Part 3 out of 5
"What?" Gusev repeated, mimicking him. "There is no breath in
him, he is dead! That's what! What nonsensical people, Lord have
mercy on us. . . !"
The ship was not rocking and Pavel Ivanitch was more cheerful. He
was no longer ill-humoured. His face had a boastful, defiant,
mocking expression. He looked as though he wanted to say: "Yes,
in a minute I will tell you something that will make you split
your sides with laughing." The little round window was open and a
soft breeze was blowing on Pavel Ivanitch. There was a sound of
voices, of the plash of oars in the water. . . . Just under the
little window someone began droning in a high, unpleasant voice:
no doubt it was a Chinaman singing.
"Here we are in the harbour," said Pavel Ivanitch, smiling
ironically. "Only another month and we shall be in Russia. Well,
worthy gentlemen and warriors! I shall arrive at Odessa and from
there go straight to Harkov. In Harkov I have a friend, a
literary man. I shall go to him and say, 'Come, old man, put
aside your horrid subjects, ladies' amours and the beauties of
nature, and show up human depravity.' "
For a minute he pondered, then said:
"Gusev, do you know how I took them in?"
"Took in whom, Pavel Ivanitch?"
"Why, these fellows. . . . You know that on this steamer there is
only a first-class and a third-class, and they only allow
peasants -- that is the rift-raft -- to go in the third. If you
have got on a reefer jacket and have the faintest resemblance to
a gentleman or a bourgeois you must go first-class, if you
please. You must fork out five hundred roubles if you die for it.
Why, I ask, have you made such a rule? Do you want to raise the
prestige of educated Russians thereby? Not a bit of it. We don't
let you go third-class simply because a decent person can't go
third-class; it is very horrible and disgusting. Yes, indeed. I
am very grateful for such solicitude for decent people's welfare.
But in any case, whether it is nasty there or nice, five hundred
roubles I haven't got. I haven't pilfered government money. I
haven't exploited the natives, I haven't trafficked in
contraband, I have flogged no one to death, so judge whether I
have the right to travel first-class and even less to reckon
myself of the educated class? But you won't catch them with
logic. . . . One has to resort to deception. I put on a workman's
coat and high boots, I assumed a drunken, servile mug and went to
the agents: 'Give us a little ticket, your honour,' said I. . .
"Why, what class do you belong to?" asked a sailor.
"Clerical. My father was an honest priest, he always told the
great ones of the world the truth to their faces; and he had a
great deal to put up with in consequence."
Pavel Ivanitch was exhausted with talking and gasped for breath,
but still went on:
"Yes, I always tell people the truth to their faces. I am not
afraid of anyone or anything. There is a vast difference between
me and all of you in that respect. You are in darkness, you are
blind, crushed; you see nothing and what you do see you don't
understand. . . . You are told the wind breaks loose from its
chain, that you are beasts, Petchenyegs, and you believe it; they
punch you in the neck, you kiss their hands; some animal in a
sable-lined coat robs you and then tips you fifteen kopecks and
you: 'Let me kiss your hand, sir.' You are pariahs, pitiful
people. . . . I am a different sort. My eyes are open, I see it
all as clearly as a hawk or an eagle when it floats over the
earth, and I understand it all. I am a living protest. I see
irresponsible tyranny -- I protest. I see cant and hypocrisy -- I
protest. I see swine triumphant -- I protest. And I cannot be
suppressed, no Spanish Inquisition can make me hold my tongue.
No. . . . Cut out my tongue and I would protest in dumb show;
shut me up in a cellar -- I will shout from it to be heard half a
mile away, or I will starve myself to death that they may have
another weight on their black consciences. Kill me and I will
haunt them with my ghost. All my acquaintances say to me: 'You
are a most insufferable person, Pavel Ivanitch.' I am proud of
such a reputation. I have served three years in the far East, and
I shall be remembered there for a hundred years: I had rows with
everyone. My friends write to me from Russia, 'Don't come back,'
but here I am going back to spite them . . . yes. . . . That is
life as I understand it. That is what one can call life."
Gusev was looking at the little window and was not listening. A
boat was swaying on the transparent, soft, turquoise water all
bathed in hot, dazzling sunshine. In it there were naked Chinamen
holding up cages with canaries and calling out:
"It sings, it sings!"
Another boat knocked against the first; the steam cutter darted
by. And then there came another boat with a fat Chinaman sitting
in it, eating rice with little sticks.
Languidly the water heaved, languidly the white seagulls floated
"I should like to give that fat fellow one in the neck," thought
Gusev, gazing at the stout Chinaman, with a yawn.
He dozed off, and it seemed to him that all nature was dozing,
too. Time flew swiftly by; imperceptibly the day passed,
imperceptibly the darkness came on. . . . The steamer was no
longer standing still, but moving on further.
Two days passed, Pavel Ivanitch lay down instead of sitting up;
his eyes were closed, his nose seemed to have grown sharper.
"Pavel Ivanitch," Gusev called to him. "Hey, Pavel Ivanitch."
Pavel Ivanitch opened his eyes and moved his lips.
"Are you feeling bad?"
"No . . . it's nothing . . ." answered Pavel Ivanitch, gasping.
"Nothing; on the contrary -- I am rather better. . . . You see I
can lie down. I am a little easier. . . ."
"Well, thank God for that, Pavel Ivanitch."
"When I compare myself with you I am sorry for you . . . poor
fellow. My lungs are all right, it is only a stomach cough. . . .
I can stand hell, let alone the Red Sea. Besides I take a
critical attitude to my illness and to the medicines they give me
for it. While you . . . you are in darkness. . . . It's hard for
you, very, very hard!"
The ship was not rolling, it was calm, but as hot and stifling as
a bath-house; it was not only hard to speak but even hard to
listen. Gusev hugged his knees, laid his head on them and thought
of his home. Good heavens, what a relief it was to think of snow
and cold in that stifling heat! You drive in a sledge, all at
once the horses take fright at something and bolt. . . .
Regardless of the road, the ditches, the ravines, they dash like
mad things, right through the village, over the pond by the
pottery works, out across the open fields. "Hold on," the pottery
hands and the peasants sho ut, meeting them. "Hold on." But why?
Let the keen, cold wind beat in one's face and bite one's hands;
let the lumps of snow, kicked up by the horses' hoofs, fall on
one's cap, on one's back, down one's collar, on one's chest; let
the runners ring on the snow, and the traces and the sledge be
smashed, deuce take them one and all! And how delightful when the
sledge upsets and you go flying full tilt into a drift, face
downwards in the snow, and then you get up white all over with
icicles on your moustaches; no cap, no gloves, your belt undone.
. . . People laugh, the dogs bark. . . .
Pavel Ivanitch half opened one eye, looked at Gusev with it, and
"Gusev, did your commanding officer steal?"
"Who can tell, Pavel Ivanitch! We can't say, it didn't reach us."
And after that a long time passed in silence. Gusev brooded,
muttered something in delirium, and kept drinking water; it was
hard for him to talk and hard to listen, and he was afraid of
being talked to. An hour passed, a second, a third; evening came
on, then night, but he did not notice it. He still sat dreaming
of the frost.
There was a sound as though someone came into the hospital, and
voices were audible, but a few minutes passed and all was still
"The Kingdom of Heaven and eternal peace," said the soldier with
his arm in a sling. "He was an uncomfortable man."
"What?" asked Gusev. "Who?"
"He is dead, they have just carried him up."
"Oh, well," muttered Gusev, yawning, "the Kingdom of Heaven be
"What do you think?" the soldier with his arm in a sling asked
Gusev. "Will he be in the Kingdom of Heaven or not?"
"Who is it you are talking about?"
"He will be . . . he suffered so long. And there is another
thing, he belonged to the clergy, and the priests always have a
lot of relations. Their prayers will save him."
The soldier with the sling sat down on a hammock near Gusev and
said in an undertone:
"And you, Gusev, are not long for this world. You will never get
"Did the doctor or his assistant say so?" asked Gusev.
"It isn't that they said so, but one can see it. . . . One can
see directly when a man's going to die. You don't eat, you don't
drink; it's dreadful to see how thin you've got. It's
consumption, in fact. I say it, not to upset you, but because
maybe you would like to have the sacrament and extreme unction.
And if you have any money you had better give it to the senior
"I haven't written home . . ." Gusev sighed. "I shall die and
they won't know."
"They'll hear of it," the sick sailor brought out in a bass
voice. "When you die they will put it down in the _Gazette,_ at
Odessa they will send in a report to the commanding officer there
and he will send it to the parish or somewhere. .
Gusev began to be uneasy after such a conversation and to feel a
vague yearning. He drank water -- it was not that; he dragged
himself to the window and breathed the hot, moist air -- it was
not that; he tried to think of home, of the frost -- it was not
that. . . . At last it seemed to him one minute longer in the
ward and he would certainly expire.
"It's stifling, mates . . ." he said. "I'll go on deck. Help me
up, for Christ's sake."
"All right," assented the soldier with the sling. "I'll carry
you, you can't walk, hold on to my neck."
Gusev put his arm round the soldier's neck, the latter put his
unhurt arm round him and carried him up. On the deck sailors and
time-expired soldiers were lying asleep side by side; there were
so many of them it was difficult to pass.
"Stand down," the soldier with the sling said softly. "Follow me
quietly, hold on to my shirt. . . ."
It was dark. There was no light on deck, nor on the masts, nor
anywhere on the sea around. At the furthest end of the ship the
man on watch was standing perfectly still like a statue, and it
looked as though he were asleep. It seemed as though the steamer
were abandoned to itself and were going at its own will.
"Now they will throw Pavel Ivanitch into the sea," said the
soldier with the sling. "In a sack and then into the water."
"Yes, that's the rule."
"But it's better to lie at home in the earth. Anyway, your mother
comes to the grave and weeps."
There was a smell of hay and of dung. There were oxen standing
with drooping heads by the ship's rail. One, two, three; eight of
them! And there was a little horse. Gusev put out his hand to
stroke it, but it shook its head, showed its teeth, and tried to
bite his sleeve.
