swollen
cheeks and lips to blow it into a flame! At last, in five minutes, not
sooner, a bit of tallow candle was alight at the bottom of a battered
lantern; and Tchertop-hanov, accompanied by Perfishka, dashed into the
stable, lifted the lantern above his head, looked round....
He bounded out into the courtyard, ran up and down it in all
directions--no horse anywhere! The hurdle-fence, enclosing Panteley
Eremyitch's yard, had long been dilapidated, and in many places was bent
and lying on the ground.... Beside the stable, it had been completely
levelled for a good yard's width. Perfishka pointed this spot out to
'Master! look here; this wasn't like this to-day. And see the ends of
the uprights sticking out of the ground; that means someone has pulled
Tchertop-hanov ran up with the lantern, moved it about over the
'Hoofs, hoofs, prints of horse-shoes, fresh prints!' he muttered,
speaking hurriedly.' They took him through here, through here!'
He instantly leaped over the fence, and with a shout, 'Malek-Adel!
Malek-Adel!' he ran straight into the open country.
Perfishka remained standing bewildered at the fence. The ring of light
from the lantern was soon lost to his eyes, swallowed up in the dense
darkness of a starless, moonless night.
Fainter and fainter came the sound of the despairing cries of
It was daylight when he came home again. He hardly looked like a human
being. His clothes were covered with mud, his face had a wild and
ferocious expression, his eyes looked dull and sullen. In a hoarse
whisper he drove Perfishka away, and locked himself in his room. He
could hardly stand with fatigue, but he did not lie on his bed, but sat
down on a chair by the door and clutched at his head.
But in what way had the thief contrived by night, when the stable was
locked, to steal Malek-Adel? Malek-Adel, who would never let a stranger
come near him even by day--steal him, too, without noise, without a
sound? And how explain that not a yard-dog had barked? It was true there
were only two left--two young puppies--and those two probably burrowing
in rubbish from cold and hunger--but still!
'And what am I to do now without Malek-Adel?' Tchertop-hanov brooded.
'I've lost my last pleasure now; it's time to die. Buy another horse,
seeing the money has come? But where find another horse like that?'
'Panteley Eremyitch! Panteley Eremyitch!' he heard a timid call at the
Tchertop-hanov jumped on to his feet.
'Who is it?' he shouted in a voice not his own.
'It's I, your groom, Perfishka.'
'What do you want? Is he found? has he run home?'
'No, Panteley Eremyitch; but that Jew chap who sold him.'...
'Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho!' yelled Tchertop-hanov, and he at once flung open the
door. 'Drag him here! drag him along!'
On seeing the sudden apparition of his 'benefactor's' dishevelled,
wild-looking figure, the Jew, who was standing behind Perfishka's back,
tried to give them the slip; but Tchertop-hanov, in two bounds, was upon
him, and like a tiger flew at his throat.
'Ah! he's come for the money! for the money!' he cried as hoarsely as
though he were being strangled himself instead of strangling the Jew;
'you stole him by night, and are come by day for the money, eh? Eh? Eh?'
'Mercy on us, your ex-shelency,' the Jew tried to groan out.
'Tell me, where's my horse? What have you done with him? Whom have you
sold him to? Tell me, tell me, tell me!'
The Jew by now could not even groan; his face was rapidly turning livid,
and even the expression of fear had vanished from it. His hands dropped
and hung lifeless, his whole body, furiously shaken by Tchertop-hanov,
waved backwards and forwards like a reed.
'I'll pay you your money, I'll pay it you in full to the last farthing,'
roared Tchertop-hanov, 'but I'll strangle you like any chicken if you
don't tell me at once!'...
'But you have strangled him already, master,' observed the groom
Then only Tchertop-hanov came to his senses.
He let go of the Jew's neck; the latter fell heavily to the ground.
Tchertop-hanov picked him up, sat him on a bench, poured a glass of
vodka down his throat, and restored him to consciousness. And having
restored him to consciousness, he began to talk to him.
It turned out that the Jew had not the slightest idea that Malek-Adel
had been stolen. And, indeed, what motive could he have to steal the
horse which he had himself procured for his 'revered Panteley
Then Tchertop-hanov led him into the stable.
Together they scrutinised the horse-boxes, the manger, and the lock on
the door, turned over the hay and the straw, and then went into the
courtyard. Tchertop-hanov showed the Jew the hoofprints at the fence,
and all at once he slapped his thighs.
'Stay!' he cried. 'Where did you buy the horse?'
'In the district of Maloarchangel, at Verhosensky Fair,' answered the
Stay! This Cossack; was he a young man or old?'
