Part 2 out of 4
contented after three months of bivouac life. His newly washed
face was fresh and his powerful body clean (an unaccustomed
sensation after the campaign) and in all his rested limbs he was
conscious of a feeling of tranquillity and strength. His mind,
too, felt fresh and clear. He thought of the campaign and of past
dangers. He remembered that he had faced them no worse than other
men, and that he was accepted as a comrade among valiant
Caucasians. His Moscow recollections were left behind Heaven knows
how far! The old life was wiped out and a quite new life had begun
in which there were as yet no mistakes. Here as a new man among
new men he could gain a new and good reputation. He was conscious
of a youthful and unreasoning joy of life. Looking now out of the
window at the boys spinning their tops in the shadow of the house,
now round his neat new lodging, he thought how pleasantly he would
settle down to this new Cossack village life. Now and then he
glanced at the mountains and the blue sky, and an appreciation of
the solemn grandeur of nature mingled with his reminiscences and
dreams. His new life had begun, not as he imagined it would when
he left Moscow, but unexpectedly well. 'The mountains, the
mountains, the mountains!' they permeated all his thoughts and
'He's kissed his dog and licked the jug! ... Daddy Eroshka has
kissed his dog!' suddenly the little Cossacks who had been
spinning their tops under the window shouted, looking towards the
side street. 'He's drunk his bitch, and his dagger!' shouted the
boys, crowding together and stepping backwards.
These shouts were addressed to Daddy Eroshka, who with his gun on
his shoulder and some pheasants hanging at his girdle was
returning from his shooting expedition.
'I have done wrong, lads, I have!' he said, vigorously swinging
his arms and looking up at the windows on both sides of the
street. 'I have drunk the bitch; it was wrong,' he repeated,
evidently vexed but pretending not to care.
Olenin was surprised by the boys' behavior towards the old hunter,
but was still more struck by the expressive, intelligent face and
the powerful build of the man whom they called Daddy Eroshka.
'Here Daddy, here Cossack!' he called. 'Come here!'
The old man looked into the window and stopped.
'Good evening, good man,' he said, lifting his little cap off his
'Good evening, good man,' replied Olenin. 'What is it the
youngsters are shouting at you?'
Daddy Eroshka came up to the window. 'Why, they're teasing the old
man. No matter, I like it. Let them joke about their old daddy,'
he said with those firm musical intonations with which old and
venerable people speak. 'Are you an army commander?' he added.
'No, I am a cadet. But where did you kill those pheasants?' asked
'I dispatched these three hens in the forest,' answered the old
man, turning his broad back towards the window to show the hen
pheasants which were hanging with their heads tucked into his belt
and staining his coat with blood. 'Haven't you seen any?' he
asked. 'Take a brace if you like! Here you are,' and he handed two
of the pheasants in at the window. 'Are you a sportsman yourself?'
'I am. During the campaign I killed four myself.'
'Four? What a lot!' said the old man sarcastically. 'And are you a
drinker? Do you drink CHIKHIR?'
'Why not? I like a drink.'
'Ah, I see you are a trump! We shall be KUNAKS, you and I,' said
'Step in,' said Olenin. 'We'll have a drop of CHIKHIR.'
'I might as well,' said the old man, 'but take the pheasants.' The
old man's face showed that he liked the cadet. He had seen at once
that he could get free drinks from him, and that therefore it
would be all right to give him a brace of pheasants.
Soon Daddy Eroshka's figure appeared in the doorway of the hut,
and it was only then that Olenin became fully conscious of the
enormous size and sturdy build of this man, whose red-brown face
with its perfectly white broad beard was all furrowed by deep
lines produced by age and toil. For an old man, the muscles of his
legs, arms, and shoulders were quite exceptionally large and
prominent. There were deep scars on his head under the short-
cropped hair. His thick sinewy neck was covered with deep
intersecting folds like a bull's. His horny hands were bruised and
scratched. He stepped lightly and easily over the threshold,
unslung his gun and placed it in a corner, and casting a rapid
glance round the room noted the value of the goods and chattels
deposited in the hut, and with out-turned toes stepped softly, in
his sandals of raw hide, into the middle of the room. He brought
with him a penetrating but not unpleasant smell of CHIKHIR wine,
vodka, gunpowder, and congealed blood.
Daddy Eroshka bowed down before the icons, smoothed his beard, and
approaching Olenin held out his thick brown hand. 'Koshkildy,'
said he; That is Tartar for "Good-day"--"Peace be unto you," it
means in their tongue.'
'Koshkildy, I know,' answered Olenin, shaking hands.
'Eh, but you don't, you won't know the right order! Fool!' said
Daddy Eroshka, shaking his head reproachfully. 'If anyone says
"Koshkildy" to you, you must say "Allah rasi bo sun," that is,
"God save you." That's the way, my dear fellow, and not
"Koshkildy." But I'll teach you all about it. We had a fellow
here, Elias Mosevich, one of your Russians, he and I were kunaks.
He was a trump, a drunkard, a thief, a sportsman--and what a
sportsman! I taught him everything.'
'And what will you teach me?' asked Olenin, who was becoming more
and more interested in the old man.
'I'll take you hunting and teach you to fish. I'll show you
Chechens and find a girl for you, if you like--even that! That's
the sort I am! I'm a wag!'--and the old man laughed. 'I'll sit
down. I'm tired. Karga?' he added inquiringly.
'And what does "Karga" mean?' asked Olenin.
'Why, that means "All right" in Georgian. But I say it just so. It
is a way I have, it's my favourite word. Karga, Karga. I say it
just so; in fun I mean. Well, lad, won't you order the chikhir?
You've got an orderly, haven't you? Hey, Ivan!' shouted the old
man. 'All your soldiers are Ivans. Is yours Ivan?'
'True enough, his name is Ivan--Vanyusha. Here Vanyusha! Please
get some chikhir from our landlady and bring it here.'
'Ivan or Vanyusha, that's all one. Why are all your soldiers
Ivans? Ivan, old fellow,' said the old man, 'you tell them to give
you some from the barrel they have begun. They have the best
chikhir in the village. But don't give more than thirty kopeks for
the quart, mind, because that witch would be only too glad.... Our
people are anathema people; stupid people,' Daddy Eroshka
continued in a confidential tone after Vanyusha had gone out.
'They do not look upon you as on men, you are worse than a Tartar
in their eyes. "Worldly Russians" they say. But as for me, though
you are a soldier you are still a man, and have a soul in you.
Isn't that right? Elias Mosevich was a soldier, yet what a
treasure of a man he was! Isn't that so, my dear fellow? That's
why our people don't like me; but I don't care! I'm a merry
fellow, and I like everybody. I'm Eroshka; yes, my dear fellow.'
And the old Cossack patted the young man affectionately on the
Vanyusha, who meanwhile had finished his housekeeping arrangements
and had even been shaved by the company's barber and had pulled
his trousers out of his high boots as a sign that the company was
stationed in comfortable quarters, was in excellent spirits. He
looked attentively but not benevolently at Eroshka, as at a wild
beast he had never seen before, shook his head at the floor which
the old man had dirtied and, having taken two bottles from under a
bench, went to the landlady.
'Good evening, kind people,' he said, having made up his mind to
be very gentle. 'My master has sent me to get some chikhir. Will
you draw some for me, good folk?'
The old woman gave no answer. The girl, who was arranging the
kerchief on her head before a little Tartar mirror, looked round
at Vanyusha in silence.
'I'll pay money for it, honoured people,' said Vanyusha, jingling
the coppers in his pocket. 'Be kind to us and we, too will be kind
to you,' he added.
'How much?' asked the old woman abruptly. 'A quart.'
'Go, my own, draw some for them,' said Granny Ulitka to her
daughter. 'Take it from the cask that's begun, my precious.'
The girl took the keys and a decanter and went out of the hut with
'Tell me, who is that young woman?' asked Olenin, pointing to
Maryanka, who was passing the window. The old man winked and
nudged the young man with his elbow.
'Wait a bit,' said he and reached out of the window. 'Khm,' he
coughed, and bellowed, 'Maryanka dear. Hallo, Maryanka, my girlie,
won't you love me, darling? I'm a wag,' he added in a whisper to
Olenin. The girl, not turning her head and swinging her arms
regularly and vigorously, passed the window with the peculiarly
smart and bold gait of a Cossack woman and only turned her dark
shaded eyes slowly towards the old man.
'Love me and you'll be happy,' shouted Eroshka, winking, and he
looked questioningly at the cadet.
'I'm a fine fellow, I'm a wag!' he added. 'She's a regular queen,
that girl. Eh?'
'She is lovely,' said Olenin. 'Call her here!'
'No, no,' said the old man. 'For that one a match is being
arranged with Lukashka, Luke, a fine Cossack, a brave, who killed
an abrek the other day. I'll find you a better one. I'll find you
one that will be all dressed up in silk and silver. Once I've said
it I'll do it. I'll get you a regular beauty!'
'You, an old man--and say such things,' replied Olenin. 'Why, it's
'A sin? Where's the sin?' said the old man emphatically. 'A sin to
look at a nice girl? A sin to have some fun with her? Or is it a
sin to love her? Is that so in your parts? ... No, my dear fellow,
it's not a sin, it's salvation! God made you and God made the girl
too. He made it all; so it is no sin to look at a nice girl.
That's what she was made for; to be loved and to give joy. That's
how I judge it, my good fellow.'
Having crossed the yard and entered a cool dark storeroom filled
with barrels, Maryanka went up to one of them and repeating the
usual prayer plunged a dipper into it. Vanyusha standing in the
doorway smiled as he looked at her. He thought it very funny that
she had only a smock on, close-fitting behind and tucked up in
front, and still funnier that she wore a necklace of silver coins.
He thought this quite un-Russian and that they would all laugh in
the serfs' quarters at home if they saw a girl like that. 'La
fille comme c'est tres bien, for a change,' he thought. 'I'll tell
that to my master.'
