Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Knock, Knock, Knock and Other Stories by Ivan Turgenev

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

risen in the dingy, blackish mist. Naum heard the hurried footsteps of
Avdotya a long way off and went to meet her. She came up to him, pale
with running; the moon lighted up her face.

"Well, have you brought it?" he asked.

"Brought it--yes, I have," she answered in an uncertain voice. "But,
Naum Ivanitch----"

"Give it me, since you have brought it," he interrupted her, and held
out his hand.

She took a parcel from under her shawl. Naum took it at once and
thrust it in his bosom.

"Naum Ivanitch," Avdotya said slowly, keeping her eyes fixed on him,
"oh, Naum Ivanitch, you will bring my soul to ruin."

It was at that instant that the servant came up to them.

And so Akim was sitting on the bench discontentedly stroking his
beard. Avdotya kept coming into the room and going out again. He
simply followed her with his eyes. At last she came into the room and
after taking a jerkin from the lobby was just crossing the threshold,
when he could not restrain himself and said, as though speaking to

"I wonder," he began, "why it is women are always in a fuss? It's no
good expecting them to sit still. That's not in their line. But
running out morning or evening, that's what they like. Yes."

Avdotya listened to her husband's words without changing her position;
only at the word "evening," she moved her head slightly and seemed to

"Once you begin talking, Semyonitch," she commented at last with
vexation, "there is no stopping you."

And with a wave of her hand she went away and slammed the door.
Avdotya certainly did not appreciate Akim's eloquence and often in the
evenings when he indulged in conversation with travellers or fell to
telling stories she stealthily yawned or went out of the room. Akim
looked at the closed door. "Once you begin talking," he repeated in an
undertone.... "The fact is, I have not talked enough to you. And who
is it? A peasant like any one of us, and what's more...." And he got
up, thought a little and tapped the back of his head with his fist.

Several days passed in a rather strange way. Akim kept looking at his
wife as though he were preparing to say something to her, and she, for
her part, looked at him suspiciously; meanwhile, they both preserved a
strained silence. This silence, however, was broken from time to time
by some peevish remark from Akim in regard to some oversight in the
housekeeping or in regard to women in general. For the most part
Avdotya did not answer one word. But in spite of Akim's good-natured
weakness, it certainly would have come to a decisive explanation
between him and Avdotya, if it had not been for an event which
rendered any explanation useless.

One morning Akim and wife were just beginning lunch (owing to the
summer work in the fields there were no travellers at the inn) when
suddenly a cart rattled briskly along the road and pulled up sharply
at the front door. Akim peeped out of window, frowned and looked down:
Naum got deliberately out of the cart. Avdotya had not seen him, but
when she heard his voice in the entry the spoon trembled in her hand.
He told the labourers to put up the horse in the yard. At last the
door opened and he walked into the room.

"Good-day," he said, and took off his cap.

"Good-day," Akim repeated through his teeth. "Where has God brought
you from?"

"I was in the neighbourhood," replied Naum, and he sat down on the
bench. "I have come from your lady."

"From the lady," said Akim, not getting up from his seat. "On
business, eh?"

"Yes, on business. My respects to you, Avdotya Arefyevona."

"Good morning, Naum Ivanitch," she answered. All were silent.

"What have you got, broth, is it?" began Naum.

"Yes, broth," replied Akim and all at once he turned pale, "but not
for you."

Naum glanced at Akim with surprise.

"Not for me?"

"Not for you, and that's all about it." Akim's eyes glittered and he
brought his fist on the table. "There is nothing in my house for you,
do you hear?"

"What's this, Semyonitch, what is the matter with you?"

"There's nothing the matter with me, but I am sick of you, Naum
Ivanitch, that's what it is." The old man got up, trembling all over.
"You poke yourself in here too often, I tell you."

Naum, too, got up.

"You've gone clean off your head, old man," he said with a jeer.
"Avdotya Arefyevna, what's wrong with him?"

"I tell you," shouted Akim in a cracked voice, "go away, do you
hear? ... You have nothing to do with Avdotya Arefyevna ... I tell
you, do you hear, get out!"

"What's that you are saying to me?" Naum asked significantly.

"Go out of the house, that's what I am telling to you. Here's God and
here's the door ... do you understand? Or there will be trouble."

Naum took a step forward.

"Good gracious, don't fight, my dears," faltered Avdotya, who till
then had sat motionless at the table.

Naum glanced at her.

"Don't be uneasy, Avdotya Arefyevna, why should we fight? Fie,
brother, what a hullabaloo you are making!" he went on, addressing
Akim. "Yes, really. You are a hasty one! Has anyone ever heard of
turning anyone out of his house, especially the owner of it?" Naum
added with slow deliberateness.

"Out of his house?" muttered Akim. "What owner?"

"Me, if you like."

And Naum screwed up his eyes and showed his white teeth in a grin.

"You? Why, it's my house, isn't it?"

"What a slow-witted fellow you are! I tell you it's mine."

Akim gazed at him open-eyed.

"What crazy stuff is it you are talking? One would think you had gone
silly," he said at last. "How the devil can it be yours?"

"What's the good of talking to you?" cried Naum impatiently. "Do you
see this bit of paper?" he went on, pulling out of his pocket a sheet
of stamped paper, folded in four, "do you see? This is the deed of
sale, do you understand, the deed of sale of your land and your house;
I have bought them from the lady, from Lizaveta Prohorovna; the deed
was drawn up at the town yesterday; so I am master here, not you. Pack
your belongings today," he added, putting the document back in his
pocket, "and don't let me see a sign of you here to-morrow, do you

Akim stood as though struck by a thunderbolt.

"Robber," he moaned at last, "robber.... Heigh, Fedka, Mitka, wife,
wife, seize him, seize him--hold him."

He lost his head completely.

"Mind now, old man," said Naum menacingly, "mind what you are about,
don't play the fool...."

"Beat him, wife, beat him!" Akim kept repeating in a tearful voice,
trying helplessly and in vain to get up. "Murderer, robber.... She is
not enough for you, you want to take my house, too, and everything....
But no, stop a bit ... that can't be.... I'll go myself, I'll speak
myself ... how ... why should she sell it? Wait a bit, wait a bit."

And he dashed out bareheaded.

"Where are you off to, Akim Ivanitch?" said the servant Fetinya,
running into him in the doorway.

"To our mistress! Let me pass! To our mistress!" wailed Akim, and
seeing Naum's cart which had not yet been taken into the yard, he
jumped into it, snatched the reins and lashing the horse with all his
might set off at full speed to his mistress's house.

"My lady, Lizaveta Prohorovna," he kept repeating to himself all the
way, "how have I lost your favour? I should have thought I had done my

And meantime he kept lashing and lashing the horse. Those who met him
moved out of his way and gazed after him.

In a quarter of an hour Akim had reached Lizaveta Prohorovna's house,
had galloped up to the front door, jumped out of the cart and dashed
straight into the entry.

"What do you want?" muttered the frightened footman who was sleeping
sweetly on the hall bench.

"The mistress, I want to see the mistress," said Akim loudly.

The footman was amazed.

"Has anything happened?" he began.

"Nothing has happened, but I want to see the mistress."

"What, what," said the footman, more and more astonished, and he
slowly drew himself up.

Akim pulled himself up.... He felt as though cold water had been
poured on him.

"Announce to the mistress, please, Pyotr Yevgrafitch," he said with a
low bow, "that Akim asks leave to see her."

"Very good ... I'll go ... I'll tell her ... but you must be drunk,
wait a bit," grumbled the footman, and he went off.

Akim looked down and seemed confused.... His determination had
evaporated as soon as he went into the hall.

Lizaveta Prohorovna was confused, too, when she was informed that Akim
had come. She immediately summoned Kirillovna to her boudoir.

"I can't see him," she began hurriedly, as soon as the latter
appeared. "I absolutely cannot. What am I to say to him? I told you he
would be sure to come and complain," she added in annoyance and
agitation. "I told you."

"But why should you see him?" Kirillovna answered calmly, "there is no
need to. Why should you be worried! No, indeed!"

"What is to be done then?"

"If you will permit me, I will speak to him."

Lizaveta Prohorovna raised her head.

"Please do, Kirillovna. Talk to him. You tell him ... that I found it
necessary ... but that I will compensate him ... say what you think
best. Please, Kirillovna."

"Don't you worry yourself, madam," answered Kirillovna, and she went
out, her shoes creaking.

A quarter of an hour had not elapsed when their creaking was heard
again and Kirillovna walked into the boudoir with the same unruffled
expression on her face and the same sly shrewdness in her eyes.

"Well?" asked her mistress, "how is Akim?"

"He is all right, madam. He says that it must all be as you graciously
please; that if only you have good health and prosperity he can get
along very well."

"And he did not complain?"

"No, madam. Why should he complain?"

"What did he come for, then?" Lizaveta Prohorovna asked in some

"He came to ask whether you would excuse his yearly payment for next
year, that is, until he has been compensated."

"Of course, of course," Lizaveta Prohorovna caught her up eagerly. "Of
course, with pleasure. And tell him, in fact, that I will make it up
to him. Thank you, Kirillovna. I see he is a good-hearted man. Stay,"
she added, "give him this from me," and she took a three-rouble note
out of her work-table drawer, "Here, take this, give it to him."

"Certainly, madam," answered Kirillovna, and going calmly back to her
room she locked the note in an iron-cased box which stood at the head
of her bed; she kept in it all her spare cash, and there was a
considerable amount of it.

Kirillovna had reassured her mistress by her report but the
conversation between herself and Akim had not been quite what she
represented. She had sent for him to the maid's room. At first he had
not come, declaring that he did not want to see Kirillovna but
Lizaveta Prohorovna herself; he had, however, at last obeyed and gone
by the back door to see Kirillovna. He found her alone. He stopped at
once on getting into the room and leaned against the wall by the door;
he would have spoken but he could not.

