Part 4 out of 4
my hut. Daddy Eroshka, and the snowy mountains, from my porch, and
was seized by such a strong, new feeling of joy that I understood
it all. I love this woman; I feel real love for the first and only
time in my life. I know what has befallen me. I do not fear to be
degraded by this feeling, I am not ashamed of my love, I am proud
of it. It is not my fault that I love. It has come about against
my will. I tried to escape from my love by self-renunciation, and
tried to devise a joy in the Cossack Lukashka's and Maryanka's
love, but thereby only stirred up my own love and jealousy. This
is not the ideal, the so-called exalted love which I have known
before; not that sort of attachment in which you admire your own
love and feel that the source of your emotion is within yourself
and do everything yourself. I have felt that too. It is still less
a desire for enjoyment: it is something different. Perhaps in her
I love nature: the personification of all that is beautiful in
nature; but yet I am not acting by my own will, but some elemental
force loves through me; the whole of God's world, all nature,
presses this love into my soul and says, "Love her." I love her
not with my mind or my imagination, but with my whole being.
Loving her I feel myself to be an integral part of all God's joyous
world. I wrote before about the new convictions to which my solitary
life had brought me, but no one knows with what labour they shaped
themselves within me and with what joy I realized them and saw a
new way of life opening out before me; nothing was dearer to me than
those convictions... Well! ... love has come and neither they nor any
regrets for them remain! It is even difficult for me to believe that
I could prize such a one-sided, cold, and abstract state of mind.
Beauty came and scattered to the winds all that laborious inward toil,
and no regret remains for what has vanished! Self-renunciation is
all nonsense and absurdity! That is pride, a refuge from well-merited
unhappiness, and salvation from the envy of others' happiness: "Live
for others, and do good!"--Why? when in my soul there is only love for
myself and the desire to love her and to live her life with her?
Not for others, not for Lukashka, I now desire happiness. I do not
now love those others. Formerly I should have told myself that
this is wrong. I should have tormented myself with the questions:
What will become of her, of me, and of Lukashka? Now I don't care.
I do not live my own life, there is something stronger than me
which directs me. I suffer; but formerly I was dead and only now
do I live. Today I will go to their house and tell her
Late that evening, after writing this letter, Olenin went to his
hosts' hut. The old woman was sitting on a bench behind the oven
unwinding cocoons. Maryanka with her head uncovered sat sewing by
the light of a candle. On seeing Olenin she jumped up, took her
kerchief and stepped to the oven. 'Maryanka dear,' said her
mother, 'won't you sit here with me a bit?' 'No, I'm bareheaded,'
she replied, and sprang up on the oven. Olenin could only see a
knee, and one of her shapely legs hanging down from the oven. He
treated the old woman to tea. She treated her guest to clotted cream
which she sent Maryanka to fetch. But having put a plateful on the
table Maryanka again sprang on the oven from whence Olenin felt her
eyes upon him. They talked about household matters. Granny Ulitka
became animated and went into raptures of hospitality. She brought
Olenin preserved grapes and a grape tart and some of her best wine,
and pressed him to eat and drink with the rough yet proud hospitality
of country folk, only found among those who produce their bread by
the labour of their own hands. The old woman, who had at first struck
Olenin so much by her rudeness, now often touched him by her simple
tenderness towards her daughter.
'Yes, we need not offend the Lord by grumbling! We have enough of
everything, thank God. We have pressed sufficient CHIKHIR and have
preserved and shall sell three or four barrels of grapes and have
enough left to drink. Don't be in a hurry to leave us. We will
make merry together at the wedding.'
'And when is the wedding to be?' asked Olenin, feeling his blood
suddenly rush to his face while his heart beat irregularly and
He heard a movement on the oven and the sound of seeds being
'Well, you know, it ought to be next week. We are quite ready,'
replied the old woman, as simply and quietly as though Olenin did
not exist. 'I have prepared and have procured everything for
Maryanka. We will give her away properly. Only there's one thing
not quite right. Our Lukashka has been running rather wild. He has
been too much on the spree! He's up to tricks! The other day a
Cossack came here from his company and said he had been to Nogay.'
'He must mind he does not get caught,' said Olenin.
'Yes, that's what I tell him. "Mind, Lukashka, don't you get into
mischief. Well, of course, a young fellow naturally wants to cut a
dash. But there's a time for everything. Well, you've captured or
stolen something and killed an abrek! Well, you're a fine fellow!
But now you should live quietly for a bit, or else there'll be
'Yes, I saw him a time or two in the division, he was always
merry-making. He has sold another horse,' said Olenin, and glanced
towards the oven. A pair of large, dark, and hostile eyes
glittered as they gazed severely at him.
He became ashamed of what he had said. 'What of it? He does no one
any harm,' suddenly remarked Maryanka. 'He makes merry with his
own money,' and lowering her legs she jumped down from the oven
and went out banging the door.
Olenin followed her with his eyes as long as she was in the hut,
and then looked at the door and waited, understanding nothing of
what Granny Ulitka was telling him.
A few minutes later some visitors arrived: an old man, Granny
Ulitka's brother, with Daddy Eroshka, and following them came
Maryanka and Ustenka.
'Good evening,' squeaked Ustenka. 'Still on holiday?' she added,
turning to Olenin.
'Yes, still on holiday,' he replied, and felt, he did not know
why, ashamed and ill at ease.
He wished to go away but could not. It also seemed to him
impossible to remain silent. The old man helped him by asking for
a drink, and they had a drink. Olenin drank with Eroshka, with the
other Cossack, and again with Eroshka, and the more he drank the
heavier was his heart. But the two old men grew merry. The girls
climbed onto the oven, where they sat whispering and looking at
the men, who drank till it was late. Olenin did not talk, but
drank more than the others. The Cossacks were shouting. The old
woman would not let them have any more chikhir, and at last turned
them out. The girls laughed at Daddy Eroshka, and it was past ten
when they all went out into the porch. The old men invited
themselves to finish their merry-making at Olenin's. Ustenka ran
off home and Eroshka led the old Cossack to Vanyusha. The old
woman went out to tidy up the shed. Maryanka remained alone in the
hut. Olenin felt fresh and joyous, as if he had only just woke up.
He noticed everything, and having let the old men pass ahead he
turned back to the hut where Maryanka was preparing for bed. He
went up to her and wished to say something, but his voice broke.
She moved away from him, sat down cross-legged on her bed in the
corner, and looked at him silently with wild and frightened eyes.
She was evidently afraid of him. Olenin felt this. He felt sorry
and ashamed of himself, and at the same time proud and pleased
that he aroused even that feeling in her.
'Maryanka!' he said. 'Will you never take pity on me? I can't tell
you how I love you.'
She moved still farther away.
'Just hear how the wine is speaking! ... You'll get nothing from
'No, it is not the wine. Don't marry Lukashka. I will marry you.'
('What am I saying,' he thought as he uttered these words. 'Shall
I be able to say the same to-morrow?' 'Yes, I shall, I am sure I
shall, and I will repeat them now,' replied an inner voice.)