'What are you standing in the light for, you devil!' the girl
suddenly shouted. 'Why don't you pass me the decanter!'
Having filled the decanter with cool red wine, Maryanka handed it
'Give the money to Mother,' she said, pushing away the hand in
which he held the money.
'Why are you so cross, little dear?' he said good-naturedly,
irresolutely shuffling with his feet while the girl was covering
She began to laugh.
'And you! Are you kind?'
'We, my master and I, are very kind,' Vanyusha answered decidedly.
'We are so kind that wherever we have stayed our hosts were always
very grateful. It's because he's generous.'
The girl stood listening.
'And is your master married?' she asked.
'No. The master is young and unmarried, because noble gentlemen
can never marry young,' said Vanyusha didactically.
'A likely thing! See what a fed-up buffalo he is--and too young to
marry! Is he the chief of you all?' she asked.
'My master is a cadet; that means he's not yet an officer, but
he's more important than a general--he's an important man! Because
not only our colonel, but the Tsar himself, knows him,' proudly
explained Vanyusha. 'We are not like those other beggars in the
line regiment, and our papa himself was a Senator. He had more
than a thousand serfs, all his own, and they send us a thousand
rubles at a time. That's why everyone likes us. Another may be a
captain but have no money. What's the use of that?'
'Go away. I'll lock up,' said the girl, interrupting him.
Vanyusha brought Olenin the wine and announced that 'La fille
c'est tres joulie,' and, laughing stupidly, at once went out.
Meanwhile the tattoo had sounded in the village square. The people
had returned from their work. The herd lowed as in clouds of
golden dust it crowded at the village gate. The girls and the
women hurried through the streets and yards, turning in their
cattle. The sun had quite hidden itself behind the distant snowy
peaks. One pale bluish shadow spread over land and sky. Above the
darkened gardens stars just discernible were kindling, and the
sounds were gradually hushed in the village. The cattle having
been attended to and left for the night, the women came out and
gathered at the corners of the streets and, cracking sunflower
seeds with their teeth, settled down on the earthen embankments of
the houses. Later on Maryanka, having finished milking the buffalo
and the other two cows, also joined one of these groups.
The group consisted of several women and girls and one old Cossack
They were talking about the abrek who had been killed.
The Cossack was narrating and the women questioning him.
'I expect he'll get a handsome reward,' said one of the women.
'Of course. It's said that they'll send him a cross.'
'Mosev did try to wrong him. Took the gun away from him, but the
authorities at Kizlyar heard of it.'
'A mean creature that Mosev is!'
'They say Lukashka has come home,' remarked one of the girls.
'He and Nazarka are merry-making at Yamka's.' (Yamka was an
unmarried, disreputable Cossack woman who kept an illicit pot-
house.) 'I heard say they had drunk half a pailful.'
'What luck that Snatcher has,' somebody remarked. 'A real
snatcher. But there's no denying he's a fine lad, smart enough for
anything, a right-minded lad! His father was just such another.
Daddy Kiryak was: he takes after his father. When he was killed
the whole village howled. Look, there they are,' added the
speaker, pointing to the Cossacks who were coming down the street
'And Ergushov has managed to come along with them too! The
Lukashka, Nazarka, and Ergushov, having emptied half a pail of
vodka, were coming towards the girls. The faces of all three, but
especially that of the old Cossack, were redder than usual.
Ergushov was reeling and kept laughing and nudging Nazarka in the
'Why are you not singing?' he shouted to the girls. 'Sing to our
merry-making, I tell you!'
They were welcomed with the words, 'Had a good day? Had a good
'Why sing? It's not a holiday,' said one of the women. 'You're
tight, so you go and sing.'
Ergushov roared with laughter and nudged Nazarka. 'You'd better
sing. And I'll begin too. I'm clever, I tell you.'
'Are you asleep, fair ones?' said Nazarka. 'We've come from the
cordon to drink your health. We've already drunk Lukashka's
Lukashka, when he reached the group, slowly raised his cap and
stopped in front of the girls. His broad cheekbones and neck were
red. He stood and spoke softly and sedately, but in his
tranquillity and sedateness there was more of animation and
strength than in all Nazarka's loquacity and bustle. He reminded
one of a playful colt that with a snort and a flourish of its tail
suddenly stops short and stands as though nailed to the ground
with all four feet. Lukashka stood quietly in front of the girls,
his eyes laughed, and he spoke but little as he glanced now at his
drunken companions and now at the girls. When Maryanka joined the
group he raised his cap with a firm deliberate movement, moved out
of her way and then stepped in front of her with one foot a little
forward and with his thumbs in his belt, fingering his dagger.
Maryanka answered his greeting with a leisurely bow of her head,
settled down on the earth-bank, and took some seeds out of the
bosom of her smock. Lukashka, keeping his eyes fixed on Maryanka,
slowly cracked seeds and spat out the shells. All were quiet when
Maryanka joined the group.
'Have you come for long?' asked a woman, breaking the silence.
'Till to-morrow morning,' quietly replied Lukashka.
'Well, God grant you get something good,' said the Cossack; 'I'm
glad of it, as I've just been saying.'
'And I say so too,' put in the tipsy Ergushov, laughing. 'What a
lot of visitors have come,' he added, pointing to a soldier who
was passing by. 'The soldiers' vodka is good--I like it.'
'They've sent three of the devils to us,' said one of the women.
'Grandad went to the village Elders, but they say nothing can be
'Ah, ha! Have you met with trouble?' said Ergushov.
'I expect they have smoked you out with their tobacco?' asked
another woman. 'Smoke as much as you like in the yard, I say, but
we won't allow it inside the hut. Not if the Elder himself comes,
I won't allow it. Besides, they may rob you. He's not quartered
any of them on himself, no fear, that devil's son of an Elder.'
'You don't like it?' Ergushov began again.
'And I've also heard say that the girls will have to make the
soldiers' beds and offer them chikhir and honey,' said Nazarka,
putting one foot forward and tilting his cap like Lukashka.
Ergushov burst into a roar of laughter, and seizing the girl
nearest to him, he embraced her. 'I tell you true.'
'Now then, you black pitch!' squealed the girl, 'I'll tell your
'Tell her,' shouted he. 'That's quite right what Nazarka says; a
circular has been sent round. He can read, you know. Quite true!'
And he began embracing the next girl.
'What are you up to, you beast?' squealed the rosy, round-faced
Ustenka, laughing and lifting her arm to hit him.
The Cossack stepped aside and nearly fell.
'There, they say girls have no strength, and you nearly killed
'Get away, you black pitch, what devil has brought you from the
cordon?' said Ustenka, and turning away from him she again burst
out laughing. 'You were asleep and missed the abrek, didn't you?
Suppose he had done for you it would have been all the better.'
'You'd have howled, I expect,' said Nazarka, laughing.
'Howled! A likely thing.'
'Just look, she doesn't care. She'd howl, Nazarka, eh? Would she?'
Lukishka all this time had stood silently looking at Maryanka. His
gaze evidently confused the girl.
'Well, Maryanka! I hear they've quartered one of the chiefs on
you?' he said, drawing nearer.
Maryanka, as was her wont, waited before she replied, and slowly
raising her eyes looked at the Cossack. Lukashka's eyes were
laughing as if something special, apart from what was said, was
taking place between himself and the girl.
'Yes, it's all right for them as they have two huts,' replied an
old woman on Maryanka's behalf, 'but at Fomushkin's now they also
have one of the chiefs quartered on them and they say one whole
corner is packed full with his things, and the family have no room
left. Was such a thing ever heard of as that they should turn a
whole horde loose in the village?' she said. 'And what the plague
are they going to do here?'
'I've heard say they'll build a bridge across the Terek,' said one
of the girls.
'And I've been told that they will dig a pit to put the girls in
because they don't love the lads,' said Nazarka, approaching
Ustenka; and he again made a whimsical gesture which set everybody
laughing, and Ergushov, passing by Maryanka, who was next in turn,
began to embrace an old woman.
'Why don't you hug Maryanka? You should do it to each in turn,'
'No, my old one is sweeter,' shouted the Cossack, kissing the
struggling old woman.
'You'll throttle me,' she screamed, laughing.
The tramp of regular footsteps at the other end of the street
interrupted their laughter. Three soldiers in their cloaks, with
their muskets on their shoulders, were marching in step to relieve
guard by the ammunition wagon.
The corporal, an old cavalry man, looked angrily at the Cossacks
and led his men straight along the road where Lukashka and Nazarka
were standing, so that they should have to get out of the way.
Nazarka moved, but Lukashka only screwed up his eyes and turned
his broad back without moving from his place.
'People are standing here, so you go round,' he muttered, half
turning his head and tossing it contemptuously in the direction of
The soldiers passed by in silence, keeping step regularly along
the dusty road.
Maryanka began laughing and all the other girls chimed in.
'What swells!' said Nazarka, 'Just like long-skirted choristers,'
and he walked a few steps down the road imitating the soldiers.
Again everyone broke into peals of laughter.
Lukashka came slowly up to Maryanka.
'And where have you put up the chief?' he asked.
Maryanka thought for a moment.
'We've let him have the new hut,' she said.
'And is he old or young,' asked Lukashka, sitting down beside her.
'Do you think I've asked?' answered the girl. 'I went to get him
some chikhir and saw him sitting at the window with Daddy Eroshka.
Red-headed he seemed. They've brought a whole cartload of things.'
And she dropped her eyes.
'Oh, how glad I am that I got leave from the cordon!' said
Lukashka, moving closer to the girl and looking straight in her
eyes all the time.
'And have you come for long?' asked Maryanka, smiling slightly.
'Till the morning. Give me some sunflower seeds,' he said, holding
out his hand.
Maryanka now smiled outright and unfastened the neckband of her
'Don't take them all,' she said.