"Damned brute . . ." said Gusev angrily.
The two of them, he and the soldier, threaded their way to the
head of the ship, then stood at the rail and looked up and down.
Overhead deep sky, bright stars, peace and stillness, exactly as
at home in the village, below darkness and disorder. The tall
waves were resounding, no one could tell why. Whichever wave you
looked at each one was trying to rise higher than all the rest
and to chase and crush the next one; after it a third as fierce
and hideous flew noisily, with a glint of light on its white
The sea has no sense and no pity. If the steamer had been smaller
and not made of thick iron, the waves would have crushed it to
pieces without the slightest compunction, and would have devoured
all the people in it with no distinction of saints or sinners.
The steamer had the same cruel and meaningless expression. This
monster with its huge beak was dashing onwards, cutting millions
of waves in its path; it had no fear of the darkness nor the
wind, nor of space, nor of solitude, caring for nothing, and if
the ocean had its people, this monster would have crushed them,
too, without distinction of saints or sinners.
"Where are we now?" asked Gusev.
"I don't know. We must be in the ocean."
"There is no sight of land. . ."
"No indeed! They say we shan't see it for seven days."
The two soldiers watched the white foam with the phosphorus light
on it and were silent, thinking. Gusev was the first to break the
"There is nothing to be afraid of," he said, "only one is full of
dread as though one were sitting in a dark forest; but if, for
instance, they let a boat down on to the water this minute and an
officer ordered me to go a hundred miles over the sea to catch
fish, I'd go. Or, let's say, if a Christian were to fall into the
water this minute, I'd go in after him. A German or a Chinaman I
wouldn't save, but I'd go in after a Christian."
"And are you afraid to die?"
"Yes. I am sorry for the folks at home. My brother at home, you
know, isn't steady; he drinks, he beats his wife for nothing, he
does not honour his parents. Everything will go to ruin without
me, and father and my old mother will be begging their bread, I
shouldn't wonder. But my legs won't bear me, brother, and it's
hot here. Let's go to sleep."
Gusev went back to the ward and got into his hammock. He was
again tormented by a vague craving, and he could not make out
what he wanted. There was an oppression on his chest, a throbbing
in his head, his mouth was so dry that it was difficult for him
to move his tongue. He dozed, and murmured in his sleep, and,
worn out with nightmares, his cough, and the stifling heat,
towards morning he fell into a sound sleep. He dreamed that they
were just taking the bread out of the oven in the barracks and he
climbed into the stove and had a steam bath in it, lashing
himself with a bunch of birch twigs. He slept for two days, and
at midday on the third two sailors came down and carried him out.
He was sewn up in sailcloth and to make him heavier they put with
him two iron weights. Sewn up in the sailcloth he looked like a
carrot or a radish: broad at the head and narrow at the feet. . .
. Before sunset they brought him up to the deck and put him on a
plank; one end of the plank lay on the side of the ship, the
other on a box, placed on a stool. Round him stood the soldiers
and the officers with their caps off.
"Blessed be the Name of the Lord . . ." the priest began. "As it
was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be."
"Amen," chanted three sailors.
The soldiers and the officers crossed themselves and looked away
at the waves. It was strange that a man should be sewn up in
sailcloth and should soon be flying into the sea. Was it possible
that such a thing might happen to anyone?
The priest strewed earth upon Gusev and bowed down. They sang
The man on watch duty tilted up the end of the plank, Gusev slid
off and flew head foremost, turned a somersault in the air and
splashed into the sea. He was covered with foam and for a moment
looked as though he were wrapped in lace, but the minute passed
and he disappeared in the waves.
He went rapidly towards the bottom. Did he reach it? It was said
to be three miles to the bottom. After sinking sixty or seventy
feet, he began moving more and more slowly, swaying rhythmically,
as though he were hesitating and, carried along by the current,
moved more rapidly sideways than downwards.
Then he was met by a shoal of the fish called harbour pilots.
Seeing the dark body the fish stopped as though petrified, and
suddenly turned round and disappeared. In less than a minute they
flew back swift as an arrow to Gusev, and began zig-zagging round
him in the water.
After that another dark body appeared. It was a shark. It swam
under Gusev with dignity and no show of interest, as though it
did not notice him, and sank down upon its back, then it turned
belly upwards, basking in the warm, transparent water and
languidly opened its jaws with two rows of teeth. The harbour
pilots are delighted, they stop to see what will come next. After
playing a little with the body the shark nonchalantly puts its
jaws under it, cautiously touches it with its teeth, and the
sailcloth is rent its full length from head to foot; one of the
weights falls out and frightens the harbour pilots, and striking
the shark on the ribs goes rapidly to the bottom.
Overhead at this time the clouds are massed together on the side
where the sun is setting; one cloud like a triumphal arch,
another like a lion, a third like a pair of scissors. . . . From
behind the clouds a broad, green shaft of light pierces through
and stretches to the middle of the sky; a little later another,
violet-coloured, lies beside it; next that, one of gold, then one
rose-coloured. . . . The sky turns a soft lilac. Looking at this
gorgeous, enchanted sky, at first the ocean scowls, but soon it,
too, takes tender, joyous, passionate colours for which it is
hard to find a name in human speech.
AT first the weather was fine and still. The thrushes were
calling, and in the swamps close by something alive droned
pitifully with a sound like blowing into an empty bottle. A snipe
flew by, and the shot aimed at it rang out with a gay, resounding
note in the spring air. But when it began to get dark in the
forest a cold, penetrating wind blew inappropriately from the
east, and everything sank into silence. Needles of ice stretched
across the pools, and it felt cheerless, remote, and lonely in
the forest. There was a whiff of winter.
Ivan Velikopolsky, the son of a sacristan, and a student of the
clerical academy, returning home from shooting, walked all the
time by the path in the water-side meadow. His fingers were numb
and his face was burning with the wind. It seemed to him that the
cold that had suddenly come on had destroyed the order and
harmony of things, that nature itself felt ill at ease, and that
was why the evening darkness was falling more rapidly than usual.
All around it was deserted and peculiarly gloomy. The only light
was one gleaming in the widows' gardens near the river; the
village, over three miles away, and everything in the distance
all round was plunged in the cold evening mist. The student
remembered that, as he went out from the house, his mother was
sitting barefoot on the floor in the entry, cleaning the samovar,
while his father lay on the stove coughing; as it was Good Friday
nothing had been cooked, and the student was terribly hungry. And
now, shrinking from the cold, he thought that just such a wind
had blown in the days of Rurik and in the time of Ivan the
Terrible and Peter, and in their time there had been just the
same desperate poverty and hunger, the same thatched roofs with
holes in them, ignorance, misery, the same desolation around, the
same darkness, the same feeling of oppression -- all these had
existed, did exist, and would exist, and the lapse of a thousand
years would make life no better. And he did not want to go home.
The gardens were called the widows' because they were kept by two
widows, mother and daughter. A camp fire was burning brightly
with a crackling sound, throwing out light far around on the
ploughed earth. The widow Vasilisa, a tall, fat old woman in a
man's coat, was standing by and looking thoughtfully into the
fire; her daughter Lukerya, a little pock-marked woman with a
stupid-looking face, was sitting on the ground, washing a caldron
and spoons. Apparently they had just had supper. There was a
sound of men's voices; it was the labourers watering their horses
at the river.
"Here you have winter back again," said the student, going up to
the camp fire. "Good evening."
Vasilisa started, but at once recognized him and smiled
"I did not know you; God bless you," she said.
"You'll be rich."
They talked. Vasilisa, a woman of experience, who had been in
service with the gentry, first as a wet-nurse, afterwards as a
children's nurse, expressed herself with refinement, and a soft,
sedate smile never left her face; her daughter Lukerya, a village
peasant woman, who had been beaten by her husband, simply screwed
up her eyes at the student and said nothing, and she had a
strange expression like that of a deaf mute.
"At just such a fire the Apostle Peter warmed himself," said the
student, stretching out his hands to the fire, "so it must have
been cold then, too. Ah, what a terrible night it must have been,
granny! An utterly dismal long night!"
He looked round at the darkness, shook his head abruptly and
"No doubt you have been at the reading of the Twelve Gospels?"
"Yes, I have," answered Vasilisa.
"If you remember at the Last Supper Peter said to Jesus, 'I am
ready to go with Thee into darkness and unto death.' And our Lord
answered him thus: 'I say unto thee, Peter, before the cock
croweth thou wilt have denied Me thrice.' After the supper Jesus
went through the agony of death in the garden and prayed, and
poor Peter was weary in spirit and faint, his eyelids were heavy
and he could not struggle against sleep. He fell asleep. Then you
heard how Judas the same night kissed Jesus and betrayed Him to
His tormentors. They took Him bound to the high priest and beat
Him, while Peter, exhausted, worn out with misery and alarm,
hardly awake, you know, feeling that something awful was just
going to happen on earth, followed behind. . . . He loved Jesus
passionately, intensely, and now he saw from far off how He was
beaten. . ."
Lukerya left the spoons and fixed an immovable stare upon the
"They came to the high priest's," he went on; "they began to
question Jesus, and meantime the labourers made a fire in the
yard as it was cold, and warmed themselves. Peter, too, stood
with them near the fire and warmed himself as I am doing. A
woman, seeing him, said: 'He was with Jesus, too' -- that is as
much as to say that he, too, should be taken to be questioned.
And all the labourers that were standing near the fire must have
looked sourly and suspiciously at him, because he was confused
and said: 'I don't know Him.' A little while after again someone
recognized him as one of Jesus' disciples and said: 'Thou, too,
art one of them,' but again he denied it. And for the third time
someone turned to him: 'Why, did I not see thee with Him in the
garden to-day?' For the third time he denied it. And immediately
after that time the cock crowed, and Peter, looking from afar off
at Jesus, remembered the words He had said to him in the evening.
. . . He remembered, he came to himself, went out of the yard and
wept bitterly -- bitterly. In the Gospel it is written: 'He went
out and wept bitterly.' I imagine it: the still, still, dark,
dark garden, and in the stillness, faintly audible, smothered
sobbing. . ."
T he student sighed and sank into thought. Still smiling,
Vasilisa suddenly gave a gulp, big tears flowed freely down her
cheeks, and she screened her face from the fire with her sleeve
as though ashamed of her tears, and Lukerya, staring immovably at
the student, flushed crimson, and her expression became strained
and heavy like that of someone enduring intense pain.
The labourers came back from the river, and one of them riding a
horse was quite near, and the light from the fire quivered upon
him. The student said good-night to the widows and went on. And
again the darkness was about him and his fingers began to be
numb. A cruel wind was blowing, winter really had come back and
it did not feel as though Easter would be the day after
Now the student was thinking about Vasilisa: since she had shed
tears all that had happened to Peter the night before the
Crucifixion must have some relation to her. . . .
He looked round. The solitary light was still gleaming in the
darkness and no figures could be seen near it now. The student
thought again that if Vasilisa had shed tears, and her daughter
had been troubled, it was evident that what he had just been
telling them about, which had happened nineteen centuries ago,
had a relation to the present -- to both women, to the desolate
village, to himself, to all people. The old woman had wept, not
because he could tell the story touchingly, but because Peter was
near to her, because her whole being was interested in what was
passing in Peter's soul.
And joy suddenly stirred in his soul, and he even stopped for a
minute to take breath. "The past," he thought, "is linked with
the present by an unbroken chain of events flowing one out of
another." And it seemed to him that he had just seen both ends of
that chain; that when he touched one end the other quivered.
When he crossed the river by the ferry boat and afterwards,
mounting the hill, looked at his village and towards the west
where the cold crimson sunset lay a narrow streak of light, he
thought that truth and beauty which had guided human life there
in the garden and in the yard of the high priest had continued
without interruption to this day, and had evidently always been
the chief thing in human life and in all earthly life, indeed;
and the feeling of youth, health, vigour -- he was only
twenty-two -- and the inexpressible sweet expectation of
happiness, of unknown mysterious happiness, took possession of
him little by little, and life seemed to him enchanting,
marvellous, and full of lofty meaning.
IN THE RAVINE
THE village of Ukleevo lay in a ravine so that only the belfry
and the chimneys of the printed cottons factories could be seen
from the high road and the railway-station. When visitors asked
what village this was, they were told:
"That's the village where the deacon ate all the caviare at the
It had happened at the dinner at the funeral of Kostukov that the
old deacon saw among the savouries some large-grained caviare and
began eating it greedily; people nudged him, tugged at his arm,
but he seemed petrified with enjoyment: felt nothing, and only
went on eating. He ate up all the caviare, and there were four
pounds in the jar. And years had passed since then, the deacon
had long been dead, but the caviare was still remembered. Whether
life was so poor here or people had not been clever enough to
notice anything but that unimportant incident that had occurred
ten years before, anyway the people had nothing else to tell
about the village Ukleevo.
The village was never free from fever, and there was boggy mud
there even in the summer, especially under the fences over which
hung old willow-trees that gave deep shade. Here there was always
a smell from the factory refuse and the acetic acid which was
used in the finishing of the cotton print.
The three cotton factories and the tanyard were not in the
village itself, but a little way off. They were small factories,
and not more than four hundred workmen were employed in all of
them. The tanyard often made the water in the little river stink;
the refuse contaminated the meadows, the peasants' cattle
suffered from Siberian plague, and orders were given that the
factory should be closed. It was considered to be closed, but
went on working in secret with the connivance of the local police
officer and the district doctor, who was paid ten roubles a month
by the owner. In the whole village there were only two decent
houses built of brick with iron roofs; one of them was the local
court, in the other, a two-storied house just opposite the
church, there lived a shopkeeper from Epifan called Grigory
Grigory kept a grocer's shop, but that was only for appearance'
sake: in reality he sold vodka, cattle, hides, grain, and pigs;
he traded in anything that came to hand, and when, for instance,
magpies were wanted abroad for ladies' hats, he made some thirty
kopecks on every pair of birds; he bought timber for felling,
lent money at interest, and altogether was a sharp old man, full
He had two sons. The elder, Anisim, was in the police in the
detective department and was rarely at home. The younger, Stepan,
had gone in for trade and helped his father: but no great help
was expected from him as he was weak in health and deaf; his wife
Aksinya, a handsome woman with a good figure, who wore a hat and
carried a parasol on holidays, got up early and went to bed late,
and ran about all day long, picking up her skirts and jingling
her keys, going from the granary to the cellar and from there to
the shop, and old Tsybukin looked at her good-humouredly while
his eyes glowed, and at such moments he regretted she had not
been married to his elder son instead of to the younger one, who
was deaf, and who evidently knew very little about female beauty.
The old man had always an inclination for family life, and he
loved his family more than anything on earth, especially his
elder son, the detective, and his daughter-in-law. Aksinya had no
sooner married the deaf son than she began to display an
extraordinary gift for business, and knew who could be allowed to
run up a bill and who could not: she kept the keys and would not
trust them even to her husband; she kept the accounts by means of
the reckoning beads, looked at the horses' teeth like a peasant,
and was always laughing or shouting; and whatever she did or said
the old man was simply delighted and muttered:
"Well done, daughter-in-law! You are a smart wench!"
He was a widower, but a year after his son's marriage he could
not resist getting married himself. A girl was found for him,
living twenty miles from Ukleevo, called Varvara Nikolaevna, no
longer quite young, but good-looking, comely, and belonging to a
decent family. As soon as she was installed into the upper-storey
room everything in the house seemed to brighten up as though new
glass had been put into all the windows. The lamps gleamed before
the ikons, the tables were covered with snow-white cloths,
flowers with red buds made their appearance in the windows and in
the front garden, and at dinner, instead of eating from a single
bowl, each person had a separate plate set for him. Varvara
Nikolaevna had a pleasant, friendly smile, and it seemed as
though the whole house were smiling, too. Beggars and pilgrims,
male and female, began to come into the yard, a thing which had
never happened in the past; the plaintive sing-song voices of the
Ukleevo peasant women and the apologetic coughs of weak,
seedy-looking men, who had been dismissed from the factory for
drunkenness were heard under the windows. Varvara helped them
with money, with bread, with old clothes, and afterwards, when
she felt more at home, began taking things out of the shop. One
day the deaf man saw her take four ounces of tea and that
"Here, mother's taken four ounces of tea," he informed his father
afterwards; "where is that to be entered?"
The old man made no reply but stood still and thought a moment,
moving his eyebrows, and then went upstairs to his wife.
"Varvarushka, if you want anything out of the shop," he said
affectionately, "take it, my dea r. Take it and welcome; don't
And the next day the deaf man, running across the yard, called to
"If there is anything you want, mother, take it."
There was something new, something gay and light-hearted in her
giving of alms, just as there was in the lamps before the ikons
and in the red flowers. When at Carnival or at the church
festival, which lasted for three days, they sold the peasants
tainted salt meat, smelling so strong it was hard to stand near
the tub of it, and took scythes, caps, and their wives' kerchiefs
in pledge from the drunken men; when the factory hands stupefied
with bad vodka lay rolling in the mud, and sin seemed to hover
thick like a fog in the air, then it was a relief to think that
up there in the house there was a gentle, neatly dressed woman
who had nothing to do with salt meat or vodka; her charity had in
those burdensome, murky days the effect of a safety valve in a
The days in Tsybukin's house were spent in business cares. Before
the sun had risen in the morning Aksinya was panting and puffing
as she washed in the outer room, and the samovar was boiling in
the kitchen with a hum that boded no good. Old Grigory
Petrovitch, dressed in a long black coat, cotton breeches and
shiny top boots, looking a dapper little figure, walked about the
rooms, tapping with his little heels like the father-in-law in a
well-known song. The shop was opened. When it was daylight a
racing droshky was brought up to the front door and the old man
got jauntily on to it, pulling his big cap down to his ears; and,
looking at him, no one would have said he was fifty-six. His wife
and daughter-in-law saw him off, and at such times when he had on
a good, clean coat, and had in the droshky a huge black horse
that had cost three hundred roubles, the old man did not like the
peasants to come up to him with their complaints and petitions;
he hated the peasants and disdained them, and if he saw some
peasants waiting at the gate, he would shout angrily:
"Why are you standing there? Go further off."
Or if it were a beggar, he would say:
"God will provide!"
He used to drive off on business; his wife, in a dark dress and a
black apron, tidied the rooms or helped in the kitchen. Aksinya
attended to the shop, and from the yard could be heard the clink
of bottles and of money, her laughter and loud talk, and the
anger of customers whom she had offended; and at the same time it
could be seen that the secret sale of vodka was already going on
in the shop. The deaf man sat in the shop, too, or walked about
the street bare-headed, with his hands in his pockets looking
absent-mindedly now at the huts, now at the sky overhead. Six
times a day they had tea; four times a day they sat down to
meals; and in the evening they counted over their takings, put
them down, went to bed, and slept soundly.
All the three cotton factories in Ukleevo and the houses of the
factory owners -- Hrymin Seniors, Hrymin Juniors, and Kostukov --
were on a telephone. The telephone was laid on in the local
court, too, but it soon ceased to work as bugs and beetles bred
there. The elder of the rural district had had little education
and wrote every word in the official documents in capitals. But
when the telephone was spoiled he said:
"Yes, now we shall be badly off without a telephone."
The Hrymin Seniors were continually at law with the Juniors, and
sometimes the Juniors quarrelled among themselves and began going
to law, and their factory did not work for a month or two till
they were reconciled again, and this was an entertainment for the
people of Ukleevo, as there was a great deal of talk and gossip
on the occasion of each quarrel. On holidays Kostukov and the
Juniors used to get up races, used to dash about Ukleevo and run
over calves. Aksinya, rustling her starched petticoats, used to
promenade in a low-necked dress up and down the street near her
shop; the Juniors used to snatch her up and carry her off as
though by force. Then old Tsybukin would drive out to show his
new horse and take Varvara with him.
In the evening, after the races, when people were going to bed,
an expensive concertina was played in the Juniors' yard and, if
it were a moonlight night, those sounds sent a thrill of delight
to the heart, and Ukleevo no longer seemed a wretched hole.