Kirillovna looked at him intently.

"You want to see the mistress, Akim Semyonitch?" she began.

He simply nodded.

"It's impossible, Akim Semyonitch. And what's the use? What's done
can't be undone, and you will only worry the mistress. She can't see
you now, Akim Semyonitch."

"She cannot," he repeated and paused. "Well, then," he brought out at
last, "so then my house is lost?"

"Listen, Akim Semyonitch. I know you have always been a sensible man.
Such is the mistress's will and there is no changing it. You can't
alter that. Whatever you and I might say about it would make no
difference, would it?"

Akim put his arm behind his back.

"You'd better think," Kirillovna went on, "shouldn't you ask the
mistress to let you off your yearly payment or something?"

"So my house is lost?" repeated Akim in the same voice.

"Akim Semyonitch, I tell you, it's no use. You know that better than
I do."

"Yes. Anyway, you might tell me what the house went for?"

"I don't know, Akim Semyonitch, I can't tell you.... But why are you
standing?" she added. "Sit down."

"I'd rather stand, I am a peasant. I thank you humbly."

"You a peasant, Akim Semyonitch? You are as good as a merchant, let
alone a house-serf! What do you mean? Don't distress yourself for
nothing. Won't you have some tea?"

"No, thank you, I don't want it. So you have got hold of my house
between you," he added, moving away from the wall. "Thank you for
that. I wish you good-bye, my lady."

And he turned and went out. Kirillovna straightened her apron and went
to her mistress.

"So I am a merchant, it seems," Akim said to himself, standing before
the gate in hesitation. "A nice merchant!" He waved his hand and
laughed bitterly. "Well, I suppose I had better go home."

And entirely forgetting Naum's horse with which he had come, he
trudged along the road to the inn. Before he had gone the first mile
he suddenly heard the rattle of a cart beside him.

"Akim, Akim Semyonitch," someone called to him.

He raised his eyes and saw a friend of his, the parish clerk, Yefrem,
nicknamed the Mole, a little, bent man with a sharp nose and
dim-sighted eyes. He was sitting on a bundle of straw in a wretched
little cart, and leaning forward against the box.

"Are you going home?" he asked Akim.

Akim stopped


"Shall I give you a lift?"

"Please do."

Yefrem moved to one side and Akim climbed into the cart. Yefrem, who
seemed to be somewhat exhilarated, began lashing at his wretched
little horse with the ends of his cord reins; it set off at a weary
trot continually tossing its unbridled head.

They drove for nearly a mile without saying one word to each other.
Akim sat with his head bent while Yefrem muttered to himself,
alternately urging on and holding back his horse.

"Where have you been without your cap, Semyonitch?" he asked Akim
suddenly and, without waiting for an answer, went on, "You've left it
at some tavern, that's what you've done. You are a drinking man; I
know you and I like you for it, that you are a drinker; you are not a
murderer, not a rowdy, not one to make trouble; you are a good
manager, but you are a drinker and such a drinker, you ought to have
been pulled up for it long ago, yes, indeed; for it's, a nasty
habit.... Hurrah!" he shouted suddenly at the top of his voice,
"Hurrah! Hurrah!"

"Stop! Stop!" a woman's voice sounded close by, "Stop!"

Akim looked round. A woman so pale and dishevelled that at first he
did not recognise her, was running across the field towards the cart.

"Stop! Stop!" she moaned again, gasping for breath and waving her

Akim started: it was his wife.

He snatched up the reins.

"What's the good of stopping?" muttered Yefrem. "Stopping for a woman?

But Akim pulled the horse up sharply. At that instant Avdotya ran up
to the road and flung herself down with her face straight in the dust.

"Akim Semyonitch," she wailed, "he has turned me out, too!"

Akim looked at her and did not stir; he only gripped the reins

"Hurrah!" Yefrem shouted again.

"So he has turned you out?" said Akim.

"He has turned me out, Akim Semyonitch, dear," Avdotya answered,
sobbing. "He has turned me out. The house is mine, he said, so you can

"Capital! That's a fine thing ... capital," observed Yefrem.

"So I suppose you thought to stay on?" Akim brought out bitterly,
still sitting in the cart.

"How could I! But, Akim Semyonitch," went on Avdotya, who had raised
her head but let it sink to the earth again, "you don't know, I ...
kill me, Akim Semyonitch, kill me here on the spot."

"Why should I kill you, Arefyevna?" said Akim dejectedly, "you've been
your own ruin. What's the use?"

"But do you know what, Akim Semyonitch, the money ... your money ...
your money's gone.... Wretched sinner as I am, I took it from under
the floor, I gave it all to him, to that villain Naum.... Why did you
tell me where you hid your money, wretched sinner as I am? ... It's
with your money he has bought the house, the villain."

Sobs choked her voice.

Akim clutched his head with both hands.

"What!" he cried at last, "all the money, too ... the money and the
house, and you did it.... Ah! You took it from under the floor, you
took it.... I'll kill you, you snake in the grass!" And he leapt out
of the cart.

"Semyonitch, Semyonitch, don't beat her, don't fight," faltered
Yefrem, on whom this unexpected adventure began to have a sobering

"No, Akim Semyonitch, kill me, wretched sinner as I am; beat me, don't
heed him," cried Avdotya, writhing convulsively at Akim's feet.

He stood a moment, looked at her, moved a few steps away and sat down
on the grass beside the road.

A brief silence followed. Avdotya turned her head in his direction.

"Semyonitch! hey, Semyonitch," began Yefrem, sitting up in the cart,
"give over ... you know ... you won't make things any better. Tfoo,
what a business," he went on as though to himself. "What a damnable
woman.... Go to him," he added, bending down over the side of the cart
to Avdotya, "you see, he's half crazy."

Avdotya got up, went nearer to Akim and again fell at his feet.

"Akim Semyonitch!" she began, in a faint voice.

Akim got up and went back to the cart. She caught at the skirt of his

"Get away!" he shouted savagely, and pushed her off.

"Where are you going?" Yefrem asked, seeing that he was getting in
beside him again.

"You were going to take me to my home," said Akim, "but take me to
yours ... you see, I have no home now. They have bought mine."

"Very well, come to me. And what about her?"

Akim made no answer.

"And me? Me?" Avdotya repeated with tears, "are you leaving me all
alone? Where am I to go?"

"You can go to him," answered Akim, without turning round, "the man
you have given my money to.... Drive on, Yefrem!"

Yefrem lashed the horse, the cart rolled off, Avdotya set up a

Yefrem lived three-quarters of a mile from Akim's inn in a little
house close to the priest's, near the solitary church with five
cupolas which had been recently built by the heirs of a rich merchant
in accordance with the latter's will. Yefrem said nothing to Akim all
the way; he merely shook his head from time to time and uttered such
ejaculations as "Dear, dear!" and "Upon my soul!" Akim sat without
moving, turned a little away from Yefrem. At last they arrived. Yefrem
was the first to get out of the cart. A little girl of six in a smock
tied low round the waist ran out to meet him and shouted,

"Daddy! daddy!"

"And where is your mother?" asked Yefrem.

"She is asleep in the shed."

"Well, let her sleep. Akim Semyonitch, won't you get out, sir, and
come indoors?"

(It must be noted that Yefrem addressed him familiarly only when he
was drunk. More important persons than Yefrem spoke to Akim with
formal politeness.)

Akim went into the sacristan's hut.

"Here, sit on the bench," said Yefrem. "Run away, you little rascals,"
he cried to three other children who suddenly came out of different
corners of the room together with two lean cats covered with wood
ashes. "Get along! Sh-sh! Come this way, Akim Semyonitch, this way!"
he went on, making his guest sit down, "and won't you take something?"

"I tell you what, Yefrem," Akim articulated at last, "could I have
some vodka?"

Yefrem pricked up his ears.

"Vodka? You can. I've none in the house, but I will run this minute to
Father Fyodor's. He always has it.... I'll be back in no time."

And he snatched up his cap with earflaps.

"Bring plenty, I'll pay for it," Akim shouted after him. "I've still
money enough for that."

"I'll be back in no time," Yefrem repeated again as he went out of the
door. He certainly did return very quickly with two bottles under his
arm, of which one was already uncorked, put them on the table, brought
two little green glasses, part of a loaf and some salt.

"Now this is what I like," he kept repeating, as he sat down opposite
Akim. "Why grieve?" He poured out a glass for Akim and another for
himself and began talking freely. Avdotya's conduct had perplexed him.
"It's a strange business, really," he said, "how did it happen? He
must have bewitched her, I suppose? It shows how strictly one must
look after a wife! You want to keep a firm hand over her. All the same
it wouldn't be amiss for you to go home; I expect you have got a lot
of belongings there still." Yefrem added much more to the same effect;
he did not like to be silent when he was drinking.

This is what was happening an hour later in Yefrem's house. Akim, who
had not answered a word to the questions and observations of his
talkative host but had merely gone on drinking glass after glass, was
sleeping on the stove, crimson in the face, a heavy, oppressive sleep;
the children were looking at him in wonder, and Yefrem ... Yefrem,
alas, was asleep, too, but in a cold little lumber room in which he
had been locked by his wife, a woman of very masculine and powerful
physique. He had gone to her in the shed and begun threatening her or
telling her some tale, but had expressed himself so unintelligibly and
incoherently that she instantly saw what was the matter, took him by
the collar and deposited him in a suitable place. He slept in the
lumber room, however, very soundly and even serenely. Such is the
effect of habit.

* * * * *

Kirillovna had not quite accurately repeated to Lizaveta Prohorovna
her conversation with Akim ... the same may be said of Avdotya. Naum
had not turned her out, though she had told Akim that he had; he had
no right to turn her out. He was bound to give the former owners time
to pack up. An explanation of quite a different character took place
between him and Avdotya.