'Really I felt so dull all the time without you, I swear I did,'
he said in a calm, restrained whisper, helping himself to some
seeds out of the bosom of the girl's smock, and stooping still
closer over her he continued with laughing eyes to talk to her in
'I won't come, I tell you,' Maryanka suddenly said aloud, leaning
away from him.
'No really ... what I wanted to say to you, ...' whispered Lukashka.
'By the Heavens! Do come!'
Maryanka shook her head, but did so with a smile.
'Nursey Maryanka! Hallo Nursey! Mammy is calling! Supper time!'
shouted Maryanka's little brother, running towards the group.
'I'm coming,' replied the girl. 'Go, my dear, go alone--I'll come
in a minute.'
Lukashka rose and raised his cap.
'I expect I had better go home too, that will be best,' he said,
trying to appear unconcerned but hardly able to repress a smile,
and he disappeared behind the corner of the house.
Meanwhile night had entirely enveloped the village. Bright stars
were scattered over the dark sky. The streets became dark and
empty. Nazarka remained with the women on the earth-bank and their
laughter was still heard, but Lukashka, having slowly moved away
from the girls, crouched down like a cat and then suddenly started
running lightly, holding his dagger to steady it: not homeward,
however, but towards the cornet's house. Having passed two streets
he turned into a lane and lifting the skirt of his coat sat down
on the ground in the shadow of a fence. 'A regular cornet's
daughter!' he thought about Maryanka. 'Won't even have a lark--the
devil! But just wait a bit.'
The approaching footsteps of a woman attracted his attention. He
began listening, and laughed all by himself. Maryanka with bowed
head, striking the pales of the fences with a switch, was walking
with rapid regular strides straight towards him. Lukashka rose.
Maryanka started and stopped.
'What an accursed devil! You frightened me! So you have not gone
home?' she said, and laughed aloud.
Lukashka put one arm round her and with the other hand raised her
face. 'What I wanted to tell you, by Heaven!' his voice trembled
'What are you talking of, at night time!' answered Maryanka.
'Mother is waiting for me, and you'd better go to your
And freeing herself from his arms she ran away a few steps. When
she had reached the wattle fence of her home she stopped and
turned to the Cossack who was running beside her and still trying
to persuade her to stay a while with him.
'Well, what do you want to say, midnight-gadabout?' and she again
'Don't laugh at me, Maryanka! By the Heaven! Well, what if I have
a sweetheart? May the devil take her! Only say the word and now
I'll love you--I'll do anything you wish. Here they are!' and he
jingled the money in his pocket. 'Now we can live splendidly.
Others have pleasures, and I? I get no pleasure from you, Maryanka
The girl did not answer. She stood before him breaking her switch
into little bits with a rapid movement other fingers.
Lukashka suddenly clenched his teeth and fists.
'And why keep waiting and waiting? Don't I love you, darling? You
can do what you like with me,' said he suddenly, frowning angrily
and seizing both her hands.
The calm expression of Maryanka's face and voice did not change.
'Don't bluster, Lukashka, but listen to me,' she answered, not
pulling away her hands but holding the Cossack at arm's length.
'It's true I am a girl, but you listen to me! It does not depend
on me, but if you love me I'll tell you this. Let go my hands,
I'll tell you without.--I'll marry you, but you'll never get any
nonsense from me,' said Maryanka without turning her face.
'What, you'll marry me? Marriage does not depend on us. Love me
yourself, Maryanka dear,' said Lukashka, from sullen and furious
becoming again gentle, submissive, and tender, and smiling as he
looked closely into her eyes.
Maryanka clung to him and kissed him firmly on the lips.
'Brother dear!' she whispered, pressing him convulsively to her.
Then, suddenly tearing herself away, she ran into the gate of her
house without looking round.
In spite of the Cossack's entreaties to wait another minute to
hear what he had to say, Maryanka did not stop.
'Go,' she cried, 'you'll be seen! I do believe that devil, our
lodger, is walking about the yard.'
'Cornet's daughter,' thought Lukashka. 'She will marry me.
Marriage is all very well, but you just love me!'
He found Nazarka at Yamka's house, and after having a spree with
him went to Dunayka's house, where, in spite of her not being
faithful to him, he spent the night.
It was quite true that Olenin had been walking about the yard when
Maryanka entered the gate, and had heard her say, 'That devil, our
lodger, is walking about.' He had spent that evening with Daddy
Eroshka in the porch of his new lodging. He had had a table, a
samovar, wine, and a candle brought out, and over a cup of tea and
a cigar he listened to the tales the old man told seated on the
threshold at his feet. Though the air was still, the candle
dripped and flickered: now lighting up the post of the porch, now
the table and crockery, now the cropped white head of the old man.
Moths circled round the flame and, shedding the dust of their
wings, fluttered on the table and in the glasses, flew into the
candle flame, and disappeared in the black space beyond. Olenin
and Eroshka had emptied five bottles of chikhir. Eroshka filled
the glasses every time, offering one to Olenin, drinking his
health, and talking untiringly. He told of Cossack life in the old
days: of his rather, 'The Broad', who alone had carried on his
back a boar's carcass weighing three hundredweight, and drank two
pails of chikhir at one sitting. He told of his own days and his
chum Girchik, with whom during the plague he used to smuggle felt
cloaks across the Terek. He told how one morning he had killed two
deer, and about his 'little soul' who used to run to him at the
cordon at night. He told all this so eloquently and picturesquely
that Olenin did not notice how time passed. 'Ah yes, my dear
fellow, you did not know me in my golden days; then I'd have shown
you things. Today it's "Eroshka licks the jug", but then Eroshka
was famous in the whole regiment. Whose was the finest horse? Who
had a Gurda sword? To whom should one go to get a drink? With whom
go on the spree? Who should be sent to the mountains to kill Ahmet
Khan? Why, always Eroshka! Whom did the girls love? Always Eroshka
had to answer for it. Because I was a real brave: a drinker, a
thief (I used to seize herds of horses in the mountains), a
singer; I was a master of every art! There are no Cossacks like
that nowadays. It's disgusting to look at them. When they're that
high [Eroshka held his hand three feet from the ground] they put
on idiotic boots and keep looking at them--that's all the pleasure
they know. Or they'll drink themselves foolish, not like men but
all wrong. And who was I? I was Eroshka, the thief; they knew me
not only in this village but up in the mountains. Tartar princes,
my kunaks, used to come to see me! I used to be everybody's kunak.
If he was a Tartar--with a Tartar; an Armenian--with an Armenian;
a soldier--with a soldier; an officer--with an officer! I didn't
care as long as he was a drinker. He says you should cleanse
yourself from intercourse with the world, not drink with soldiers,
not eat with a Tartar.'
'Who says all that?' asked Olenin.
'Why, our teacher! But listen to a Mullah or a Tartar Cadi. He
says, "You unbelieving Giaours, why do you eat pig?" That shows
that everyone has his own law. But I think it's all one. God has
made everything for the joy of man. There is no sin in any of it.
Take example from an animal. It lives in the Tartar's reeds or in
ours. Wherever it happens to go, there is its home! Whatever God
gives it, that it eats! But our people say we have to lick red-hot
plates in hell for that. And I think it's all a fraud,' he added
after a pause.
'What is a fraud?' asked Olenin.
'Why, what the preachers say. We had an army captain in Chervlena
who was my kunak: a fine fellow just like me. He was killed in
Chechnya. Well, he used to say that the preachers invent all that
out of their own heads. "When you die the grass will grow on your
grave and that's all!"' The old man laughed. 'He was a desperate
'And how old are you?' asked Olenin.
'The Lord only knows! I must be about seventy. When a Tsaritsa
reigned in Russia I was no longer very small. So you can reckon it
out. I must be seventy.'
'Yes you must, but you are still a fine fellow.'
'Well, thank Heaven I am healthy, quite healthy, except that a
woman, a witch, has harmed me....'
'Oh, just harmed me.'
'And so when you die the grass will grow?' repeated Olenin.
Eroshka evidently did not wish to express his thought clearly. He
was silent for a while.
'And what did you think? Drink!' he shouted suddenly, smiling and
handing Olenin some wine.
'Well, what was I saying?' he continued, trying to remember. 'Yes,
that's the sort of man I am. I am a hunter. There is no hunter to
equal me in the whole army. I will find and show you any animal
and any bird, and what and where. I know it all! I have dogs, and
two guns, and nets, and a screen and a hawk. I have everything,
thank the Lord! If you are not bragging but are a real sportsman,
I'll show you everything. Do you know what a man I am? When I have
found a track--I know the animal. I know where he will lie down
and where he'll drink or wallow. I make myself a perch and sit
there all night watching. What's the good of staying at home? One
only gets into mischief, gets drunk. And here women come and
chatter, and boys shout at me--enough to drive one mad. It's a
different matter when you go out at nightfall, choose yourself a
place, press down the reeds and sit there and stay waiting, like a
jolly fellow. One knows everything that goes on in the woods. One
looks up at the sky: the stars move, you look at them and find out
from them how the time goes. One looks round--the wood is
rustling; one goes on waiting, now there comes a crackling--a boar
comes to rub himself; one listens to hear the young eaglets
screech and then the cocks give voice in the village, or the
geese. When you hear the geese you know it is not yet midnight.
And I know all about it! Or when a gun is fired somewhere far
away, thoughts come to me. One thinks, who is that firing? Is it
another Cossack like myself who has been watching for some animal?