'Middle-aged--a steady man.'
'And what was he like? What did he look like? A cunning rascal, I
'Sure to have been a rascal, your ex-shelency.'
'And, I say, what did he say, this rascal?--had he had the horse long?'
'I recollect he said he'd had it a long while.'
'Well, then, no one could have stolen him but he! Consider it yourself,
listen, stand here!... What's your name?'
The Jew started and turned his little black eyes upon Tchertop-hanov.
'What's my name?'
'Yes, yes; what are you called?'
'Well, judge then, Moshel Leyba, my friend--you're a man of sense--whom
would Malek-Adel have allowed to touch him except his old master? You
see he must have saddled him and bridled him and taken off his
cloth--there it is lying on the hay!... and made all his arrangements
simply as if he were at home! Why, anyone except his master, Malek-Adel
would have trampled under foot! He'd have raised such a din, he'd have
roused the whole village? Do you agree with me?'
'I agree, I agree, your ex-shelency.'...
'Well, then, it follows that first of all we must find this Cossack!'
'But how are we to find him, your ex-shelency? I have only seen him one
little time in my life, and where is he now, and what's his name? Alack,
alack!' added the Jew, shaking the long curls over his ears sorrowfully.
'Leyba!' shouted Tchertop-hanov suddenly; 'Leyba, look at me! You see
I've lost my senses; I'm not myself!... I shall lay hands on myself if
you don't come to my aid!'
'But how can I?'...
'Come with me, and let us find the thief.'
'But where shall we go?'
'We'll go to the fairs, the highways and by-ways, to the horse-stealers,
to towns and villages and hamlets--everywhere, everywhere! And don't
trouble about money; I've come into a fortune, brother! I'll spend my
last farthing, but I'll get my darling back! And he shan't escape us,
our enemy, the Cossack! Where he goes we'll go! If he's hidden in the
earth we'll follow him! If he's gone to the devil, we'll follow him to
'Oh, why to Satan?' observed the Jew; 'we can do without him.'
'Leyba!' Tchertop-hanov went on; 'Leyba, though you're a Jew, and your
creed's an accursed one, you've a soul better than many a Christian
soul! Have pity on me! I can't go alone; alone I can never carry the
thing through. I'm a hot-headed fellow, but you've a brain--a brain
worth its weight in gold! Your race are like that; you succeed in
everything without being taught! You're wondering, perhaps, where I
could have got the money? Come into my room--I'll show you all the
money. You may take it, you may take the cross off my neck, only give me
back Malek-Adel; give him me back again!'
Tchertop-hanov was shivering as if he were in a fever; the sweat rolled
down his face in drops, and, mingling with his tears, was lost in his
moustaches. He pressed Leyba's hands, he besought him, he almost kissed
him.... He was in a sort of delirium. The Jew tried to object, to
declare that it was utterly impossible for him to get away; that he had
business.... It was useless! Tchertop-hanov would not even hear
anything. There was no help for it; the poor Jew consented.
The next day Tchertop-hanov set out from Bezsonovo in a peasant cart,
with Leyba. The Jew wore a somewhat troubled aspect; he held on to the
rail with one hand, while all his withered figure bounded up and down on
the jolting seat; the other hand he held pressed to his bosom, where lay
a packet of notes wrapped up in newspaper. Tchertop-hanov sat like a
statue, only moving his eyes about him, and drawing in deep breaths; in
his sash there was stuck a dagger.
'There, the miscreant who has parted us must look out for himself now!'
he muttered, as they drove out on the high-road.
His house he left in the charge of Perfishka and an old cook, a deaf old
peasant woman, whom he took care of out of compassion.
'I shall come back to you on Malek-Adel,' he shouted to them at parting,
'or never come back at all!'
'You might as well be married to me at once!' jested Perfishka, giving
the cook a dig in the ribs with his elbow. 'No fear! the master'll never
come back to us; and here I shall be bored to death all alone!'
A year passed... a whole year: no news had come of Panteley Eremyitch.
The cook was dead, Perfishka himself made up his mind to abandon the
house and go off to town, where he was constantly being persuaded to
come by his cousin, apprenticed to a barber; when suddenly a rumour was
set afloat that his master was coming back. The parish deacon got a
letter from Panteley Eremyitch himself, in which he informed him of his
intention of arriving at Bezsonovo, and asked him to prepare his servant
to be ready for his immediate return. These words Perfishka understood
to mean that he was to sweep up the place a bit. He did not, however,
put much confidence in the news; he was convinced, though, that the
deacon had spoken the truth, when a few days later Panteley Eremyitch in
person appeared in the courtyard, riding on Malek-Adel.