'Will you marry me?'
She looked at him seriously and her fear seemed to have passed.
'Maryanka, I shall go out of my mind! I am not myself. I will do
whatever you command,' and madly tender words came from his lips
of their own accord.
'Now then, what are you drivelling about?' she interrupted,
suddenly seizing the arm he was stretching towards her. She did
not push his arm away but pressed it firmly with her strong hard
fingers. 'Do gentlemen marry Cossack girls? Go away!'
'But will you? Everything...'
'And what shall we do with Lukashka?' said she, laughing.
He snatched away the arm she was holding and firmly embraced her
young body, but she sprang away like a fawn and ran barefoot into
the porch: Olenin came to his senses and was terrified at himself.
He again felt himself inexpressibly vile compared to her, yet not
repenting for an instant of what he had said he went home, and
without even glancing at the old men who were drinking in his room
he lay down and fell asleep more soundly than he had done for a
The next day was a holiday. In the evening all the villagers,
their holiday clothes shining in the sunset, were out in the
street. That season more wine than usual had been produced, and
the people were now free from their labours. In a month the
Cossacks were to start on a campaign and in many families
preparations were being made for weddings.
Most of the people were standing in the square in front of the
Cossack Government Office and near the two shops, in one of which
cakes and pumpkin seeds were sold, in the other kerchiefs and
cotton prints. On the earth-embankment of the office-building sat
or stood the old men in sober grey, or black coats without gold
trimmings or any kind of ornament. They conversed among themselves
quietly in measured tones, about the harvest, about the young
folk, about village affairs, and about old times, looking with
dignified equanimity at the younger generation. Passing by them,
the women and girls stopped and bent their heads. The young
Cossacks respectfully slackened their pace and raised their caps,
holding them for a while over their heads. The old men then
stopped speaking. Some of them watched the passers-by severely,
others kindly, and in their turn slowly took off their caps and
put them on again.
The Cossack girls had not yet started dancing their khorovods, but
having gathered in groups, in their bright coloured beshmets with
white kerchiefs on their heads pulled down to their eyes, they sat
either on the ground or on the earth-banks about the huts
sheltered from the oblique rays of the sun, and laughed and
chattered in their ringing voices. Little boys and girls playing
in the square sent their balls high up into the clear sky, and ran
about squealing and shouting. The half-grown girls had started
dancing their khorovods, and were timidly singing in their thin
shrill voices. Clerks, lads not in the service, or home for the
holiday, bright-faced and wearing smart white or new red
Circassian gold-trimmed coats, went about arm in arm in twos or
threes from one group of women or girls to another, and stopped to
joke and chat with the Cossack girls. The Armenian shopkeeper, in
a gold-trimmed coat of fine blue cloth, stood at the open door
through which piles of folded bright-coloured kerchiefs were
visible and, conscious of his own importance and with the pride of
an Oriental tradesman, waited for customers. Two red-bearded,
barefooted Chechens, who had come from beyond the Terek to see the
fete, sat on their heels outside the house of a friend,
negligently smoking their little pipes and occasionally spitting,
watching the villagers and exchanging remarks with one another in
their rapid guttural speech. Occasionally a workaday-looking
soldier in an old overcoat passed across the square among the
bright-clad girls. Here and there the songs of tipsy Cossacks who
were merry-making could already be heard. All the huts were
closed; the porches had been scrubbed clean the day before. Even
the old women were out in the street, which was everywhere
sprinkled with pumpkin and melon seed-shells. The air was warm and
still, the sky deep and clear. Beyond the roofs the dead-white
mountain range, which seemed very near, was turning rosy in the
glow of the evening sun. Now and then from the other side of the
river came the distant roar of a cannon, but above the village,
mingling with one another, floated all sorts of merry holiday
Olenin had been pacing the yard all that morning hoping to see
Maryanka. But she, having put on holiday clothes, went to Mass at
the chapel and afterwards sat with the other girls on an earth-
embankment cracking seeds; sometimes again, together with her
companions, she ran home, and each time gave the lodger a bright
and kindly look. Olenin felt afraid to address her playfully or in
the presence of others. He wished to finish telling her what he
had begun to say the night before, and to get her to give him a
definite answer. He waited for another moment like that of
yesterday evening, but the moment did not come, and he felt that
he could not remain any longer in this uncertainty. She went out
into the street again, and after waiting awhile he too went out
and without knowing where he was going he followed her. He passed
by the corner where she was sitting in her shining blue satin
beshmet, and with an aching heart he heard behind him the girls
Beletski's hut looked out onto the square. As Olenin was passing
it he heard Beletski's voice calling to him, 'Come in,' and in he
After a short talk they both sat down by the window and were soon
joined by Eroshka, who entered dressed in a new beshmet and sat
down on the floor beside them.
'There, that's the aristocratic party,' said Beletski, pointing
with his cigarette to a brightly coloured group at the corner.
'Mine is there too. Do you see her? in red. That's a new beshmet.
Why don't you start the khorovod?' he shouted, leaning out of the
window. 'Wait a bit, and then when it grows dark let us go too.
Then we will invite them to Ustenka's. We must arrange a ball for
'And I will come to Ustenka's,' said Olenin in a decided tone.
'Will Maryanka be there?'
'Yes, she'll be there. Do come!' said Beletski, without the least
surprise. 'But isn't it a pretty picture?' he added, pointing to
the motley crowds.
'Yes, very!' Olenin assented, trying to appear indifferent.
'Holidays of this kind,' he added, 'always make me wonder why all
these people should suddenly be contented and jolly. To-day for
instance, just because it happens to be the fifteenth of the
month, everything is festive. Eyes and faces and voices and
movements and garments, and the air and the sun, are all in a
holiday mood. And we no longer have any holidays!'
'Yes,' said Beletski, who did not like such reflections.
'And why are you not drinking, old fellow?' he said, turning to
Eroshka winked at Olenin, pointing to Beletski. 'Eh, he's a proud
one that kunak of yours,' he said.
Beletski raised his glass. ALLAH BIRDY' he said, emptying it.
(ALLAH BIRDY, 'God has given!'--the usual greeting of Caucasians
when drinking together.)
'Sau bul' ('Your health'), answered Eroshka smiling, and emptied
'Speaking of holidays!' he said, turning to Olenin as he rose and
looked out of the window, 'What sort of holiday is that! You
should have seen them make merry in the old days! The women used
to come out in their gold--trimmed sarafans. Two rows of gold
coins hanging round their necks and gold-cloth diadems on their
heads, and when they passed they made a noise, "flu, flu," with
their dresses. Every woman looked like a princess. Sometimes
they'd come out, a whole herd of them, and begin singing songs so
that the air seemed to rumble, and they went on making merry all
night. And the Cossacks would roll out a barrel into the yards and
sit down and drink till break of day, or they would go hand--in--
hand sweeping the village. Whoever they met they seized and took
along with them, and went from house to house. Sometimes they used
to make merry for three days on end. Father used to come home--I
still remember it--quite red and swollen, without a cap, having
lost everything: he'd come and lie down. Mother knew what to do:
she would bring him some fresh caviar and a little chikhir to
sober him up, and would herself run about in the village looking
for his cap. Then he'd sleep for two days! That's the sort of
fellows they were then! But now what are they?'