And has he killed it? Or only wounded it so that now the poor
thing goes through the reeds smearing them with its blood all for
nothing? I don't like that! Oh, how I dislike it! Why injure a
beast? You fool, you fool! Or one thinks, "Maybe an abrek has
killed some silly little Cossack." All this passes through one's
mind. And once as I sat watching by the river I saw a cradle
floating down. It was sound except for one corner which was broken
off. Thoughts did come that time! I thought some of your soldiers,
the devils, must have got into a Tartar village and seized the
Chechen women, and one of the devils has killed the little one:
taken it by its legs, and hit its head against a wall. Don't they
do such things? Ah! Men have no souls! And thoughts came to me
that filled me with pity. I thought: they've thrown away the
cradle and driven the wife out, and her brave has taken his gun
and come across to our side to rob us. One watches and thinks. And
when one hears a litter breaking through the thicket, something
begins to knock inside one. Dear one, come this way! "They'll
scent me," one thinks; and one sits and does not stir while one's
heart goes dun! dun! dun! and simply lifts you. Once this spring a
fine litter came near me, I saw something black. "In the name of
the Father and of the Son," and I was just about to fire when she
grunts to her pigs: "Danger, children," she says, "there's a man
here," and off they all ran, breaking through the bushes. And she
had been so close I could almost have bitten her.'
'How could a sow tell her brood that a man was there?' asked
'What do you think? You think the beast's a fool? No, he is wiser
than a man though you do call him a pig! He knows everything. Take
this for instance. A man will pass along your track and not notice
it; but a pig as soon as it gets onto your track turns and runs at
once: that shows there is wisdom in him, since he scents your
smell and you don't. And there is this to be said too: you wish to
kill it and it wishes to go about the woods alive. You have one
law and it has another. It is a pig, but it is no worse than you--
it too is God's creature. Ah, dear! Man is foolish, foolish,
foolish!' The old man repeated this several times and then,
letting his head drop, he sat thinking.
Olenin also became thoughtful, and descending from the porch with
his hands behind his back began pacing up and down the yard.
Eroshka, rousing himself, raised his head and began gazing
intently at the moths circling round the flickering flame of the
candle and burning themselves in it.
'Fool, fool!' he said. 'Where are you flying to? Fool, fool!' He
rose and with his thick fingers began to drive away the moths.
'You'll burn, little fool! Fly this way, there's plenty of room.'
He spoke tenderly, trying to catch them delicately by their wings
with his thick ringers and then letting them fly again. 'You are
killing yourself and I am sorry for you!'
He sat a long time chattering and sipping out of the bottle.
Olenin paced up and down the yard. Suddenly he was struck by the
sound of whispering outside the gate. Involuntarily holding his
breath, he heard a woman's laughter, a man's voice, and the sound
of a kiss. Intentionally rustling the grass under his feet he
crossed to the opposite side of the yard, but after a while the
wattle fence creaked. A Cossack in a dark Circassian coat and a
white sheepskin cap passed along the other side of the fence (it
was Luke), and a tall woman with a white kerchief on her head went
past Olenin. 'You and I have nothing to do with one another' was
what Maryanka's firm step gave him to understand. He followed her
with his eyes to the porch of the hut, and he even saw her through
the window take off her kerchief and sit down. And suddenly a
feeling of lonely depression and some vague longings and hopes,
and envy of someone or other, overcame the young man's soul.
The last lights had been put out in the huts. The last sounds had
died away in the village. The wattle fences and the cattle
gleaming white in the yards, the roofs of the houses and the
stately poplars, all seemed to be sleeping the labourers' healthy
peaceful sleep. Only the incessant ringing voices of frogs from
the damp distance reached the young man. In the east the stars
were growing fewer and fewer and seemed to be melting in the
increasing light, but overhead they were denser and deeper than
before. The old man was dozing with his head on his hand. A cock
crowed in the yard opposite, but Olenin still paced up and down
thinking of something. The sound of a song sung by several voices
reached him and he stepped up to the fence and listened. The
voices of several young Cossacks carolled a merry song, and one
voice was distinguishable among them all by its firm strength.
'Do you know who is singing there?' said the old man, rousing
himself. 'It is the Brave, Lukashka. He has killed a Chechen and
now he rejoices. And what is there to rejoice at? ... The fool,
'And have you ever killed people?' asked Olenin.
'You devil!' shouted the old man. 'What are you asking? One must
not talk so. It is a serious thing to destroy a human being ...
Ah, a very serious thing! Good-bye, my dear fellow. I've eaten my
fill and am drunk,' he said rising. 'Shall I come to-morrow to go
'Mind, get up early; if you oversleep you will be fined!'
'Never fear, I'll be up before you,' answered Olenin.
The old man left. The song ceased, but one could hear footsteps
and merry talk. A little later the singing broke out again but
farther away, and Eroshka's loud voice chimed in with the other.
'What people, what a life!' thought Olenin with a sigh as he
returned alone to his hut.
Daddy Eroshka was a superannuated and solitary Cossack: twenty
years ago his wife had gone over to the Orthodox Church and run
away from him and married a Russian sergeant-major, and he had no
children. He was not bragging when he spoke of himself as having
been the boldest dare-devil in the village when he was young.
Everybody in the regiment knew of his old-time prowess. The death
of more than one Russian, as well as Chechen, lay on his
conscience. He used to go plundering in the mountains, and robbed
the Russians too; and he had twice been in prison. The greater
part of his life was spent in the forests, hunting. There he lived
for days on a crust of bread and drank nothing but water. But on
the other hand, when he was in the village he made merry from
morning to night. After leaving Olenin he slept for a couple of
hours and awoke before it was light. He lay on his bed thinking of
the man he had become acquainted with the evening before. Olenin's
'simplicity' (simplicity in the sense of not grudging him a drink)
pleased him very much, and so did Olenin himself. He wondered why
the Russians were all 'simple' and so rich, and why they were
educated, and yet knew nothing. He pondered on these questions and
also considered what he might get out of Olenin.
Daddy Eroshka's hut was of a good size and not old, but the
absence of a woman was very noticeable in it. Contrary to the
usual cleanliness of the Cossacks, the whole of this hut was
filthy and exceedingly untidy. A blood-stained coat had been
thrown on the table, half a dough-cake lay beside a plucked and
mangled crow with which to feed the hawk. Sandals of raw hide, a
gun, a dagger, a little bag, wet clothes, and sundry rags lay
scattered on the benches. In a comer stood a tub with stinking
water, in which another pair of sandals were being steeped, and
near by was a gun and a hunting-screen. On the floor a net had
been thrown down and several dead pheasants lay there, while a hen
tied by its leg was walking about near the table pecking among the
dirt. In the unheated oven stood a broken pot with some kind of
milky liquid. On the top of the oven a falcon was screeching and
trying to break the cord by which it was tied, and a moulting hawk
sat quietly on the edge of the oven, looking askance at the hen
and occasionally bowing its head to right and left. Daddy Eroshka
himself, in his shirt, lay on his back on a short bed rigged up
between the wall and the oven, with his strong legs raised and his
feet on the oven. He was picking with his thick fingers at the
scratches left on his hands by the hawk, which he was accustomed
to carry without wearing gloves. The whole room, especially near
the old man, was filled with that strong but not unpleasant
mixture of smells that he always carried about with him.
'Uyde-ma, Daddy?' (Is Daddy in?) came through the window in a
sharp voice, which he at once recognized as Lukashka's.
'Uyde, Uyde, Uyde. I am in!' shouted the old man. 'Come in,
neighbour Mark, Luke Mark. Come to see Daddy? On your way to the
At the sound of his master's shout the hawk flapped his wings and
pulled at his cord.
The old man was fond of Lukashka, who was the only man he excepted
from his general contempt for the younger generation of Cossacks.
Besides that, Lukashka and his mother, as near neighbours, often
gave the old man wine, clotted cream, and other home produce which
Eroshka did not possess. Daddy Eroshka, who all his life had
allowed himself to get carried away, always explained his
infatuations from a practical point of view. 'Well, why not?' he
used to say to himself. 'I'll give them some fresh meat, or a
bird, and they won't forget Daddy: they'll sometimes bring a cake
or a piece of pie.'
'Good morning. Mark! I am glad to see you,' shouted the old man
cheerfully, and quickly putting down his bare feet he jumped off
his bed and walked a step or two along the creaking floor, looked
down at his out-turned toes, and suddenly, amused by the
appearance of his feet, smiled, stamped with his bare heel on the
ground, stamped again, and then performed a funny dance-step.
'That's clever, eh?' he asked, his small eyes glistening. Lukashka
smiled faintly. 'Going back to the cordon?' asked the old man.
'I have brought the chikhir I promised you when we were at the
'May Christ save you!' said the old man, and he took up the
extremely wide trousers that were lying on the floor, and his
beshmet, put them on, fastened a strap round his waist, poured
some water from an earthenware pot over his hands, wiped them on
the old trousers, smoothed his beard with a bit of comb, and
stopped in front of Lukashka. 'Ready,' he said.
Lukashka fetched a cup, wiped it and filled it with wine, and then
handed it to the old man.
'Your health! To the Father and the Son!' said the old man,
accepting the wine with solemnity. 'May you have what you desire,
may you always be a hero, and obtain a cross.'
Lukashka also drank a little after repeating a prayer, and then
put the wine on the table. The old man rose and brought out some
dried fish which he laid on the threshold, where he beat it with a
stick to make it tender; then, having put it with his horny hands
on a blue plate (his only one), he placed it on the table.
'I have all I want. I have victuals, thank God!' he said proudly.
'Well, and what of Mosev?' he added.
Lukashka, evidently wishing to know the old man's opinion, told
him how the officer had taken the gun from him.
'Never mind the gun,' said the old man. 'If you don't give the gun
you will get no reward.'
'But they say. Daddy, it's little reward a fellow gets when he is
not yet a mounted Cossack; and the gun is a fine one, a Crimean,
worth eighty rubles.'
'Eh, let it go! I had a dispute like that with an officer, he
wanted my horse. "Give it me and you'll be made a cornet," says
he. I wouldn't, and I got nothing!'
'Yes, Daddy, but you see I have to buy a horse; and they say you
can't get one the other side of the river under fifty rubles, and
mother has not yet sold our wine.'
'Eh, we didn't bother,' said the old man; 'when Daddy Eroshka was
your age he already stole herds of horses from the Nogay folk and
drove them across the Terek. Sometimes we'd give a fine horse for
a quart of vodka or a cloak.'
'Why so cheap?' asked Lukashka.
'You're a fool, a fool, Mark,' said the old man contemptuously.
'Why, that's what one steals for, so as not to be stingy! As for
you, I suppose you haven't so much as seen how one drives off a
herd of horses? Why don't you speak?'
'What's one to say. Daddy?' replied Lukashka. 'It seems we are not
the same sort of men as you were.'
'You're a fool. Mark, a fool! "Not the same sort of men!"'
retorted the old man, mimicking the Cossack lad. 'I was not that
sort of Cossack at your age.'
'How's that?' asked Lukashka.
The old man shook his head contemptuously.
'Daddy Eroshka was simple; he did not grudge anything! That's why
I was kunak with all Chechnya. A kunak would come to visit me and
I'd make him drunk with vodka and make him happy and put him to
sleep with me, and when I went to see him I'd take him a present--
a dagger! That's the way it is done, and not as you do nowadays:
the only amusement lads have now is to crack seeds and spit out
the shells!' the old man finished contemptuously, imitating the
present-day Cossacks cracking seeds and spitting out the shells.
'Yes, I know,' said Lukashka; 'that's so!'
'If you wish to be a fellow of the right sort, be a brave and not
a peasant! Because even a peasant can buy a horse--pay the money
and take the horse.'
They were silent for a while.
'Well, of course it's dull both in the village and the cordon,
Daddy: but there's nowhere one can go for a bit of sport. All our
fellows are so timid. Take Nazarka. The other day when we went to
the Tartar village, Girey Khan asked us to come to Nogay to take
some horses, but no one went, and how was I to go alone?'
'And what of Daddy? Do you think I am quite dried up? ... No, I'm
not dried up. Let me have a horse and I'll be off to Nogay at
'What's the good of talking nonsense!' said Luke. 'You'd better
tell me what to do about Girey Khan. He says, "Only bring horses
to the Terek, and then even if you bring a whole stud I'll find a
place for them." You see he's also a shaven-headed Tartar--how's
one to believe him?'
'You may trust Girey Khan, all his kin were good people. His
father too was a faithful kunak. But listen to Daddy and I won't
teach you wrong: make him take an oath, then it will be all right.
And if you go with him, have your pistol ready all the same,
especially when it comes to dividing up the horses. I was nearly
killed that way once by a Chechen. I wanted ten rubles from him
for a horse. Trusting is all right, but don't go to sleep without
a gun.' Lukashka listened attentively to the old man.
'I say. Daddy, have you any stone-break grass?' he asked after a
'No, I haven't any, but I'll teach you how to get it. You're a
good lad and won't forget the old man.... Shall I tell you?'
'Tell me, Daddy.'
'You know a tortoise? She's a devil, the tortoise is!'
'Of course I know!'
'Find her nest and fence it round so that she can't get in. Well,
she'll come, go round it, and then will go off to find the stone-
break grass and will bring some along and destroy the fence.
Anyhow next morning come in good time, and where the fence is
broken there you'll find the stone-break grass lying. Take it
wherever you like. No lock and no bar will be able to stop you.'
'Have you tried it yourself. Daddy?'
'As for trying, I have not tried it, but I was told of it by good
people. I used only one charm: that was to repeat the Pilgrim
rhyme when mounting my horse; and no one ever killed me!'
'What is the Pilgrim rhyme. Daddy?'
'What, don't you know it? Oh, what people! You're right to ask
Daddy. Well, listen, and repeat after me:
'Hail! Ye, living in Sion, This is your King, Our steeds we shall
sit on, Sophonius is weeping. Zacharias is speaking, Father
Pilgrim, Mankind ever loving.'
'Kind ever loving,' the old man repeated. 'Do you know it now? Try
'Come, Daddy, was it that that hindered their killing you? Maybe
it just happened so!'
'You've grown too clever! You learn it all, and say it. It will do
you no harm. Well, suppose you have sung "Pilgrim", it's all
right,' and the old man himself began laughing. 'But just one
thing, Luke, don't you go to Nogay!'
'Times have changed. You are not the same men. You've become
rubbishy Cossacks! And see how many Russians have come down on us!
You'd get to prison. Really, give it up! Just as if you could! Now
Girchik and I, we used...'
And the old man was about to begin one of his endless tales, but
Lukashka glanced at the window and interrupted him.
'It is quite light. Daddy. It's time to be off. Look us up some
'May Christ save you! I'll go to the officer; I promised to take
him out shooting. He seems a good fellow.'
From Eroshka's hut Lukashka went home. As he returned, the dewy
mists were rising from the ground and enveloped the village. In
various places the cattle, though out of sight, could be heard
beginning to stir. The cocks called to one another with increasing
frequency and insistence. The air was becoming more transparent,
and the villagers were getting up. Not till he was close to it
could Lukishka discern the fence of his yard, all wet with dew,
the porch of the hut, and the open shed. From the misty yard he
heard the sound of an axe chopping wood. Lukashka entered the hut.
His mother was up, and stood at the oven throwing wood into it.
His little sister was still lying in bed asleep.
'Well, Lukashka, had enough holiday-making?' asked his mother
softly. 'Where did you spend the night?'
'I was in the village,' replied her son reluctantly, reaching for
his musket, which he drew from its cover and examined carefully.
His mother swayed her head.
Lukashka poured a little gunpowder onto the pan, took out a little
bag from which he drew some empty cartridge cases which he began
filling, carefully plugging each one with a ball wrapped in a rag.
Then, having tested the loaded cartridges with his teeth and
examined them, he put down the bag.
'I say, Mother, I told you the bags wanted mending; have they been
done?' he asked.
'Oh yes, our dumb girl was mending something last night. Why, is
it time for you to be going back to the cordon? I haven't seen
anything of you!'
'Yes, as soon as I have got ready I shall have to go,' answered
Lukashka, tying up the gunpowder. 'And where is our dumb one?
'Chopping wood, I expect. She kept fretting for you. "I shall not
see him at all!" she said. She puts her hand to her face like
this, and clicks her tongue and presses her hands to her heart as
much as to say--"sorry." Shall I call her in? She understood all
about the abrek.'
'Call her,' said Lukashka. 'And I had some tallow there; bring it:
I must grease my sword.'
The old woman went out, and a few minutes later Lukashka's dumb
sister came up the creaking steps and entered the hut. She was six
years older than her brother and would have been extremely like
him had it not been for the dull and coarsely changeable
expression (common to all deaf and dumb people) of her face. She
wore a coarse smock all patched; her feet were bare and muddy, and
on her head she had an old blue kerchief. Her neck, arms, and face
were sinewy like a peasant's. Her clothing and her whole
appearance indicated that she always did the hard work of a man.
She brought in a heap of logs which she threw down by the oven.
Then she went up to her brother, and with a joyful smile which
made her whole face pucker up, touched him on the shoulder and
began making rapid signs to him with her hands, her face, and
'That's right, that's right, Stepka is a trump!' answered the
brother, nodding. 'She's fetched everything and mended everything,
she's a trump! Here, take this for it!' He brought out two pieces
of gingerbread from his pocket and gave them to her.
The dumb woman's face flushed with pleasure, and she began making
a weird noise for joy. Having seized the gingerbread she began to
gesticulate still more rapidly, frequently pointing in one
direction and passing her thick finger over her eyebrows and her
face. Lukashka understood her and kept nodding, while he smiled
slightly. She was telling him to give the girls dainties, and that
the girls liked him, and that one girl, Maryanka--the best of them
all--loved him. She indicated Maryanka by rapidly pointing in the
direction of Maryanka's home and to her own eyebrows and face, and
by smacking her lips and swaying her head. 'Loves' she expressed
by pressing her hands to her breast, kissing her hand, and
pretending to embrace someone. Their mother returned to the hut,
and seeing what her dumb daughter was saying, smiled and shook her
head. Her daughter showed her the gingerbread and again made the
noise which expressed joy.
'I told Ulitka the other day that I'd send a matchmaker to them,'
said the mother. 'She took my words well.'
Lukashka looked silently at his mother.
'But how about selling the wine, mother? I need a horse.'
'I'll cart it when I have time. I must get the barrels ready,'
said the mother, evidently not wishing her son to meddle in
domestic matters. 'When you go out you'll find a bag in the
passage. I borrowed from the neighbours and got something for you
to take back to the cordon; or shall I put it in your saddle-bag?'
'All right,' answered Lukashka. 'And if Girey Khan should come
across the river send him to me at the cordon, for I shan't get
leave again for a long time now; I have some business with him.'
He began to get ready to start.
'I will send him on,' said the old women. 'It seems you have been
spreeing at Yamka's all the time. I went out in the night to see
the cattle, and I think it was your voice I heard singing songs.'
Lukashka did not reply, but went out into the passage, threw the
bags over his shoulder, tucked up the skirts of his coat, took his
musket, and then stopped for a moment on the threshold.
'Good-bye, mother!' he said as he closed the gate behind him.
'Send me a small barrel with Nazarka. I promised it to the lads,
and he'll call for it.'
'May Christ keep you, Lukashka. God be with you! I'll send you
some, some from the new barrel,' said the old woman, going to the
fence: 'But listen,' she added, leaning over the fence.
The Cossack stopped.
'You've been making merry here; well, that's all right. Why should
not a young man amuse himself? God has sent you luck and that's
good. But now look out and mind, my son. Don't you go and get into
mischief. Above all, satisfy your superiors: one has to! And I
will sell the wine and find money for a horse and will arrange a
match with the girl for you.'
'All right, all right!' answered her son, frowning.
His deaf sister shouted to attract his attention. She pointed to
her head and the palm of her hand, to indicate the shaved head of
a Chechen. Then she frowned, and pretending to aim with a gun, she
shrieked and began rapidly humming and shaking her head. This
meant that Lukashka should kill another Chechen.
Lukashka understood. He smiled, and shifting the gun at his back
under his cloak stepped lightly and rapidly, and soon disappeared
in the thick mist.