Perfishka rushed up to his master, and, holding the stirrup, would have
helped him to dismount, but the latter got off alone, and with a
triumphant glance about him, cried in a loud voice: 'I said I would find
Malek-Adel, and I have found him in spite of my enemies, and of Fate
itself!' Perfishka went up to kiss his hand, but Tchertop-hanov paid no
attention to his servant's devotion. Leading Malek-Adel after him by the
rein, he went with long strides towards the stable. Perfishka looked
more intently at his master, and his heart sank. 'Oh, how thin and old
he's grown in a year; and what a stern, grim face!' One would have
thought Panteley Eremyitch would have been rejoicing, that he had gained
his end; and he was rejoicing, certainly... and yet Perfishka's heart
sank: he even felt a sort of dread. Tchertop-hanov put the horse in its
old place, gave him a light pat on the back, and said, 'There! now
you're at home again; and mind what you're about.' The same day he hired
a freedman out of work as watchman, established himself again in his
rooms, and began living as before....
Not altogether as before, however... but of that later...
The day after his return, Panteley Eremyitch called Perfishka in to him,
and for want of anyone else to talk to, began telling him--keeping up,
of course, his sense of his own dignity and his bass voice--how he had
succeeded in finding Malek-Adel. Tchertop-hanov sat facing the window
while he told his story, and smoked a pipe with a long tube while
Perfishka stood in the doorway, his hands behind his back, and,
respectfully contemplating the back of his master's head, heard him
relate how, after many fruitless efforts and idle expeditions, Panteley
Eremyitch had at last come to the fair at Romyon by himself, without the
Jew Leyba, who, through weakness of character, had not persevered, but
had deserted him; how, on the fifth day, when he was on the point of
leaving, he walked for the last time along the rows of carts, and all at
once he saw between three other horses fastened to the railings--he saw
Malek-Adel! How he knew him at once, and how Malek-Adel knew him too,
and began neighing, and dragging at his tether, and scraping the earth
with his hoof.
'And he was not with the Cossack,' Tchertop-hanov went on, still not
turning his head, and in the same bass voice, 'but with a gypsy
horse-dealer; I, of course, at once took hold of my horse and tried to
get him away by force, but the brute of a gypsy started yelling as if
he'd been scalded, all over the market, and began swearing he'd bought
the horse off another gypsy--and wanted to bring witnesses to prove
it.... I spat, and paid him the money: damn the fellow! All I cared for
was that I had found my favourite, and had got back my peace of mind.
Moreover, in the Karatchevsky district, I took a man for the Cossack--I
took the Jew Leyba's word for it that he was my thief--and smashed his
face for him; but the Cossack turned out to be a priest's son, and got
damages out of me--a hundred and twenty roubles. Well, money's a thing
one may get again, but the great thing is, I've Malek-Adel back again!
I'm happy now--I'm going to enjoy myself in peace. And I've one
instruction to give you, Perfishka: if ever you, which God forbid, catch
sight of the Cossack in this neighbourhood, run the very minute without
saying a word, and bring me my gun, and I shall know what to do!'
This was what Panteley Eremyitch said to Perfishka: this was how his
tongue spoke; but at heart he was not so completely at peace as he
Alas! in his heart of hearts he was not perfectly convinced that the
horse he had brought back was really Malek-Adel!
Troubled times followed for Panteley Eremyitch. Peace was just the last
thing he enjoyed. He had some happy days, it is true; the doubt stirring
within him would seem to him all nonsense; he would drive away the
ridiculous idea, like a persistent fly, and even laugh at himself; but
he had bad days too: the importunate thought began again stealthily
gnawing and tearing at his heart, like a mouse under the floor, and he
existed in secret torture. On the memorable day when he found
Malek-Adel, Tchertop-hanov had felt nothing but rapturous bliss... but
the next morning, when, in a low-pitched shed of the inn, he began
saddling his recovered joy, beside whom he had spent the whole night, he
felt for the first time a certain secret pang.... He only shook his
head, but the seed was sown. During the homeward journey (it lasted a
whole week) doubts seldom arose in him; they grew stronger and more
distinct directly he was back at Bezsonovo, directly he was home again
in the place where the old authentic Malek-Adel had lived.... On the
road home he had ridden at a quiet, swinging pace, looking in all
directions, smoking a short pipe, and not reflecting at all, except at
times the thought struck him: 'When the Tchertop-hanovs want a thing,
they get it, you bet!' and he smiled to himself; but on his return home
it was a very different state of things. All this, however, he kept to
himself; vanity alone would have prevented him from giving utterance to
his inner dread. He would have torn anyone to pieces who had dropped the
most distant hint that the new Malek-Adel was possibly not the old one;
he accepted congratulations on his 'successful recovery of his horse,'
from the few persons whom he happened to meet; but he did not seek such
congratulations; he avoided all contact with people more than ever--a
bad sign! He was almost always putting Malek-Adel through examinations,
if one may use the expression; he would ride him out to some point at a
little distance in the open country, and put him to the proof, or would
go stealthily into the stable, lock the door after him, and standing
right before the horse's head, look into his eyes, and ask him in a
whisper, 'Is it you? Is it you? You?'... or else stare at him silently
and intently for hours together, and then mutter, brightening up: 'Yes!