'Well, and the girls in the sarafans, did they make merry all by
themselves?' asked Beletski.
'Yes, they did! Sometimes Cossacks would come on foot or on horse
and say, "Let's break up the khorovods," and they'd go, but the
girls would take up cudgels. Carnival week, some young fellow
would come galloping up, and they'd cudgel his horse and cudgel
him too. But he'd break through, seize the one he loved, and carry
her off. And his sweetheart would love him to his heart's content!
Yes, the girls in those days, they were regular queens!'
Just then two men rode out of the side street into the square. One
of them was Nazarka. The other, Lukashka, sat slightly sideways on
his well-fed bay Kabarda horse which stepped lightly over the hard
road jerking its beautiful head with its fine glossy mane. The
well-adjusted gun in its cover, the pistol at his back, and the
cloak rolled up behind his saddle showed that Lukashka had not
come from a peaceful place or from one near by. The smart way in
which he sat a little sideways on his horse, the careless motion
with which he touched the horse under its belly with his whip, and
especially his half-closed black eyes, glistening as he looked
proudly around him, all expressed the conscious strength and self-
confidence of youth. 'Ever seen as fine a lad?' his eyes, looking
from side to side, seemed to say. The elegant horse with its
silver ornaments and trappings, the weapons, and the handsome
Cossack himself attracted the attention of everyone in the square.
Nazarka, lean and short, was much less well dressed. As he rode
past the old men, Lukashka paused and raised his curly white
sheepskin cap above his closely cropped black head.
'Well, have you carried off many Nogay horses?' asked a lean old
man with a frowning, lowering look.
'Have you counted them, Grandad, that you ask?' replied Lukashka,
'That's all very well, but you need not take my lad along with
you,' the old man muttered with a still darker frown.
'Just see the old devil, he knows everything,' muttered Lukashka
to himself, and a worried expression came over his face; but then,
noticing a corner where a number of Cossack girls were standing,
he turned his horse towards them.
'Good evening, girls!' he shouted in his powerful, resonant voice,
suddenly checking his horse. 'You've grown old without me, you
witches!' and he laughed.
'Good evening, Lukashka! Good evening, laddie!' the merry voices
answered. 'Have you brought much money? Buy some sweets for the
girls! ... Have you come for long? True enough, it's long since we
'Nazarka and I have just flown across to make a night of it,'
replied Lukashka, raising his whip and riding straight at the
'Why, Maryanka has quite forgotten you,' said Ustenka, nudging
Maryanka with her elbow and breaking into a shrill laugh.
Maryanka moved away from the horse and throwing back her head
calmly looked at the Cossack with her large sparkling eyes.
'True enough, you have not been home for a long time! Why are you
trampling us under your horse?' she remarked dryly, and turned
Lukashka had appeared particularly merry. His face shone with
audacity and joy. Obviously staggered by Maryanka's cold reply he
suddenly knitted his brow.
'Step up on my stirrup and I'll carry you away to the mountains.
Mammy!' he suddenly exclaimed, and as if to disperse his dark
thoughts he caracoled among the girls. Stooping down towards
Maryanka, he said, 'I'll kiss, oh, how I'll kiss you! ...'
Maryanka's eyes met his and she suddenly blushed and stepped back.
'Oh, bother you! you'll crush my feet,' she said, and bending her
head looked at her well-shaped feet in their tightly fitting light
blue stockings with clocks and her new red slippers trimmed with
narrow silver braid.
Lukashka turned towards Ustenka, and Maryanka sat down next to a
woman with a baby in her arms. The baby stretched his plump little
hands towards the girl and seized a necklace string that hung down
onto her blue beshmet. Maryanka bent towards the child and glanced
at Lukashka from the comer of her eyes. Lukashka just then was
getting out from under his coat, from the pocket of his black
beshmet, a bundle of sweetmeats and seeds.
'There, I give them to all of you,' he said, handing the bundle to
Ustenka and smiling at Maryanka.
A confused expression again appeared on the girl's face. It was as
though a mist gathered over her beautiful eyes. She drew her
kerchief down below her lips, and leaning her head over the fair-
skinned face of the baby that still held her by her coin necklace
she suddenly began to kiss it greedily. The baby pressed his
little hands against the girl's high breasts, and opening his
toothless mouth screamed loudly.
"You're smothering the boy!" said the little one's mother, taking
him away; and she unfastened her beshmet to give him the breast.
"You'd better have a chat with the young fellow."
"I'll only go and put up my horse and then Nazarka and I will come
back; we'll make merry all night," said Lukashka, touching his
horse with his whip and riding away from the girls.
Turning into a side street, he and Nazarka rode up to two huts
that stood side by side.
"Here we are all right, old fellow! Be quick and come soon!"
called Lukashka to his comrade, dismounting in front of one of the
huts; then he carefully led his horse in at the gate of the wattle
fence of his own home.
"How d'you do, Stepka?" he said to his dumb sister, who, smartly
dressed like the others, came in from the street to take his
horse; and he made signs to her to take the horse to the hay, but
not to unsaddle it.
The dumb girl made her usual humming noise, smacked her lips as
she pointed to the horse and kissed it on the nose, as much as to
say that she loved it and that it was a fine horse.
"How d'you do. Mother? How is it that you have not gone out yet?"
shouted Lukashka, holding his gun in place as he mounted the steps
of the porch.
His old mother opened the door.
"Dear me! I never expected, never thought, you'd come," said the
old woman. "Why, Kirka said you wouldn't be here."
"Go and bring some chikhir, Mother. Nazarka is coming here and we
will celebrate the feast day."
"Directly, Lukashka, directly!" answered the old woman. "Our women
are making merry. I expect our dumb one has gone too."
She took her keys and hurriedly went to the outhouse. Nazarka,
after putting up his horse and taking the gun off his shoulder,
returned to Lukashka's house and went in.
'Your health!' said Lukashka, taking from his mother's hands a cup
filled to the brim with chikhir and carefully raising it to his
'A bad business!' said Nazarka. 'You heard how Daddy Burlak said,
"Have you stolen many horses?" He seems to know!'
'A regular wizard!' Lukashka replied shortly. 'But what of it!' he
added, tossing his head. 'They are across the river by now. Go and
'Still it's a bad lookout.'
'What's a bad lookout? Go and take some chikhir to him to-morrow
and nothing will come of it. Now let's make merry. Drink!' shouted
Lukashka, just in the tone in which old Eroshka uttered the word.
'We'll go out into the street and make merry with the girls. You
go and get some honey; or no, I'll send our dumb wench. We'll make
merry till morning.'
'Are we stopping here long?' he asked.
Till we've had a bit of fun. Run and get some vodka. Here's the
Nazarka ran off obediently to get the vodka from Yamka's.