When Akim had rushed out crying that he would go to the mistress,
Avdotya had turned to Naum, stared at him open-eyed and clasped her

"Good heavens!" she cried, "Naum Ivanitch, what does this mean? You've
bought our inn?"

"Well, what of it?" he replied. "I have."

Avdotya was silent for a while; then she suddenly started.

"So that is what you wanted the money for?"

"You are quite right there. Hullo, I believe your husband has gone off
with my horse," he added, hearing the rumble of the wheels. "He is a
smart fellow!"

"But it's robbery!" wailed Avdotya. "Why, it's our money, my husband's
money and the inn is ours...."

"No, Avdotya Arefyevna," Naum interrupted her, "the inn was not yours.
What's the use of saying that? The inn was on your mistress's land, so
it was hers. The money was yours, certainly; but you were, so to say,
so kind as to present it to me; and I am grateful to you and will even
give it back to you on occasion--if occasion arises; but you wouldn't
expect me to remain a beggar, would you?"

Naum said all this very calmly and even with a slight smile.

"Holy saints!" cried Avdotya, "it's beyond everything! Beyond
everything! How can I look my husband in the face after this? You
villain," she added, looking with hatred at Naum's fresh young face.
"I've ruined my soul for you, I've become a thief for your sake, why,
you've turned us into the street, you villain! There's nothing left
for me but to hang myself, villain, deceiver! You've ruined me, you
monster!" And she broke into violent sobbing.

"Don't excite yourself, Avdotya Arefyevna," said Naum. "I'll tell you
one thing: charity begins at home, and that's what the pike is in the
sea for, to keep the carp from going to sleep."

"Where are we to go now. What's to become of us?" Avdotya faltered,

"That I can't say."

"But I'll cut your throat, you villain, I'll cut your throat."

"No, you won't do that, Avdotya Arefyevna; what's the use of talking
like that? But I see I had better leave you for a time, for you are
very much upset.... I'll say good-bye, but I shall be back to-morrow
for certain. But you must allow me to send my workmen here today," he
added, while Avdotya went on repeating through her tears that she
would cut his throat and her own.

"Oh, and here they are," he observed, looking out of the window. "Or,
God forbid, some mischief might happen.... It will be safer so. Will
you be so kind as to put your belongings together to-day and they'll
keep guard here and help you, if you like. I'll say goodbye."

He bowed, went out and beckoned the workmen to him.

Avdotya sank on the bench, then bent over the table, wringing her
hands, then suddenly leapt up and ran after her husband.... We have
described their meeting.

When Akim drove away from her with Yefrem, leaving her alone in the
field, for a long time she remained where she was, weeping. When she
had wept away all her tears she went in the direction of her
mistress's house. It was very bitter for her to go into the house,
still more bitter to go into the maids' room. All the maids flew to
meet her with sympathy and consideration. Seeing them, Avdotya could
not restrain her tears; they simply spurted from her red and swollen
eyes. She sank, helpless, on the first chair that offered itself.
Someone ran to fetch Kirillovna. Kirillovna came, was very friendly to
her, but kept her from seeing the mistress just as she had Akim.
Avdotya herself did not insist on seeing Lizaveta Prohorovna; she had
come to her old home simply because she had nowhere else to go.

Kirillovna ordered the samovar to be brought in. For a long while
Avdotya refused to take tea, but yielded at last to the entreaties and
persuasion of all the maids and after the first cup drank another
four. When Kirillovna saw that her guest was a little calmer and only
shuddered and gave a faint sob from time to time, she asked her where
they meant to move to and what they thought of doing with their
things. Avdotya began crying again at this question, and protesting
that she wanted nothing but to die; but Kirillovna as a woman with a
head on her shoulders, checked her at once and advised her without
wasting time to set to work that very day to move their things to the
hut in the village which had been Akim's and in which his uncle (the
old man who had tried to dissuade him from his marriage) was now
living; she told her that with their mistress's permission men and
horses should be sent to help them in packing and moving. "And as for
you, my love," added Kirillovna, twisting her cat-like lips into a wry
smile, "there will always be a place for you with us and we shall be
delighted if you stay with us till you are settled in a house of your
own again. The great thing is not to lose heart. The Lord has given,
the Lord has taken away and will give again. Lizaveta Prohorovna, of
course, had to sell your inn for reasons of her own but she will not
forget you and will make up to you for it; she told me to tell Akim
Semyonitch so. Where is he now?"

Avdotya answered that when he met her he had been very unkind to her
and had driven off to Yefrem's.

"Oh, to that fellow's!" Kirillovna replied significantly. "Of course,
I understand that it's hard for him now. I daresay you won't find him
to-day; what's to be done? I must make arrangements. Malashka," she
added, turning to one of the maids, "ask Nikanop Ilyitch to come here:
we will talk it over with him."

Nikanop Ilyitch, a feeble-looking man who was bailiff or something of
the sort, made his appearance at once, listened with servility to all
that Kirillovna said to him, said, "it shall be done," went out and
gave orders. Avdotya was given three waggons and three peasants; a
fourth who said that he was "more competent than they were,"
volunteered to join them and she went with them to the inn where she
found her own labourers and the servant Fetinya in a state of great
confusion and alarm.

Naum's newly hired labourers, three very stalwart young men, had come
in the morning and had not left the place since. They were keeping
very zealous guard, as Naum had said they would--so zealous that the
iron tyres of a new cart were suddenly found to be missing.

It was a bitter, bitter task for poor Avdotya to pack. In spite of the
help of the "competent" man, who turned out, however, only capable of
walking about with a stick in his hand, looking at the others and
spitting on the ground, she was not able to get it finished that day
and stayed the night at the inn, begging Fetinya to spend the night in
her room. But she only fell into a feverish doze towards morning and
the tears trickled down her cheeks even in her sleep.

Meanwhile Yefrem woke up earlier than usual in his lumber room and
began knocking and asking to be let out. At first his wife was
unwilling to release him and told him through the door that he had not
yet slept long enough; but he aroused her curiosity by promising to
tell her of the extraordinary thing that had happened to Akim; she
unbolted the door. Yefrem told her what he knew and ended by asking
"Is he awake yet, or not?"

"The Lord only knows," answered his wife. "Go and look yourself; he
hasn't got down from the stove yet. How drunk you both were yesterday!
You should look at your face--you don't look like yourself. You are as
black as a sweep and your hair is full of hay!"

"That doesn't matter," answered Yefrem, and, passing his hand over his
head, he went into the room. Akim was no longer asleep; he was sitting
on the stove with his legs hanging down; he, too, looked strange and
unkempt. His face showed the effects the more as he was not used to
drinking much.

"Well, how have you slept, Akim Semyonitch?" Yefrem began.

Akim looked at him with lustreless eyes.

"Well, brother Yefrem," he said huskily, "could we have some again?"

Yefrem took a swift glance at Akim.... He felt a slight tremor at that
moment; it was a tremor such as is felt by a sportsman when he hears
the yap of his dog at the edge of the wood from which he had fancied
all the game had been driven.

"What, more?" he asked at last.

"Yes, more."

"My wife will see," thought Yefrem, "she won't let me out, most

"All right," he pronounced aloud, "have a little patience."

He went out and, thanks to skilfully taken precautions, succeeded in
bringing in unseen a big bottle under his coat.

Akim took the bottle. But Yefrem did not sit down with him as he had
the day before--he was afraid of his wife--and informing Akim that he
would go and have a look at what was going on at the inn and would see
that his belongings were being packed and not stolen--at once set off,
riding his little horse which he had neglected to feed--but judging
from the bulging front of his coat he had not forgotten his own needs.

Soon after he had gone, Akim was on the stove again, sleeping like the
dead.... He did not wake up, or at least gave no sign of waking when
Yefrem returned four hours later and began shaking him and trying to
rouse him and muttering over him some very muddled phrases such as
that "everything was moved and gone, and the ikons have been taken out
and driven away and that everything was over, and that everyone was
looking for him but that he, Yefrem, had given orders and not allowed
them, ..." and so on. But his mutterings did not last long. His wife
carried him off to the lumber room again and, very indignant both with
her husband and with the visitor, owing to whom her husband had been
drinking, lay down herself in the room on the shelf under the
ceiling.... But when she woke up early, as her habit was, and glanced
at the stove, Akim was not there. The second cock had not crowed and
the night was still so dark that the sky hardly showed grey overhead
and at the horizon melted into the darkness when Akim walked out of
the gate of the sacristan's house. His face was pale but he looked
keenly around him and his step was not that of a drunken man.... He
walked in the direction of his former dwelling, the inn, which had now
completely passed into the possession of its new owner--Naum.

Naum, too, was awake when Akim stole out of Yefrem's house. He was not
asleep; he was lying on a bench with his sheepskin coat under him. It
was not that his conscience was troubling him--no! he had with amazing
coolness been present all day at the packing and moving of all Akim's
possessions and had more than once addressed Avdotya, who was so
downcast that she did not even reproach him ... his conscience was at
rest but he was disturbed by various conjectures and calculations. He
did not know whether he would be lucky in his new career; he had never
before kept an inn, nor had a home of his own at all; he could not
sleep. "The thing has begun well," he thought, "how will it go
on?" ... Towards evening, after seeing off the last cart with Akim's
belongings (Avdotya walked behind it, weeping), he looked all over the
yard, the cellars, sheds, and barns, clambered up into the loft, more
than once instructed his labourers to keep a very, very sharp look-out
and when he was left alone after supper could not go to sleep. It so
happened that day that no visitor stayed at the inn for the night;
this was a great relief to him. "I must certainly buy a dog from the
miller to-morrow, as fierce a one as I can get; they've taken theirs
away," he said to himself, as he tossed from side to side, and all at
once he raised his head quickly ... he fancied that someone had passed
by the window ... he listened ... there was nothing. Only a cricket
from time to time gave a cautious churr, and a mouse was scratching
somewhere; he could hear his own breathing. Everything was still in
the empty room dimly lighted by the little glass lamp which he had
managed to hang up and light before the ikon in the corner.... He let
his head sink; again he thought he heard the gate creak ... then a
faint snapping sound from the fence.... He could not refrain from
jumping up; he opened the door of the room and in a low voice called,
"Fyodor! Fyodor!" No one answered.... He went out into the passage and
almost fell over Fyodor, who was lying on the floor. The man stirred
in his sleep with a faint grunt; Naum roused him.