The elder son Anisim came home very rarely, only on great
holidays, but he often sent by a returning villager presents and
letters written in very good writing by some other hand, always
on a sheet of foolscap in the form of a petition. The letters
were full of expressions that Anisim never made use of in
conversation: "Dear papa and mamma, I send you a pound of flower
tea for the satisfaction of your physical needs."
At the bottom of every letter was scratched, as though with a
broken pen: "Anisim Tsybukin," and again in the same excellent
The letters were read aloud several times, and the old father,
touched, red with emotion, would say:
"Here he did not care to stay at home, he has gone in for an
intellectual line. Well, let him! Every man to his own job!
It happened just before Carnival there was a heavy storm of rain
mixed with hail; the old man and Varvara went to the window to
look at it, and lo and behold! Anisim drove up in a sledge from
the station. He was quite unexpected. He came indoors, looking
anxious and troubled about something, and he remained the same
all the time; there was something free and easy in his manner. He
was in no haste to go away, it seemed, as though he had been
dismissed from the service. Varvara was pleased at his arrival;
she looked at him with a sly expression, sighed, and shook her
"How is this, my friends?" she said. "Tut, tut, the lad's in his
twenty-eighth year, and he is still leading a gay bachelor life;
tut, tut, tut. . . ."
From the other room her soft, even speech sounded like tut, tut,
tut. She began whispering with her husband and Aksinya, and their
faces wore the same sly and mysterious expression as though they
It was decided to marry Anisim.
"Oh, tut, tut . . . the younger brother has been married long
ago," said Varvara, "and you are still without a helpmate like a
cock at a fair. What is the meaning of it? Tut, tut, you will be
married, please God, then as you choose -- you will go into the
service and your wife will remain here at home to help us. There
is no order in your life, young man, and I see you have forgotten
how to live properly. Tut, tut, it's the same trouble with all
When the Tsybukins married, the most handsome girls were chosen
as brides for them as rich men. For Anisim, too, they found a
handsome one. He was himself of an uninteresting and
inconspicuous appearance; of a feeble, sickly build and short
stature; he had full, puffy cheeks which looked as though he were
blowing them out; his eyes looked with a keen, unblinking stare;
his beard was red and scanty, and when he was thinking he always
put it into his mouth and bit it; moreover he often drank too
much, and that was noticeable from his face and his walk. But
when he was informed that they had found a very beautiful bride
for him, he said:
"Oh well, I am not a fright myself. All of us Tsybukins are
handsome, I may say."
The village of Torguevo was near the town. Half of it had lately
been incorporated into the town, the other half remained a
village. In the first -- the town half -- there was a widow
living in her own little house; she had a sister living with her
who was quite poor and went out to work by the day, and this
sister had a daughter called Lipa, a girl who went out to work,
too. People in Torguevo were already talking about Lipa's good
looks, but her terrible poverty put everyone off; people opined
that some widower or elderly man would marry her regardless of
her poverty, or would perhaps take her to himself without
marriage, and that her mother would get enough to eat living with
her. Varvara heard about Lipa from the matchmakers, and she drove
over to Torguevo.
Then a visit of inspection was arranged at the aunt's, with lunch
and wine all in due order, and Lipa wore a new pink
dress made on purpose for this occasion, and a crimson ribbon
like a flame gleamed in her hair. She was pale-faced, thin, and
frail, with soft, delicate features sunburnt from working in the
open air; a shy, mournful smile always hovered about her face,
and there was a childlike look in her eyes, trustful and curious.
She was young, quite a little girl, her bosom still scarcely
perceptible, but she could be married because she had reached the
legal age. She really was beautiful, and the only thing that
might be thought unattractive was her big masculine hands which
hung idle now like two big claws.
"There is no dowry -- and we don't think much of that," said
Tsybukin to the aunt. "We took a wife from a poor family for our
son Stepan, too, and now we can't say too much for her. In house
and in business alike she has hands of gold."
Lipa stood in the doorway and looked as though she would say: "Do
with me as you will, I trust you," while her mother Praskovya the
work-woman hid herself in the kitchen numb with shyness. At one
time in her youth a merchant whose floors she was scrubbing
stamped at her in a rage; she went chill with terror and there
always was a feeling of fear at the bottom of her heart. When she
was frightened her arms and legs trembled and her cheeks
twitched. Sitting in the kitchen she tried to hear what the
visitors were saying, and she kept crossing herself, pressing her
fingers to her forehead, and gazing at the ikons. Anisim,
slightly drunk, opened the door into the kitchen and said in a
"Why are you sitting in here, precious mamma? We are dull without
And Praskovya, overcome with timidity, pressing her hands to her
lean, wasted bosom, said:
"Oh, not at all. . . . It's very kind of you."
After the visit of inspection the wedding day was fixed. Then
Anisim walked about the rooms at home whistling, or suddenly
thinking of something, would fall to brooding and would look at
the floor fixedly, silently, as though he would probe to the
depths of the earth. He expressed neither pleasure that he was to
be married, married so soon, on Low Sunday, nor a desire to see
his bride, but simply went on whistling. And it was evident he
was only getting married because his father and stepmother wished
him to, and because it was the custom in the village to marry the
son in order to have a woman to help in the house. When he went
away he seemed in no haste, and behaved altogether not as he had
done on previous visits -- was particularly free and easy, and
In the village Shikalovo lived two dressmakers, sisters,
belonging to the Flagellant sect. The new clothes for the wedding
were ordered from them, and they often came to try them on, and
stayed a long while drinking tea. They were making Varvara a
brown dress with black lace and bugles on it, and Aksinya a light
green dress with a yellow front, with a train. When the
dressmakers had finished their work Tsybukin paid them not in
money but in goods from the shop, and they went away depressed,
carrying parcels of tallow candles and tins of sardines which
they did not in the least need, and when they got out of the
village into the open country they sat down on a hillock and
Anisim arrived three days before the wedding, rigged out in new
clothes from top to toe. He had dazzling india-rubber goloshes,
and instead of a cravat wore a red cord with little balls on it,
and over his shoulder he had hung an overcoat, also new, without
putting his arms into the sleeves.
After crossing himself sedately before the ikon, he greeted his
father and gave him ten silver roubles and ten half-roubles; to
Varvara he gave as much, and to Aksinya twenty quarter-roubles.
The chief charm of the present lay in the fact that all the
coins, as though carefully matched, were new and glittered in the
sun. Trying to seem grave and sedate he pursed up his face and
puffed out his cheeks, and he smelt of spirits. Probably he had
visited the refreshment bar at every station. And again there was
a free-and-easiness about the man -- something superfluous and
out of place. Then Anisim had lunch and drank tea with the old
man, and Varvara turned the new coins over in her hand and
inquired about villagers who had gone to live in the town.
"They are all right, thank God, they get on quite well," said
Anisim. "Only something has happened to Ivan Yegorov: his old
wife Sofya Nikiforovna is dead. From consumption. They ordered
the memorial dinner for the peace of her soul at the
confectioner's at two and a half roubles a head. And there was
real wine. Those who were peasants from our village -- they paid
two and a half roubles for them, too. They ate nothing, as though
a peasant would understand sauce!"
"Two and a half," said his father, shaking his head.
"Well, it's not like the country there, you go into a restaurant
to have a snack of something, you ask for one thing and another,
others join till there is a party of us, one has a drink -- and
before you know where you are it is daylight and you've three or
four roubles each to pay. And when one is with Samorodov he likes
to have coffee with brandy in it after everything, and brandy is
sixty kopecks for a little glass."
"And he is making it all up," said the old man enthusiastically;
"he is making it all up, lying!"
"I am always with Samorodov now. It is Samorodov who writes my
letters to you. He writes splendidly. And if I were to tell you,
mamma," Anisim went on gaily, addressing Varvara, "the sort of
fellow that Samorodov is, you would not believe me. We call him
Muhtar, because he is black like an Armenian. I can see through
him, I know all his affairs like the five fingers of my hand, and
he feels that, and he always follows me about, we are regular
inseparables. He seems not to like it in a way, but he can't get
on without me. Where I go he goes. I have a correct, trustworthy
eye, mamma. One sees a peasant selling a shirt in the market
place. 'Stay, that shirt's stolen.' And really it turns out it is
so: the shirt was a stolen one."
"What do you tell from?" asked Varvara.
"Not from anything, I have just an eye for it. I know nothing
about the shirt, only for some reason I seem drawn to it: it's
stolen, and that's all I can say. Among us detectives it's come
to their saying, 'Oh, Anisim has gone to shoot snipe!' That means
looking for stolen goods. Yes. . . . Anybody can steal, but it is
another thing to keep! The earth is wide, but there is nowhere to
hide stolen goods."
"In our village a ram and two ewes were carried off last week,"
said Varvara, and she heaved a sigh, and there is no one to try
and find them. . . . Oh, tut, tut. ."
"Well, I might have a try. I don't mind."
The day of the wedding arrived. It was a cool but bright,
cheerful April day. People were driving about Ukleevo from early
morning with pairs or teams of three horses decked with
many-coloured ribbons on their yokes and manes, with a jingle of
bells. The rooks, disturbed by this activity, were cawing noisily
in the willows, and the starlings sang their loudest unceasingly
as though rejoicing that there was a wedding at the Tsybukins'.
Indoors the tables were already covered with long fish, smoked
hams, stuffed fowls, boxes of sprats, pickled savouries of
various sorts, and a number of bottles of vodka and wine; there
was a smell of smoked sausage and of sour tinned lobster. Old
Tsybukin walked about near the tables, tapping with his heels and
sharpening the knives against each other. They kept calling
Varvara and asking for things, and she was constantly with a
distracted face running breathlessly into the kitchen, where the
man cook from Kostukov's and the woman cook from Hrymin Juniors'
had been at work since early morning. Aksinya, with her hair
curled, in her stays without her dress on, in new creaky boots,
flew about the yard like a whirlwind showing glimpses of her bare
knees and bosom.
It was noisy, there was a sound of scolding and oaths; passers-by
stopped at the wide-open gates, and in everything there was a
feeling that something extraordinary was happening.
"They have gone for the bride!"
The bells began jingling and died away far beyond the village. .
. . Between two and three o'clock people ran up: again there was
a jingling of bells: they were bringing the bride! The church was
full, the candelabra were lighted, the choir were singing from
music books as old Tsybukin had wished it. The glare of the
lights and the bright coloured dresses dazzled Lipa; she felt as
though the singers with their loud voices were hitting her on the
head with a hammer. Her boots and the stays, which she had put on
for the first time in her life, pinched her, and her face looked
as though she had only just come to herself after fainting; she
gazed about without understanding. Anisim, in his black coat with
a red cord instead of a tie, stared at the same spot lost in
thought, and when the singers shouted loudly he hurriedly crossed
himself. He felt touched and disposed to weep. This church was
familiar to him from earliest childhood; at one time his dead
mother used to bring him here to take the sacrament; at one time
he used to sing in the choir; every ikon he remembered so well,
every corner. Here he was being married, he had to take a wife
for the sake of doing the proper thing, but he was not thinking
of that now, he had forgotten his wedding completely. Tears
dimmed his eyes so that he could not see the ikons, he felt heavy
at heart; he prayed and besought God that the misfortunes that
threatened him, that were ready to burst upon him to-morrow, if
not to-day, might somehow pass him by as storm-clouds in time of
drought pass over the village without yielding one drop of rain.
And so many sins were heaped up in the past, so many sins, all
getting away from them or setting them right was so beyond hope
that it seemed incongruous even to ask forgiveness. But he did
ask forgiveness, and even gave a loud sob, but no one took any
notice of that, since they all supposed he had had a drop too
There was a sound of a fretful childish wail:
"Take me away, mamma darling!"
"Quiet there!" cried the priest.
When they returned from the church people ran after them; there
were crowds, too, round the shop, round the gates, and in the
yard under the windows. The peasant women came in to sing songs
of congratulation to them. The young couple had scarcely crossed
the threshold when the singers, who were already standing in the
outer room with their music books, broke into a loud chant at the
top of their voices; a band ordered expressly from the town began
playing. Foaming Don wine was brought in tall wine-glasses, and
Elizarov, a carpenter who did jobs by contract, a tall, gaunt old
man with eyebrows so bushy that his eyes could scarcely be seen,
said, addressing the happy pair:
"Anisim and you, my child, love one another, live in God's way,
little children, and the Heavenly Mother will not abandon you."
He leaned his face on the old father's shoulder and gave a sob.
"Grigory Petrovitch, let us weep, let us weep with joy!" he said
in a thin voice, and then at once burst out laughing in a loud
bass guffaw. "Ho-ho-ho! This is a fine daughter-in-law for you
too! Everything is in its place in her; all runs smoothly, no
creaking, the mechanism works well, lots of screws in it."
He was a native of the Yegoryevsky district, but had worked in
the factories in Ukleevo and the neighborhood from his youth up,
and had made it his home. He had been a familiar figure for years
as old and gaunt and lanky as now, and for years he had been
nicknamed "Crutch." Perhaps because he had been for forty years
occupied in repairing the factory machinery he judged everybody
and everything by its soundness or its need of repair. And before
sitting down to the table he tried several chairs to see whether
they were solid, and he touched the smoked fish also.
After the Don wine, they all sat down to the table. The visitors
talked, moving their chairs. The singers were singing in the
outer room. The band was playing, and at the same time the
peasant women in the yard were singing their songs all in chorus
-- and there was an awful, wild medley of sounds which made one
Crutch turned round in his chair and prodded his neighbours with
his elbows, prevented people from talking, and laughed and cried
"Little children, little children, little children," he muttered
rapidly. "Aksinya my dear, Varvara darling, we will live all in
peace and harmony, my dear little axes. . . ."
He drank little and was now only drunk from one glass of English
bitters. The revolting bitters, made from nobody knows what,
intoxicated everyone who drank it as though it had stunned them.
Their tongues began to falter.
The local clergy, the clerks from the factories with their wives,
the tradesmen and tavern-keepers from the other villages were
present. The clerk and the elder of the rural district who had
served together for fourteen years, and who had during all that
time never signed a single document for anybody nor let a single
person out of the local court without deceiving or insulting him,
were sitting now side by side, both fat and well-fed, and it
seemed as though they were so saturated in injustice and
falsehood that even the skin of their faces was somehow peculiar,
fraudulent. The clerk's wife, a thin woman with a squint, had
brought all her children with her, and like a bird of prey looked
aslant at the plates and snatched anything she could get hold of
to put in her own or her children's pockets.
Lipa sat as though turned to stone, still with the same
expression as in church. Anisim had not said a single word to her
since he had made her acquaintance, so that he did not yet know
the sound of her voice; and now, sitting beside her, he remained
mute and went on drinking bitters, and when he got drunk he began
talking to the aunt who was sitting opposite:
"I have a friend called Samorodov. A peculiar man. He is by rank
an honorary citizen, and he can talk. But I know him through and
through, auntie, and he feels it. Pray join me in drinking to the
health of Samorodov, auntie!"
Varvara, worn out and distracted, walked round the table pressing
the guests to eat, and was evidently pleased that there were so
many dishes and that everything was so lavish -- no one could
disparage them now. The sun set, but the dinner went on: the
guests were beyond knowing what they were eating or drinking, it
was impossible to distinguish what was said, and only from time
to time when the band subsided some peasant woman could be heard
"They have sucked the blood out of us, the Herods; a pest on
In the evening they danced to the band. The Hrymin Juniors came,
bringing their wine, and one of them, when dancing a quadrille,
held a bottle in each hand and a wineglass in his mouth, and that
made everyone laugh. In the middle of the quadrille they suddenly
crooked their knees and danced in a squatting position; Aksinya
in green flew by like a flash, stirring up a wind with her train.
Someone trod on her flounce and Crutch shouted:
"Aie, they have torn off the panel! Children!"
Aksinya had naive grey eyes which rarely blinked, and a naive
smile played continually on her face. And in those unblinking
eyes, and in that little head on the long neck, and in her
slenderness there was something snake-like; all in green but for
the yellow on her bosom, she looked with a smile on her face as a
viper looks out of the young rye in the spring at the passers-by,
stretching itself and lifting its head. The Hrymins were free in
their behaviour to her, and it was very noticeable that she was
on intimate terms with the elder of them. But her deaf husband
saw nothing, he did not look at her; he sat with his legs crossed
and ate nuts, cracking them so loudly that it sounded like pistol
But, behold, old Tsybukin himself walked into the middle of the
room and waved his handkerchief as a sign that he, too, wanted to
dance the Russian dance, and all over the house and from the
crowd in the yard rose a roar of approbation:
"_He's_ going to dance! _He_ himself!"
Varvara danced, but the old man only waved his handkerchief and
kicked up his heels, but the people in the yard, propped against
one another, peeping in at the windows, were in raptures, and for
the moment forgave him everything -- his wealth and the wrongs he
had done them.
"Well done, Grigory Petrovitch!" was heard in the crowd. "That's
right, do your best! You can still play your part! Ha-ha!"
It was kept up till late, till two o'clock in the morning.
Anisim, staggering, went to take leave of the singers and
bandsmen, and gave each of them a new half-rouble. His father,
who was not staggering but still seemed to be standing on one
leg, saw his guests off, and said to each of them:
"The wedding has cost two thousand."
As the party was breaking up, someone took the Shikalovo
innkeeper's good coat instead of his own old one, and Anisim
suddenly flew into a rage and began shouting:
"Stop, I'll find it at once; I know who stole it, stop."
He ran out into the street and pursued someone. He was caught,
brought back home and shoved, drunken, red with anger, and wet,
into the room where the aunt was undressing Lipa, and was locked
Five days had passed. Anisim, who was preparing to go, went
upstairs to say good-bye to Varvara. All the lamps were burning
before the ikons, there was a smell of incense, while she sat at
the window knitting a stocking of red wool.
"You have not stayed with us long," she said. "You've been dull,
I dare say. Oh, tut, tut. We live comfortably; we have plenty of
everything. We celebrated your wedding properly, in good style;
your father says it came to two thousand. In fact we live like
merchants, only it's dreary. We treat the people very badly. My
heart aches, my dear; how we treat them, my goodness! Whether we
exchange a horse or buy something or hire a labourer -- it's
cheating in everything. Cheating and cheating. The Lenten oil in
the shop is bitter, rancid, the people have pitch that is better.
But surely, tell me pray, couldn't we sell good oil?"
"Every man to his job, mamma."
"But you know we all have to die? Oy, oy, really you ought to
talk to your father . . . !"
"Why, you should talk to him yourself."
"Well, well, I did put in my word, but he said just what you do:
'Every man to his own job.' Do you suppose in the next world
they'll consider what job you have been put to? God's judgment is
"Of course no one will consider," said Anisim, and he heaved a
sigh. "There is no God, anyway, you know, mamma, so what
considering can there be?"
Varvara looked at him with surprise, burst out laughing, and
clasped her hands. Perhaps because she was so genuinely surprised
at his words and looked at him as though he were a queer person,
he was confused.
"Perhaps there is a God, only there is no faith. When I was being
married I was not myself. Just as you may take an egg from under
a hen and there is a chicken chirping in it, so my conscience was
beginning to chirp in me, and while I was being married I thought
all the time there was a God! But when I left the church it was
nothing. And indeed, how can I tell whether there is a God or
not? We are not taught right from childhood, and while the babe
is still at his mother's breast he is only taught 'every man to
his own job.' Father does not believe in God, either. You were
saying that Guntorev had some sheep stolen. . . . I have found
them; it was a peasant at Shikalovo stole them; he stole them,
but father's got the fleeces . . . so that's all his faith
Anisim winked and wagged his head.
"The elder does not believe in God, either," he went on. "And the
clerk and the deacon, too. And as for their going to church and
keeping the fasts, that is simply to prevent people talking ill
of them, and in case it really may be true that there will be a
Day of Judgment. Nowadays people say that the end of the world
has come because people have grown weaker, do not honour their
parents, and so on. All that is nonsense. My idea, mamma, is that
all our trouble is because there is so little conscience in
people. I see through things, mamma, and I understand. If a man
has a stolen shirt I see it. A man sits in a tavern and you fancy
he is drinking tea and no more, but to me the tea is neither here
nor there; I see further, he has no conscience. You can go about
the whole day and not meet one man with a conscience. And the
whole reason is that they don't know whether there is a God or
not. . . . Well, good-bye, mamma, keep alive and well, don't
remember evil against me."
Anisim bowed down at Varvara's feet.
"I thank you for everything, mamma," he said. "You are a great
gain to our family. You are a very ladylike woman, and I am very
pleased with you."
Much moved, Anisim went out, but returned again and said:
"Samorodov has got me mixed up in something: I shall either make
my fortune or come to grief. If anything happens, then you must
comfort my father, mamma."
"Oh, nonsense, don't you worry, tut, tut, tut. . . God is
merciful. And, Anisim, you should be affectionate to your wife,
instead of giving each other sulky looks as you do; you might
smile at least."
"Yes, she is rather a queer one," said Anisim, and he gave a
sigh. "She does not understand anything, she never speaks. She is
very young, let her grow up."
A tall, sleek white stallion was already standing at the front
door, harnessed to the chaise.
Old Tsybukin jumped in jauntily with a run and took the reins.
Anisim kissed Varvara, Aksinya, and his brother. On the steps
Lipa, too, was standing; she was standing motionless, looking
away, and it seemed as though she had not come to see him off but
just by chance for some unknown reason. Anisim went up to her and
just touched her cheek with his lips.
"Good-bye," he said.
And without looking at him she gave a strange smile; her face
began to quiver, and everyone for some reason felt sorry for her.
Anisim, too, leaped into the chaise with a bound and put his arms
jauntily akimbo, for he considered himself a good-looking fellow.
When they drove up out of the ravine Anisim kept looking back
towards the village. It was a warm, bright day. The cattle were
being driven out for the first time, and the peasant girls and
women were walking by the herd in their holiday dresses. The
dun-coloured bull bellowed, glad to be free, and pawed the ground
with his forefeet. On all sides, above and below, the larks were
singing. Anisim looked round at the elegant white church -- it
had only lately been whitewashed -- and he thought how he had
been praying in it five days before; he looked round at the
school with its green roof, at the little river in which he used
once to bathe and catch fish, and there was a stir of joy in his
heart, and he wished that walls might rise up from the ground and
prevent him from going further, and that he might be left with
nothing but the past.
At the station they went to the refreshment room and drank a
glass of sherry each. His father felt in his pocket for his purse
"I will stand treat," said Anisim. The old man, touched and
delighted, slapped him on the shoulder, and winked to the waiter
as much as to say, "See what a fine son I have got."
"You ought to stay at home in the business, Anisim," he said;
"you would be worth any price to me! I would shower gold on you
from head to foot, my son."
"It can't be done, papa."
The sherry was sour and smelt of sealing-wax, but they had
When old Tsybukin returned home from the station, for the first
moment he did not recognize his younger daughter-in-law. As soon
as her husband had driven out of the yard, Lipa was transformed
and suddenly brightened up. Wearing a threadbare old petticoat,
with her feet bare and her sleeves tucked up to the shoulders,
she was scrubbing the stairs in the entry and singing in a
silvery little voice, and when she brought out a big tub of dirty
water and looked up at the sun with her childlike smile it seemed
as though she, too, were a lark.
An old labourer who was passing by the door shook his head and
cleared his throat.
"Yes, indeed, your daughters-in-law, Grigory Petrovitch, are a
blessing from God," he said. "Not women, but treasures!"
On Friday the 8th of July, Elizarov, nicknamed Crutch, and Lipa
were returning from the village of Kazanskoe, where
they had been to a service on the occasion of a church holiday
in the honour of the Holy Mother of Kazan. A good distance after
them walked Lipa's mother Praskovya, who always fell behind, as
she was ill and short of breath. It was drawing towards evening.
"A-a-a . . ." said Crutch, wondering as he listened to Lipa.
"A-a! . . . We-ell!
"I am very fond of jam, Ilya Makaritch," said Lipa. "I sit down
in my little corner and drink tea and eat jam. Or I drink it with
Varvara Nikolaevna, and she tells some story full of feeling. We
have a lot of jam -- four jars. 'Have some, Lipa; eat as much as
you like.' "
"A-a-a, four jars!"
"They live very well. We have white bread with our tea; and meat,
too, as much as one wants. They live very well, only I am
frightened with them, Ilya Makaritch. Oh, oh, how frightened I
"Why are you frightened, child?" asked Crutch, and he looked back
to see how far Praskovya was behind.
"To begin with, when the wedding had been celebrated I was afraid
of Anisim Grigoritch. Anisim Grigoritch did nothing, he didn't
ill-treat me, only when he comes near me a cold shiver runs all
over me, through all my bones. And I did not sleep one night, I
trembled all over and kept praying to God. And now I am afraid of
Aksinya, Ilya Makaritch. It's not that she does anything, she is
always laughing, but sometimes she glances at the window, and her
eyes are so fierce and there is a gleam of green in them -- like
the eyes of the sheep in the shed. The Hrymin Juniors are leading
her astray: 'Your old man,' they tell her, 'has a bit of land at
Butyokino, a hundred and twenty acres,' they say, 'and there is
sand and water there, so you, Aksinya,' they say, 'build a
brickyard there and we will go shares in it.' Bricks now are
twenty roubles the thousand, it's a profitable business.
Yesterday at dinner Aksinya said to my father-in-law: 'I want to
build a brickyard at Butyokino; I'm going into business on my own
account.' She laughed as she said it. And Grigory Petrovitch's
face darkened, one could see he did not like it. 'As long as I
live,' he said, 'the family must not break up, we must go on
altogether.' She gave a look and gritted her teeth. . . .
Fritters were served, she would not eat them."
"A-a-a! . . ." Crutch was surprised.
"And tell me, if you please, when does she sleep?" said Lipa.
"She sleeps for half an hour, then jumps up and keeps walking and
walking about to see whether the peasants have not set fire to
something, have not stolen something. . . . I am frightened with
her, Ilya Makaritch. And the Hrymin Juniors did not go to bed
after the wedding, but drove to the town to go to law with each
other; and folks do say it is all on account of Aksinya. Two of
the brothers have promised to build her a brickyard, but the
third is offended, and the factory has been at a standstill for a
month, and my uncle Prohor is without work and goes about from
house to house getting crusts. 'Hadn't you better go working on
the land or sawing up wood, meanwhile, uncle?' I tell him; 'why
disgrace yourself?' 'I've got out of the way of it,' he says; 'I
don't know how to do any sort of peasant's work now, Lipinka.' .
They stopped to rest and wait for Praskovya near a copse of young
aspen-trees. Elizarov had long been a contractor in a small way,
but he kept no horses, going on foot all over the district with
nothing but a little bag in which there was bread and onions, and
stalking along with big strides, swinging his arms. And it was
difficult to walk with him.
At the entrance to the copse stood a milestone. Elizarov touched
it; read it. Praskovya reached them out of breath. Her wrinkled
and always scared-looking face was beaming with happiness; she
had been at church to-day like anyone else, then she had been to
the fair and there had drunk pear cider. For her this was
unusual, and it even seemed to her now that she had lived for her
own pleasure that day for the first time in her life. After
resting they all three walked on side by side. The sun had
already set, and its beams filtered through the copse, casting a
light on the trunks of the trees. There was a faint sound of
voices ahead. The Ukleevo girls had long before pushed on ahead
but had lingered in the copse, probably gathering mushrooms.
"Hey, wenches!" cried Elizarov. "Hey, my beauties!"
There was a sound of laughter in response.
"Crutch is coming! Crutch! The old horseradish."
And the echo laughed, too. And then the copse was left behind.
The tops of the factory chimneys came into view. The cross on the
belfry glittered: this was the village: "the one at which the
deacon ate all the caviare at the funeral." Now they were almost
home; they only had to go down into the big ravine. Lipa and
Praskovya, who had been walking barefooted, sat down on the grass
to put on their boots; Elizar sat down with them. If they looked
down from above Ukleevo looked beautiful and peaceful with its
willow-trees, its white church, and its little river, and the
only blot on the picture was the roof of the factories, painted
for the sake of cheapness a gloomy ashen grey. On the slope on
the further side they could see the rye -- some in stacks and
sheaves here and there as though strewn about by the storm, and
some freshly cut lying in swathes; the oats, too, were ripe and
glistened now in the sun like mother-of-pearl. It was
harvest-time. To-day was a holiday, to-morrow they would harvest
the rye and carry the hay, and then Sunday a holiday again; every
day there were mutterings of distant thunder. It was misty and
looked like rain, and, gazing now at the fields, everyone
thought, God grant we get the harvest in in time; and everyone
felt gay and joyful and anxious at heart.
"Mowers ask a high price nowadays," said Praskovya. "One rouble
and forty kopecks a day."
People kept coming and coming from the fair at Kazanskoe: peasant
women, factory workers in new caps, beggars, children. . . . Here
a cart would drive by stirring up the dust and behind it would
run an unsold horse, and it seemed glad it had not been sold;
then a cow was led along by the horns, resisting stubbornly; then
a cart again, and in it drunken peasants swinging their legs. An
old woman led a little boy in a big cap and big boots; the boy
was tired out with the heat and the heavy boots which prevented
his bending his legs at the knees, but yet blew unceasingly with
all his might at a tin trumpet. They had gone down the slope and
turned into the street, but the trumpet could still be heard.
"Our factory owners don't seem quite themselves . . ." said
Elizarov. "There's trouble. Kostukov is angry with me. 'Too many
boards have gone on the cornices.' 'Too many? As many have gone
on it as were needed, Vassily Danilitch; I don't eat them with my
porridge.' 'How can you speak to me like that?' said he, 'you
good-for-nothing blockhead! Don't forget yourself! It was I made
you a contractor.' 'That's nothing so wonderful,' said I. 'Even
before I was a contractor I used to have tea every day.' 'You are
a rascal . . .' he said. I said nothing. 'We are rascals in this
world,' thought I, 'and you will be rascals in the next. . . .'
Ha-ha-ha! The next day he was softer. 'Don't you bear malice
against me for my words, Makaritch,' he said. 'If I said too
much,' says he, 'what of it? I am a merchant of the first guild,
your superior -- you ought to hold your tongue.' 'You,' said I,
'are a merchant of the first guild and I am a carpenter, that's
correct. And Saint Joseph was a carpenter, too. Ours is a
righteous calling and pleasing to God, and if you are pleased to
be my superior you are very welcome to it, Vassily Danilitch.'
And later on, after that conversation I mean, I thought: 'Which
was the superior? A merchant of the first guild or a carpenter?'
The carpenter must be, my child!"
Crutch thought a minute and added:
"Yes, that's how it is, child. He who works, he who is patient is
By now the sun had set and a thick mist as white as milk was
rising over the river, in the church enclosure, and in the open
spaces round the factories. Now when the darkness was coming on
rapidly, when lights were twinkling belo w, and when it seemed as
though the mists were hiding a fathomless abyss, Lipa and her
mother who were born in poverty and prepared to live so till the
end, giving up to others everything except their frightened,
gentle souls, may have fancied for a minute perhaps that in the
vast, mysterious world, among the endless series of lives, they,
too, counted for something, and they, too, were superior to
someone; they liked sitting here at the top, they smiled happily
and forgot that they must go down below again all the same.
At last they went home again. The mowers were sitting on the
ground at the gates near the shop. As a rule the Ukleevo peasants
did not go to Tsybukin's to work, and they had to hire strangers,
and now in the darkness it seemed as though there were men
sitting there with long black beards. The shop was open, and
through the doorway they could see the deaf man playing draughts
with a boy. The mowers were singing softly, scarcely audibly, or
loudly demanding their wages for the previous day, but they were
not paid for fear they should go away before to-morrow. Old
Tsybukin, with his coat off, was sitting in his waistcoat with
Aksinya under the birch-tree, drinking tea; a lamp was burning on
"I say, grandfather," a mower called from outside the gates, as
though taunting him, "pay us half anyway! Hey, grandfather."
And at once there was the sound of laughter, and then again they
sang hardly audibly. . . . Crutch, too, sat down to have some
"We have been at the fair, you know," he began telling them. "We
have had a walk, a very nice walk, my children, praise the Lord.
But an unfortunate thing happened: Sashka the blacksmith bought
some tobacco and gave the shopman half a rouble to be sure. And
the half rouble was a false one" --Crutch went on, and he meant
to speak in a whisper, but he spoke in a smothered husky voice
which was audible to everyone. "The half-rouble turned out to be
a bad one. He was asked where he got it. 'Anisim Tsybukin gave it
me,' he said. 'When I went to his wedding,' he said. They called
the police inspector, took the man away. . . . Look out, Grigory
Petrovitch, that nothing comes of it, no talk. . . ."
"Gra-ndfather!" the same voice called tauntingly outside the
A silence followed.
"Ah, little children, little children, little children . . ."
Crutch muttered rapidly, and he got up. He was overcome with
drowsiness. "Well, thank you for the tea, for the sugar, little
children. It is time to sleep. I am like a bit of rotten timber
nowadays, my beams are crumbling under me. Ho-ho-ho! I suppose
it's time I was dead."
And he gave a gulp. Old Tsybukin did not finish his tea but sat
on a little, pondering; and his face looked as though he were
listening to the footsteps of Crutch, who was far away down the
"Sashka the blacksmith told a lie, I expect," said Aksinya,
guessing his thoughts.
He went into the house and came back a little later with a
parcel; he opened it, and there was the gleam of roubles --
perfectly new coins. He took one, tried it with his teeth, flung
it on the tray; then flung down another.
"The roubles really are false . . ." he said, looking at Aksinya
and seeming perplexed. "These are those Anisim brought, his
present. Take them, daughter," he whispered, and thrust the
parcel into her hands. "Take them and throw them into the well .
. . confound them! And mind there is no talk about it. Harm might
come of it. . . . Take away the samovar, put out the light."
Lipa and her mother sitting in the barn saw the lights go out one
after the other; only overhead in Varvara's room there were blue
and red lamps gleaming, and a feeling of peace, content, and
happy ignorance seemed to float down from there. Praskovya could
never get used to her daughter's being married to a rich man, and
when she came she huddled timidly in the outer room with a
deprecating smile on her face, and tea and sugar were sent out to
her. And Lipa, too, could not get used to it either, and after
her husband had gone away she did not sleep in her bed, but lay
down anywhere to sleep, in the kitchen or the barn, and every day
she scrubbed the floor or washed the clothes, and felt as though
she were hired by the day. And now, on coming back from the
service, they drank tea in the kitchen with the cook, then they
went into the barn and lay down on the ground between the sledge
and the wall. It was dark here and smelt of harness. The lights
went out about the house, then they could hear the deaf man
shutting up the shop, the mowers settling themselves about the
yard to sleep. In the distance at the Hrymin Juniors' they were
playing on the expensive concertina. . . . Praskovya and Lipa
began to go to sleep.
And when they were awakened by somebody's steps it was bright
moonlight; at the entrance of the barn stood Aksinya with her
bedding in her arms.
"Maybe it's a bit cooler here," she said; then she came in and
lay down almost in the doorway so that the moonlight fell full
She did not sleep, but breathed heavily, tossing from side to
side with the heat, throwing off almost all the bedclothes. And
in the magic moonlight what a beautiful, what a proud animal she
was! A little time passed, and then steps were heard again: the
old father, white all over, appeared in the doorway.
"Aksinya," he called, " are you here?"
"Well?" she responded angrily.
"I told you just now to throw the money into the well, have you
"What next, throwing property into the water! I gave them to the
mowers. . . ."
"Oh my God!" cried the old man, dumbfounded and alarmed. "Oh my
God! you wicked woman. . . ."
He flung up his hands and went out, and he kept saying something
as he went away. And a little later Aksinya sat up and sighed
heavily with annoyance, then got up and, gathering up her
bedclothes in her arms, went out.
"Why did you marry me into this family, mother?" said Lipa.
"One has to be married, daughter. It was not us who ordained it."
And a feeling of inconsolable woe was ready to take possession of
them. But it seemed to them that someone was looking down from
the height of the heavens, out of the blue from where the stars
were seeing everything that was going on in Ukleevo, watching
over them. And however great was wickedness, still the night was
calm and beautiful, and still in God's world there is and will be
truth and justice as calm and beautiful, and everything on earth
is only waiting to be made one with truth and justice, even as
the moonlight is blended with the night.
And both, huddling close to one another, fell asleep comforted.
News had come long before that Anisim had been put in prison for
coining and passing bad money. Months passed, more than half a
year passed, the long winter was over, spring had begun, and
everyone in the house and the village had grown used to the fact
that Anisim was in prison. And when anyone passed by the house or
the shop at night he would remember that Anisim was in prison;
and when they rang at the churchyard for some reason, that, too,
reminded them that he was in prison awaiting trial.
It seemed as though a shadow had fallen upon the house. The house
looked darker, the roof was rustier, the heavy, iron-bound door
into the shop, which was painted green, was covered with cracks,
or, as the deaf man expressed it, "blisters"; and old Tsybukin
seemed to have grown dingy, too. He had given up cutting his hair
and beard, and looked shaggy. He no longer sprang jauntily into
his chaise, nor shouted to beggars: "God will provide!" His
strength was on the wane, and that was evident in everything.
People were less afraid of him now, and the police officer drew
up a formal charge against him in the shop though he received his
regular bribe as before; and three times the old man was called
up to the town to be tried for illicit dealing in spirits, and
the case was continually adjourned owing to the non-appearance of
witnesses, and old Tsybukin was worn out with worry.
He often went to see his son, hired somebody, handed in a
petition to somebody else, presented a holy banner to some
church. He presented the governor of th e prison in which Anisim
was confined with a silver glass stand with a long spoon and the
inscription: "The soul knows its right measure."
"There is no one to look after things for us," said Varvara.
"Tut, tut. . . . You ought to ask someone of the gentlefolks,
they would write to the head officials. . . . At least they might
let him out on bail! Why wear the poor fellow out?"
She, too, was grieved, but had grown stouter and whiter; she
lighted the lamps before the ikons as before, and saw that
everything in the house was clean, and regaled the guests with
jam and apple cheese. The deaf man and Aksinya looked after the
shop. A new project was in progress -- a brickyard in Butyokino
-- and Aksinya went there almost every day in the chaise. She
drove herself, and when she met acquaintances she stretched out
her neck like a snake out of the young rye, and smiled naively
and enigmatically. Lipa spent her time playing with the baby
which had been born to her before Lent. It was a tiny, thin,
pitiful little baby, and it was strange that it should cry and
gaze about and be considered a human being, and even be called
Nikifor. He lay in his swinging cradle, and Lipa would walk away
towards the door and say, bowing to him:
"Good-day, Nikifor Anisimitch!"
And she would rush at him and kiss him. Then she would walk away
to the door, bow again, and say:
'Good-day, Nikifor Anisimitch!
And he kicked up his little red legs, and his crying was mixed
with laughter like the carpenter Elizarov's.
At last the day of the trial was fixed. Tsybukin went away five
days before. Then they heard that the peasants called as
witnesses had been fetched; their old workman who had received a
notice to appear went too.
The trial was on a Thursday. But Sunday had passed, and Tsybukin
was still not back, and there was no news. Towards the evening on
Tuesday Varvara was sitting at the open window, listening for her
husband to come. In the next room Lipa was playing with her baby.
She was tossing him up in her arms and saying enthusiastically:
"You will grow up ever so big, ever so big. You will be a
peasant, we shall go out to work together! We shall go out to
"Come, come," said Varvara, offended. "Go out to work, what an
idea, you silly girl! He will be a merchant . . .!"
Lipa sang softly, but a minute later she forgot and again:
"You will grow ever so big, ever so big. You will be a peasant,
we'll go out to work together."
"There she is at it again!"
Lipa, with Nikifor in her arms, stood still in the doorway and
"Why do I love him so much, mamma? Why do I feel so sorry for
him?" she went on in a quivering voice, and her eyes glistened
with tears. "Who is he? What is he like? As light as a little
feather, as a little crumb, but I love him; I love him like a
real person. Here he can do nothing, he can't talk, and yet I
know what he wants with his little eyes."
Varvara was listening; the sound of the evening train coming in
to the station reached her. Had her husband come? She did not
hear and she did not heed what Lipa was saying, she had no idea
how the time passed, but only trembled all over -- not from
dread, but intense curiosity. She saw a cart full of peasants
roll quickly by with a rattle. It was the witnesses coming back
from the station. When the cart passed the shop the old workman
jumped out and walked into the yard. She could hear him being
greeted in the yard and being asked some questions. . . .
"Deprivation of rights and all his property," he said loudly,
"and six years' penal servitude in Siberia."
She could see Aksinya come out of the shop by the back way; she
had just been selling kerosene, and in one hand held a bottle and
in the other a can, and in her mouth she had some silver coins.
"Where is father?" she asked, lisping.
"At the station," answered the labourer. " 'When it gets a little
darker,' he said, 'then I shall come.' "
And when it became known all through the household that Anisim
was sentenced to penal servitude, the cook in the kitchen
suddenly broke into a wail as though at a funeral, imagining that
this was demanded by the proprieties:
"There is no one to care for us now you have gone, Anisim
Grigoritch, our bright falcon. . . ."
The dogs began barking in alarm. Varvara ran to the window, and
rushing about in distress, shouted to the cook with all her
might, straining her voice:
"Sto-op, Stepanida, sto-op! Don't harrow us, for Christ's sake!"
They forgot to set the samovar, they could think of nothing. Only
Lipa could not make out what it was all about and went on playing
with her baby.
When the old father arrived from the station they asked him no
questions. He greeted them and walked through all the rooms in
silence; he had no supper.
"There was no one to see about things . . ." Varvara began when
they were alone. "I said you should have asked some of the
gentry, you would not heed me at the time. . . . A petition would
. . ."
"I saw to things," said her husband with a wave of his hand.
"When Anisim was condemned I went to the gentleman who was
defending him. 'It's no use now,' he said, 'it's too late'; and
Anisim said the same; it's too late. But all the same as I came
out of the court I made an agreement with a lawyer, I paid him
something in advance. I'll wait a week and then I will go again.
It is as God wills."
Again the old man walked through all the rooms, and when he went
back to Varvara he said:
"I must be ill. My head's in a sort of . . . fog. My thoughts are
in a maze."
He closed the door that Lipa might not hear, and went on softly:
"I am unhappy about my money. Do you remember on Low Sunday
before his wedding Anisim's bringing me some new roubles and
half-roubles? One parcel I put away at the time, but the others I
mixed with my own money. When my uncle Dmitri Filatitch -- the
kingdom of heaven be his -- was alive, he used constantly to go
journeys to Moscow and to the Crimea to buy goods. He had a wife,
and this same wife, when he was away buying goods, used to take
up with other men. She had half a dozen children. And when uncle
was in his cups he would laugh and say: 'I never can make out,'
he used to say, 'which are my children and which are other
people's.' An easy-going disposition, to be sure; and so I now
can't distinguish which are genuine roubles and which are false
ones. And it seems to me that they are all false."
"Nonsense, God bless you."
"I take a ticket at the station, I give the man three roubles,
and I keep fancying they are false. And I am frightened. I must
"There's no denying it, we are all in God's hands. . . . Oh dear,
dear . . ." said Varvara, and she shook her head. "You ought to
think about this, Grigory Petrovitch: you never know, anything
may happen, you are not a young man. See they don't wrong your
grandchild when you are dead and gone. Oy, I am afraid they will
be unfair to Nikifor! He has as good as no father, his mother's
young and foolish . . . you ought to secure something for him,
poor little boy, at least the land, Butyokino, Grigory
Petrovitch, really! Think it over!" Varvara went on persuading
him. "The pretty boy, one is sorry for him! You go to-morrow and
make out a deed; why put it off?"
"I'd forgotten about my grandson," said Tsybukin. "I must go and
have a look at him. So you say the boy is all right? Well, let
him grow up, please God."
He opened the door and, crooking his finger, beckoned to Lipa.
She went up to him with the baby in her arms.
"If there is anything you want, Lipinka, you ask for it," he
said. "And eat anything you like, we don't grudge it, so long as
it does you good. . . ." He made the sign of the cross over the
baby. "And take care of my grandchild. My son is gone, but my
grandson is left."
Tears rolled down his cheeks; he gave a sob and went away. Soon
afterwards he went to bed and slept soundly after seven sleepless
Old Tsybukin went to the town for a short time. Someone told
Aksinya that he had gone to the notary to make his will and that
he was leaving Butyokino, the very place where she had set up a
brickyard, to Nikifor, his grandson. She was informed of this in
when old Tsybukin and Varvara were sitting near the steps under
the birch-tree, drinking their tea. She closed the shop in the
front and at the back, gathered together all the keys she had,
and flung them at her father-in-law's feet.
"I am not going on working for you," she began in a loud voice,
and suddenly broke into sobs. "It seems I am not your
daughter-in-law, but a servant! Everybody's jeering and saying,
'See what a servant the Tsybukins have got hold of!' I did not
come to you for wages! I am not a beggar, I am not a slave, I
have a father and mother."
She did not wipe away her tears, she fixed upon her father-in-law
eyes full of tears, vindictive, squinting with wrath; her face
and neck were red and tense, and she was shouting at the top of
"I don't mean to go on being a slave!" she went on. "I am worn
out. When it is work, when it is sitting in the shop day in and
day out, scurrying out at night for vodka -- then it is my share,
but when it is giving away the land then it is for that convict's
wife and her imp. She is mistress here, and I am her servant.
Give her everything, the convict's wife, and may it choke her! I
am going home! Find yourselves some other fool, you damned
Tsybukin had never in his life scolded or punished his children,
and had never dreamed that one of his family could speak to him
rudely or behave disrespectfully; and now he was very much
frightened; he ran into the house and there hid behind the
cupboard. And Varvara was so much flustered that she could not
get up from her seat, and only waved her hands before her as
though she were warding off a bee.
"Oh, Holy Saints! what's the meaning of it?" she muttered in
horror. "What is she shouting? Oh, dear, dear! . . . People will
hear! Hush. Oh, hush!"
"He has given Butyokino to the convict's wife," Aksinya went on
bawling. "Give her everything now, I don't want anything from
you! Let me alone! You are all a gang of thieves here! I have
seen my fill of it, I have had enough! You have robbed folks
coming in and going out; you have robbed old and young alike, you
brigands! And who has been selling vodka without a licence? And
false money? You've filled boxes full of false coins, and now I
am no more use!"
A crowd had by now collected at the open gate and was staring
into the yard.
"Let the people look," bawled Aksinya. "I will shame you all! You
shall burn with shame! You shall grovel at my feet. Hey! Stepan,"
she called to the deaf man, "let us go home this minute! Let us
go to my father and mother; I don't want to live with convicts.
Clothes were hanging on lines stretched across the yard; she
snatched off her petticoats and blouses still wet and flung them
into the deaf man's arms. Then in her fury she dashed about the
yard by the linen, tore down all of it, and what was not hers she
threw on the ground and trampled upon.
"Holy Saints, take her away," moaned Varvara. "What a woman! Give
her Butyokino! Give it her, for the Lord's sake!
"Well! Wha-at a woman!" people were saying at the gate. "She's a
wo-oman! She's going it -- something like!"
Aksinya ran into the kitchen where washing was going on. Lipa was
washing alone, the cook had gone to the river to rinse the
clothes. Steam was rising from the trough and from the caldron on
the side of the stove, and the kitchen was thick and stifling
from the steam. On the floor was a heap of unwashed clothes, and
Nikifor, kicking up his little red legs, had been put down on a
bench near them, so that if he fell he should not hurt himself.
Just as Aksinya went in Lipa took the former's chemise out of the
heap and put it in the trough, and was just stretching out her
hand to a big ladle of boiling water which was standing on the
"Give it here," said Aksinya, looking at her with hatred, and
snatching the chemise out of the trough; "it is not your business
to touch my linen! You are a convict's wife, and ought to know
your place and who you are."
Lipa gazed at her, taken aback, and did not understand, but
suddenly she caught the look Aksinya turned upon the child, and
at once she understood and went numb all over.
"You've taken my land, so here you are!" Saying this Aksinya
snatched up the ladle with the boiling water and flung it over
After this there was heard a scream such as had never been heard
before in Ukleevo, and no one would have believed that a little
weak creature like Lipa could scream like that. And it was
suddenly silent in the yard.
Aksinya walked into the house with her old naive smile. . . . The
deaf man kept moving about the yard with his arms full of linen,
then he began hanging it up again, in silence, without haste. And
until the cook came back from the river no one ventured to go
into the kitchen and see what was there.
Nikifor was taken to the district hospital, and towards evening
he died there. Lipa did not wait for them to come for her, but
wrapped the dead baby in its little quilt and carried it home.
The hospital, a new one recently built, with big windows, stood
high up on a hill; it was glittering from the setting sun and
looked as though it were on fire from inside. There was a little
village below. Lipa went down along the road, and before reaching
the village sat down by a pond. A woman brought a horse down to
drink and the horse did not drink.
"What more do you want?" said the woman to it softly. "What do
A boy in a red shirt, sitting at the water's edge, was washing
his father's boots. And not another soul was in sight either in
the village or on the hill.
"It's not drinking," said Lipa, looking at the horse.
Then the woman with the horse and the boy with the boots walked
away, and there was no one left at all. The sun went to bed
wrapped in cloth of gold and purple, and long clouds, red and
lilac, stretched across the sky, guarded its slumbers. Somewhere