Daddy Eroshka and Ergushov, like birds of prey, scenting where the
merry-making was going on, tumbled into the hut one after the
other, both tipsy.
'Bring us another half-pail,' shouted Lukashka to his mother, by
way of reply to their greeting.
'Now then, tell us where did you steal them, you devil?' shouted
Eroshka. 'Fine fellow, I'm fond of you!'
'Fond indeed...' answered Lukashka laughing, 'carrying sweets from
cadets to lasses! Eh, you old...'
'That's not true, not true! ... Oh, Mark,' and the old man burst
out laughing. 'And how that devil begged me. "Go," he said, "and
arrange it." He offered me a gun! But no. I'd have managed it, but
I feel for you. Now tell us where have you been?' And the old man
began speaking in Tartar.
Lukashka answered him promptly.
Ergushov, who did not know much Tartar, only occasionally put in a
word in Russian: 'What I say is he's driven away the horses. I
know it for a fact,' he chimed in.
'Girey and I went together.' (His speaking of Girey Khan as
'Girey' was, to the Cossack mind, evidence of his boldness.) 'Just
beyond the river he kept bragging that he knew the whole of the
steppe and would lead the way straight, but we rode on and the
night was dark, and my Girey lost his way and began wandering in a
circle without getting anywhere: couldn't find the village, and
there we were. We must have gone too much to the right. I believe
we wandered about well--nigh till midnight. Then, thank goodness,
we heard dogs howling.'
'Fools!' said Daddy Eroshka. 'There now, we too used to lose our
way in the steppe. (Who the devil can follow it?) But I used to
ride up a hillock and start howling like the wolves, like this!'
He placed his hands before his mouth, and howled like a pack of
wolves, all on one note. 'The dogs would answer at once ... Well,
go on--so you found them?'
'We soon led them away! Nazarka was nearly caught by some Nogay
women, he was!'
'Caught indeed,' Nazarka, who had just come back, said in an
'We rode off again, and again Girey lost his way and almost landed
us among the sand-drifts. We thought we were just getting to the
Terek but we were riding away from it all the time!'
'You should have steered by the stars,' said Daddy Eroshka.
'That's what I say,' interjected Ergushov,
'Yes, steer when all is black; I tried and tried all about... and
at last I put the bridle on one of the mares and let my own horse
go free--thinking he'll lead us out, and what do you think! he
just gave a snort or two with his nose to the ground, galloped
ahead, and led us straight to our village. Thank goodness! It was
getting quite light. We barely had time to hide them in the
forest. Nagim came across the river and took them away.'
Ergushov shook his head. 'It's just what I said. Smart. Did you
get much for them?'
'It's all here,' said Lukashka, slapping his pocket.
Just then his mother came into the room, and Lukashka did not
finish what he was saying.
'Drink!' he shouted.
'We too, Girich and I, rode out late one night...' began Eroshka.
'Oh bother, we'll never hear the end of you!' said Lukashka. 'I am
going.' And having emptied his cup and tightened the strap of his
belt he went out.
It was already dark when Lukashka went out into the street. The
autumn night was fresh and calm. The full golden moon floated up
behind the tall dark poplars that grew on one side of the square.
From the chimneys of the outhouses smoke rose and spread above the
village, mingling with the mist. Here and there lights shone
through the windows, and the air was laden with the smell of
kisyak, grape-pulp, and mist. The sounds of voices, laughter,
songs, and the cracking of seeds mingled just as they had done in
the daytime, but were now more distinct. Clusters of white
kerchiefs and caps gleamed through the darkness near the houses
and by the fences.
In the square, before the shop door which was lit up and open, the
black and white figures of Cossack men and maids showed through
the darkness, and one heard from afar their loud songs and
laughter and talk. The girls, hand in hand, went round and round
in a circle stepping lightly in the dusty square. A skinny girl,
the plainest of them all, set the tune:
'From beyond the wood, from the forest dark,
From the garden green and the shady park,
There came out one day two young lads so gay.
Young bachelors, hey! brave and smart were they!
And they walked and walked, then stood still, each man,
And they talked and soon to dispute began!
Then a maid came out; as she came along,
Said, "To one of you I shall soon belong!"
'Twas the fair-faced lad got the maiden fair,
Yes, the fair-faced lad with the golden hair!
Her right hand so white in his own took he,
And he led her round for his mates to see!
And said, "Have you ever in all your life,
Met a lass as fair as my sweet little wife?"'
The old women stood round listening to the songs. The little boys
and girls ran about chasing one another in the dark. The men stood
by, catching at the girls as the latter moved round, and sometimes
breaking the ring and entering it. On the dark side of the doorway
stood Beletski and Olenin, in their Circassian coats and sheepskin
caps, and talked together in a style of speech unlike that of the
Cossacks, in low but distinct tones, conscious that they were
attracting attention. Next to one another in the khorovod circle
moved plump little Ustenka in her red beshmet and the stately
Maryanka in her new smock and beshmet. Olenin and Beletski were
discussing how to snatch Ustenka and Maryanka out of the ring.
Beletski thought that Olenin wished only to amuse himself, but
Olenin was expecting his fate to be decided. He wanted at any cost
to see Maryanka alone that very day and to tell her everything,
and ask her whether she could and would be his wife. Although that
question had long been answered in the negative in his own mind,
he hoped he would be able to tell her all he felt, and that she
would understand him.
'Why did you not tell me sooner?' said Beletski. 'I would have got
Ustenka to arrange it for you. You are such a queer fellow! ...'
'What's to be done! ... Some day, very soon, I'll tell you all
about it. Only now, for Heaven's sake, arrange so that she should
come to Ustenka's.'
'All right, that's easily done! Well, Maryanka, will you belong to
the "fair-faced lad", and not to Lukashka?' said Beletski,
speaking to Maryanka first for propriety's sake, but having
received no reply he went up to Ustenka and begged her to bring
Maryanka home with her. He had hardly time to finish what he was
saying before the leader began another song and the girls started
pulling each other round in the ring by the hand.
"Past the garden, by the garden,
A young man came strolling down,
Up the street and through the town.
And the first time as he passed
He did wave his strong right hand.
As the second time he passed
Waved his hat with silken band.
But the third time as he went
He stood still: before her bent.
"How is it that thou, my dear,
My reproaches dost not fear?
In the park don't come to walk
That we there might have a talk?
Come now, answer me, my dear,
Dost thou hold me in contempt?
Later on, thou knowest, dear,
Thou'lt get sober and repent.
Soon to woo thee I will come,
And when we shall married be
Thou wilt weep because of me!"
"Though I knew what to reply,
Yet I dared not him deny,
No, I dared not him deny!
So into the park went I,
In the park my lad to meet,
There my dear one I did greet."
"Maiden dear, I bow to thee!
Take this handkerchief from me.
In thy white hand take it, see!
Say I am beloved by thee.
I don't know at all, I fear,
What I am to give thee, dear!
To my dear I think I will
Of a shawl a present make--
And five kisses for it take."'