"What's there? What do you want?" Fyodor began.

"What are you bawling for, hold your tongue!" Naum articulated in a
whisper. "How you sleep, you damned fellows! Have you heard nothing?"

"Nothing," answered the man.... "What is it?"

"Where are the others sleeping?"

"Where they were told to sleep.... Why, is there anything ..."

"Hold your tongue--come with me."

Naum stealthily opened the door and went out into the yard. It was
very dark outside.... The roofed-in parts and the posts could only be
distinguished because they were a still deeper black in the midst of
the black darkness.

"Shouldn't we light a lantern?" said Fyodor in a low voice.

But Naum waved his hand and held his breath.... At first he could hear
nothing but those nocturnal sounds which can almost always be heard in
an inhabited place: a horse was munching oats, a pig grunted faintly
in its sleep, a man was snoring somewhere; but all at once his ear
detected a suspicious sound coming from the very end of the yard, near
the fence.

Someone seemed to be stirring there, and breathing or blowing. Naum
looked over his shoulder towards Fyodor and cautiously descending the
steps went towards the sound.... Once or twice he stopped, listened
and stole on further.... Suddenly he started.... Ten paces from him,
in the thick darkness there came the flash of a bright light: it was a
glowing ember and close to it there was visible for an instant the
front part of a face with lips thrust out.... Quickly and silently,
like a cat at a mouse, Naum darted to the fire.... Hurriedly rising up
from the ground a long body rushed to meet him and, nearly knocking
him off his feet, almost eluded his grasp; but Naum hung on to it with
all his strength.

"Fyodor! Andrey! Petrushka!" he shouted at the top of his voice. "Make
haste! here! here! I've caught a thief trying to set fire to the

The man whom he had caught fought and struggled violently ... but Naum
did not let him go. Fyodor at once ran to his assistance.

"A lantern! Make haste, a lantern! Run for a lantern, wake the
others!" Naum shouted to him. "I can manage him alone for a time--I am
sitting on him.... Make haste! And bring a belt to tie his hands."

Fyodor ran into the house.... The man whom Naum was holding suddenly
left off struggling.

"So it seems wife and money and home are not enough for you, you want
to ruin me, too," he said in a choking voice.

Naum recognised Akim's voice.

"So that's you, my friend," he brought out; "very good, you wait a

"Let me go," said Akim, "aren't you satisfied?"

"I'll show you before the judge to-morrow whether I am satisfied," and
Naum tightened his grip of Akim.

The labourers ran up with two lanterns and cords. "Tie his arms," Naum
ordered sharply. The men caught hold of Akim, stood him up and twisted
his arms behind his back.... One of them began abusing him, but
recognising the former owner of the inn lapsed into silence and only
exchanged glances with the others.

"Do you see, do you see!" Naum kept repeating, meanwhile throwing the
light of the lantern on the ground, "there are hot embers in the pot;
look, there's a regular log alight here! We must find out where he got
this pot ... here, he has broken up twigs, too," and Naum carefully
stamped out the fire with his foot. "Search him, Fyodor," he added,
"see if he hasn't got something else on him."

Fyodor rummaged Akim's pockets and felt him all over while the old man
stood motionless, with his head drooping on his breast as though he
were dead.

"Here's a knife," said Fyodor, taking an old kitchen knife out of the
front of Akim's coat.

"Aha, my fine gentleman, so that's what you were after," cried Naum.
"Lads, you are witnesses ... here he wanted to murder me and set fire
to the house.... Lock him up for the night in the cellar, he can't get
out of that.... I'll keep watch all night myself and to-morrow as soon
as it is light we will take him to the police captain ... and you are
witnesses, do you hear!"

Akim was thrust into the cellar and the door was slammed.... Naum set
two men to watch it and did not go to bed himself.

Meanwhile, Yefrem's wife having convinced herself that her uninvited
guest had gone, set about her cooking though it was hardly
daylight.... It was a holiday. She squatted down before the stove to
get a hot ember and saw that someone had scraped out the hot ashes
before her; then she wanted her knife and searched for it in vain;
then of her four cooking pots one was missing. Yefrem's wife had the
reputation of being a woman with brains, and justly so. She stood and
pondered, then went to the lumber room, to her husband. It was not
easy to wake him--and still more difficult to explain to him why he
was being awakened.... To all that she said to him Yefrem made the
same answer.

"He's gone away--well, God bless him.... What business is it of mine?
He's taken our knife and our pot--well, God bless him, what has it to
do with me?"

At last, however, he got up and after listening attentively to his
wife came to the conclusion that it was a bad business, that something
must be done.

"Yes," his wife repeated, "it is a bad business; maybe he will be
doing mischief in his despair.... I saw last night that he was not
asleep but was just lying on the stove; it would be as well for you to
go and see, Yefrem Alexandritch."

"I tell you what, Ulyana Fyodorovna," Yefrem began, "I'll go myself to
the inn now, and you be so kind, mother, as to give me just a drop to
sober me."

Ulyana hesitated.

"Well," she decided at last, "I'll give you the vodka, Yefrem
Alexandritch; but mind now, none of your pranks."

"Don't you worry, Ulyana Fyodorovna."

And fortifying himself with a glass, Yefrem made his way to the inn.

It was only just getting light when he rode up to the inn but, already
a cart and a horse were standing at the gate and one of Naum's
labourers was sitting on the box holding the reins.

"Where are you off to?" asked Yefrem.

"To the town," the man answered reluctantly.

"What for?"

The man simply shrugged his shoulders and did not answer. Yefrem
jumped off his horse and went into the house. In the entry he came
upon Naum, fully dressed and with his cap on.

"I congratulate the new owner on his new abode," said Yefrem, who knew
him. "Where are you off to so early?"

"Yes, you have something to congratulate me on," Naum answered grimly.
"On the very first day the house has almost been burnt down."

Yefrem started. "How so?"

"Oh, a kind soul turned up who tried to set fire to it. Luckily I
caught him in the act; now I am taking him to the town."

"Was it Akim, I wonder?" Yefrem asked slowly.

"How did you know? Akim. He came at night with a burning log in a pot
and got into the yard and was setting fire to it ... all my men are
witnesses. Would you like to see him? It's time for us to take him, by
the way."

"My good Naum Ivanitch," Yefrem began, "let him go, don't ruin the old
man altogether. Don't take that sin upon your soul, Naum Ivanitch.
Only think--the man was in despair--he didn't know what he was doing."

"Give over that nonsense," Naum cut him short. "What! Am I likely to
let him go! Why, he'd set fire to the house to-morrow if I did."

"He wouldn't, Naum Ivanitch, believe me. Believe me you will be easier
yourself for it--you know there will be questions asked, a trial--you
can see that for yourself."

"Well, what if there is a trial? I have no reason to be afraid of it."

"My good Naum Ivanitch, one must be afraid of a trial."

"Oh, that's enough. I see you are drunk already, and to-day a saint's
day, too!"

Yefrem all at once, quite unexpectedly, burst into tears.

"I am drunk but I am speaking the truth," he muttered. "And for the
sake of the holiday you ought to forgive him."

"Well, come along, you sniveller."

And Naum went out on to the steps.

"Forgive him, for Avdotya Arefyevna's sake," said Yefrem following him
on to the steps.

Naum went to the cellar and flung the door wide open. With timid
curiosity Yefrem craned his neck from behind Naum and with difficulty
made out the figure of Akim in the corner of the cellar. The once
well-to-do innkeeper, respected all over the neighbourhood, was
sitting on straw with his hands tied behind him like a criminal.
Hearing a noise he raised his head.... It seemed as though he had
grown fearfully thin in those last few days, especially during the
previous night--his sunken eyes could hardly be seen under his high,
waxen-yellow forehead, his parched lips looked dark ... his whole face
was changed and wore a strange expression--savage and frightened.

"Get up and come along," said Naum.

Akim got up and stepped over the threshold.

"Akim Semyonitch!" Yefrem wailed, "you've brought ruin on yourself, my

Akim glanced at him without speaking.

"If I had known why you asked for vodka I would not have given it to
you, I really would not. I believe I would have drunk it all myself!
Eh, Naum Ivanitch," he added clutching at Naum's arm, "have mercy upon
him, let him go!"

"What next!" Naum replied with a grin. "Well, come along," he added
addressing Akim again. "What are you waiting for?"

"Naum Ivanitch," Akim began.

"What is it?"

"Naum Ivanitch," Akim repeated, "listen: I am to blame; I wanted to
settle my accounts with you myself; but God must be the judge between
us. You have taken everything from me, you know yourself, everything I
had. Now you can ruin me, only I tell you this: if you let me go now,
then--so be it--take possession of everything! I agree and wish you
all success. I promise you as before God, if you let me go you will
not regret it. God be with you."

Akim shut his eyes and ceased speaking.

"A likely story!" retorted Naum, "as though one could believe you!"

"But, by God, you can," said Yefrem, "you really can. I'd stake my
life on Akim Semyonitch's good faith--I really would."

"Nonsense," cried Naum. "Come along."