it's he! Of course it's he!' or else go out with a puzzled, even
confused look on his face. Tchertop-hanov was not so much confused by
the physical differences between _this_ Malek-Adel and _that_
one... though there were a few such differences: _that_ one's tail
and mane were a little thinner, and his ears more pointed, and his
pasterns shorter, and his eyes brighter--but all that might be only
fancy; what confounded Tchertop-hanov most were, so to say, the moral
differences. The habits of _that_ one had been different: all his
ways were not the same. For instance, _that_ Malek-Adel had looked
round and given a faint neigh every time Tchertop-hanov went into the
stable; while _this_ one went on munching hay as though nothing had
happened, or dozed with his head bent. Both of them stood still when
their master leaped out of the saddle; but _that_ one came at once
at his voice when he was called, while _this_ one stood stock
still. _That_ one galloped as fast, but with higher and longer
bounds; _this_ one went with a freer step and at a more jolting
trot, and at times 'wriggled' with his shoes--that is, knocked the back
one against the front one; _that_ one had never done anything so
disgraceful--God forbid! _This_ one, it struck Tchertop-hanov, kept
twitching his ears in such a stupid way, while with _that_ one it
was quite the contrary; he used to lay one ear back, and hold it so, as
though on the alert for his master! _That_ one, directly he saw
that it was dirty about him, would at once knock on the partition of his
box with his hind-leg, but _this_ one did not care if the dung was
heaped up to his belly. _That_ one if, for instance, he were set
facing the wind, would take deep breaths and shake himself, _this_
one simply snorted; _that_ one was put out by the rain, _this_
one cared nothing for it.... This was a coarser beast--coarser! And
there wasn't the gentleness in it, and hard in the mouth it was--no
denying it! That horse was a darling, but this....
This was what Tchertop-hanov sometimes thought, and very bitter were
such thoughts to him. At other times he would set his horse at full
gallop over some newly ploughed field, or would make him leap down to
the very bottom of a hollow ravine, and leap out again at the very
steepest point, and his heart would throb with rapture, a loud whoop
would break from his lips, and he would know, would know for certain,
that it was the real, authentic Malek-Adel he had under him; for what
other horse could do what this one was doing?
However, there were sometimes shortcomings and misfortunes even here.
The prolonged search for Malek-Adel had cost Tchertop-hanov a great deal
of money; he did not even dream of Kostroma hounds now, and rode about
the neighbourhood in solitude as before. So one morning, four miles from
Bezsonovo, Tchertop-hanov chanced to come upon the same prince's hunting
party before whom he had cut such a triumphant figure a year and a half
before. And, as fate would have it, just as on that day a hare must go
leaping out from the hedge before the dogs, down the hillside! Tally-ho!
Tally-ho! All the hunt fairly flew after it, and Tchertop-hanov flew
along too, but not with the rest of the party, but two hundred paces to
one side of it, just as he had done the time before. A huge watercourse
ran zigzagging across the hillside, and as it rose higher and higher got
gradually narrower, cutting off Tchertop-hanov's path. At the point
where he had to jump it, and where, eighteen months before, he actually
had jumped it, it was eight feet wide and fourteen feet deep. In
anticipation of a triumph--a triumph repeated in such a delightful
way--Tchertop-hanov chuckled exultantly, cracked his riding-whip; the
hunting party were galloping too, their eyes fixed on the daring rider;
his horse whizzed along like a bullet, and now the watercourse was just
under his nose--now, now, at one leap, as then!... But Malek-Adel pulled
up sharply, wheeled to the left, and in spite of Tchertop-hanov's
tugging him to the edge, to the watercourse, he galloped along beside
He was afraid, then; did not trust himself!
Then Tchertop-hanov, burning with shame and wrath, almost in tears,
dropped the reins, and set the horse going straight forward, down the
hill, away, away from the hunting party, if only not to hear them
jeering at him, to escape as soon as might be from their damnable eyes!
Covered with foam, his sides lashed unmercifully, Malek-Adel galloped
home, and Tchertop-hanov at once locked himself into his room.
'No, it's not he; it's not my darling! He would have broken his neck
before he would have betrayed me!'
What finally 'did for,' as they say, Tchertop-hanov was the following
circumstance. One day he sauntered, riding on Malek-Adel, about the
back-yards of the priest's quarters round about the church of the parish
in which is Bezsonovo. Huddled up, with his Cossack fur cap pulled down
over his eyes, and his hands hanging loose on the saddle-bow, he jogged
slowly on, a vague discontent in his heart. Suddenly someone called him.
He stopped his horse, raised his head, and saw his correspondent, the
deacon. With a brown, three-cornered hat on his brown hair, which was
plaited in a pig-tail, attired in a yellowish nankin long coat, girt
much below the waist by a strip of blue stuff, the servant of the altar
had come out into his back-garden, and, catching sight of Panteley
Eremyitch, he thought it his duty to pay his respects to him, and to
take the opportunity of doing so to ask him a question about something.
Without some such hidden motive, as we know, ecclesiastical persons do
not venture to address temporal ones.
But Tchertop-hanov was in no mood for the deacon; he barely responded to
his bow, and, muttering something between his teeth, he was already
cracking his whip, when....
'What a magnificent horse you have!' the deacon made haste to add: 'and
really you can take credit to yourself for it. Truly you're a man of
amazing cleverness, simply a lion indeed!'
His reverence the deacon prided himself on his fluency, which was a
great source of vexation to his reverence the priest, to whom the gift
of words had not been vouchsafed; even vodka did not loosen his tongue.
'After losing one animal by the cunning of evil men,' continued the
deacon, 'you did not lose courage in repining; but, on the other hand,
trusting the more confidently in Divine Providence, procured yourself
another, in no wise inferior, but even, one may say, superior,
'What nonsense are you talking?' Tchertop-hanov interrupted gloomily;
'what other horse do you mean? This is the same one; this is
Malek-Adel.... I found him. The fellow's raving!'....
'Ay! ay! ay!' responded the deacon emphatically with a sort of drawl,
drumming with his fingers in his beard, and eyeing Tchertop-hanov with
his bright eager eyes: 'How's that, sir? Your horse, God help my memory,
was stolen a fortnight before Intercession last year, and now we're near
the end of November.'
'Well, what of that?'
The deacon still fingered his beard.
'Why, it follows that more than a year's gone by since then, and your
horse was a dapple grey then, just as it is now; in fact, it seems even
darker. How's that? Grey horses get a great deal lighter in colour in a
Tchertop-hanov started... as though someone had driven a dagger into
his heart. It was true: the grey colour did change! How was it such a
simple reflection had never occurred to him?
'You damned pigtail! get out!' he yelled suddenly, his eyes flashing
with fury, and instantaneously he disappeared out of the sight of the
Well, everything was over!
Now, at last, everything was really over, everything was shattered, the
last card trumped. Everything crumbled away at once before that word
Grey horses get lighter in colour!
'Gallop, gallop on, accursed brute! You can never gallop away from that
Tchertop-hanov flew home, and again locked himself up.
That this worthless jade was not Malek-Adel; that between him and
Malek-Adel there was not the smallest resemblance; that any man of the
slightest sense would have seen this from the first minute; that he,
Tchertop-hanov, had been taken in in the vulgarest way--no! that he
purposely, of set intent, tricked himself, blinded his own eyes--of all
this he had not now the faintest doubt!
Tchertop-hanov walked up and down in his room, turning monotonously on
his heels at each wall, like a beast in a cage. His vanity suffered
intolerably; but he was not only tortured by the sting of wounded
vanity; he was overwhelmed by despair, stifled by rage, and burning with
the thirst for revenge. But rage against whom? On whom was he to be
revenged? On the Jew, Yaff, Masha, the deacon, the Cossack-thief, all
his neighbours, the whole world, himself? His brain was giving way. The
last card was trumped! (That simile gratified him.) And he was again the
most worthless, the most contemptible of men, a common laughing-stock, a
motley fool, a damned idiot, an object for jibes--to a deacon!... He
fancied, he pictured vividly how that loathsome pig-tailed priest would
tell the story of the grey horse and the foolish gentleman.... O damn!!
In vain Tchertop-hanov tried to check his rising passion, in vain he
tried to assure himself that this... horse, though not Malek-Adel, was
still... a good horse, and might be of service to him for many years to
come; he put this thought away from him on the spot with fury, as though
there were contained in it a new insult to _that_ Malek-Adel whom
he considered he had wronged so already.... Yes, indeed! this jade, this
carrion he, like a blind idiot, had put on a level with him, Malek-Adel!
And as to the service the jade could be to him!... as though he would
ever deign to get astride of him? Never! on no consideration!!... He
would sell him to a Tartar for dog's meat--it deserved no better end....
Yes, that would be best!'
For more than two hours Tchertop-hanov wandered up and down his room.
'Perfishka!' he called peremptorily all of a sudden, 'run this minute to
the tavern; fetch a gallon of vodka! Do you hear? A gallon, and look
sharp! I want the vodka here this very second on the table!'
The vodka was not long in making its appearance on Panteley Eremyitch's
table, and he began drinking.
If anyone had looked at Tchertop-hanov then; if anyone could have been a
witness of the sullen exasperation with which he drained glass after
glass--he would inevitably have felt an involuntary shudder of fear. The
night came on, the tallow candle burnt dimly on the table.
Tchertop-hanov ceased wandering from corner to corner; he sat all
flushed, with dull eyes, which he dropped at one time on the floor, at
another fixed obstinately on the dark window; he got up, poured out some
vodka, drank it off, sat down again, again fixed his eyes on one point,
and did not stir--only his breathing grew quicker and his face still
more flushed. It seemed as though some resolution were ripening within
him, which he was himself ashamed of, but which he was gradually getting
used to; one single thought kept obstinately and undeviatingly moving up
closer and closer, one single image stood out more and more distinctly,
and under the burning weight of heavy drunkenness the angry irritation
was replaced by a feeling of ferocity in his heart, and a vindictive
smile appeared on his lips.
'Yes, the time has come!' he declared in a matter-of-fact, almost weary
tone. 'I must get to work.'
He drank off the last glass of vodka, took from over his bed the
pistol--the very pistol from which he had shot at Masha--loaded it, put
some cartridges in his pocket--to be ready for anything--and went round
to the stables.
The watchman ran up to him when he began to open the door, but he
shouted to him: 'It's I! Are you blind? Get out!' The watchman moved a
little aside. 'Get out and go to bed!' Tchertop-hanov shouted at him
again: 'there's nothing for you to guard here! A mighty wonder, a
treasure indeed to watch over!' He went into the stable. Malek-Adel...
the spurious Malek-Adel, was lying on his litter. Tchertop-hanov gave
him a kick, saying, 'Get up, you brute!' Then he unhooked a halter from
a nail, took off the horsecloth and flung it on the ground, and roughly
turning the submissive horse round in the box, led it out into the
courtyard, and from the yard into the open country, to the great
amazement of the watchman, who could not make out at all where the
master was going off to by night, leading an unharnessed horse. He was,
of course, afraid to question him, and only followed him with his eyes
till he disappeared at the bend in the road leading to a neighbouring
Tchertop-hanov walked with long strides, not stopping nor looking round.
Malek-Adel--we will call him by that name to the end--followed him
meekly. It was a rather clear night; Tchertop-hanov could make out the
jagged outline of the forest, which formed a black mass in front of him.
When he got into the chill night air, he would certainly have thrown off
the intoxication of the vodka he had drunk, if it had not been for
another, stronger intoxication, which completely over-mastered him. His
head was heavy, his blood pulsed in thuds in his throat and ears, but he
went on steadily, and knew where he was going.
He had made up his mind to kill Malek-Adel; he had thought of nothing
else the whole day.... Now he had made up his mind!
He went out to do this thing not only calmly, but confidently,
unhesitatingly, as a man going about something from a sense of duty.
This 'job' seemed a very 'simple' thing to him; in making an end of the
impostor, he was quits with 'everyone' at once--he punished himself for
his stupidity, and made expiation to his real darling, and showed the
whole world (Tchertop-hanov worried himself a great deal about the
'whole world') that he was not to be trifled with.... And, above all, he
was making an end of himself too with the impostor--for what had he to
live for now? How all this took shape in his brain, and why, it seemed
to him so simple--it is not easy to explain, though not altogether
impossible; stung to the quick, solitary, without a human soul near to
him, without a halfpenny, and with his blood on fire with vodka, he was
in a state bordering on madness, and there is no doubt that even in the
absurdest freaks of mad people there is, to their eyes, a sort of logic,
and even justice. Of his justice Tchertop-hanov was, at any rate, fully
persuaded; he did not hesitate, he made haste to carry out sentence on
the guilty without giving himself any clear definition of whom he meant
by that term.... To tell the truth, he reflected very little on what he
was about to do. 'I must, I must make an end,' was what he kept stupidly
and severely repeating to himself; 'I must make an end!'
And the guiltless guilty one followed in a submissive trot behind his
back.... But there was no pity for him in Tchertop-hanov's heart.
Not far from the forest to which he was leading his horse there
stretched a small ravine, half overgrown with young oak bushes.
Tchertop-hanov went down into it.... Malek-Adel stumbled and almost fell
'So you would crush me, would you, you damned brute!' shouted
Tchertop-hanov, and, as though in self-defence, he pulled the pistol out
of his pocket. He no longer felt furious exasperation, but that special
numbness of the senses which they say comes over a man before the
perpetration of a crime. But his own voice terrified him--it sounded so
wild and strange under the cover of dark branches in the close, decaying
dampness of the forest ravine! Moreover, in response to his exclamation,
some great bird suddenly fluttered in a tree-top above his head...
Tchertop-hanov shuddered. He had, as it were, roused a witness to his
act--and where? In that silent place where he should not have met a
'Away with you, devil, to the four winds of heaven!' he muttered, and
letting go Malek-Adel's rein, he gave him a violent blow on the shoulder
with the butt end of the pistol. Malek-Adel promptly turned back,
clambered out of the ravine... and ran away. But the thud of his hoofs
was not long audible. The rising wind confused and blended all sounds
Tchertop-hanov too slowly clambered out of the ravine, reached the
forest, and made his way along the road homewards. He was ill at ease
with himself; the weight he had felt in his head and his heart had
spread over all his limbs; he walked angry, gloomy, dissatisfied,
hungry, as though some one had insulted him, snatched his prey, his food
The suicide, baffled in his intent, must know such sensations.
Suddenly something poked him behind between his shoulder blades. He
looked round.... Malek-Adel was standing in the middle of the road. He
had walked after his master; he touched him with his nose to announce
'Ah!' shouted Tchertop-hanov,' of yourself, of yourself you have come to
your death! So, there!'
In the twinkling of an eye he had snatched out his pistol, drawn the
trigger, turned the muzzle on Malek-Adel's brow, fired....
The poor horse sprung aside, rose on its haunches, bounded ten paces
away, and suddenly fell heavily, and gasped as it writhed upon the
Tchertop-hanov put his two hands over his ears and ran away. His knees
were shaking under him. His drunkenness and revenge and blind
self-confidence--all had flown at once. There was left nothing but a
sense of shame and loathing--and the consciousness, unmistakeable, that
this time he had put an end to himself too.
Six weeks later, the groom Perfishka thought it his duty to stop the
commissioner of police as he happened to be passing Bezsonovo.
'What do you want?' inquired the guardian of order.
'If you please, your excellency, come into our house,' answered the
groom with a low bow.
'Panteley Eremyitch, I fancy, is about to die; so that I'm afraid of
getting into trouble.'
'What? die?' queried the commissioner.
'Yes, sir. First, his honour drank vodka every day, and now he's taken
to his bed and got very thin. I fancy his honour does not understand
anything now. He's lost his tongue completely.'
The commissioner got out of his trap.
'Have you sent for the priest, at least? Has your master been confessed?
Taken the sacrament?'
The commissioner frowned. 'How is that, my boy? How can that be--hey?
Don't you know that for that... you're liable to have to answer
'Indeed, and I did ask him the day before yesterday, and yesterday
again,' protested the intimidated groom. "Wouldn't you, Panteley
Eremyitch," says I, "let me run for the priest, sir?" "You hold your
tongue, idiot," says he; "mind your own business." But to-day, when I
began to address him, his honour only looked at me, and twitched his
'And has he been drinking a great deal of vodka?' inquired the
'Rather! But if you would be so good, your honour, come into his room.'
'Well, lead the way!' grumbled the commissioner, and he followed
An astounding sight was in store for him. In a damp, dark back-room, on
a wretched bedstead covered with a horsecloth, with a rough felt cloak
for a pillow, lay Tchertop-hanov. He was not pale now, but yellowish
green, like a corpse, with sunken eyes under leaden lids and a sharp,
pinched nose--still reddish--above his dishevelled whiskers. He lay
dressed in his invariable Caucasian coat, with the cartridge pockets on
the breast, and blue Circassian trousers. A Cossack cap with a crimson
crown covered his forehead to his very eyebrows. In one hand
Tchertop-hanov held his hunting whip, in the other an embroidered
tobacco pouch--Masha's last gift to him. On a table near the bed stood
an empty spirit bottle, and at the head of the bed were two water-colour
sketches pinned to the wall; one represented, as far as could be made
out, a fat man with a guitar in his hand--probably Nedopyuskin; the
other portrayed a horseman galloping at full speed.... The horse was
like those fabulous animals which are sketched by children on walls and
fences; but the carefully washed-in dappling of the horse's grey coat,
and the cartridge pocket on the rider's breast, the pointed toes of his
boots, and the immense moustaches, left no room for doubt--this sketch
was meant to represent Panteley Eremyitch riding on Malek-Adel.