Lukashka and Nazarka broke into the ring and started walking about
among the girls. Lukashka joined in the singing, taking seconds in
his clear voice as he walked in the middle of the ring swinging
his arms. 'Well, come in, one of you!' he said. The other girls
pushed Maryanka, but she would not enter the ring. The sound of
shrill laughter, slaps, kisses, and whispers mingled with the
As he went past Olenin, Lukashka gave a friendly nod.
'Dmitri Andreich! Have you too come to have a look?' he said.
'Yes,' answered Olenin dryly.
Beletski stooped and whispered something into Ustenka's ear. She
had not time to reply till she came round again, when she said:
'All right, we'll come.'
'And Maryanka too?'
Olenin stooped towards Maryanka. 'You'll come? Please do, if only
for a minute. I must speak to you.'
'If the other girls come, I will.'
'Will you answer my question?' said he, bending towards her. 'You
are in good spirits to-day.'
She had already moved past him. He went after her.
'Will you answer?'
'The question I asked you the other day,' said Olenin, stooping to
her ear. 'Will you marry me?'
Maryanka thought for a moment.
'I'll tell you,' said she, 'I'll tell you to-night.'
And through the darkness her eyes gleamed brightly and kindly at
the young man.
He still followed her. He enjoyed stooping closer to her. But
Lukashka, without ceasing to sing, suddenly seized her firmly by
the hand and pulled her from her place in the ring of girls into
the middle. Olenin had only time to say, "Come to Ustenka's," and
stepped back to his companion.
The song came to an end. Lukashka wiped his lips, Maryanka did the
same, and they kissed. "No, no, kisses five!" said Lukashka.
Chatter, laughter, and running about, succeeded to the rhythmic
movements and sound. Lukashka, who seemed to have drunk a great
deal, began to distribute sweetmeats to the girls.
"I offer them to everyone!" he said with proud, comically pathetic
self-admiration. "But anyone who goes after soldiers goes out of
the ring!" he suddenly added, with an angry glance at Olenin.
The girls grabbed his sweetmeats from him, and, laughing,
struggled for them among themselves. Beletski and Olenin stepped
Lukashka, as if ashamed of his generosity, took off his cap and
wiping his forehead with his sleeve came up to Maryanka and
"Answer me, my dear, dost thou hold me in contempt?" he said in
the words of the song they had just been singing, and turning to
Maryanka he angrily repeated the words: "Dost thou hold me in
contempt? When we shall married be thou wilt weep because of me!"
he added, embracing Ustenka and Maryanka both together.
Ustenka tore herself away, and swinging her arm gave him such a
blow on the back that she hurt her hand.
"Well, are you going to have another turn?" he asked.
"The other girls may if they like," answered Ustenka, "but I am
going home and Maryanka was coming to our house too."
With his arm still round her, Lukashka led Maryanka away from the
crowd to the darker comer of a house.
"Don't go, Maryanka," he said, "let's have some fun for the last
time. Go home and I will come to you!"
"What am I to do at home? Holidays are meant for merrymaking. I am
going to Ustenka's," replied Maryanka.
'I'll marry you all the same, you know!'
'All right,' said Maryanka, 'we shall see when the time comes.'
'So you are going,' said Lukashka sternly, and, pressing her
close, he kissed her on the cheek.
'There, leave off! Don't bother,' and Maryanka, wrenching herself
from his arms, moved away.
'Ah my girl, it will turn out badly,' said Lukashka reproachfully
and stood still, shaking his head. 'Thou wilt weep because of
me...' and turning away from her he shouted to the other girls:
'Now then! Play away!'
What he had said seemed to have frightened and vexed Maryanka. She
stopped, 'What will turn out badly?'
'Why, that you keep company with a soldier-lodger and no longer
care for me!'
'I'll care just as long as I choose. You're not my father, nor my
mother. What do you want? I'll care for whom I like!'
'Well, all right...' said Lukashka, 'but remember!' He moved
towards the shop. 'Girls!' he shouted, 'why have you stopped? Go
on dancing. Nazarka, fetch some more chikhir.'
'Well, will they come?' asked Olenin, addressing Beletski.
'They'll come directly,' replied Beletski. 'Come along, we must
prepare the ball.'
It was already late in the night when Olenin came out of
Beletski's hut following Maryanka and Ustenka. He saw in the dark
street before him the gleam of the girl's white kerchief. The
golden moon was descending towards the steppe. A silvery mist hung
over the village. All was still; there were no lights anywhere and
one heard only the receding footsteps of the young women. Olenin's
heart beat fast. The fresh moist atmosphere cooled his burning
face. He glanced at the sky and turned to look at the hut he had
just come out of: the candle was already out. Then he again peered
through the darkness at the girls' retreating shadows. The white
kerchief disappeared in the mist. He was afraid to remain alone,
he was so happy. He jumped down from the porch and ran after the
'Bother you, someone may see...' said Ustenka.
Olenin ran up to Maryanka and embraced her.
Maryanka did not resist.
'Haven't you kissed enough yet?' said Ustenka. 'Marry and then
kiss, but now you'd better wait.'
'Good-night, Maryanka. To-morrow I will come to see your father
and tell him. Don't you say anything.'
'Why should I!' answered Maryanka.
Both the girls started running. Olenin went on by himself thinking
over all that had happened. He had spent the whole evening alone
with her in a corner by the oven. Ustenka had not left the hut for
a single moment, but had romped about with the other girls and
with Beletski all the time. Olenin had talked in whispers to
'Will you marry me?' he had asked.
'You'd deceive me and not have me,' she replied cheerfully and
'But do you love me? Tell me for God's sake!'
'Why shouldn't I love you? You don't squint,' answered Maryanka,
laughing and with her hard hands squeezing his....
'What whi-ite, whi-i-ite, soft hands you've got--so like clotted
cream,' she said.
'I am in earnest. Tell me, will you marry me?'
'Why not, if father gives me to you?'
'Well then remember, I shall go mad if you deceive me. To-morrow I
will tell your mother and father. I shall come and propose.'
Maryanka suddenly burst out laughing.
'What's the matter?'
'It seems so funny!'
'It's true! I will buy a vineyard and a house and will enroll
myself as a Cossack.'
'Mind you don't go after other women then. I am severe about
Olenin joyfully repeated all these words to himself. The memory of
them now gave him pain and now such joy that it took away his
breath. The pain was because she had remained as calm as usual
while talking to him. She did not seem at all agitated by these
new conditions. It was as if she did not trust him and did not
think of the future. It seemed to him that she only loved him for
the present moment, and that in her mind there was no future with
him. He was happy because her words sounded to him true, and she
had consented to be his. 'Yes,' thought he to himself, 'we shall
only understand one another when she is quite mine. For such love
there are no words. It needs life--the whole of life. To-morrow
everything will be cleared up. I cannot live like this any longer;
to-morrow I will tell everything to her father, to Beletski, and
to the whole village.'
Lukashka, after two sleepless nights, had drunk so much at the
fete that for the first time in his life his feet would not carry
him, and he slept in Yamka's house.
The next day Olenin awoke earlier than usual, and immediately
remembered what lay before him, and he joyfully recalled her
kisses, the pressure of her hard hands, and her words, 'What white
hands you have!' He jumped up and wished to go at once to his
hosts' hut to ask for their consent to his marriage with Maryanka.
The sun had not yet risen, but it seemed that there was an unusual
bustle in the street and side-street: people were moving about on
foot and on horseback, and talking. He threw on his Circassian
coat and hastened out into the porch. His hosts were not yet up.
Five Cossacks were riding past and talking loudly together. In
front rode Lukashka on his broad-backed Kabarda horse.
The Cossacks were all speaking and shouting so that it was
impossible to make out exactly what they were saying.
'Ride to the Upper Post,' shouted one.
'Saddle and catch us up, be quick,' said another.
'It's nearer through the other gate!'
'What are you talking about?' cried Lukashka. 'We must go through
the middle gates, of course.'
'So we must, it's nearer that way,' said one of the Cossacks who
was covered with dust and rode a perspiring horse. Lukashka's face
was red and swollen after the drinking of the previous night and
his cap was pushed to the back of his head. He was calling out
with authority as though he were an officer.
'What is the matter? Where are you going?' asked Olenin, with
difficulty attracting the Cossacks' attention.
'We are off to catch abreks. They're hiding among the sand-drifts.
We are just off, but there are not enough of us yet.'
And the Cossacks continued to shout, more and more of them joining
as they rode down the street. It occurred to Olenin that it would
not look well for him to stay behind; besides he thought he could
soon come back. He dressed, loaded his gun with bullets, jumped
onto his horse which Vanyusha had saddled more or less well, and
overtook the Cossacks at the village gates. The Cossacks had
dismounted, and filling a wooden bowl with chikhir from a little
cask which they had brought with them, they passed the bowl round
to one another and drank to the success of their expedition. Among
them was a smartly dressed young cornet, who happened to be in the
village and who took command of the group of nine Cossacks who had
joined for the expedition. All these Cossacks were privates, and
although the cornet assumed the airs of a commanding officer, they
only obeyed Lukashka. Of Olenin they took no notice at all, and
when they had all mounted and started, and Olenin rode up to the
cornet and began asking him what was taking place, the cornet, who
was usually quite friendly, treated him with marked condescension.
It was with great difficulty that Olenin managed to find out from
him what was happening. Scouts who had been sent out to search for
abreks had come upon several hillsmen some six miles from the
village. These abreks had taken shelter in pits and had fired at
the scouts, declaring they would not surrender. A corporal who had
been scouting with two Cossacks had remained to watch the abreks,
and had sent one Cossack back to get help.
The sun was just rising. Three miles beyond the village the steppe
spread out and nothing was visible except the dry, monotonous,
sandy, dismal plain covered with the footmarks of cattle, and here
and there with tufts of withered grass, with low reeds in the
flats, and rare, little-trodden footpaths, and the camps of the
nomad Nogay tribe just visible far away. The absence of shade and
the austere aspect of the place were striking. The sun always
rises and sets red in the steppe. When it is windy whole hills of
sand are carried by the wind from place to place.
When it is calm, as it was that morning, the silence,
uninterrupted by any movement or sound, is peculiarly striking.
That morning in the steppe it was quiet and dull, though the sun
had already risen. It all seemed specially soft and desolate. The
air was hushed, the footfalls and the snorting of the horses were
the only sounds to be heard, and even they quickly died away.
The men rode almost silently. A Cossack always carries his weapons
so that they neither jingle nor rattle. Jingling weapons are a
terrible disgrace to a Cossack. Two other Cossacks from the
village caught the party up and exchanged a few words. Lukashka's
horse either stumbled or caught its foot in some grass, and became
restive--which is a sign of bad luck among the Cossacks, and at
such a time was of special importance. The others exchanged
glances and turned away, trying not to notice what had happened.
Lukaskha pulled at the reins, frowned sternly, set his teeth, and
flourished his whip above his head. His good Kabarda horse,
prancing from one foot to another not knowing with which to start,
seemed to wish to fly upwards on wings. But Lukashka hit its well-
-fed sides with his whip once, then again, and a third time, and
the horse, showing its teeth and spreading out its tail, snorted
and reared and stepped on its hind legs a few paces away from the
'Ah, a good steed that!' said the cornet.
That he said steed instead of HORSE indicated special praise.
'A lion of a horse,' assented one of the others, an old Cossack.
The Cossacks rode forward silently, now at a footpace, then at a
trot, and these changes were the only incidents that interrupted
for a moment the stillness and solemnity of their movements.
Riding through the steppe for about six miles, they passed nothing
but one Nogay tent, placed on a cart and moving slowly along at a
distance of about a mile from them. A Nogay family was moving from
one part of the steppe to another. Afterwards they met two
tattered Nogay women with high cheekbones, who with baskets on
their backs were gathering dung left by the cattle that wandered
over the steppe. The cornet, who did not know their language well,
tried to question them, but they did not understand him and,
obviously frightened, looked at one another.
Lukashka rode up to them both, stopped his horse, and promptly
uttered the usual greeting. The Nogay women were evidently
relieved, and began speaking to him quite freely as to a brother.
'Ay--ay, kop abrek!' they said plaintively, pointing in the
direction in which the Cossacks were going. Olenin understood that
they were saying, 'Many abreks.'
Never having seen an engagement of that kind, and having formed an
idea of them only from Daddy Eroshka's tales, Olenin wished not to
be left behind by the Cossacks, but wanted to see it all. He
admired the Cossacks, and was on the watch, looking and listening
and making his own observations. Though he had brought his sword
and a loaded gun with him, when he noticed that the Cossacks
avoided him he decided to take no part in the action, as in his
opinion his courage had already been sufficiently proved when he
was with his detachment, and also because he was very happy.
Suddenly a shot was heard in the distance.
The cornet became excited, and began giving orders to the Cossacks
as to how they should divide and from which side they should
approach. But the Cossacks did not appear to pay any attention to
these orders, listening only to what Lukashka said and looking to
him alone. Lukashka's face and figure were expressive of calm
solemnity. He put his horse to a trot with which the others were
unable to keep pace, and screwing up his eyes kept looking ahead.
'There's a man on horseback,' he said, reining in his horse and
keeping in line with the others.
Olenin looked intently, but could not see anything. The Cossacks
soon distinguished two riders and quietly rode straight towards
'Are those the ABREKS?' asked Olenin.
The Cossacks did not answer his question, which appeared quite
meaningless to them. The ABREKS would have been fools to venture
across the river on horseback.
'That's friend Rodka waving to us, I do believe,' said Lukashka,
pointing to the two mounted men who were now clearly visible.
'Look, he's coming to us.'
A few minutes later it became plain that the two horsemen were the
Cossack scouts. The corporal rode up to Lukashka.
'Are they far?' was all Lukashka said.
Just then they heard a sharp shot some thirty paces off. The
corporal smiled slightly.
'Our Gurka is having shots at them,' he said, nodding in the
direction of the shot.
Having gone a few paces farther they saw Gurka sitting behind a
sand-hillock and loading his gun. To while away the time he was
exchanging shots with the ABREKS, who were behind another sand-
heap. A bullet came whistling from their side.
The cornet was pale and grew confused. Lukashka dismounted from
his horse, threw the reins to one of the other Cossacks, and went
up to Gurka. Olenin also dismounted and, bending down, followed
Lukashka. They had hardly reached Gurka when two bullets whistled
Lukashka looked around laughing at Olenin and stooped a little.
'Look out or they will kill you, Dmitri Andreich,' he said. 'You'd
better go away--you have no business here.' But Olenin wanted
absolutely to see the ABREKS.
From behind the mound he saw caps and muskets some two hundred
paces off. Suddenly a little cloud of smoke appeared from thence,
and again a bullet whistled past. The ABREKS were hiding in a
marsh at the foot of the hill. Olenin was much impressed by the
place in which they sat. In reality it was very much like the rest
of the steppe, but because the ABREKS sat there it seemed to
detach itself from all the rest and to have become distinguished.
Indeed it appeared to Olenin that it was the very spot for ABREKS
to occupy. Lukashka went back to his horse and Olenin followed
'We must get a hay-cart,' said Lukashka, 'or they will be killing
some of us. There behind that mound is a Nogay cart with a load of
The cornet listened to him and the corporal agreed. The cart of
hay was fetched, and the Cossacks, hiding behind it, pushed it
forward. Olenin rode up a hillock from whence he could see
everything. The hay-cart moved on and the Cossacks crowded
together behind it. The Cossacks advanced, but the Chechens, of
whom there were nine, sat with their knees in a row and did not
All was quiet. Suddenly from the Chechens arose the sound of a
mournful song, something like Daddy Eroshka's 'Ay day, dalalay.'
The Chechens knew that they could not escape, and to prevent
themselves from being tempted to take to flight they had strapped
themselves together, knee to knee, had got their guns ready, and
were singing their death-song.
The Cossacks with their hay-cart drew closer and closer, and
Olenin expected the firing to begin at any moment, but the silence
was only broken by the abreks' mournful song. Suddenly the song
ceased; there was a sharp report, a bullet struck the front of the
cart, and Chechen curses and yells broke the silence and shot
followed on shot and one bullet after another struck the cart. The
Cossacks did not fire and were now only five paces distant.
Another moment passed and the Cossacks with a whoop rushed out on
both sides from behind the cart--Lukashka in front of them. Olenin
heard only a few shots, then shouting and moans. He thought he saw
smoke and blood, and abandoning his horse and quite beside himself
he ran towards the Cossacks. Horror seemed to blind him. He could
not make out anything, but understood that all was over. Lukashka,
pale as death, was holding a wounded Chechen by the arms and
shouting, 'Don't kill him. I'll take him alive!' The Chechen was
the red-haired man who had fetched his brother's body away after
Lukashka had killed him. Lukashka was twisting his arms. Suddenly
the Chechen wrenched himself free and fired his pistol. Lukashka
fell, and blood began to flow from his stomach. He jumped up, but
fell again, swearing in Russian and in Tartar. More and more blood
appeared on his clothes and under him. Some Cossacks approached
him and began loosening his girdle. One of them, Nazarka, before
beginning to help, fumbled for some time, unable to put his sword
in its sheath: it would not go the right way. The blade of the
sword was blood-stained.
The Chechens with their red hair and clipped moustaches lay dead
and hacked about. Only the one we know of, who had fired at
Lukashka, though wounded in many places was still alive. Like a
wounded hawk all covered with blood (blood was flowing from a
wound under his right eye), pale and gloomy, he looked about him
with wide--open excited eyes and clenched teeth as he crouched,
dagger in hand, still prepared to defend himself. The cornet went
up to him as if intending to pass by, and with a quick movement
shot him in the ear. The Chechen started up, but it was too late,
and he fell.
The Cossacks, quite out of breath, dragged the bodies aside and
took the weapons from them. Each of the red-haired Chechens had
been a man, and each one had his own individual expression.
Lukashka was carried to the cart. He continued to swear in Russian
and in Tartar.
'No fear, I'll strangle him with my hands. ANNA SENI!' he cried,
struggling. But he soon became quiet from weakness.
Olenin rode home. In the evening he was told that Lukashka was at
death's door, but that a Tartar from beyond the river had
undertaken to cure him with herbs.
The bodies were brought to the village office. The women and the
little boys hastened to look at them.
It was growing dark when Olenin returned, and he could not collect
himself after what he had seen. But towards night memories of the
evening before came rushing to his mind. He looked out of the
window, Maryanka was passing to and fro from the house to the
cowshed, putting things straight. Her mother had gone to the
vineyard and her father to the office. Olenin could not wait till
she had quite finished her work, but went out to meet her. She was
in the hut standing with her back towards him. Olenin thought she
'Maryanka,' said he, 'I say, Maryanka! May I come in?'
She suddenly turned. There was a scarcely perceptible trace of
tears in her eyes and her face was beautiful in its sadness. She
looked at him in silent dignity.
Olenin again said:
'Maryanka, I have come--'
'Leave me alone!' she said. Her face did not change but the tears
ran down her cheeks.
'What are you crying for? What is it?'
'What?' she repeated in a rough voice. 'Cossacks have been killed,
that's what for.'
'Lukashka?' said Olenin.
'Go away! What do you want?'
'Maryanka!' said Olenin, approaching her.
'You will never get anything from me!'
'Maryanka, don't speak like that,' Olenin entreated.
'Get away. I'm sick of you!' shouted the girl, stamping her foot,
and moved threateningly towards him. And her face expressed such
abhorrence, such contempt, and such anger that Olenin suddenly
understood that there was no hope for him, and that his first
impression of this woman's inaccessibility had been perfectly
Olenin said nothing more, but ran out of the hut.
For two hours after returning home he lay on his bed motionless.
Then he went to his company commander and obtained leave to visit
the staff. Without taking leave of anyone, and sending Vanyusha to
settle his accounts with his landlord, he prepared to leave for
the fort where his regiment was stationed. Daddy Eroshka was the
only one to see him off. They had a drink, and then a second, and
then yet another. Again as on the night of his departure from
Moscow, a three-horsed conveyance stood waiting at the door. But
Olenin did not confer with himself as he had done then, and did
not say to himself that all he had thought and done here was 'not
it'. He did not promise himself a new life. He loved Maryanka more
than ever, and knew that he could never be loved by her.
'Well, good-bye, my lad!' said Daddy Eroshka. 'When you go on an
expedition, be wise and listen to my words--the words of an old
man. When you are out on a raid or the like (you know I'm an old
wolf and have seen things), and when they begin firing, don't get
into a crowd where there are many men. When you fellows get
frightened you always try to get close together with a lot of
others. You think it is merrier to be with others, but that's
where it is worst of all! They always aim at a crowd. Now I used
to keep farther away from the others and went alone, and I've
never been wounded. Yet what things haven't I seen in my day?'
'But you've got a bullet in your back,' remarked Vanyusha, who was
clearing up the room.
'That was the Cossacks fooling about,' answered Eroshka.
'Cossacks? How was that?' asked Olenin.
'Oh, just so. We were drinking. Vanka Sitkin, one of the Cossacks,
got merry, and puff! he gave me one from his pistol just here.'
'Yes, and did it hurt?' asked Olenin. 'Vanyusha, will you soon be
ready?' he added.
'Ah, where's the hurry! Let me tell you. When he banged into me,
the bullet did not break the bone but remained here. And I say:
"You've killed me, brother. Eh! What have you done to me? I won't
let you off! You'll have to stand me a pailful!"'
'Well, but did it hurt?' Olenin asked again, scarcely listening to
'Let me finish. He stood a pailful, and we drank it, but the blood
went on flowing. The whole room was drenched and covered with
blood. Grandad Burlak, he says, "The lad will give up the ghost.
Stand a bottle of the sweet sort, or we shall have you taken up!"
They bought more drink, and boozed and boozed--'
'Yes, but did it hurt you much?' Olenin asked once more.
'Hurt, indeed! Don't interrupt: I don't like it. Let me finish. We
boozed and boozed till morning, and I fell asleep on the top of
the oven, drunk. When I woke in the morning I could not unbend
'Was it very painful?' repeated Olenin, thinking that now he would
at last get an answer to his question.
'Did I tell you it was painful? I did not say it was painful, but
I could not bend and could not walk.'
'And then it healed up?' said Olenin, not even laughing, so heavy
was his heart.
'It healed up, but the bullet is still there. Just feel it!' And
lifting his shirt he showed his powerful back, where just near the
bone a bullet could be felt and rolled about.
'Feel how it rolls,' he said, evidently amusing himself with the
bullet as with a toy. 'There now, it has rolled to the back.'
'And Lukashka, will he recover?' asked Olenin.
'Heaven only knows! There's no doctor. They've gone for one.'
'Where will they get one? From Groznoe?' asked Olenin. 'No, my
lad. Were I the Tsar I'd have hung all your Russian doctors long
ago. Cutting is all they know! There's our Cossack Baklashka, no
longer a real man now that they've cut off his leg! That shows
they're fools. What's Baklashka good for now? No, my lad, in the
mountains there are real doctors. There was my chum, Vorchik, he
was on an expedition and was wounded just here in the chest. Well,
your doctors gave him up, but one of theirs came from the
mountains and cured him! They understand herbs, my lad!'
'Come, stop talking rubbish,' said Olenin. 'I'd better send a
doctor from head-quarters.'
'Rubbish!' the old man said mockingly. 'Fool, fool! Rubbish.
You'll send a doctor!--If yours cured people, Cossacks and
Chechens would go to you for treatment, but as it is your officers
and colonels send to the mountains for doctors. Yours are all
humbugs, all humbugs.'
Olenin did not answer. He agreed only too fully that all was
humbug in the world in which he had lived and to which he was now
'How is Lukashka? You've been to see him?' he asked.
'He just lies as if he were dead. He does not eat nor drink. Vodka
is the only thing his soul accepts. But as long as he drinks vodka
it's well. I'd be sorry to lose the lad. A fine lad--a brave, like
me. I too lay dying like that once. The old women were already
wailing. My head was burning. They had already laid me out under
the holy icons. So I lay there, and above me on the oven little
drummers, no bigger than this, beat the tattoo. I shout at them
and they drum all the harder.' (The old man laughed.) 'The women
brought our church elder. They were getting ready to bury me. They
said, "He defiled himself with worldly unbelievers; he made merry
with women; he ruined people; he did not fast, and he played the
balalayka. Confess," they said. So I began to confess. "I've
sinned!" I said. Whatever the priest said, I always answered "I've
sinned." He began to ask me about the balalayka. "Where is the
accursed thing," he says. "Show it me and smash it." But I say,
"I've not got it." I'd hidden it myself in a net in the outhouse.
I knew they could not find it. So they left me. Yet after all I
recovered. When I went for my BALALAYKA--What was I saying?' he
continued. 'Listen to me, and keep farther away from the other men
or you'll get killed foolishly. I feel for you, truly: you are a
drinker--I love you! And fellows like you like riding up the
mounds. There was one who lived here who had come from Russia, he
always would ride up the mounds (he called the mounds so funnily,
"hillocks"). Whenever he saw a mound, off he'd gallop. Once he
galloped off that way and rode to the top quite pleased, but a
Chechen fired at him and killed him! Ah, how well they shoot from
their gun-rests, those Chechens! Some of them shoot even better
than I do. I don't like it when a fellow gets killed so foolishly!
Sometimes I used to look at your soldiers and wonder at them.
There's foolishness for you! They go, the poor fellows, all in a
clump, and even sew red collars to their coats! How can they help
being hit! One gets killed, they drag him away and another takes
his place! What foolishness!' the old man repeated, shaking his
head. 'Why not scatter, and go one by one? So you just go like
that and they won't notice you. That's what you must do.'
'Well, thank you! Good-bye, Daddy. God willing we may meet again,'
said Olenin, getting up and moving towards the passage.
The old man, who was sitting on the floor, did not rise.
'Is that the way one says "Good-bye"? Fool, fool!' he began. 'Oh
dear, what has come to people? We've kept company, kept company
for well-nigh a year, and now "Good-bye!" and off he goes! Why, I
love you, and how I pity you! You are so forlorn, always alone,
always alone. You're somehow so unsociable. At times I can't sleep
for thinking about you. I am so sorry for you. As the song has it:
"It is very hard, dear brother, In a foreign land to live."
So it is with you.'
'Well, good-bye,' said Olenin again.
The old man rose and held out his hand. Olenin pressed it and
turned to go.
'Give us your mug, your mug!'
And the old man took Olenin by the head with both hands and kissed
him three times with wet moustaches and lips, and began to cry.
'I love you, good-bye!'
Olenin got into the cart.
'Well, is that how you're going? You might give me something for a
remembrance. Give me a gun! What do you want two for?' said the
old man, sobbing quite sincerely.
Olenin got out a musket and gave it to him.
'What a lot you've given the old fellow,' murmured Vanyusha,
'he'll never have enough! A regular old beggar. They are all such
irregular people,' he remarked, as he wrapped himself in his
overcoat and took his seat on the box.
'Hold your tongue, swine!' exclaimed the old man, laughing. 'What
a stingy fellow!'
Maryanka came out of the cowshed, glanced indifferently at the
cart, bowed and went towards the hut.
'LA FILLE!' said Vanyusha, with a wink, and burst out into a silly
'Drive on!' shouted Olenin, angrily.
'Good-bye, my lad! Good-bye. I won't forget you!' shouted Eroshka.
Olenin turned round. Daddy Eroshka was talking to Maryanka,
evidently about his own affairs, and neither the old man nor the
girl looked at Olenin.