Akim looked at him.

"As you think best, Naum Ivanitch. It's for you to decide. But you are
laying a great burden on your soul. Well, if you are in such a hurry,
let us start."

Naum in his turn looked keenly at Akim.

"After all," he thought to himself, "hadn't I better let him go? Or
people will never have done pestering me about him. Avdotya will give
me no peace." While Naum was reflecting, no one uttered a word. The
labourer in the cart who could see it all through the gate did nothing
but toss his head and flick the horse's sides with the reins. The two
other labourers stood on the steps and they too were silent.

"Well, listen, old man," Naum began, "when I let you go and tell these
fellows" (he motioned with his head towards the labourers) "not to
talk, shall we be quits--do you understand me--quits ... eh?"

"I tell you, you can have it all."

"You won't consider me in your debt?"

"You won't be in my debt, I shall not be in yours."

Naum was silent again.

"And will you swear it?"

"Yes, as God is holy," answered Akim.

"Well, I know I shall regret it," said Naum, "but there, come what
may! Give me your hands."

Akim turned his back to him; Naum began untying him.

"Now, mind, old man," he added as he pulled the cord off his wrists,
"remember, I have spared you, mind that!"

"Naum Ivanitch, my dear," faltered Yefrem, "the Lord will have mercy
upon you!"

Akim freed his chilled and swollen hands and was moving towards the

Naum suddenly "showed the Jew" as the saying is--he must have
regretted that he had let Akim off.

"You've sworn now, mind!" he shouted after him. Akim turned, and
looking round the yard, said mournfully, "Possess it all, so be it
forever! ... Good-bye."

And he went slowly out into the road accompanied by Yefrem. Naum
ordered the horse to be unharnessed and with a wave of his hand went
back into the house.

"Where are you off to, Akim Semyonitch? Aren't you coming back to me?"
cried Yefrem, seeing that Akim was hurrying to the right out of the
high road.

"No, Yefremushka, thank you," answered Akim. "I am going to see what
my wife is doing."

"You can see afterwards.... But now we ought to celebrate the

"No, thank you, Yefrem.... I've had enough. Good-bye."

And Akim walked off without looking round.

"Well! 'I've had enough'!" the puzzled sacristan pronounced. "And I
pledged my word for him! Well, I never expected this," he added, with
vexation, "after I had pledged my word for him, too!"

He remembered that he had not thought to take his knife and his pot
and went back to the inn.... Naum ordered his things to be given to
him but never even thought of offering him a drink. He returned home
thoroughly annoyed and thoroughly sober.

"Well?" his wife inquired, "found?"

"Found what?" answered Yefrem, "to be sure I've found it: here is your

"Akim?" asked his wife with especial emphasis.

Yefrem nodded his head.

"Yes. But he is a nice one! I pledged my word for him; if it had not
been for me he'd be lying in prison, and he never offered me a drop!
Ulyana Fyodorovna, you at least might show me consideration and give
me a glass!"

But Ulyana Fyodorovna did not show him consideration and drove him out
of her sight.

Meanwhile, Akim was walking with slow steps along the road to Lizaveta
Prohorovna's house. He could not yet fully grasp his position; he was
trembling all over like a man who had just escaped from a certain
death. He seemed unable to believe in his freedom. In dull
bewilderment he gazed at the fields, at the sky, at the larks
quivering in the warm air. From the time he had woken up on the
previous morning at Yefrem's he had not slept, though he had lain on
the stove without moving; at first he had wanted to drown in vodka the
insufferable pain of humiliation, the misery of frenzied and impotent
anger ... but the vodka had not been able to stupefy him completely;
his anger became overpowering and he began to think how to punish the
man who had wronged him.... He thought of no one but Naum; the idea of
Lizaveta Prohorovna never entered his head and on Avdotya he mentally
turned his back. By the evening his thirst for revenge had grown to a
frenzy, and the good-natured and weak man waited with feverish
impatience for the approach of night and ran, like a wolf to its prey,
to destroy his old home.... But then he had been caught ... locked
up.... The night had followed. What had he not thought over during
that cruel night! It is difficult to put into words all that a man
passes through at such moments, all the tortures that he endures; more
difficult because those tortures are dumb and inarticulate in the man
himself.... Towards morning, before Naum and Yefrem had come to the
door, Akim had begun to feel as it were more at ease. Everything is
lost, he thought, everything is scattered and gone ... and he
dismissed it all. If he had been naturally bad-hearted he might at
that moment have become a criminal; but evil was not natural to Akim.
Under the shock of undeserved and unexpected misfortune, in the
delirium of despair he had brought himself to crime; it had shaken him
to the depths of his being and, failing, had left in him nothing but
intense weariness.... Feeling his guilt in his mind he mentally tore
himself from all things earthly and began praying, bitterly but
fervently. At first he prayed in a whisper, then perhaps by accident
he uttered a loud "Oh, God!" and tears gushed from his eyes.... For a
long time he wept and at last grew quieter.... His thoughts would
probably have changed if he had had to pay the penalty of his
attempted crime ... but now he had suddenly been set free ... and he
was walking to see his wife, feeling only half alive, utterly crushed
but calm.

Lizaveta Prohorovna's house stood about a mile from her village to the
left of the cross road along which Akim was walking. He was about to
stop at the turning that led to his mistress's house ... but he walked
on instead. He decided first to go to what had been his hut, where his
uncle lived.

Akim's small and somewhat dilapidated hut was almost at the end of the
village; Akin walked through the whole street without meeting a soul.
All the people were at church. Only one sick old woman raised a little
window to look after him and a little girl who had run out with an
empty pail to the well gaped at him, and she too looked after him. The
first person he met was the uncle he was looking for. The old man had
been sitting all the morning on the ledge under his window taking
pinches of snuff and warming himself in the sun; he was not very well,
so he had not gone to church; he was just setting off to visit another
old man, a neighbour who was also ailing, when he suddenly saw
Akim.... He stopped, let him come up to him and glancing into his
face, said:

"Good-day, Akimushka!"

"Good-day," answered Akim, and passing the old man went in at the
gate. In the yard were standing his horses, his cow, his cart; his
poultry, too, were there.... He went into the hut without a word. The
old man followed him. Akim sat down on the bench and leaned his fists
on it. The old man standing at the door looked at him compassionately.

"And where is my wife?" asked Akim.

"At the mistress's house," the old man answered quickly. "She is
there. They put your cattle here and what boxes there were, and she
has gone there. Shall I go for her?"

Akim was silent for a time.

"Yes, do," he said at last.

"Oh, uncle, uncle," he brought out with a sigh while the old man was
taking his hat from a nail, "do you remember what you said to me the
day before my wedding?"

"It's all God's will, Akimushka."

"Do you remember you said to me that I was above you peasants, and now
you see what times have come.... I'm stripped bare myself."

"There's no guarding oneself from evil folk," answered the old man,
"if only someone such as a master, for instance, or someone in
authority, could give him a good lesson, the shameless fellow--but as
it is, he has nothing to be afraid of. He is a wolf and he behaves
like one." And the old man put on his cap and went off.

Avdotya had just come back from church when she was told that her
husband's uncle was asking for her. Till then she had rarely seen him;
he did not come to see them at the inn and had the reputation of being
queer altogether: he was passionately fond of snuff and was usually

She went out to him.

"What do you want, Petrovitch? Has anything happened?"

"Nothing has happened, Avdotya Arefyevna; your husband is asking for

"Has he come back?"


"Where is he, then?"

"He is in the village, sitting in his hut."

Avdotya was frightened.

"Well, Petrovitch," she inquired, looking straight into his face, "is
he angry?"

"He does not seem so."

Avdotya looked down.

"Well, let us go," she said. She put on a shawl and they set off
together. They walked in silence to the village. When they began to
get close to the hut, Avdotya was so overcome with terror that her
knees began to tremble.

"Good Petrovitch," she said, "go in first.... Tell him that I have

The old man went into the hut and found Akim lost in thought, sitting
just as he had left him.

"Well?" said Akim raising his head, "hasn't she come?"

"Yes," answered the old man, "she is at the gate...."

"Well, send her in here."

The old man went out, beckoned to Avdotya, said to her, "go in," and
sat down again on the ledge. Avdotya in trepidation opened the door,
crossed the threshold and stood still.

Akim looked at her.

"Well, Arefyevna," he began, "what are we going to do now?"

"I am guilty," she faltered.

"Ech Arefyevna, we are all sinners. What's the good of talking about

"It's he, the villain, has ruined us both," said Avdotya in a cringing
voice, and tears flowed down her face. "You must not leave it like
that, Akim Semyonitch, you must get the money back. Don't think of me.
I am ready to take my oath that I only lent him the money. Lizaveta
Prohorovna could sell our inn if she liked, but why should he rob
us.... Get your money back."

"There's no claiming the money back from him," Akim replied grimly,
"we have settled our accounts."

Avdotya was amazed. "How is that?"

"Why, like this. Do you know," Akim went on and his eyes gleamed, "do
you know where I spent the night? You don't know? In Naum's cellar,
with my arms and legs tied like a sheep--that's where I spent the
night. I tried to set fire to the place, but he caught me--Naum did;
he is too sharp! And to-day he meant to take me to the town but he let
me off; so I can't claim the money from him.... 'When did I borrow
money from you?' he would say. Am I to say to him, 'My wife took it
from under the floor and brought it to you'? 'Your wife is telling
lies,' he will say. Hasn't there been scandal enough for you,
Arefyevna? You'd better say nothing, I tell you, say nothing."

"I am guilty, Semyonitch, I am guilty," Avdotya, terrified, whispered

"That's not what matters," said Akim, after a pause. "What are we
going to do? We have no home or no money."

"We shall manage somehow, Akim Semyonitch. We'll ask Lizaveta
Prohorovna, she will help us, Kiriliovna has promised me."