The old woman, having stood a little while at the gate, returned
silently to the hut and immediately began working.
Lukasha returned to the cordon and at the same time Daddy Eroshka
whistled to his dogs and, climbing over his wattle fence, went to
Olenin's lodging, passing by the back of the houses (he disliked
meeting women before going out hunting or shooting). He found
Olenin still asleep, and even Vanyusha, though awake, was still in
bed and looking round the room considering whether it was not time
to get up, when Daddy Eroshka, gun on shoulder and in full
hunter's trappings, opened the door.
'A cudgel!' he shouted in his deep voice. 'An alarm! The Chechens
are upon us! Ivan! get the samovar ready for your master, and get
up yourself--quick,' cried the old man. 'That's our way, my good
man! Why even the girls are already up! Look out of the window.
See, she's going for water and you're still sleeping!'
Olenin awoke and jumped up, feeling fresh and lighthearted at the
sight of the old man and at the sound of his voice.
'Quick, Vanyusha, quick!' he cried.
'Is that the way you go hunting?' said the old man. 'Others are
having their breakfast and you are asleep! Lyam! Here!' he called
to his dog. 'Is your gun ready?' he shouted, as loud as if a whole
crowd were in the hut.
'Well, it's true I'm guilty, but it can't be helped! The powder,
Vanyusha, and the wads!' said Olenin.
'A fine!' shouted the old man.
'Du tay voulay vou?' asked Vanyusha, grinning.
'You're not one of us--your gabble is not like our speech, you
devil!' the old man shouted at Vanyusha, showing the stumps of his
'A first offence must be forgiven,' said Olenin playfully, drawing
on his high boots.
'The first offence shall be forgiven,' answered Eroshka, 'but if
you oversleep another time you'll be fined a pail of chikhir. When
it gets warmer you won't find the deer.'
'And even if we do find him he is wiser than we are,' said Olenin,
repeating the words spoken by the old man the evening before, 'and
you can't deceive him!'
'Yes, laugh away! You kill one first, and then you may talk. Now
then, hurry up! Look, there's the master himself coming to see
you,' added Eroshka, looking out of the window. 'Just see how he's
got himself up. He's put on a new coat so that you should see that
he's an officer. Ah, these people, these people!'
Sure enough Vanyusha came in and announced that the master of the
house wished to see Olenin.
'L'arjan!' he remarked profoundly, to forewarn his master of the
meaning of this visitation. Following him, the master of the house
in a new Circassian coat with an officer's stripes on the
shoulders and with polished boots (quite exceptional among
Cossacks) entered the room, swaying from side to side, and
congratulated his lodger on his safe arrival.
The cornet, Elias Vasilich, was an educated Cossack. He had been
to Russia proper, was a regimental schoolteacher, and above all he
was noble. He wished to appear noble, but one could not help
feeling beneath his grotesque pretence of polish, his affectation,
his self-confidence, and his absurd way of speaking, he was just
the same as Daddy Eroshka. This could also be clearly seen by his
sunburnt face and his hands and his red nose. Olenin asked him to
'Good morning. Father Elias Vasilich,' said Eroshka, rising with
(or so it seemed to Olenin) an ironically low bow.
'Good morning. Daddy. So you're here already,' said the cornet,
with a careless nod.
The cornet was a man of about forty, with a grey pointed beard,
skinny and lean, but handsome and very fresh-looking for his age.
Having come to see Olenin he was evidently afraid of being taken
for an ordinary Cossack, and wanted to let Olenin feel his
importance from the first.
'That's our Egyptian Nimrod,' he remarked, addressing Olenin and
pointing to the old man with a self-satisfied smile. 'A mighty
hunter before the Lord! He's our foremost man on every hand.
You've already been pleased to get acquainted with him.'
Daddy Eroshka gazed at his feet in their shoes of wet raw hide and
shook his head thoughtfully at the cornet's ability and learning,
and muttered to himself: 'Gyptian Nimvrod! What things he
'Yes, you see we mean to go hunting,' answered Olenin.
'Yes, sir, exactly,' said the cornet, 'but I have a small business
'What do you want?'
'Seeing that you are a gentleman,' began the cornet, 'and as I may
understand myself to be in the rank of an officer too, and
therefore we may always progressively negotiate, as gentlemen do.'
(He stopped and looked with a smile at Olenin and at the old man.)
'But if you have the desire with my consent, then, as my wife is a
foolish woman of our class, she could not quite comprehend your
words of yesterday's date. Therefore my quarters might be let for
six rubles to the Regimental Adjutant, without the stables; but I
can always avert that from myself free of charge. But, as you
desire, therefore I, being myself of an officer's rank, can come
to an agreement with you in everything personally, as an
inhabitant of this district, not according to our customs, but can
maintain the conditions in every way....'
'Speaks clearly!' muttered the old man.
The cornet continued in the same strain for a long time. At last,
not without difficulty, Olenin gathered that the cornet wished to
let his rooms to him, Olenin, for six rubles a month. The latter
gladly agreed to this, and offered his visitor a glass of tea. The
cornet declined it.
'According to our silly custom we consider it a sort of sin to
drink out of a "worldly" tumbler,' he said. 'Though, of course,
with my education I may understand, but my wife from her human
'Well then, will you have some tea?'
'If you will permit me, I will bring my own particular glass,'
answered the cornet, and stepped out into the porch.
'Bring me my glass!' he cried.
In a few minutes the door opened and a young sunburnt arm in a
print sleeve thrust itself in, holding a tumbler in the hand. The
cornet went up, took it, and whispered something to his daughter.
Olenin poured tea for the cornet into the latter's own
'particular' glass, and for Eroshka into a 'worldly' glass.
'However, I do not desire to detain you,' said the cornet,
scalding his lips and emptying his tumbler. 'I too have a great
liking for fishing, and I am here, so to say, only on leave of
absence for recreation from my duties. I too have the desire to
tempt fortune and see whether some Gifts of the Terek may not fall
to my share. I hope you too will come and see us and have a drink
of our wine, according to the custom of our village,' he added.
The cornet bowed, shook hands with Olenin, and went out. While
Olenin was getting ready, he heard the cornet giving orders to his
family in an authoritative and sensible tone, and a few minutes
later he saw him pass by the window in a tattered coat with his
trousers rolled up to his knees and a fishing net over his
'A rascal!' said Daddy Eroshka, emptying his 'worldly' tumbler.
'And will you really pay him six rubles? Was such a thing ever
heard of? They would let you the best hut in the village for two
rubles. What a beast! Why, I'd let you have mine for three!'
'No, I'll remain here,' said Olenin.
'Six rubles! ... Clearly it's a fool's money. Eh, eh, eh! answered
the old man. 'Let's have some chikhir, Ivan!'
Having had a snack and a drink of vodka to prepare themselves for
the road, Olenin and the old man went out together before eight
At the gate they came up against a wagon to which a pair of oxen
were harnessed. With a white kerchief tied round her head down to
her eyes, a coat over her smock, and wearing high boots, Maryanka
with a long switch in her hand was dragging the oxen by a cord
tied to their horns.
'Mammy,' said the old man, pretending that he was going to seize
Maryanka nourished her switch at him and glanced merrily at them
both with her beautiful eyes.
Olenin felt still more light-hearted.
'Now then, come on, come on,' he said, throwing his gun on his
shoulder and conscious of the girl's eyes upon him.
'Gee up!' sounded Maryanka's voice behind them, followed by the
creak of the moving wagon.
As long as their road lay through the pastures at the back of the
village Eroshka went on talking. He could not forget the cornet
and kept on abusing him.
'Why are you so angry with him?' asked Olenin.
'He's stingy. I don't like it,' answered the old man. 'He'll leave
it all behind when he dies! Then who's he saving up for? He's
built two houses, and he's got a second garden from his brother by
a law-suit. And in the matter of papers what a dog he is! They
come to him from other villages to fill up documents. As he writes
it out, exactly so it happens. He gets it quite exact. But who is
he saving for? He's only got one boy and the girl; when she's
married who'll be left?'
'Well then, he's saving up for her dowry,' said Olenin.
'What dowry? The girl is sought after, she's a fine girl. But he's
such a devil that he must yet marry her to a rich fellow. He wants
to get a big price for her. There's Luke, a Cossack, a neighbour
and a nephew of mine, a fine lad. It's he who killed the Chechen--
he has been wooing her for a long time, but he hasn't let him have
her. He's given one excuse, and another, and a third. "The girl's
too young," he says. But I know what he is thinking. He wants to
keep them bowing to him. He's been acting shamefully about that
girl. Still, they will get her for Lukashka, because he is the
best Cossack in the village, a brave, who has killed an abrek and
will be rewarded with a cross.'
'But how about this? When I was walking up and down the yard last
night, I saw my landlord's daughter and some Cossack kissing,'
'You're pretending!' cried the old man, stopping.
'On my word,' said Olenin.
'Women are the devil,' said Eroshka pondering. 'But what Cossack
'I couldn't see.'
'Well, what sort of a cap had he, a white one?'
'And a red coat? About your height?'
'No, a bit taller.'
'It's he!' and Eroshka burst out laughing. 'It's himself, it's
Mark. He is Luke, but I call him Mark for a joke. His very self! I
love him. I was just such a one myself. What's the good of minding
them? My sweetheart used to sleep with her mother and her sister-
in-law, but I managed to get in. She used to sleep upstairs; that
witch her mother was a regular demon; it's awful how she hated me.
Well, I used to come with a chum, Girchik his name was. We'd come
under her window and I'd climb on his shoulders, push up the
window and begin groping about. She used to sleep just there on a
bench. Once I woke her up and she nearly called out. She hadn't
recognized me. "Who is there?" she said, and I could not answer.
Her mother was even beginning to stir, but I took off my cap and
shoved it over her mouth; and she at once knew it by a seam in it,
and ran out to me. I used not to want anything then. She'd bring
along clotted cream and grapes and everything,' added Eroshka (who
always explained things practically), 'and she wasn't the only
one. It was a life!'
'And what now?'
'Now we'll follow the dog, get a pheasant to settle on a tree, and
then you may fire.'
'Would you have made up to Maryanka?'
'Attend to the dogs. I'll tell you tonight,' said the old man,
pointing to his favourite dog, Lyam.
After a pause they continued talking, while they went about a
hundred paces. Then the old man stopped again and pointed to a
twig that lay across the path.
'What do you think of that?' he said. 'You think it's nothing?
It's bad that this stick is lying so.'
'Why is it bad?'
'Ah, you don't know anything. Just listen to me. When a stick lies
like that don't you step across it, but go round it or throw it
off the path this way, and say "Father and Son and Holy Ghost,"
and then go on with God's blessing. Nothing will happen to you.
That's what the old men used to teach me.'
'Come, what rubbish!' said Olenin. 'You'd better tell me more
about Maryanka. Does she carry on with Lukashka?'
'Hush ... be quiet now!' the old man again interrupted in a
whisper: 'just listen, we'll go round through the forest.'
And the old man, stepping quietly in his soft shoes, led the way
by a narrow path leading into the dense, wild, overgrown forest.
Now and again with a frown he turned to look at Olenin, who
rustled and clattered with his heavy boots and, carrying his gun
carelessly, several times caught the twigs of trees that grew
across the path.
'Don't make a noise. Step softly, soldier!' the old man whispered
There was a feeling in the air that the sun had risen. The mist
was dissolving but it still enveloped the tops of the trees. The
forest looked terribly high. At every step the aspect changed:
what had appeared like a tree proved to be a bush, and a reed
looked like a tree.
The mist had partly lifted, showing the wet reed thatches, and was
now turning into dew that moistened the road and the grass beside
the fence. Smoke rose everywhere in clouds from the chimneys. The
people were going out of the village, some to their work, some to
the river, and some to the cordon. The hunters walked together
along the damp, grass-grown path. The dogs, wagging their tails
and looking at their masters, ran on both sides of them. Myriads
of gnats hovered in the air and pursued the hunters, covering
their backs, eyes, and hands. The air was fragrant with the grass
and with the dampness of the forest. Olenin continually looked
round at the ox-cart in which Maryanka sat urging on the oxen with
a long switch.
It was calm. The sounds from the village, audible at first, now no
longer reached the sportsmen. Only the brambles cracked as the
dogs ran under them, and now and then birds called to one another.
Olenin knew that danger lurked in the forest, that abreks always
hid in such places. But he knew too that in the forest, for a man
on foot, a gun is a great protection. Not that he was afraid, but
he felt that another in his place might be; and looking into the
damp misty forest and listening to the rare and faint sounds with
strained attention, he changed his hold on his gun and experienced
a pleasant feeling that was new to him. Daddy Eroshka went in
front, stopping and carefully scanning every puddle where an
animal had left a double track, and pointing it out to Olenin. He
hardly spoke at all and only occasionally made remarks in a
whisper. The track they were following had once been made by
wagons, but the grass had long overgrown it. The elm and plane-
tree forest on both sides of them was so dense and overgrown with
creepers that it was impossible to see anything through it. Nearly
every tree was enveloped from top to bottom with wild grape vines,
and dark bramble bushes covered the ground thickly. Every little
glade was overgrown with blackberry bushes and grey feathery
reeds. In places, large hoof-prints and small funnel-shaped
pheasant-trails led from the path into the thicket. The vigour of
the growth of this forest, untrampled by cattle, struck Olenin at
every turn, for he had never seen anything like it. This forest,
the danger, the old man and his mysterious whispering, Maryanka
with her virile upright bearing, and the mountains--all this
seemed to him like a dream.
'A pheasant has settled,' whispered the old man, looking round and
pulling his cap over his face--'Cover your mug! A pheasant!' he
waved his arm angrily at Olenin and pushed forward almost on all
fours. 'He don't like a man's mug.'
Olenin was still behind him when the old man stopped and began
examining a tree. A cock-pheasant on the tree clucked at the dog
that was barking at it, and Olenin saw the pheasant; but at that
moment a report, as of a cannon, came from Eroshka's enormous gun,
the bird fluttered up and, losing some feathers, fell to the
ground. Coming up to the old man Olenin disturbed another, and
raising his gun he aimed and fired. The pheasant flew swiftly up
and then, catching at the branches as he fell, dropped like a
stone to the ground.
'Good man!' the old man (who could not hit a flying bird) shouted,
Having picked up the pheasants they went on. Olenin, excited by
the exercise and the praise, kept addressing remarks to the old
'Stop! Come this way,' the old man interrupted. 'I noticed the
track of deer here yesterday.'
After they had turned into the thicket and gone some three hundred
paces they scrambled through into a glade overgrown with reeds and
partly under water. Olenin failed to keep up with the old huntsman
and presently Daddy Eroshka, some twenty paces in front, stooped
down, nodding and beckoning with his arm. On coming up with him
Olenin saw a man's footprint to which the old man was pointing.
'Yes, well?' said Olenin, trying to speak as calmly as he could.
'A man's footstep!'
Involuntarily a thought of Cooper's Pathfinder and of abreks
flashed through Olenin's mind, but noticing the mysterious manner
with which the old man moved on, he hesitated to question him and
remained in doubt whether this mysteriousness was caused by fear
of danger or by the sport.
'No, it's my own footprint,' the old man said quietly, and pointed
to some grass under which the track of an animal was just
The old man went on; and Olenin kept up with him.
Descending to lower ground some twenty paces farther on they came
upon a spreading pear-tree, under which, on the black earth, lay
the fresh dung of some animal.
The spot, all covered over with wild vines, was like a cosy
arbour, dark and cool.
'He's been here this morning,' said the old man with a sigh; 'the
lair is still damp, quite fresh.'
Suddenly they heard a terrible crash in the forest some ten paces
from where they stood. They both started and seized their guns,
but they could see nothing and only heard the branches breaking.
The rhythmical rapid thud of galloping was heard for a moment and
then changed into a hollow rumble which resounded farther and
farther off, re-echoing in wider and wider circles through the
forest. Olenin felt as though something had snapped in his heart.
He peered carefully but vainly into the green thicket and then
turned to the old man. Daddy Eroshka with his gun pressed to his
breast stood motionless; his cap was thrust backwards, his eyes
gleamed with an unwonted glow, and his open mouth, with its worn
yellow teeth, seemed to have stiffened in that position.
'A homed stag!' he muttered, and throwing down his gun in despair
he began pulling at his grey beard, 'Here it stood. We should have
come round by the path.... Fool! fool!' and he gave his beard an
angry tug. Fool! Pig!' he repeated, pulling painfully at his own
beard. Through the forest something seemed to fly away in the
mist, and ever farther and farther off was heard the sound of the
flight of the stag.
It was already dusk when, hungry, tired, but full of vigour,
Olenin returned with the old man. Dinner was ready. He ate and
drank with the old man till he felt warm and merry. Olenin then
went out into the porch. Again, to the west, the mountains rose
before his eyes. Again the old man told his endless stories of
hunting, of abreks, of sweethearts, and of all that free and
reckless life. Again the fair Maryanka went in and out and across
the yard, her beautiful powerful form outlined by her smock.
The next day Olenin went alone to the spot where he and the old
man startled the stag. Instead of passing round through the gate
he climbed over the prickly hedge, as everybody else did, and
before he had had time to pull out the thorns that had caught in
his coat, his dog, which had run on in front, started two
pheasants. He had hardly stepped among the briers when the
pheasants began to rise at every step (the old man had not shown
him that place the day before as he meant to keep it for shooting
from behind the screen). Olenin fired twelve times and killed five
pheasants, but clambering after them through the briers he got so
fatigued that he was drenched with perspiration. He called off his
dog, uncocked his gun, put in a bullet above the small shot, and
brushing away the mosquitoes with the wide sleeve of his
Circassian coat he went slowly to the spot where they had been the
day before. It was however impossible to keep back the dog, who
found trails on the very path, and Olenin killed two more
pheasants, so that after being detained by this it was getting
towards noon before he began to find the place he was looking for.
The day was perfectly clear, calm, and hot. The morning moisture
had dried up even in the forest, and myriads of mosquitoes
literally covered his face, his back, and his arms. His dog had
turned from black to grey, its back being covered with mosquitoes,
and so had Olenin's coat through which the insects thrust their
stings. Olenin was ready to run away from them and it seemed to
him that it was impossible to live in this country in the summer.
He was about to go home, but remembering that other people managed
to endure such pain he resolved to bear it and gave himself up to
be devoured. And strange to say, by noontime the feeling became
actually pleasant. He even felt that without this mosquito-filled
atmosphere around him, and that mosquito-paste mingled with
perspiration which his hand smeared over his face, and that
unceasing irritation all over his body, the forest would lose for
him some of its character and charm. These myriads of insects were
so well suited to that monstrously lavish wild vegetation, these
multitudes of birds and beasts which filled the forest, this dark
foliage, this hot scented air, these runlets filled with turbid
water which everywhere soaked through from the Terek and gurgled
here and there under the overhanging leaves, that the very thing
which had at first seemed to him dreadful and intolerable now
seemed pleasant. After going round the place where yesterday they
had found the animal and not finding anything, he felt inclined to
rest. The sun stood right above the forest and poured its
perpendicular rays down on his back and head whenever he came out
into a glade or onto the road. The seven heavy pheasants dragged
painfully at his waist. Having found the traces of yesterday's
stag he crept under a bush into the thicket just where the stag
had lain, and lay down in its lair. He examined the dark foliage
around him, the place marked by the stag's perspiration and
yesterday's dung, the imprint of the stag's knees, the bit of
black earth it had kicked up, and his own footprints of the day
before. He felt cool and comfortable and did not think of or wish
for anything. And suddenly he was overcome by such a strange
feeling of causeless joy and of love for everything, that from an
old habit of his childhood he began crossing himself and thanking
someone. Suddenly, with extraordinary clearness, he thought: 'Here
am I, Dmitri Olenin, a being quite distinct from every other
being, now lying all alone Heaven only knows where--where a stag
used to live--an old stag, a beautiful stag who perhaps had never
seen a man, and in a place where no human being has ever sat or
thought these thoughts. Here I sit, and around me stand old and
young trees, one of them festooned with wild grape vines, and
pheasants are fluttering, driving one another about and perhaps
scenting their murdered brothers.' He felt his pheasants, examined
them, and wiped the warm blood off his hand onto his coat.
'Perhaps the jackals scent them and with dissatisfied faces go off
in another direction: above me, flying in among the leaves which
to them seem enormous islands, mosquitoes hang in the air and
buzz: one, two, three, four, a hundred, a thousand, a million
mosquitoes, and all of them buzz something or other and each one
of them is separate from all else and is just such a separate
Dmitri Olenin as I am myself.' He vividly imagined what the
mosquitoes buzzed: 'This way, this way, lads! Here's some one we
can eat!' They buzzed and stuck to him. And it was clear to him
that he was not a Russian nobleman, a member of Moscow society,
the friend and relation of so-and-so and so-and-so, but just such
a mosquito, or pheasant, or deer, as those that were now living
all around him. 'Just as they, just as Daddy Eroshka, I shall live
awhile and die, and as he says truly:
"grass will grow and nothing more".
'But what though the grass does grow?' he continued thinking.
'Still I must live and be happy, because happiness is all I
desire. Never mind what I am--an animal like all the rest, above
whom the grass will grow and nothing more; or a frame in which a
bit of the one God has been set,--still I must live in the very
best way. How then must I live to be happy, and why was I not
happy before?' And he began to recall his former life and he felt
disgusted with himself. He appeared to himself to have been
terribly exacting and selfish, though he now saw that all the
while he really needed nothing for himself. And he looked round at
the foliage with the light shining through it, at the setting sun
and the clear sky, and he felt just as happy as before. 'Why am I
happy, and what used I to live for?' thought he. 'How much I
exacted for myself; how I schemed and did not manage to gain
anything but shame and sorrow! and, there now, I require nothing
to be happy;' and suddenly a new light seemed to reveal itself to
him. 'Happiness is this!' he said to himself. 'Happiness lies in
living for others. That is evident. The desire for happiness is
innate in every man; therefore it is legitimate. When trying to
satisfy it selfishly--that is, by seeking for oneself riches,
fame, comforts, or love--it may happen that circumstances arise
which make it impossible to satisfy these desires. It follows that
it is these desires that are illegitimate, but not the need for
happiness. But what desires can always be satisfied despite
external circumstances? What are they? Love, self-sacrifice.' He
was so glad and excited when he had discovered this, as it seemed
to him, new truth, that he jumped up and began impatiently seeking
some one to sacrifice himself for, to do good to and to love.
'Since one wants nothing for oneself,' he kept thinking, 'why not
live for others?' He took up his gun with the intention of
returning home quickly to think this out and to find an
opportunity of doing good. He made his way out of the thicket.
When he had come out into the glade he looked around him; the sun
was no longer visible above the tree-tops. It had grown cooler and
the place seemed to him quite strange and not like the country
round the village. Everything seemed changed--the weather and the
character of the forest; the sky was wrapped in clouds, the wind
was rustling in the tree-tops, and all around nothing was visible
but reeds and dying broken-down trees. He called to his dog who
had run away to follow some animal, and his voice came back as in
a desert. And suddenly he was seized with a terrible sense of
weirdness. He grew frightened. He remembered the abreks and the
murders he had been told about, and he expected every moment that
an abrek would spring from behind every bush and he would have to
defend his life and die, or be a coward. He thought of God and of
the future life as for long he had not thought about them. And all
around was that same gloomy stern wild nature. 'And is it worth
while living for oneself,' thought he, 'when at any moment you may
die, and die without having done any good, and so that no one will
know of it?' He went in the direction where he fancied the village
lay. Of his shooting he had no further thought; but he felt tired
to death and peered round at every bush and tree with particular
attention and almost with terror, expecting every moment to be
called to account for his life. After having wandered about for a
considerable time he came upon a ditch down which was flowing cold
sandy water from the Terek, and, not to go astray any longer, he
decided to follow it. He went on without knowing where the ditch
would lead him. Suddenly the reeds behind him crackled. He
shuddered and seized his gun, and then felt ashamed of himself:
the over-excited dog, panting hard, had thrown itself into the
cold water of the ditch and was lapping it!
He too had a drink, and then followed the dog in the direction it
wished to go, thinking it would lead him to the village. But
despite the dog's company everything around him seemed still more
dreary. The forest grew darker and the wind grew stronger and
stronger in the tops of the broken old trees. Some large birds
circled screeching round their nests in those trees. The
vegetation grew poorer and he came oftener and oftener upon
rustling reeds and bare sandy spaces covered with animal
footprints. To the howling of the wind was added another kind of
cheerless monotonous roar. Altogether his spirits became gloomy.
Putting his hand behind him he felt his pheasants, and found one
missing. It had broken off and was lost, and only the bleeding
head and beak remained sticking in his belt. He felt more
frightened than he had ever done before. He began to pray to God,
and feared above all that he might die without having done
anything good or kind; and he so wanted to live, and to live so as
to perform a feat of self-sacrifice.
Suddenly it was as though the sun had shone into his soul. He
heard Russian being spoken, and also heard the rapid smooth flow
of the Terek, and a few steps farther in front of him saw the
brown moving surface of the river, with the dim-coloured wet sand
of its banks and shallows, the distant steppe, the cordon watch-
tower outlined above the water, a saddled and hobbled horse among
the brambles, and then the mountains opening out before him. The
red sun appeared for an instant from under a cloud and its last
rays glittered brightly along the river over the reeds, on the
watch-tower, and on a group of Cossacks, among whom Lukashka's
vigorous figure attracted Olenin's involuntary attention.
Olenin felt that he was again, without any apparent cause,
perfectly happy. He had come upon the Nizhni-Prototsk post on the
Terek, opposite a pro-Russian Tartar village on the other side of
the river. He accosted the Cossacks, but not finding as yet any
excuse for doing anyone a kindness, he entered the hut; nor in the
hut did he find any such opportunity. The Cossacks received him
coldly. On entering the mud hut he lit a cigarette. The Cossacks
paid little attention to him, first because he was smoking a
cigarette, and secondly because they had something else to divert
them that evening. Some hostile Chechens, relatives of the abrek
who had been killed, had come from the hills with a scout to
ransom the body; and the Cossacks were waiting for their
Commanding Officer's arrival from the village. The dead man's
brother, tall and well shaped with a short cropped beard which was
dyed red, despite his very tattered coat and cap was calm and
majestic as a king. His face was very like that of the dead abrek.
He did not deign to look at anyone, and never once glanced at the
dead body, but sitting on his heels in the shade he spat as he
smoked his short pipe, and occasionally uttered some few guttural
sounds of command, which were respectfully listened to by his
companion. He was evidently a brave who had met Russians more than
once before in quite other circumstances, and nothing about them
could astonish or even interest him. Olenin was about to approach
the dead body and had begun to look at it when the brother,
looking up at him from under his brows with calm contempt, said
something sharply and angrily. The scout hastened to cover the
dead man's face with his coat. Olenin was struck by the dignified
and stem expression of the brave's face. He began to speak to him,
asking from what village he came, but the Chechen, scarcely giving
him a glance, spat contemptuously and turned away. Olenin was so
surprised at the Chechen not being interested in him that he could
only put it down to the man's stupidity or ignorance of Russian;
so he turned to the scout, who also acted as interpreter. The
scout was as ragged as the other, but instead of being red-haired
he was black-haired, restless, with extremely white gleaming teeth
and sparkling black eyes. The scout willingly entered into
conversation and asked for a cigarette.
'There were five brothers,' began the scout in his broken Russian.
'This is the third brother the Russians have killed, only two are
left. He is a brave, a great brave!' he said, pointing to the
Chechen. 'When they killed Ahmet Khan (the dead brave) this one
was sitting on the opposite bank among the reeds. He saw it all.
Saw him laid in the skiff and brought to the bank. He sat there
till the night and wished to kill the old man, but the others
would not let him.'
Lukashka went up to the speaker, and sat down. 'Of what village?'
'From there in the hills,' replied the scout, pointing to the
misty bluish gorge beyond the Terek. 'Do you know Suuk-su? It is
about eight miles beyond that.'
'Do you know Girey Khan in Suuk-su?' asked Lukashka, evidently
proud of the acquaintance. 'He is my kunak.'
'He is my neighbour,' answered the scout.
'He's a trump!' and Lukashka, evidently much interested, began
talking to the scout in Tartar.
Presently a Cossack captain, with the head of the village, arrived
on horseback with a suite of two Cossacks. The captain--one of the
new type of Cossack officers--wished the Cossacks 'Good health,'
but no one shouted in reply, 'Hail! Good health to your honour,'
as is customary in the Russian Army, and only a few replied with a
bow. Some, and among them Lukashka, rose and stood erect. The
corporal replied that all was well at the outposts. All this
seemed ridiculous: it was as if these Cossacks were playing at
being soldiers. But these formalities soon gave place to ordinary
ways of behaviour, and the captain, who was a smart Cossack just
like the others, began speaking fluently in Tartar to the
interpreter. They filled in some document, gave it to the scout,
and received from him some money. Then they approached the body.
'Which of you is Luke Gavrilov?' asked the captain.
Lukishka took off his cap and came forward.
'I have reported your exploit to the Commander. I don't know what
will come of it. I have recommended you for a cross; you're too
young to be made a sergeant. Can you read?'
'But what a fine fellow to look at!' said the captain, again
playing the commander. 'Put on your cap. Which of the Gavrilovs