The astonished commissioner of police did not know how to proceed. The
silence of death reigned in the room. 'Why, he's dead already!' he
thought, and raising his voice, he said, 'Panteley Eremyitch! Eh,
Then something extraordinary occurred. Tchertop-hanov's eyelids slowly
opened, the eyes, fast growing dim, moved first from right to left, then
from left to right, rested on the commissioner--saw him.... Something
gleamed in their dull whites, the semblance of a flash came back to
them, the blue lips were gradually unglued, and a hoarse, almost
sepulchral, voice was heard.
'Panteley Eremyitch of the ancient hereditary nobility is dying: who can
hinder him? He owes no man anything, asks nothing from any one.... Leave
him, people! Go!'
The hand holding the whip tried to lift it... In vain! The lips cleaved
together again, the eyes closed, and as before Tchertop-hanov lay on his
comfortless bed, flat as an empty sack, and his feet close together.
'Let me know when he dies,' the commissioner whispered to Perfishka as
he went out of the room; 'and I suppose you can send for the priest now.
You must observe due order; give him extreme unction.'
Perfishka went that same day for the priest, and the following morning
he had to let the commissioner know: Panteley Eremyitch had died in the
When they buried him, two men followed his coffin; the groom Perfishka
and Moshel Leyba. The news of Tchertop-hanov's death had somehow reached
the Jew, and he did not fail to pay this last act of respect to his
A LIVING RELIC
'O native land of long suffering,
Land of the Russian people.'
A French proverb says that 'a dry fisherman and a wet hunter are a sorry
sight.' Never having had any taste for fishing, I cannot decide what are
the fisherman's feelings in fine bright weather, and how far in bad
weather the pleasure derived from the abundance of fish compensates for
the unpleasantness of being wet. But for the sportsman rain is a real
calamity. It was to just this calamity that Yermolai and I were exposed
on one of our expeditions after grouse in the Byelevsky district. The
rain never ceased from early morning. What didn't we do to escape it? We
put macintosh capes almost right over our heads, and stood under the
trees to avoid the raindrops.... The waterproof capes, to say nothing of
their hindering our shooting, let the water through in the most
shameless fashion; and under the trees, though at first, certainly, the
rain did not reach us, afterwards the water collected on the leaves
suddenly rushed through, every branch dripped on us like a waterspout, a
chill stream made its way under our neck-ties, and trickled down our
spines.... This was 'quite unpleasant,' as Yermolai expressed it. 'No,
Piotr Petrovitch,' he cried at last; 'we can't go on like
this....There's no shooting to-day. The dogs' scent is drowned. The guns
miss fire....Pugh! What a mess!'
'What's to be done?' I queried.
'Well, let's go to Aleksyevka. You don't know it, perhaps--there's a
settlement of that name belonging to your mother; it's seven miles from
here. We'll stay the night there, and to-morrow....'
'Come back here?'
'No, not here....I know of some places beyond Aleksyevka...ever so much
better than here for grouse!'
I did not proceed to question my faithful companion why he had not taken
me to those parts before, and the same day we made our way to my
mother's peasant settlement, the existence of which, I must confess, I
had not even suspected up till then. At this settlement, it turned out,
there was a little lodge. It was very old, but, as it had not been
inhabited, it was clean; I passed a fairly tranquil night in it.
The next day I woke up very early. The sun had only just risen; there
was not a single cloud in the sky; everything around shone with a double
brilliance--the brightness of the fresh morning rays and of yesterday's
downpour. While they were harnessing me a cart, I went for a stroll
about a small orchard, now neglected and run wild, which enclosed the
little lodge on all sides with its fragrant, sappy growth. Ah, how sweet
it was in the open air, under the bright sky, where the larks were
trilling, whence their bell-like notes rained down like silvery beads!
On their wings, doubtless, they had carried off drops of dew, and their
songs seemed steeped in dew. I took my cap off my head and drew a glad
deep breath.... On the slope of a shallow ravine, close to the hedge,
could be seen a beehive; a narrow path led to it, winding like a snake
between dense walls of high grass and nettles, above which struggled up,
God knows whence brought, the pointed stalks of dark-green hemp.
I turned along this path; I reached the beehive. Beside it stood a
little wattled shanty, where they put the beehives for the winter. I