"No, Arefyenva, you and your Kirillovna had better ask her together;
you are berries off the same bush. I tell you what: you stay here and
good luck to you; I shall not stay here. It's a good thing we have no
children, and I shall be all right, I dare say, alone. There's always
enough for one."

"What will you do, Semyonitch? Take up driving again?"

Akim laughed bitterly.

"I should be a fine driver, no mistake! You have pitched on the right
man for it! No, Arefyenva, that's a job not like getting married, for
instance; an old man is no good for the job. I don't want to stay
here, just because I don't want them to point the finger at me--do you
understand? I am going to pray for my sins, Arefyevna, that's what I
am going to do."

"What sins have you, Semyonitch?" Avdotya pronounced timidly.

"Of them I know best myself, wife."

"But are you leaving me all alone, Semyonitch? How can I live without
a husband?"

"Leaving you alone? Oh, Arefyevna, how you do talk, really! Much you
need a husband like me, and old, too, and ruined as well! Why, you got
on without me in the past, you can get on in the future. What property
is left us, you can take; I don't want it."

"As you like, Semyonitch," Avdotya replied mournfully. "You know

"That's better. Only don't you suppose that I am angry with you,
Arefyevna. No, what's the good of being angry when ... I ought to have
been wiser before. I've been to blame. I am punished." (Akim sighed.)
"As you make your bed so you must lie on it. I am old, it's time to
think of my soul. The Lord himself has brought me to understanding.
Like an old fool I wanted to live for my own pleasure with a young
wife.... No, the old man had better pray and beat his head against the
earth and endure in patience and fast.... And now go along, my dear. I
am very weary, I'll sleep a little."

And Akim with a groan stretched himself on the bench.

Avdotya wanted to say something, stood a moment, looked at him, turned
away and went out.

"Well, he didn't beat you then?" asked Petrovitch sitting bent up on
the ledge when she was level with him. Avdotya passed by him without
speaking. "So he didn't beat her," the old man said to himself; he
smiled, ruffled up his beard and took a pinch of snuff.

* * * * *

Akim carried out his intention. He hurriedly arranged his affairs and
a few days after the conversation we have described went, dressed
ready for his journey, to say goodbye to his wife who had settled for
a time in a little lodge in the mistress's garden. His farewell did
not take long. Kirillovna, who happened to be present, advised Akim to
see his mistress; he did so, Lizaveta Prohorovna received him with
some confusion but graciously let him kiss her hand and asked him
where he meant to go. He answered he was going first to Kiev and after
that where it would please the Lord. She commended his decision and
dismissed him. From that time he rarely appeared at home, though he
never forgot to bring his mistress some holy bread.... But wherever
Russian pilgrims gather his thin and aged but always dignified and
handsome face could be seen: at the relics of St. Sergey; on the
shores of the White Sea, at the Optin hermitage, and at the far-away
Valaam; he went everywhere.

This year he has passed by you in the ranks of the innumerable
people who go in procession behind the ikon of the Mother of God to
the Korennaya; last year you found him sitting with a wallet on
his shoulders with other pilgrims on the steps of Nikolay, the
wonder-worker, at Mtsensk ... he comes to Moscow almost every spring.

From land to land he has wandered with his quiet, unhurried, but
never-resting step--they say he has been even to Jerusalem. He seems
perfectly calm and happy and those who have chanced to converse with
him have said much of his piety and humility. Meanwhile, Naum's
fortunes prospered exceedingly. He set to work with energy and good
sense and got on, as the saying is, by leaps and bounds. Everyone in
the neighbourhood knew by what means he had acquired the inn, they
knew too that Avdotya had given him her husband's money; nobody liked
Naum because of his cold, harsh disposition.... With censure they told
the story of him that once when Akim himself had asked alms under his
window he answered that God would give, and had given him nothing; but
everyone agreed that there never had been a luckier man; his corn came
better than other people's, his bees swarmed more frequently; even his
hens laid more eggs; his cattle were never ill, his horses did not go
lame.... It was a long time before Avdotya could bear to hear his name
(she had accepted Lizaveta Prohorovna's invitation and had reentered
her service as head sewing-maid), but in the end her aversion was
somewhat softened; it was said that she had been driven by poverty to
appeal to him and he had given her a hundred roubles.... She must not
be too severely judged: poverty breaks any will and the sudden and
violent change in her life had greatly aged and humbled her: it was
hard to believe how quickly she lost her looks, how completely she let
herself go and lost heart....

How did it all end? the reader will ask. Why, like this: Naum, after
having kept the inn successfully for about fifteen years, sold it
advantageously to another townsman. He would never have parted from
the inn if it had not been for the following, apparently
insignificant, circumstance: for two mornings in succession his dog,
sitting before the windows, had kept up a prolonged and doleful howl.
He went out into the road the second time, looked attentively at the
howling dog, shook his head, went up to town and the same day agreed
on the price with a man who had been for a long time anxious to
purchase it. A week later he had moved to a distance--out of the
province; the new owner settled in and that very evening the inn was
burnt to ashes; not a single outbuilding was left and Naum's successor
was left a beggar. The reader can easily imagine the rumours that this
fire gave rise to in the neighbourhood.... Evidently he carried his
"luck" away with him, everyone repeated. Of Naum it is said that he
has gone into the corn trade and has made a great fortune. But will it
last long? Stronger pillars have fallen and evil deeds end badly
sooner or later. There is not much to say about Lizaveta Prohorovna.
She is still living and, as is often the case with people of her sort,
is not much changed, she has not even grown much older--she only seems
to have dried up a little; on the other hand, her stinginess has
greatly increased though it is difficult to say for whose benefit she
is saving as she has no children and no attachments. In conversation
she often speaks of Akim and declares that since she has understood
his good qualities she has begun to feel great respect for the Russian
peasant. Kirillovna bought her freedom for a considerable sum and
married for love a fair-haired young waiter who leads her a dreadful
life; Avdotya lives as before among the maids in Lizaveta Prohorovna's
house, but has sunk to a rather lower position; she is very poorly,
almost dirtily dressed, and there is no trace left in her of the
townbred airs and graces of a fashionable maid or of the habits of a
prosperous innkeeper's wife.... No one takes any notice of her and she
herself is glad to be unnoticed; old Petrovitch is dead and Akim is
still wandering, a pilgrim, and God only knows how much longer his
pilgrimage will last!


* * * * *



That evening Kuzma Vassilyevitch Yergunov told us his story again. He
used to repeat it punctually once a month and we heard it every time
with fresh satisfaction though we knew it almost by heart, in all its
details. Those details overgrew, if one may so express it, the
original trunk of the story itself as fungi grow over the stump of a
tree. Knowing only too well the character of our companion, we did not
trouble to fill in his gaps and incomplete statements. But now Kuzma
Vassilyevitch is dead and there will be no one to tell his story and
so we venture to bring it before the notice of the public.


It happened forty years ago when Kuzma Vassilyevitch was young. He
said of himself that he was at that time a handsome fellow and a dandy
with a complexion of milk and roses, red lips, curly hair, and eyes
like a falcon's. We took his word for it, though we saw nothing of
that sort in him; in our eyes Kuzma Vassilyevitch was a man of very
ordinary exterior, with a simple and sleepy-looking face and a heavy,
clumsy figure. But what of that? There is no beauty the years will not
mar! The traces of dandyism were more clearly preserved in Kuzma
Vassilyevitch. He still in his old age wore narrow trousers with
straps, laced in his corpulent figure, cropped the back of his head,
curled his hair over his forehead and dyed his moustache with Persian
dye, which had, however, a tint rather of purple, and even of green,
than of black. With all that Kuzma Vassilyevitch was a very worthy
gentleman, though at preference he did like to "steal a peep," that
is, look over his neighbour's cards; but this he did not so much from
greed as carefulness, for he did not like wasting his money. Enough of
these parentheses, however; let us come to the story itself.


It happened in the spring at Nikolaev, at that time a new town, to
which Kuzma Vassilyevitch had been sent on a government commission.
(He was a lieutenant in the navy.) He had, as a trustworthy and
prudent officer, been charged by the authorities with the task of
looking after the construction of ship-yards and from time to time
received considerable sums of money, which for security he invariably
carried in a leather belt on his person. Kuzma Vassilyevitch certainly
was distinguished by his prudence and, in spite of his youth, his
behaviour was exemplary; he studiously avoided every impropriety of
conduct, did not touch cards, did not drink and, even fought shy of
society so that of his comrades, the quiet ones called him "a regular
girl" and the rowdy ones called him a muff and a noodle. Kuzma
Vassilyevitch had only one failing, he had a tender heart for the fair
sex; but even in that direction he succeeded in restraining his
impulses and did not allow himself to indulge in any "foolishness." He
got up and went to bed early, was conscientious in performing his
duties and his only recreation consisted in rather long evening walks
about the outskirts of Nikolaev. He did not read as he thought it
would send the blood to his head; every spring he used to drink a
special decoction because he was afraid of being too full-blooded.
Putting on his uniform and carefully brushing himself Kuzma
Vassilyevitch strolled with a sedate step alongside the fences of
orchards, often stopped, admired the beauties of nature, gathered
flowers as souvenirs and found a certain pleasure in doing so; but he
felt acute pleasure only when he happened to meet "a charmer," that
is, some pretty little workgirl with a shawl flung over her shoulders,
with a parcel in her ungloved hand and a gay kerchief on her head.
Being as he himself expressed it of a susceptible but modest
temperament Kuzma Vassilyevitch did not address the "charmer," but
smiled ingratiatingly at her and looked long and attentively after
her.... Then he would heave a deep sigh, go home with the same sedate
step, sit down at the window and dream for half an hour, carefully
smoking strong tobacco out of a meerschaum pipe with an amber
mouthpiece given him by his godfather, a police superintendent of
German origin. So the days passed neither gaily nor drearily.


Well, one day, as he was returning home along an empty side-street at
dusk Kuzma Vassilyevitch heard behind him hurried footsteps and
incoherent words mingled with sobs. He looked round and saw a girl
about twenty with an extremely pleasing but distressed and tear-stained
face. She seemed to have been overtaken by some great and unexpected
grief. She was running and stumbling as she ran, talking to herself,
exclaiming, gesticulating; her fair hair was in disorder and her shawl
(the burnous and the mantle were unknown in those days) had slipped off
her shoulders and was kept on by one pin. The girl was dressed like a
young lady, not like a workgirl.

Kuzma Vassilyevitch stepped aside; his feeling of compassion
overpowered his fear of doing something foolish and, when she caught
him up, he politely touched the peak of his shako, and asked her the
cause of her tears.

"For," he added, and he laid his hand on his cutlass, "I, as an
officer, may be able to help you."

The girl stopped and apparently for the first moment did not clearly
understand what he wanted of her; but at once, as though glad of the
opportunity of expressing herself, began speaking in slightly
imperfect Russian.

"Oh, dear, Mr. Officer," she began and tears rained down her charming
cheeks, "it is beyond everything! It's awful, it is beyond words! We
have been robbed, the cook has carried off everything, everything,
everything, the dinner service, the lock-up box and our clothes....
Yes, even our clothes, and stockings and linen, yes ... and aunt's
reticule. There was a twenty-five-rouble note and two appliquť spoons
in it ... and her pelisse, too, and everything.... And I told all that
to the police officer and the police officer said, 'Go away, I don't
believe you, I don't believe you. I won't listen to you. You are the
same sort yourselves.' I said, 'Why, but the pelisse ...' and he, 'I
won't listen to you, I won't listen to you.' It was so insulting, Mr.
Officer! 'Go away,' he said, 'get along,' but where am I to go?"

The girl sobbed convulsively, almost wailing, and utterly distracted
leaned against Kuzma Vassilyevitch's sleeve.... He was overcome with
confusion in his turn and stood rooted to the spot, only repeating
from time to time, "There, there!" while he gazed at the delicate nape
of the dishevelled damsel's neck, as it shook from her sobs.

"Will you let me see you home?" he said at last, lightly touching her
shoulder with his forefinger, "here in the street, you understand, it
is quite impossible. You can explain your trouble to me and of course
I will make every effort ... as an officer."

The girl raised her head and seemed for the first time to see the
young man who might be said to be holding her in his arms. She was
disconcerted, turned away, and still sobbing moved a little aside.
Kuzma Vassilyevitch repeated his suggestion. The girl looked at him
askance through her hair which had fallen over her face and was wet
with tears. (At this point Kuzma Vassilyevitch always assured us that
this glance pierced through him "like an awl," and even attempted once
to reproduce this marvellous glance for our benefit) and laying her
hand within the crooked arm of the obliging lieutenant, set off with
him for her lodging.


Kuzma Vassilyevitch had had very little to do with ladies and so was
at a loss how to begin the conversation, but his companion chattered
away very fluently, continually drying her eyes and shedding fresh
tears. Within a few minutes Kuzma Vassilyevitch had learnt that her
name was Emilie Karlovna, that she came from Riga and that she had
come to Nikolaev to stay with her aunt who was from Riga, too, that
her papa too had been in the army but had died from "his chest," that
her aunt had a Russian cook, a very good and inexpensive cook but
she had not a passport and that this cook had that very day robbed
them and run away. She had had to go to the police--_in die
Polizei_.... But here the memories of the police superintendent, of
the insult she had received from him, surged up again ... and sobs
broke out afresh. Kuzma Vassilyevitch was once more at a loss what to
say to comfort her. But the girl, whose impressions seemed to come and
go very rapidly, stopped suddenly and holding out her hand, said

"And this is where we live!"


It was a wretched little house that looked as though it had sunk into
the ground, with four little windows looking into the street. The dark
green of geraniums blocked them up within; a candle was burning in one
of them; night was already coming on. A wooden fence with a hardly
visible gate stretched from the house and was almost of the same
height. The girl went up to the gate and finding it locked knocked on
it impatiently with the iron ring of the padlock. Heavy footsteps were
audible behind the fence as though someone in slippers trodden down at
heel were carelessly shuffling towards the gate, and a husky female
voice asked some question in German which Kuzma Vassilyevitch did not
understand: like a regular sailor he knew no language but Russian. The
girl answered in German, too; the gate opened a very little, admitted
the girl and then was slammed almost in the face of Kuzma
Vassilyevitch who had time, however, to make out in the summer
twilight the outline of a stout, elderly woman in a red dress with a
dimly burning lantern in her hand. Struck with amazement Kuzma
Vassilyevitch remained for some time motionless in the street; but at
the thought that he, a naval officer (Kuzma Vassilyevitch had a very
high opinion of his rank) had been so discourteously treated, he was
moved to indignation and turning on his heel he went homewards. He had
not gone ten paces when the gate opened again and the girl, who had
had time to whisper to the old woman, appeared in the gateway and
called out aloud:

"Where are you going, Mr. Officer! Please come in."

Kuzma Vassilyevitch hesitated a little; he turned back, however.


This new acquaintance, whom we will call Emilie, led him through a
dark, damp little lobby into a fairly large but low-pitched and untidy
room with a huge cupboard against the further wall and a sofa covered
with American leather; above the doors and between the windows hung
three portraits in oils with the paint peeling off, two representing
bishops in clerical caps and one a Turk in a turban; cardboard boxes
were lying about in the corners; there were chairs of different sorts
and a crooked legged card table on which a man's cap was lying beside
an unfinished glass of kvass. Kuzma Vassilyevitch was followed into
the room by the old woman in the red dress, whom he had noticed at the
gate, and who turned out to be a very unprepossessing Jewess with
sullen pig-like eyes and a grey moustache over her puffy upper lip.
Emilie indicated her to Kuzma Vassilyevitch and said:

"This is my aunt, Madame Fritsche."

Kuzma Vassilyevitch was a little surprised but thought it his duty to
introduce himself. Madame Fritsche looked at him from under her brows,
made no response, but asked her niece in Russian whether she would
like some tea.

"Ah, yes, tea!" answered Emilie. "You will have some tea, won't you,
Mr. Officer? Yes, auntie, give us some tea! But why are you standing,
Mr. Officer? Sit down! Oh, how ceremonious you are! Let me take off my

When Emilie talked she continually turned her head from one side to
another and jerked her shoulders; birds make similar movements when
they sit on a bare branch with sunshine all round them.

Kuzma Vassilyevitch sank into a chair and assuming a becoming air of
dignity, that is, leaning on his cutlass and fixing his eyes on the
floor, he began to speak about the theft. But Emilie at once
interrupted him.

"Don't trouble yourself, it's all right. Auntie has just told me that
the principal things have been found." (Madame Fritsche mumbled
something to herself and went out of the room.) "And there was no need
to go to the police at all; but I can't control myself because I am
so ... You don't understand German? ... So quick, _immer so rasch!_
But I think no more about it ... _aber auch gar nicht!_"

Kuzma Vassilyevitch looked at Emilie. Her face indeed showed no trace
of care now. Everything was smiling in that pretty little face: the
eyes, fringed with almost white lashes, and the lips and the cheeks
and the chin and the dimples in the chin, and even the tip of her
turned-up nose. She went up to the little looking glass beside the
cupboard and, screwing up her eyes and humming through her teeth,
began tidying her hair. Kuzma Vassilyevitch followed her movements
intently.... He found her very charming.


"You must excuse me," she began again, turning from side to side
before the looking glass, "for having so ... brought you home with me.
Perhaps you dislike it?"

"Oh, not at all!"

"As I have told you already, I am so quick. I act first and think
afterwards, though sometimes I don't think at all.... What is your
name, Mr. Officer? May I ask you?" she added going up to him and
folding her arms.

"My name is Kuzma Vassilyevitch Yergunov."

"Yergu.... Oh, it's not a nice name! I mean it's difficult for me. I
shall call you Mr. Florestan. At Riga we had a Mr. Florestan. He sold
capital _gros-de-Naples_ in his shop and was a handsome man, as
good-looking as you. But how broad-shouldered you are! A regular
sturdy Russian! I like the Russians.... I am a Russian myself ... my
papa was an officer. But my hands are whiter than yours!" She raised
them above her head, waved them several times in the air, so as to
drive the blood from them, and at once dropped them. "Do you see? I
wash them with Greek scented soap.... Sniff! Oh, but don't kiss
them.... I did not do it for that.... Where are you serving?"

"In the fleet, in the nineteenth Black Sea company."

"Oh, you are a sailor! Well, do you get a good salary?"

"No ... not very."

"You must be very brave. One can see it at once from your eyes. What
thick eyebrows you've got! They say you ought to grease them with lard
overnight to make them grow. But why have you no moustache?"

"It's against the regulations."

"Oh, that's not right! What's that you've got, a dagger?"

"It's a cutlass; a cutlass, so to say, is the sailor's weapon."

"Ah, a cutlass! Is it sharp? May I look?" With an effort, biting her
lip and screwing up her eyes, she drew the blade out of the scabbard
and put it to her nose.

"Oh, how blunt! I can kill you with it in a minute!"

She waved it at Kuzma Vassilyevitch. He pretended to be frightened and
laughed. She laughed too.

"_Ihr habt pardon_, you are pardoned," she pronounced, throwing
herself into a majestic attitude. "There, take your weapon! And how
old are you?" she asked suddenly.


"And I am nineteen! How funny that is! Ach!" And Emilie went off into
such a ringing laugh that she threw herself back in her chair. Kuzma
Vassilyevitch did not get up from his chair and looked still more
intently at her rosy face which was quivering with laughter and he
felt more and more attracted by her.

All at once Emilie was silent and humming through her teeth, as her
habit was, went back to the looking glass.

"Can you sing, Mr. Florestan?"

"No, I have never been taught."

"Do you play on the guitar? Not that either? I can. I have a guitar
set with _perlenmutter_ but the strings are broken. I must buy
some new ones. You will give me the money, won't you, Mr. Officer?
I'll sing you a lovely German song." She heaved a sigh and shut her
eyes. "Ah, such a lovely one! But you can dance? Not that,
either? _UnmŲglich_! I'll teach you. The _schottische_ and the
_valse-cosaque_. Tra-la-la, tra-la-la," Emilie pirouetted once or
twice. "Look at my shoes! From Warsaw. Oh, we will have some dancing,
Mr. Florestan! But what are you going to call me?"

Kuzma Vassilyevitch grinned and blushed to his ears.

"I shall call you: lovely Emilie!"

"No, no! You must call me: _Mein Schštzchen, mein ZuckerpŁppchen_!
Repeat it after me."

"With the greatest pleasure, but I am afraid I shall find it

"Never mind, never mind. Say: _Mein_."




"_PŁppchen! PŁppchen! PŁppchen!_"

"Poop ... poop.... That I can't manage. It doesn't sound nice."

"No! You must ... you must! Do you know what it means? That's the very
nicest word for a young lady in German. I'll explain it to you
afterwards. But here is auntie bringing us the samovar. Bravo! Bravo!
auntie, I will have cream with my tea.... Is there any cream?"

"_So schweige doch_," answered the aunt.


Kuzma Vassilyevitch stayed at Madame Fritsche's till midnight. He had
not spent such a pleasant evening since his arrival at Nikolaev. It is
true that it occurred to him that it was not seemly for an officer and
a gentleman to be associating with such persons as this native of Riga
and her auntie, but Emilie was so pretty, babbled so amusingly and
bestowed such friendly looks upon him, that he dismissed his rank and
family and made up his mind for once to enjoy himself. Only one
circumstance disturbed him and left an impression that was not quite
agreeable. When his conversation with Emilie and Madame Fritsche was
in full swing, the door from the lobby opened a crack and a man's hand
in a dark cuff with three tiny silver buttons on it was stealthily
thrust in and stealthily laid a big bundle on the chair near the door.
Both ladies instantly darted to the chair and began examining the
bundle. "But these are the wrong spoons!" cried Emilie, but her aunt
nudged her with her elbow and carried away the bundle without tying up
the ends. It seemed to Kuzma Vassilyevitch that one end was spattered
with something red, like blood.

"What is it?" he asked Emilie. "Is it some more stolen things returned
to you?"

"Yes," answered Emilie, as it were, reluctantly. "Some more."

"Was it your servant found them?"

Emilie frowned.

"What servant? We haven't any servant."

"Some other man, then?"

"No men come to see us."

"But excuse me, excuse me.... I saw the cuff of a man's coat or
jacket. And, besides, this cap...."

"Men never, never come to see us," Emilie repeated emphatically. "What
did you see? You saw nothing! And that cap is mine."

"How is that?"

"Why, just that. I wear it for dressing up.... Yes, it is mine, _und

"Who brought you the bundle, then?"

Emilie made no answer and, pouting, followed Madame Fritsche out of
the room. Ten minutes later she came back alone, without her aunt and
when Kuzma Vassilyevitch tried to question her again, she gazed at his
forehead, said that it was disgraceful for a gentleman to be so
inquisitive (as she said this, her face changed a little, as it were,
darkened), and taking a pack of old cards from the card table drawer,
asked him to tell fortunes for her and the king of hearts.

Kuzma Vassilyevitch laughed, took the cards, and all evil thoughts
immediately slipped out of his mind.

But they came back to him that very day. When he had got out of the
gate into the street, had said good-bye to Emilie, shouted to her for
the last time, _"Adieu, ZuckerpŁppchen!"_ a short man darted by
him and turning for a minute in his direction (it was past midnight
but the moon was shining rather brightly), displayed a lean gipsy face
with thick black eyebrows and moustache, black eyes and a hooked nose.
The man at once rushed round the corner and it struck Kuzma
Vassilyevitch that he recognised--not his face, for he had never seen
it before--but the cuff of his sleeve. Three silver buttons gleamed
distinctly in the moonlight. There was a stir of uneasy perplexity in
the soul of the prudent lieutenant; when he got home he did not light
as usual his meerschaum pipe. Though, indeed, his sudden acquaintance
with charming Emilie and the agreeable hours spent in her company
would alone have induced his agitation.


Whatever Kuzma Vassilyevitch's apprehensions may have been, they were
quickly dissipated and left no trace. He took to visiting the two
ladies from Riga frequently. The susceptible lieutenant was soon on
friendly terms with Emilie. At first he was ashamed of the
acquaintance and concealed his visits; later on he got over being
ashamed and no longer concealed his visits; it ended by his being more
eager to spend his time with his new friends than with anyone and
greatly preferring their society to the cheerless solitude of his own
four walls. Madame Fritsche herself no longer made the same unpleasant
impression upon him, though she still treated him morosely and
ungraciously. Persons in straitened circumstances like Madame Fritsche
particularly appreciate a liberal expenditure in their visitors, and
Kuzma Vassilyevitch was a little stingy and his presents for the most
part took the shape of raisins, walnuts, cakes.... Only once he let
himself go and presented Emilie with a light pink fichu of real French
material, and that very day she had burnt a hole in his gift with a
candle. He began to upbraid her; she fixed the fichu to the cat's
tail; he was angry; she laughed in his face. Kuzma Vassilyevitch was
forced at last to admit to himself that he had not only failed to win
the respect of the ladies from Riga, but had even failed to gain their
confidence: he was never admitted at once, without preliminary
scrutinising; he was often kept waiting; sometimes he was sent away
without the slightest ceremony and when they wanted to conceal
something from him they would converse in German in his presence.
Emilie gave him no account of her doings and replied to his questions
in an offhand way as though she had not heard them; and, worst of all,
some of the rooms in Madame Fritsche's house, which was a fairly large
one, though it looked like a hovel from the street, were never opened
to him. For all that, Kuzma Vassilyevitch did not give up his visits;
on the contrary, he paid them more and more frequently: he was seeing
living people, anyway. His vanity was gratified by Emilie's continuing
to call him Florestan, considering him exceptionally handsome and
declaring that he had eyes like a bird of paradise, "_wie die Augen
eines Paradiesvogels!_"


One day in the very height of summer, Kuzma Vassilyevitch, who had
spent the whole morning in the sun with contractors and workmen,
dragged himself tired and exhausted to the little gate that had become
so familiar to him. He knocked and was admitted. He shambled into the
so-called drawing-room and immediately lay down on the sofa. Emilie
went up to him and mopped his wet brow with a handkerchief.

"How tired he is, poor pet! How hot he is!" she said commiseratingly.
"Good gracious! You might at least unbutton your collar. My goodness,
how your throat is pulsing!"

"I am done up, my dear," groaned Kuzma Vassilyevitch. "I've been on my
feet all the morning, in the baking sun. It's awful! I meant to go
home. But there those vipers, the contractors, would find me! While
here with you it is cool.... I believe I could have a nap."

"Well, why not? Go to sleep, my little chick; no one will disturb you
here." ...

"But I am really ashamed."

"What next! Why ashamed? Go to sleep. And I'll sing you ... what do you
call it? ... I'll sing you to bye-bye, _'Schlaf, mein Kindchen,
Schlafe!'_" She began singing.

"I should like a drink of water first."

"Here is a glass of water for you. Fresh as crystal! Wait, I'll put a
pillow under your head.... And here is this to keep the flies off."

She covered his face with a handkerchief.

"Thank you, my little cupid.... I'll just have a tiny doze ... that's

Kuzma Vassilyevitch closed his eyes and fell asleep immediately.

"_Schlaf, mein Kindchen, schlafe_," sang Emilie, swaying from
side to side and softly laughing at her song and her movements.

"What a big baby I have got!" she thought. "A boy!"


An hour and a half later the lieutenant awoke. He fancied in his sleep
that someone touched him, bent over him, breathed over him. He
fumbled, and pulled off the kerchief. Emilie was on her knees close
beside him; the expression of her face struck him as queer. She jumped
up at once, walked away to the window and put something away in her

Kuzma Vassilyevitch stretched.

"I've had a good long snooze, it seems!" he observed, yawning. "Come
here, _meine zŁsse Fršulein_!"

Emilie went up to him. He sat up quickly, thrust his hand into her
pocket and took out a small pair of scissors.

"_Ach, Herr Je_!" Emilie could not help exclaiming.

"It's ... it's a pair of scissors?" muttered Kuzma Vassilyevitch.

"Why, of course. What did you think it was ... a pistol? Oh, how funny
you look! You're as rumpled as a pillow and your hair is all standing
up at the back.... And he doesn't laugh.... Oh, oh! And his eyes are
puffy.... Oh!"

Emilie went off into a giggle.

"Come, that's enough," muttered Kuzma Vassilyevitch, and he got up
from the sofa. "That's enough giggling about nothing. If you can't
think of anything more sensible, I'll go home.... I'll go home," he
repeated, seeing that she was still laughing.

Emilie subsided.

"Come, stay; I won't.... Only you must brush your hair."

"No, never mind.... Don't trouble. I'd better go," said Kuzma
Vassilyevitch, and he took up his cap.

Emilie pouted.

"Fie, how cross he is! A regular Russian! All Russians are cross. Now
he is going. Fie! Yesterday he promised me five roubles and today he
gives me nothing and goes away."

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest