THE LADY RUSTIC.

Many years passed, and family circumstances obliged me to settle in the
poor little village of H. Engaged in farming, I sighed in secret for my
former merry, careless existence. Most difficult of all I found it to
pass in solitude the spring and winter evenings. Until the dinner hour
I somehow occupied the time, talking to the _starosta_, driving round
to see how the work went on, or visiting the new buildings. But as soon
as evening began to draw in, I was at a loss what to do with myself. My
books in various bookcases, cupboards, and storerooms I knew by heart.
The housekeeper, Kurilovna, related to me all the stories she could
remember. The songs of the peasant women made me melancholy. I tried
cherry brandy, but that gave me the headache. I must confess, however,
that I had some fear of becoming a drunkard from _ennui_, the saddest
kind of drunkenness imaginable, of which I had seen many examples in
our district.

I had no near neighbours with the exception of two or three melancholy
ones, whose conversation consisted mostly of hiccups and sighs.
Solitude was preferable to that. Finally I decided to go to bed as
early as possible, and to dine as late as possible, thus shortening the
evening and lengthening the day; and I found this plan a good one.

Pour versts from my place was a large estate belonging to Count B.;
but the steward alone lived there. The Countess had visited her domain
once only, just after her marriage, and she then only lived there about
a month. However, in the second spring of my retirement, there was a
report that the Countess, with her husband, would come to spend the
summer on her estate; and they arrived at the beginning of June.

The advent of a rich neighbour is an important event for residents in
the country. The landowners and the people of their household talk of
it for a couple of months beforehand, and for three years afterwards.
As far as I was concerned, I must confess, the expected arrival of
a young and beautiful neighbour affected me strongly. I burned with
impatience to see her; and the first Sunday after her arrival I started
for the village, in order to present myself to the Count and Countess
as their near neighbour and humble servant.

The footman showed me into the Count’s study, while he went to
inform him of my arrival. The spacious room was furnished in a most
luxurious manner. Against the walls stood enclosed bookshelves well
furnished with books, and surmounted by bronze busts. Over the marble
mantelpiece was a large mirror. The floor was covered with green
cloth, over which were spread rugs and carpets.

Having got unaccustomed to luxury in my own poor little corner, and not
having beheld the wealth of other people for a long while, I was awed;
and I awaited the Count with a sort of fear, just as a petitioner from
the provinces awaits in an ante-room the arrival of the minister. The
doors opened, and a man about thirty-two, and very handsome, entered
the apartment. The Count approached me with a frank and friendly look.
I tried to be self-possessed, and began to introduce myself, but he
forestalled me.

We sat down. His easy and agreeable, conversation soon dissipated my
nervous timidity. I was already passing into my usual manner, when
suddenly the Countess entered, and I became more confused than ever.
She was, indeed, beautiful. The Count presented me. I was anxious to
appear at ease, but the more I tried to assume an air of unrestraint,
the more awkward I felt myself becoming. They, in order to give me time
to recover myself and get accustomed to my new acquaintances, conversed
with one another, treating me in good neighbourly fashion without
ceremony. Meanwhile, I walked about the room, examining the books and
pictures. In pictures I am no _connoisseur_; but one of the Count’s
attracted my particular notice. It represented a view in Switzerland
was not, however, struck by the painting, but by the fact that it was
shot through by two bullets, one planted just on the top of the other.

“A good shot,” I remarked, turning to the Count.

“Yes,” he replied, “a very remarkable shot.”

“Do you shoot well?” he added.

“Tolerably,” I answered, rejoicing that the conversation had turned
at last on a subject which interested me.’ “At a distance of thirty
paces I do not miss a card; I mean, of course, with a pistol that I am
accustomed to.”

“Really?” said the Countess, with a look of great interest. “‘And you,
my dear, could you hit a card at thirty paces?”

“Some day,” replied the Count, “we will try. In my own time I did not
shoot badly. But it is four years now since I held a pistol in my hand.”

“Oh,” I replied, “in that case, I bet, Count, that you will not hit a
card even at twenty paces. The pistol demands daily practice. I know
that from experience. In our regiment I was reckoned one of the bests
shots. Once I happened not to take a pistol in hand for a whole month;
I had sent my own to the gunsmith’s. Well, what do you think, Count?
The first time I began again to shoot I four times running missed
a bottle at twenty paces. The captain of our company, who was a wit,
happened to be present, and he said to me: ‘Your hand, my friend,
refuses to raise itself against the bottle! No, Count, you must not
neglect to practise, or you will soon lose all skill. The best shot I
ever knew used to shoot every day, and at least three times every day,
before dinner. This was as much his habit as the preliminary glass of
vodka.”

[Illustration: “SILVIO! _YOU_ KNEW SILVIO?”]

The Count and Countess seemed pleased that I had begun to talk.

“And what sort of a shot was he?” asked the Count.

“This sort, Count. If he saw a fly settle on the wall–you smile,
Countess, but I assure you it is a fact. When he saw the fly, he would
call out, ‘Kuska, my pistol!’ Kuska brought him the loaded pistol. A
crack, and the fly was crushed into the wall!”

“That is astonishing!” said the Count. “And what was his name?”

“Silvio was his name.”

“Silvio!” exclaimed the Count, starting from his seat. “_You_ knew
Silvio?”

“How could I fail to know him? We were comrades; he was received at our
mess like a brother officer. It is now about five years since I last
had tidings of him. Then you, Count, also knew him?”

“I knew him very well. Did he never tell you of one very extraordinary
incident in his life?”

“Do you mean the slap in the face, Count, that he received from
a blackguard at a ball?” “He did not tell you the name of this
blackguard?”

“No, Count, he did not. Forgive me,” I added, guessing the truth,
“forgive me–I did not–could it really have been you?”

“It was myself,” replied the Count, greatly agitated. “And the shots in
the picture are a memento of our last meeting.”

“Oh, my dear,” said the Countess, “for God’s sake do not relate it! It
frightens me to think of it.”

“No,” replied the Count; “I must tell him all. He knows how I insulted
his friend. He shall also know how Silvio revenged himself.”

The Count pushed a chair towards me, and with the liveliest interest I
listened to the following story:–

“Five years ago,” began the Count, “I got married. The honeymoon I
spent here, in this village. To this house I am indebted for the
happiest moments of my life, and for one of its saddest remembrances.

“One afternoon we went out riding together. My wife’s horse became
restive. She was frightened, got off the horse, handed the reins over
to me; and walked home. I rode on before her. In the yard I saw a
travelling carriage, and I was told that in my study sat a man who
would not give his name, but simply said that he wanted to see me on
business. I entered the study, and saw in the darkness a man, dusty and
unshaven. He stood there, by the fireplace. I approached him, trying to
recollect his face.

“‘You don’t remember me, Count?’ he said, in a tremulous voice.

“‘Silvio!’ I cried, and I confess I felt that my hair was standing on
end.

“‘Exactly so,’ he added. ‘You owe me a shot; I have come to claim it.
Are you ready?’

“A pistol protruded from his side pocket.

“I measured twelve paces, and stood there in that corner, begging him
to fire quickly, before my wife came in.

“He hesitated, and asked for a light. Candles were brought in. I locked
the doors, gave orders that no one should enter, and again called upon
him to fire. He took out his pistol and aimed.

“I counted the seconds…. I thought of her … A terrible moment
passed! Then Silvio lowered his hand.

“‘I only regret,’ he said, that the pistol is not loaded with
cherry-stones. My bullet is heavy; and it always seems to me that an
affair of this kind is net a duel, but a murder. I am not accustomed
to aim at unarmed men. Let us begin again from the beginning. Let us
cast lots as to who shall fire first.’

“My head went round. I think I objected. Finally, however, we loaded
another pistol and rolled up two pieces of paper. These he placed
inside his cap; the one through which, at our first meeting, I had put
the bullet. I again drew the lucky number.

“‘Count, you have the devil’s luck,’ he said, with a smile which I
shall never forget.

“I don’t know what I was about, or how it happened that he succeeded in
inducing me. But I fired and hit that picture.”

The Count pointed with his finger to the picture with the shot-marks
His face had become red with agitation. The Countess was whiter than
her own handkerchief; and I could not restrain an exclamation.

“I fired,” continued the Count, “and, thank Heaven, missed. Then
Silvio–at this moment he was really terrible–then Silvio raised his
pistol to take aim at me.

“Suddenly the door flew open, Masha rushed into the room. She threw
herself upon my neck with a loud shriek. Her presence restored to
me-all my courage.

“‘My dear,’ I said to her, ‘don’t you see that we are only joking? How
frightened you look! Go and drink a glass of water and then come back;
I will introduce you to an old friend and comrade.’

Masha was still in doubt.

[Illustration: “MASHA THREW HERSELF AT HIS FEET”]

“‘Tell me; is my husband speaking the truth?’ she asked, turning to the
terrible Silvio. ‘Is it true that you are only joking?’

“‘He is always joking. Countess,’ Silvio replied. ‘He once in a joke
gave me a slap in the face; in joke he put a bullet through this cap
while I was wearing it; and in joke, too, he missed me when he fired
just now. And now _I_ have a fancy for a joke.’

“With these words he raised his pistol as if to shoot me down before
her eyes.”

Masha threw herself at his feet.

‘Rise, Masha! For shame!’ I cried, in my passion. ‘And you, sir, cease
to amuse yourself at the expense of an unhappy woman. Will you fire or
not?’

“‘I will not,’ replied Silvio. ‘I am satisfied. I have witnessed your
agitation–your terror. I forced you to fire at me. That is enough; you
will remember me. I leave you to your conscience.’

“He was now about to go; but he stopped at the door, looked round
at the picture which my shot had passed through, fired at it almost
without taking aim, and disappeared.

“My wife had sunk down fainting. The servants had not ventured to stop
Silvio, whom they looked upon with terror. He passed out to the steps,
called his coachman, and before I could collect myself drove off.”

The Count was silent. I had now heard the end of the story of which
the beginning had long before surprised me. The hero of it I never saw
again. I heard, however, that Silvio, during the rising of Alexander
Ipsilanti, commanded a detach of insurgents and was killed in action.

THE SNOWSTORM.

Towards the end of 1811, at a memorable period for Russians, lived
on his own domain of Nenaradova the kind-hearted Gravril R. He was
celebrated in the whole district for his hospitality and his genial
character. Neighbours constantly visited him to have something to eat
and drink, and to play at five-copeck boston with his wife, Praskovia.
Some, too, went to have a look at their daughter, Maria; a tall pale
girl of seventeen. She was an heiress, and they desired her either for
themselves or for their sons.

Maria had been brought up on French novels, and consequently was in
love. The object of her affection was a poor ensign in the army, who
was now at home in his small village on leave of absence. As a matter
of course, the young man reciprocated Maria’s passion. But the parents
of his beloved, noticing their mutual attachment, forbade their
daughter even to think of him, while they received him worse than an
ex-assize judge.

[Illustration: “THE LOVERS MET IN THE PINE WOOD.”]

Our lovers corresponded, and met alone daily in the pine wood or by
the old roadway chapel. There they vowed everlasting love, inveighed
against fate, and exchanged various suggestions. Writing and talking in
this way, they quite naturally reached the following conclusion:–

If we cannot exist apart from each other, and if the tyranny of
hard-hearted parents throws obstacles in the way of our happiness, then
can we not manage without them?

Of course, this happy idea originated in the mind of the young man; but
it pleased the romantic imagination of Maria immensely.

Winter set in and put a stop to their meetings. But their
correspondence became all the more active. Vladimir begged Maria in
every letter to give herself up to him that they might get married
secretly, hide for a while, and then throw themselves at the feet of
the parents, who would of course in the end be touched by their heroic
constancy and say to them, “Children, come to our arms!”

Maria hesitated a long while, and out of many different plans proposed,
that of flight was for a time rejected. At last, however, she
consented. On the appointed day she was to decline supper, and retire
to her room under the plea of a headache. She and her maid, who was in
the secret, were then to go out into the garden by the back stairs,
and beyond the garden they would find a sledge ready for them, would
get into it and drive a distance of five miles from Nenaradova, to the
village of Jadrino, straight to the church, where Vladimir would be
waiting for them.

On the eve of the decisive day, Maria did not sleep all night; she was
packing and tying up linen and dresses. She wrote, moreover, a long
letter to a friend of hers, a sentimental young lady; and another to
her parents. Of the latter, she took leave in the most touching terms.
She excused the step she was taking by reason of the unconquerable
power of love, and wound up by declaring that she should consider it
the happiest moment of her life when she was allowed to throw herself
at the feet of her dearest parents. Sealing both letters with a Toula
seal, on which were engraven two flaming hearts with an appropriate
inscription, she at last threw herself upon her bed before daybreak
and dozed off, though even then she was awake tied from one moment
to another by terrible thoughts. First it seemed to her that at the
moment of entering the sledge in order to go and get married her father
stopped her, and with cruel rapidity dragged her over the snow and
threw her into a dark bottomless cellar, down which she fell headlong
with an indescribable sinking of the heart. Then she saw Vladimir,
lying on the grass, pale and bleeding; with his dying breath he
implored her to make haste and marry him. Other hideous and senseless
visions floated before her one after another. Finally she rose paler
than usual, and with, a real headache.

[Illustration: “SHE BURST INTO TEARS.”]

Both her father and her mother remarked her indisposition. Their
tender anxiety and constant inquiries, “What is the matter with you,
Masha–are you ill?” cut her to the heart. She tried to pacify them and
to appear cheerful; but she could not. Evening set in. The idea that
she was passing the day for the last time in the midst of her family
oppressed her. In her secret heart she took leave of everybody, of
everything which surrounded her.

Supper was served; her heart beat violently. In a trembling voice she
declared that she did not want any supper, and wished her father and
mother good-night. They kissed her, and as usual blessed her; and she
nearly wept.

Reaching her own room she threw herself into an easy chair and burst
into tears. Her maid begged her to be calm and take courage. Everything
was ready. In half-an-hour Masha would leave for ever her parents’
house, her own room, her peaceful life as a young girl.

Out of doors the snow was falling, the wind howling. The shutters
rattled and shook. In everything she seemed to recognise omens and
threats.

Soon the whole home was quiet and asleep. Masha wrapped herself in a
shawl, put on a warm cloak, and with a box in her hand passed out on
to the back staircase. The maid carried two bundles after her. They
descended into the garden. The snowstorm raged: a strong wind blew
against them as if trying to stop the young culprit. With difficulty
they reached the end of the garden. In the road a sledge awaited them.

The horses from cold would not stand still. Vladimir’s coachman was
walking to and fro in front of them, trying to quiet them. He helped
the young lady and her maid to their seats, and packing away the
bundles and the dressing-case took up the reins, and the horses flew
forward into the darkness of the night.

* * * * *

Having entrusted the young lady to the care of fate and of Tereshka the
coachman, let us return to the young lover.

Vladimir had spent the whole day in driving. In the morning he had
called on the Jadrino priest, and, with difficulty, came to terms with
him. Then he went to seek for witnesses from amongst the neighbouring
gentry. The first on whom he called was a former cornet of horse,
Dravin by name, a man in his forties, who consented at once. The
adventure, he declared, reminded him of old times and of his larks
when he was in the Hussars. He persuaded Vladimir to stop to dinner
with him, assuring him that there would be no difficulty in getting
the other two witnesses. Indeed, immediately after dinner in came
the surveyor Schmidt, with a moustache and spurs, and the son of a
captain-magistrate, a boy of sixteen, who had recently entered the
Uhlans. They not only accepted Vladimir’s proposal, but even swore that
they were ready to sacrifice their lives for him. Vladimir embraced
them with delight, and drove off to get everything ready.

It had long been dark. Vladimir despatched his trustworthy Tereshka
to Nenaradova with his two-horsed sledge, and with appropriate
instructions for the occasion. For himself he ordered the small sledge
with one horse, and started alone without a coachman for Jadrino, where
Maria ought to arrive in a couple of hours. He knew the road, and the
drive would only occupy twenty minutes.

But Vladimir had scarcely passed from the enclosure into the open field
when the wind rose, and soon there was a driving snowstorm so heavy and
so severe that he could not see. In a moment the road was covered with
snow. All landmarks disappeared in the murky yellow darkness, through
which fell white flakes of snow. Sky and earth became merged into one.
Vladimir, in the midst of the field, tried in vain to get to the road.
The horse walked on at random, and every moment stepped either into
deep snow or into a rut, so that the sledge was constantly upsetting.
Vladimir tried at least not to lose the right direction; but it seemed
to him that more than half an hour had passed, and he had not yet
reached the Jadrino wood. Another ten minutes passed, and still the
wood was invisible. Vladimir drove across fields intersected by deep
ditches. The snowstorm did not abate, and the sky did not clear. The
horse was getting tired and the perspiration rolled from him like hail,
in spite of the fact that every moment his legs were disappearing in
the snow.

At last Vladimir found that he was going in the wrong direction. He
stopped; began to reflect, recollect, and consider; till at last he
became convinced that he ought to have turned to the right. He did so
now. His horse could scarcely drag along. But he had been more than
an hour on the road, and Jadrino could not now be far. He drove and
drove, but there was no getting out of the field. Still snow-drifts and
ditches. Every moment the sledge was upset, and every moment Vladimir
had to raise it up.

Time was slipping by, and Vladimir grew seriously anxious. At last in
the distance some dark object could be seen.

Vladimir turned in its direction, and as he drew near found it was a
wood.

“Thank Heaven,” he thought, “I am now near the end.”

He drove by the side of the wood, hoping to come at once upon the
familiar road, or, if not, to pass round the wood. Jadrino was situated
immediately behind it.

He soon found the road, and passed into the darkness of the wood, now
stripped by the winter. The wind could not rage here; the road was
smooth, the horse picked up courage, and Vladimir was comforted.

He drove and drove, but still Jadrino was not to be seen; there was no
end to the wood. Then to his horror he discovered that he had got into
a strange wood. He was in despair. He whipped his horse, and the poor
animal started off at a trot. But it soon got tired, and in a quarter
of an hour, in spite of all poor Vladimir’s efforts, could only crawl.

Gradually the trees became thinner, and Vladimir drove out of the wood,
but Jadrino was not to be seen. It must have been about midnight.
Tears gushed from the young man’s eyes. He drove on at random; and now
the weather abated, the clouds dispersed, and before him was a wide
stretch of plain, covered with a white billowy carpet. The night was
comparatively clear, and he could see a small village a short distance
off, which consisted of four or five cottages. Vladimir drove towards
it. At the first door he jumped out of the sledge, ran up to the
window, and tapped. After a few minutes a wooden, shutter was raised,
and an old man stuck out his grey beard.

“What do you want?”

“How far is Jadrino?”

“How far is Jadrino?”

“Yes, yes! Is it far?”

“Not far; about ten miles.”

At this answer Vladimir clutched hold of his hair, and stood
motionless, like a man condemned to death.

“Where do you come from?” added the man. Vladimir had not the courage
to reply.

“My man,” he said, “can you procure me horses to Jadrino?”

“We have no horses,” answered the peasant.

“Could I find a guide? I will pay him any sum he likes.”

“Stop!” said the old man, dropping the shutter; “I will send my son out
to you; he will conduct you.”

Vladimir waited. Scarcely a minute had passed when he again knocked.
The shutter was lifted and a beard was seen.

“What do you want?”

“What about your son?”

“He’ll come out directly: he is putting on his boots. Are you cold?
Come in and warm yourself.”

“Thanks! Send out your son quickly.”

The gate creaked; a youth came out with a cudgel, and walked on in
front, at one time pointing out the road, at another looking for it in
a mass of drifted snow.

“What o’clock is it?” Vladimir asked him.

“It will soon be daylight,” replied the young-peasant. Vladimir spoke
not another word.

The cocks were crowing, and it was light when they reached Jadrino. The
church was closed. Vladimir paid the guide, and drove into the yard of
the priest’s house. In the yard his two-horsed sledge was not to be
seen. What news awaited him?

* * * * *

But let us return to the kind proprietors of Nenaradova, and see what
is going on there.

Nothing.

The old people awoke, and went into the sitting-room, Gavril in a
night-cap and flannel jacket, Praskovia in a wadded dressing-gown. The
samovar was brought in, and, Gavril sent the little maid to ask Maria
how she was and how she had slept. The little maid returned, saying
that her young lady had slept badly, but that she was better now, and
that she would come into the sitting-room in a moment. And indeed the
door opened, and Maria came in and wished her papa and mamma good
morning.

“How is your head-ache, Masha?” (familiar for Mary) inquired Gavril.

“Better, papa; answered Masha.

“The fumes from the stoves must have given you your head-ache,”
remarked Praskovia.

“Perhaps so, mamma,” replied Masha.

The day passed well enough, but in the night Masha was taken ill. A
doctor was sent for from town. He came towards evening and found the
patient delirious. Soon she was in a severe fever, and in a fortnight
the poor patient was on the brink of the grave.

No member of the family knew anything of the flight from home. The
letters written by Masha the evening before had been burnt; and the
maid, fearing the wrath of the master and mistress, had not breathed
a word. The priest, the ex-cornet, the big moustached surveyor,
and the little lancer were equally discreet, and with good reason.
Tereshka, the coachman, never said too much, not even in his drink.
Thus the secret was kept better than it might have been by half a dozen
conspirators.

But Maria herself, in the course of her long fever, let out her secret,
nevertheless, her words were so disconnected that her mother, who never
left her bedside, could only make out from them that her daughter
was desperately in love with Vladimir, and that probably love was
the cause of her illness. She consulted her husband and some of her
neighbours, and at last it was decided unanimously that the fate of
Maria ought not to be interfered with, that a woman must not ride away
from the man she is destined to marry, that poverty is no crime, that
a woman has to live not with money but with a man, and so on. Moral
proverbs are wonderfully useful on such occasions, when we can invent
little or nothing in our own justification.

Meanwhile the young lady began to recover. Vladimir had not been seen
for a long time in the house of Gravril, so frightened had he been by
his previous reception. It was now resolved to send and announce to
him the good news which he could scarcely expect: the consent of her
parents to his marriage with Maria.

But what was the astonishment of the proprietors of Nenaradova when,
in answer to their invitation, they received an insane reply. Vladimir
informed them he could never set foot in their house, and begged them
to forget an unhappy man whose only hope now was in death. A few days
afterwards they heard that Vladimir had left the place and joined the
army.

A long time passed before they ventured to tell Masha, who was now
recovering. She never mentioned Vladimir. Some months later, however,
finding his name in the list of those who had distinguished themselves
and been severely wounded at Borodino, she fainted, and it was feared
that the fever might return. But, Heaven be thanked! the fainting fit
had no bad results.

* * * * *

Maria experienced yet another sorrow. Her father died, leaving her the
heiress of all his property. But the inheritance could not console her.
She shared sincerely the affliction of her mother, and vowed she would
never leave her.

Suitors clustered round the charming heiress; but she gave no one the
slightest hope. Her mother sometimes tried to persuade her to choose a
companion in life; but Maria shook her head, and grew pensive.

Vladimir no longer existed. He had died at Moscow on the eve of the
arrival of the French. His memory was held sacred by Maria, and she
treasured up everything that would remind her of him; books he had
read, drawings which he had made; songs he had sung, and the pieces of
poetry which he had copied out for her.

The neighbours, hearing all this, wondered at her fidelity, and awaited
with curiosity the arrival of the hero who must in the end triumph over
the melancholy constancy of this virgin Artemis.

Meanwhile, the war had been brought to a glorious conclusion, and our
armies were returning from abroad. The people ran to meet them. The
music played, by the regimental bands consisted of war songs, “Vive
Henri-Quatre,” Tirolese waltzes and airs from Joconde. Nourished on
the atmosphere of winter, officers who had started on the campaign
mere striplings returned grown men, and covered with decorations. The
soldiers conversed gaily among themselves, mingling German and French
words every moment in their speech. A time never to be forgotten–a
time of glory and delight! How quickly beat the Russian heart at
the words, “Native land!” How sweet the tears of meeting! With what
unanimity did we combine feelings of national pride with love for the
Tsar! And for him, what a moment!

The women–our Russian women–were splendid then. Their usual coldness
disappeared. Their delight was really intoxicating when, meeting the
conquerors, they cried, “Hurrah!” And they threw up their caps in the
air.

Who of the officers of that period does not own that to the Russian
women he was indebted for his best and most valued reward? During this
brilliant period Maria was living with her mother in retirement, and
neither of them saw how, in both the capitals, the returning troops
were welcomed. But in the districts and villages the general enthusiasm
was, perhaps, even greater.

[Illustration: “A TIME OF GLORY AND DELIGHT.”]

In these places the appearance of an officer became for him a veritable
triumph. The accepted lover in plain clothes fared badly by his side.

We have already said that, in spite of her coldness, Maria was
still, as before, surrounded by suitors. But all had to fall in the
rear when there arrived at her castle the wounded young colonel
of Hussars–Burmin by name–with the order of St. George in his
button-hole, and an interesting pallor on his face. He was about
twenty-six. He had come home on leave to his estates, which were close
to Maria’s villa. Maria paid him such attention as none of the others
received. In his presence her habitual gloom disappeared. It could not
be said that she flirted with him. But a poet, observing her behaviour,
might have asked, “S’ amor non è, che dunque?”

Burmin was really a very agreeable young man. He possessed just the
kind of sense that pleased women: a sense of what is suitable and
becoming. He had no affectation, and was carelessly satirical. His
manner towards Maria was simple and easy. He seemed to be of a quiet
and modest disposition; but rumour said that he had at one time been
terribly wild. This, however, did not harm him in the opinion of Maria,
who (like all other young ladies) excused, with pleasure, vagaries
which were the result of impulsiveness and daring.

But above all–more than his love-making, more than his pleasant talk,
more than his interesting pallor, more even than his bandaged arm–the
silence of the young Hussar excited her curiosity and her imagination.
She could not help confessing to herself that he pleased her very much.
Probably he too, with his acuteness and his experience, had seen that
he interested her. How was it, then, that up to this moment she had
not seen him at her feet; had not received from him any declaration
whatever? And wherefore did she not encourage him with more attention,
and, according to circumstances, even with tenderness? Had she a secret
of her own which would account for her behaviour?

At last, Burmin fell into such deep meditation, and his black eyes
rested with such fire upon Maria, that the decisive moment seemed very
near. The neighbours spoke of the marriage as an accomplished fact, and
kind Praskovia rejoiced that her daughter had at last found for herself
a worthy mate.

The lady was sitting alone once in the drawing-room, laying out
grande-patience, when Burmin entered the room, and at once inquired for
Maria.

“She is in the garden,” replied the old lady: “go to her, and I will
wait for you here.” Burmin went, and the old lady made the sign of the
cross and thought, “Perhaps the affair will be settled to-day!”

Burmin found Maria in the ivy-bower beside the pond, with a book in
her hands, and wearing a white dress–a veritable heroine of romance.
After the first inquiries, Maria purposely let the conversation drop;
increasing by these means the mutual embarrassment, from which it was
only possible to escape by means of a sudden and positive declaration.

It happened thus. Burmin, feeling the awkwardness of his position,
informed Maria that he had long sought an opportunity of opening his
heart to her, and that he begged for a moment’s attention. Maria closed
the book and lowered her eyes, as a sign that she was listening.

“I love you,” said Burmin, “I love you passionately!” Maria blushed,
and bent her head still lower.

“I have behaved imprudently, yielding as I have done to the seductive
pleasure of seeing and hearing you daily.” Maria recollected the first
letter of St. Preux in ‘La Nouvelle Héloïse.’

“It is too late now to resist my fate. The remembrance of you, your
dear incomparable image, must from to-day be at once the torment and
the consolation of my existence. I have now a grave duty to perform,
a terrible secret to disclose, which will place between us an
insurmountable barrier.”

[Illustration: “IN THE IVY BOWER.”]

“It has always existed!” interrupted Maria; “I could never have been
your wife.”

“I know,” he replied quickly; “I know that you once loved. But death
and three years of mourning may have worked some change. Dear, kind
Maria, do not try to deprive me of my last consolation; the idea that
you might have consented to make me happy if—-. Don’t speak, for
God’s sake don’t speak–you torture me. Yes, I know, I feel that you
could have been mine, but–I am the most miserable of beings–I am
already married!”

Maria looked at him in astonishment.

“I am married,” continued Burmin; “I have been married more than three
years, and do not know who my wife is, or where she is, or whether I
shall ever see her again.”

“What are you saying?” exclaimed Maria; “how strange! Pray continue.”

“In the beginning of 1812,” said Burmin, a I was hurrying on to
Wilna, where my regiment was stationed. Arriving one evening late
at a station, I ordered, the horses to be got ready quickly, when
suddenly a fearful snowstorm broke out. Both station master and drivers
advised me to wait till it was over. I listened to their advice, but
an unaccountable restlessness took possession of me, just as though
someone was pushing me on. Meanwhile, the snowstorm did not abate. I
could bear it no longer, and again ordered the horses, and started in
the midst of the storm. The driver took it into his head to drive along
the river, which would shorten the distance by three miles. The banks
were covered with snowdrifts; the driver missed the turning which would
have brought us out on to the road, and we turned up in an unknown
place. The storm never ceased. I could discern a light, and told the
driver to make for it. We entered a village, and found that the light
proceeded from a wooden church. The church was open. Outside the
railings stood several sledges, and people passing in and out through
the porch.

“‘Here! here!’ cried several voices. I told the coachman to drive up.

“‘Where have you dawdled?’ said someone to me. ‘The bride has fainted;
the priest does not know what to do: we were on the point of going
back. Make haste and get out!’

“I got out of the sledge in silence, and stepped into the church,
which was dimly lighted with two or three tapers. A girl was sitting
in a dark corner on a bench; and another girl was rubbing her temples.
‘Thank God,’ said the latter, ‘you have come at last! You have nearly
been the death of the young lady.’

“The old priest approached me; saying,

“‘Shall I begin?’

“‘Begin–begin, reverend father,’ I replied, absently.

“The young lady was raised up. I thought her rather pretty. Oh, wild,
unpardonable frivolity! I placed myself by her side at the altar. The
priest hurried on.

“Three men and the maid supported the bride, and occupied themselves
with her alone. We were married!

“‘Kiss your wife,’ said the priest.

“My wife turned her pale face towards me. I was going to kiss her, when
she exclaimed, ‘Oh! it is not he–not he!’ and fell back insensible.

“The witnesses stared at me. I turned round and left the church without
any attempt being made to stop me, threw myself into the sledge, and
cried, ‘Away!'”

“What!” exclaimed Maria. “And you don’t know what became of your
unhappy wife?”

“I do not,” replied Burmin; “neither do I know the name of the village
where I was married, nor that of the station from which I started.
At that time I thought so little of my wicked joke that, on driving
away from the church, I fell asleep, and never woke till early the
next morning, after reaching the third station. The servant who was
with me died during the campaign, so that I have now no hope of ever
discovering the unhappy woman on whom I played such a cruel trick, and
who is now so cruelly avenged.”

“Great heavens!” cried Maria, seizing his hand. “Then it was you, and
you do not recognise me?” Burmin turned pale–and threw himself at her
feet.

THE UNDERTAKER.

The last remaining goods of the undertaker, Adrian Prohoroff, were
piled on the hearse, and the gaunt pair, for the fourth time, dragged
the vehicle along from the Basmannaia to the Nikitskaia, whither the
undertaker had flitted with all his household. Closing the shop, he
nailed to the gates an announcement that the house was to be sold or
let, and then started on foot for his new abode. Approaching the small
yellow house which had long attracted his fancy and which he at last
bought at a high price, the old undertaker was surprised to find that
his heart did not rejoice. Crossing the strange threshold, he found
disorder inside his new abode, and sighed for the decrepit hovel, where
for eighteen years everything had been kept in the most perfect order.
He began scolding both his daughters and the servant for being so slow,
and proceeded to help them himself. Order was speedily established.
The case with the holy pictures, the cupboard with the crockery, the
table, sofa, and bedstead, took up their appropriate corners in the
back room. In the kitchen and parlour was placed the master’s stock
in trade, that is to say, coffins of every colour and of all sizes;
likewise wardrobes containing mourning hats, mantles, and funeral
torches. Over the gate hung a signboard representing a corpulent cupid
holding a reversed torch in his hand, with the following inscription:
“Here coffins are sold, covered, plain, or painted. They are also let
out on hire, and old ones are repaired.”

The daughters had retired to their own room, Adrian went over his
residence, sat down by the window, and ordered the samovar to be got
ready.

The enlightened reader is aware that both Shakespeare and Walter Scott
have represented their gravediggers as lively jocular people, for the
sake, no doubt, of a strong contrast. But respect for truth prevents me
from following their example; and I must confess that the disposition
of our undertaker corresponded closely with his melancholy trade.
Adrian Prohoroff: was usually pensive and gloomy. He only broke silence
to scold his daughters when he found them idle, looking out of window
at the passers by, or asking too exorbitant prices for his products
from those who had the misfortune (sometimes the pleasure) to require
them. Sitting by the window drinking his seventh cup of tea, according
to his custom, Adrian was wrapped in the saddest thoughts. He was
thinking of the pouring rain, which a week before had met the funeral
of a retired brigadier at the turnpike gate, causing many mantles to
shrink and many hats to contract. He foresaw inevitable outlay, his
existing supply of funeral apparel being in such a sad condition. But
he hoped to make good the loss from the funeral of the old shopwoman,
Tiruhina, who had been at the point of death for the last year.
Tiruhina, however, was dying at Basgulai, and Prohoroff was afraid that
her heirs, in spite of their promise to him, might be too lazy to send
so far, preferring to strike a bargain with the nearest contractor.

These reflections were interrupted unexpectedly by three freemason
knocks at the door. “Who is there?” enquired the undertaker. The door
opened and a man, in whom at a glance might be recognised a German
artisan, entered the room, and with a cheery look approached the
undertaker.

“Pardon me, my dear neighbour,” he said, with the accent which even now
we Russians never hear without a smile; “Pardon me for disturbing you;
I wanted to make your acquaintance at once. I am a bootmaker, my name
is Gottlieb Schultz, I live in the next street–in that little house
opposite your windows. To morrow I celebrate my silver wedding, and I
want you and your daughters to dine with me in a friendly way.”

The invitation was accepted. The undertaker asked the bootmaker to sit
down and have a cup of tea, and thanks to Gottlieb Schultz’s frank
disposition, they were soon talking in a friendly way.

“How does your business get on?” enquired Adrian.

“Oh, oh,” replied Schultz, “one way and another I have no reason to
complain. Though, of course, my goods are not like yours. A living man
can do without boots, but a corpse cannot do without a coffin.”

“Perfectly true,” said Adrian, “still, if a living man has nothing to
buy boots with he goes barefooted, whereas the destitute corpse gets
his coffin sometimes for nothing.”

Their conversation continued in this style for some time, until at last
the bootmaker rose and took leave of the undertaker, repeating his
invitation.

Next day, punctually at twelve o’clock, the undertaker and his
daughters passed out at the gate of their newly-bought house, and
proceeded to their neighbours. I do not intend to describe Adrian’s
Russian caftan nor the European dress of Akulina or Daria, contrary
though this be to the custom of fiction-writers of the present day.
I don’t, however, think it superfluous to mention that both, maidens
wore yellow bonnets and scarlet shoes, which they only did on great
occasions.

The bootmaker’s small lodging was filled with guests, principally
German artisans, their wives, and assistants. Of Russian officials
there was only one watchman, the Finn Yurko, who had managed, in spite
of his humble position, to gain the special favour of his chief. He had
also performed the functions of postman for about twenty-five years,
serving truly and faithfully the people of Pogorelsk. The fire which,
in the year 1812, consumed the capital, burnt at the same time his
humble sentry box. But no sooner had the enemy fled, when in its place
appeared a small, new, grey sentry box, with tiny white columns of
Doric architecture, and Yurko resumed his patrol in front of it with
battle-axe on shoulder, and in the civic armour of the police uniform.

He was well known to the greater portion of the German residents near
the Nikitski Gates, some of whom had occasionally even passed the night
from Sunday until Monday in Yurko’s box.

Adrian promptly made friends with a man of whom, sooner or later, he
might have need, and as the guests were just then going in to dinner
they sat down together.

Mr. and Mrs. Schultz and their daughter, the seventeen-year-old
Lotchen, while dining with their guests, attended to their wants and
assisted the cook to wait upon them. Beer flowed. Yurko ate for four,
and Adrian did not fall short of him, though his daughters stood upon
ceremony.

The conversation, which was in German, grew louder every hour.

Suddenly the host called for the attention of the company, and opening
a pitch-covered bottle, exclaimed loudly in Russian:

“The health of my good Louisa!”

The imitation champagne frothed. The host kissed tenderly the fresh
face of his forty-year old spouse and the guests drank vociferously the
health of good Louisa.

“The health of my dear guests!” cried the host opening the second
bottle. The guests thanked him and emptied their glasses. Then
one toast followed another. The health of each guest was proposed
separately; then the health of Moscow and of about a dozen German
towns. They drank the health of the guilds in general, and afterwards
of each one separately; The health of the foremen and of the workmen.
Adrian drank with a will and became so lively, that he himself proposed
some jocular toast.

Suddenly one of the guests, a stout baker, raised his glass and
exclaimed:

“The health of our customers!”

This toast like all the others was drunk joyfully and unanimously. The
guests nodded to each other; the tailor to the bootmaker, the bootmaker
to the tailor; the baker to them both and all to the baker.

Yurko in the midst of this bowing called out as he turned towards his
neighbour:

“Now then! My friend, drink to the health of your corpses.”

Everybody laughed except the undertaker, who felt himself affronted and
frowned. No one noticed this; and the guests went on drinking till the
bells began to ring for evening service, when they all rose from the
table.

The party had broken up late and most of the guests were very
hilarious. The stout baker, with the bookbinder, whose face looked as
if it were bound in red morocco, led Yurko by the arms to his sentry
box, thus putting in practice the proverb, “One good turns deserves
another.”

The undertaker went home drunk and angry.

“How, indeed,” he exclaimed aloud. “Is my trade worse than any other?
Is an undertaker own brother to the executioner? What have the infidels
to laugh at? Is an undertaker a hypocritical buffoon? I should have
liked to invite them to a housewarming; to give them a grand spread.
But no; that shall not be! I will ask my customers instead; my orthodox
corpses.”

“What!” exclaimed the servant, who at that moment was taking off the
undertaker’s boots. “What is that, sir, you are saying? Make the sign
of the cross! Invite corpses to your housewarming! How awful!”

“I will certainly invite them,” persisted Adrian, “and not later than
for to-morrow. Honour me, my benefactors, with your company to-morrow
evening at a feast; I will offer you what God has given me.”

With these words the undertaker retired to bed, and was soon snoring.

It was still dark when Adrian awoke. The shopkeeper, Triuhina, had died
in the night, and her steward had sent a special messenger on horseback
to inform Adrian of the fact. The undertaker gave him a _grivenik_ [a
silver fourpenny bit] for his trouble, to buy _vodka_ with; dressed
hurriedly, took an _isvoshchik_, and drove off to Rasgulai. At the gate
of the dead woman’s house the police were already standing, and dealers
in mourning goods were hovering around, like ravens who have scented
a corpse. The defunct was lying in state on the table, yellow like
wax, but not yet disfigured by decomposition. Hear her, in a crowd,
were relations, friends, and domestics. All the windows were open;
wax tapers were burning; and the clergy were reading prayers. Adrian
went up to the nephew, a young shopman in a fashionable _surtout_,
and informed him that the coffin, tapers, pall, and the funeral
paraphernalia in general would promptly arrive. The heir thanked him in
an absent manner, saying that he would not bargain about the price, but
leave it all to his conscience. The undertaker, as usual, vowed that
his charges should be moderate, exchanged significant glances with the
steward, and left to make the necessary preparations.

The whole day was spent in travelling from Rasgulai to the Nikitski
Grates and back again. Towards evening everything was settled, and
he started home on foot after discharging his hired _isvoshchik._ It
was a moonlight night, and the undertaker got safely to the Nikitski
Grates. At Yosnessenia he met our acquaintance, Yurko, who, recognising
the undertaker, wished him good-night. It was late. The undertaker was
close to his house when he thought he saw some one approach the gates,
open the wicket, and go in.

“What does it mean?” thought Adrian. “Who can be wanting me again? Is
it a burglar, or can my foolish girls have lovers coming after them?
There is no telling,” and the undertaker was on the point of calling
his friend Yurko to his assistance, when some one else came up to the
wicket and was about to enter, but seeing the master of the house run
towards him, he stopped, and took off his three cornered hat. His face
seemed familiar to Adrian, but in his hurry he had not been able to
see it properly.

“You want me?” said Adrian, out of breath. “Walk in, if you please.”

“Don’t stand on ceremony, my friend,” replied the other, in a hollow
voice, “go first, and show your guest the way.”

Adrian had no time to waste on formality. The gate was open, and he
went up to the steps followed by the other. Adrian heard people walking
about in his rooms.

“What the devil is this?” he wondered, and he hastened to see. But
now his legs seemed to be giving way. The room was full of corpses.
The moon, shining through the windows, lit up their yellow and blue
faces, sunken mouths, dim, half-closed eyes, and protruding noses. To
his horror, Adrian recognised in them people he had buried, and in
the guest who came in with him, the brigadier who had been interred
during a pouring rain. They all, ladies and gentlemen, surrounded the
undertaker, bowing and greeting him affably, except one poor fellow
lately buried gratis, who, ashamed of his rags, kept at a distance in
a corner of the room. The others were all decently clad; the female
corpses in caps and ribbons, the soldiers and officials in their
uniforms, but with unshaven beards; and the tradespeople in their best
caftans.

“Prohoroff,” said the brigadier, speaking on behalf of all the
company, “we have all risen to profit by your invitation. Only those
have stopped at home who were quite unable to do otherwise; who have
crumbled away and have nothing left but bare bones. Even among those
there was one who could not resist–he wanted so much to come.”

At this moment a diminutive skeleton pushed his way through the
crowd and approached Adrian. His death’s head grinned affably at the
undertaker. Shreds of green and red cloth and of rotten linen hung on
him as on a pole; while the bones of his feet clattered inside his
heavy boots like pestles in mortars.

“You do not recognise me, Prohoroff?” said the skeleton. “Don’t
you remember the retired, sergeant in the guards, Peter Petrovitch
Kurilkin, him to whom you in the year 1799 sold your first coffin, and
of deal instead of oak?” With these words the corpse stretched out his
long arms to embrace him. But Adrian collecting his strength, shrieked,
and pushed him away. Peter Petrovitch staggered, fell over, and
crumbled to pieces. There was a murmur of indignation among the company
of corpses. All stood up for the honour of their companion, threatening
and abusing Adrian till the poor man, deafened by their shrieks and
quite overcome, lost his senses and fell unconscious among the bones of
the retired sergeant of the guard.

The sun had been shining for sometime upon the bed on which the
undertaker lay, when he at last opened his eyes and saw the servant
lighting the _samovar._ With horror he recalled all the incidents of
the previous day. Triuchin, the brigadier, and the sergeant, Kurilkin,
passed dimly before his imagination. He waited in silence for the
servant to speak and tell him what had occurred during the night.

“How you have slept, Adrian Prohorovitch!” said Aksima, handing him his
dressing-gown. “Your neighbour the tailor called, also the watchman, to
say that to-day was Turko’s namesday; but you were so fast asleep that
we did not disturb you.”

“Did anyone come from the late Triuhina?”

“The late? Is she dead, then?”

“What a fool! Didn’t you help me yesterday to make arrangements for her
funeral?”

“Oh, my _batiushka!_ [little father] are you mad, or are you still
suffering from last night’s drink? You were feasting all day at the
German’s. You came home drunk, threw yourself on the bed, and and have
slept till now, when the bells have stopped ringing for Mass.”

“Really!” exclaimed the undertaker, delighted at the explanation.

“Of course,” replied the servant.

“Well, if that is the case, let us have tea quickly, and call my
daughters.”

THE POSTMASTER.

Who has not cursed the Postmaster; who has not quarrelled with him?
Who, in a moment of anger, has not demanded the fatal hook to write his
ineffectual complaint against extortion, rudeness, and unpunctuality?
Who does not consider him a human monster, equal only to our extinct
attorney, or, at least, to the brigands of the Murom Woods? Let us,
however, be just and place ourselves in his position, and, perhaps,
we shall judge him less severely. What is a Postmaster? A real martyr
of the 14th class (i.e., of nobility), only protected by his _tchin_
(rank) from personal violence; and that not always. I appeal to the
conscience of my readers. What is the position of this dictator, as
Prince Yiasemsky jokingly calls him? Is it not really that of a galley
slave? No rest for him day or night. All the irritation accumulated
in the course of a dull journey by the traveller is vented upon the
Postmaster. If the weather is intolerable, the road wretched, the
driver obstinate, or the horses intractable–the Postmaster is to
blame. Entering his humble abode, the traveller looks upon him as his
enemy, and the Postmaster is lucky if he gets rid of his uninvited
guest soon. But should there happen to be no horses! Heavens! what
abuse, what threats are showered upon his head! Through rain and mud
he is obliged to seek them, so that during a storm, or in the winter
frosts, he is often glad to take refuge in the cold passage in order
to snatch a few moments of repose and to escape from the shrieking and
pushing of irritated guests.

If a general arrives, the trembling Postmaster supplies him with
the two last remaining _troiki_ (team of three horses abreast), of
which one _troika_ ought, perhaps, to have been reserved for the
diligence. The general drives on without even a word of thanks. Five
minutes later the Postmaster hears–a bell! and the guard throws down
his travelling certificate on the table before him! Let us realize
all this, and, instead of anger, we shall feel sincere pity for the
Postmaster. A few words more. In the course of twenty years I have
travelled all over Russia, and know nearly all the mail routes. I have
made the acquaintance of several generations of drivers. There are few
postmasters whom I do not know personally, and few with whom I have
not had dealings. My curious collection of travelling experiences I
hope shortly to publish. At present I will only say that, as a class,
the Postmaster is presented to the public in a false light. This
much-libelled personage is generally a peaceful, obliging, sociable,
modest man, and not too fond of money. From his conversation (which
the travelling gentry very wrongly despise) much interesting and
instructive information may be acquired. As far as I am concerned, I
profess that I prefer his talk to that of some _tchinovnik_ (official)
of the 6th class, travelling for the Government.

It may easily be guessed that I have some friends among the honourable
class of postmasters. Indeed, the memory of one of them is very dear
to me. Circumstances at one time brought us together, and it is of him
that I now intend to tell my dear readers.

In the May of 1816 I chanced to be passing through the Government of
—-, along a road now no longer existing. I held a small rank, and
was travelling with relays of three horses while paying only for two.
Consequently the Postmaster stood upon no ceremony with me, but I
had often to take from him by force what I considered to be mine by
right. Being young and passionate, I was indignant at the meanness and,
cowardice of the Postmaster when he handed over the _troika_ prepared
for me to some official gentleman of higher rank.

It also took me a long time to get over the offence, when a servant,
fond of making distinctions, missed me when waiting at the governor’s
table. Now the one and the other appear to me to be quite in the
natural course of things. Indeed, what would become of us, if, instead
of the convenient rule that rank gives precedence to rank, the rule
were to be reversed, and mind made to give precedence to mind? What
disputes would arise! Besides, to whom would the attendants first hand
the dishes? But to return to my story.

The day was hot. About three versts from the station it began to spit,
and a minute afterwards there was a pouring rain, and I was soon
drenched to the skin. Arriving at the station, my first care was to
change my clothes, and then I asked for a cup of tea.

“Hi! Dunia!” called out the Postmaster, “Prepare the _samovar_ and
fetch some cream.”

In obedience to this command, a girl of fourteen appeared from behind
the partition, and ran out into the passage. I was struck by her beauty.

“Is that your daughter?” I inquired of the Postmaster.

“Yes,” he answered, with a look of gratified pride, “and such a good,
clever girl, just like her late mother.” Then, while he took note of my
travelling certificate, I occupied the time in examining the pictures
which decorated the walls of his humble abode. They were illustrations
of the story of the Prodigal Son. In the firsts a venerable old man
in a skull cap and dressing gown, is wishing good-bye to the restless
youth who naturally receives his blessing and a bag of money. In
another, the dissipated life of the young man is painted in glaring
colours; he is sitting at a table surrounded by false friends and
shameless women. In the next picture, the ruined youth in his shirt
sleeves and a three-corned hat, is taking care of some swine while
sharing their food. His face expresses deep sorrow and contrition.
Finally, there was the representation of his return to his father.
The kind old man, in the same cap and dressing gown, runs out to meet
him; the prodigal son falls on his knees before him; in the distance,
the cook is killing the fatted calf, and the eldest son is asking the
servants the reason of all this rejoicing. At the foot of each picture
I read some appropriate German verses. I remember them all distinctly,
as well as some pots of balsams, the bed with the speckled curtains,
and many other characteristic surroundings. I can see the stationmaster
at this moment; a man about fifty years of age, fresh and strong, in a
long green coat, with three medals on faded ribbons.

I had scarcely time to settle with my old driver when Dunia returned
with the _samovar_. The little coquette saw at a second glance the
impression she had produced upon me. She lowered her large, blue eyes.
I spoke to her, and she replied confidently, like a girl accustomed to
society. I offered a glass of punch to her father, to Dunia I handed a
cup of tea. Then we all three fell into easy conversation, as if we had
known each other all our lives.

The horses had been waiting a long while, but I was loth to part from
the Postmaster and his daughter. At last I took leave of them, the
father wishing me a pleasant journey, while the daughter saw me to the
_telega_. In the corridor I stopped and asked permission to kiss her.
Dunia consented. I can remember a great many kisses since then, but
none which left such a lasting, such a delightful impression.

Several years passed, when circumstances brought me back to the same
tract, to the very same places. I recollected the old Postmasters
daughter, and rejoiced at the prospect of seeing her again.

“But,” I thought, “perhaps the old Postmaster has been changed, and
Dunia may be already married.” The idea that one or the other might
be dead also passed through my mind, and I approached the station of
—- with sad presentiments. The horses drew up at the small station
house. I entered the waiting-room, and instantly recognised the
pictures representing the story of the Prodigal Son. The table and the
bed stood in their old places, but the flowers on the window sills had
disappeared, while all the surroundings showed neglect and decay.

The Postmaster was asleep under his great-coat, but my arrival awoke
him and he rose. It was certainly Simeon Virin, but how aged! While he
was preparing to make a copy of my travelling certificate, I looked at
his grey hairs, and the deep wrinkles in his long, unshaven face, his
bent back, and I was amazed to see how three or four years had managed
to change a strong, middle-aged man into a frail, old one.

“Do you recognise me?” I asked him, “we are old friends.”

“May be,” he replied, gloomily, “this is a highway, and many travellers
have passed through here.”

“Is your Dunia well?” I added. The old man frowned.

“Heaven knows,” he answered.

“Apparently, she is married,” I said.

The old man pretended not to hear my question, and in a low voice went
on reading my travelling certificate. I ceased my inquiries and ordered
hot water.

My curiosity was becoming painful, and I hoped that the punch would
loosen the tongue of my old friend. I was not mistaken; the old man
did not refuse the proffered tumbler. I noticed that the rum dispelled
his gloom. At the second glass he became talkative, remembered, or at
any rate looked as if he remembered, me, and I heard the story, which
at the time interested me and even affected me much.

“So you knew my Dunia?” he began. “But, then, who did not? Oh, Dunia,
Dunia! What a beautiful girl you were! You were admired and praised
by every traveller. No one had a word to say against her. The ladies
gave her presents–one a handkerchief, another a pair of earrings. The
gentlemen stopped on purpose, as if to dine or to take supper, but
really only to take a longer look at her. However rough a man might be,
he became subdued in her presence and spoke graciously to me. Will you
believe me, sir? Couriers and special messengers would talk to her for
half-an-hour at the time. She was the support of the house. She kept
everything in order, did everything and looked after everything. While
I, the old fool that I was, could not see enough of her, or pet her
sufficiently. How I loved her! How I indulged my child! Surely her life
was a happy one? But, no! fate is not to be avoided.”

Then he began to tell me his sorrow in detail. Three years before,
one winter evening, while the Postmaster was ruling a new book, his
daughter in the next partition was busy making herself a dress, when
a _troika_ drove up and a traveller, wearing a Circassian hat and a
long military overcoat, and muffled in a shawl, entered the room and
demanded horses.

The horses were all out. Hearing this, the traveller had raised his
voice and his whip, when Dunia, accustomed to such scenes, rushed out
from behind the partition and inquired pleasantly whether he would not
like something to eat? Her appearance produced the usual effect. The
passenger’s rage subsided, he agreed to wait for horses, and ordered
some supper. He took off his wet hat, unloosed the shawl, and divested
himself of his long overcoat.

The traveller was a tall, young hussar with a small black moustache.
He settled down comfortably at the Postmaster’s and began a lively,
conversation with him and his daughter. Supper was served. Meanwhile,
the horses returned and the Postmaster ordered them instantly, without
being fed, to be harnessed to the traveller’s _kibitka._ But returning
to the room, he found the young man senseless on the bench where he lay
in a faint. Such a headache had attacked him that it was impossible for
him to continue his journey. What was to be done? The Postmaster gave
up his own bed to him; and it was arranged that if the patient was not
better the next morning to send to C—— for the doctor.

Next day the hussar was worse. His servant rode to the town to fetch
the doctor. Dunia bound up his head with a handkerchief moistened
in vinegar, and sat down with her needlework by his bedside. In the
presence of the Postmaster the invalid groaned and scarcely said a word.

Nevertheless, he drank two cups of coffee and, still groaning, ordered
a good dinner. Dunia never left him. Every time he asked for a drink
Dunia handed him the jug of lemonade prepared by herself. After
moistening his lips, the patient each time he returned the jug gave her
hand a gentle pressure in token of gratitude.

Towards dinner time the doctor arrived. He felt the patient’s pulse,
spoke to him in German and in Russian, declared that all he required
was rest, and said that in a couple of days he would be able to start
on his journey. The hussar handed him twenty-five rubles for his visit,
and gave him an invitation to dinner, which the doctor accepted. They
both ate with a good appetite, and drank a bottle of wine between them.
Then, very pleased with one another, they separated.

Another day passed, and the hussar had quite recovered. He became very
lively, incessantly joking, first with Dunia, then with the Postmaster,
whistling tunes, conversing with the passengers, copying their
travelling certificates into the station book, and so ingratiating
himself that on the third day the good Postmaster regretted parting
with his dear lodger.

It was Sunday, and Dunia was getting ready to attend mass. The hussar’s
_kibitka_ was at the door. He took leave of the Postmaster, after
recompensing him handsomely for his board and lodging, wished Dunia
good-bye, and proposed to drop her at the church, which was situated at
the other end of the village. Dunia hesitated.

“What are you afraid of?” asked her father. “His nobility is not a
wolf. He won’t eat you. Drive with him as far as the church.”

Dunia got into the carriage by the side of the hussar. The servant
jumped on the coach box, the coachman gave a whistle, and the horses
went off at a gallop.

The poor Postmaster could not understand how he came to allow his Dunia
to drive off with the hussar; how he could have been so blind, and what
had become of his senses. Before half-an-hour had passed his heart
misgave him. It ached, and he became so uneasy that he could bear the
situation no longer, and started for the church himself. Approaching
the church, he saw that the people were already dispersing. But Dunia
was neither in the churchyard nor at the entrance. He hurried into
the church; the priest was just leaving the altar, the clerk was
extinguishing the tapers, two old women were still praying in a corner;
but Dunia was nowhere to be seen. The poor father could scarcely summon
courage to ask the clerk if she had been to mass. The clerk replied
that she had not. The Postmaster returned home neither dead nor alive.
He had only one hope left; that Dunia in the flightiness of her youth
had, perhaps, resolved to drive as far as the next station, where her
godmother lived. In patient agitation he awaited the return of the
_troika_ with which he had allowed her to drive off, but the driver did
not come back. At last, towards night, he arrived alone and tipsy, with
the fatal news that Dunia had gone on with the hussar.

The old man succumbed to his misfortune, and took to his bed, the same
bed where, the day before, the young impostor had lain. Recalling all
the circumstances, the Postmaster understood now that the hussar’s
illness had been shammed. The poor fellow sickened with severe fever,
he was removed to C——, and in his place another man was temporarily
appointed. The same doctor who had visited the hussar attended him. He
assured the Postmaster that the young man had been perfectly well, that
he had from the first had suspicions of his evil intentions, but that
he had kept silent for fear of his whip.

Whether the German doctor spoke the truth, or was anxious only to prove
his great penetration, his assurance brought no consolation to the poor
patient. As soon as he was beginning to recover from his illness, the
old Postmaster asked his superior postmaster of the town of C—— for
two months’ leave of absence, and without saying a word to anyone, he
started off on foot to look for his daughter.

From the station book he discovered that Captain Minsky had left
Smolensk for Petersburg. The coachman who drove him said that Dunia had
wept all the way, though she seemed to be going of her own free will.

“Perhaps,” thought the station master, “I shall bring back my strayed
lamb.” With this idea he reached St. Petersburg, and stopped with the
Ismailovsky regiment, in the quarters of a non-commissioned officer,
his old comrade in arms. Beginning his search he soon found out that
Captain Minsky was in Petersburg, living at Demuth’s Hotel. The
Postmaster determined to see him.

Early in the morning he went to Minsky’s antechamber, and asked to
have his nobility informed that an old soldier wished to see him. The
military attendant, in the act of cleaning a boot on a boot-tree,
informed him that his master was asleep, and never received anyone
before eleven o’clock. The Postmaster left to return at the appointed
time. Minsky came out to him in his dressing gown and red skull cap.

“Well, my friend, what do you want?” he inquired.

The old maids heart boiled, tears started to his eyes, and in a
trembling voice he could only say, “Your nobility; be divinely
merciful!”

Minsky glanced quickly at him, flushed, and seizing him by the hand,
led him into his study and locked the door.

“Your nobility!” continued the old man, “what has fallen from the cart
is lost; give me back, at any rate, my Dunia. Let her go. Do not ruin
her entirely.”

“What is done cannot be undone,” replied the young man, in extreme
confusion. “I am guilty before you, and ready to ask your pardon. But
do not imagine that I could neglect Dunia. She shall be happy, I give
you my word of honour. Why do you want her? She loves me; she has
forsaken her former existence. Neither you nor she can forget what has
happened.” Then, pushing something up his sleeve, he opened the door,
and the Postmaster found himself, he knew not how, in the street.

He stood long motionless, at last catching sight of a roll of papers
inside his cuff, he pulled them out and unrolled several crumpled-up
fifty ruble notes. His eyes again filled with tears, tears of
indignation! He crushed the notes into a ball, threw them on the
ground, and, stamping on them with his heel, walked away. After a few
steps he stopped, reflected a moment, and turned back.

But the notes were gone. A well-dressed young man, who had observed
him, ran towards an _isvoshtchick_, got in hurriedly, and called to the
driver to be “off.”

The Postmaster did not pursue him. He had resolved to return home to
his post-house; but before doing so he wished to see his poor Dunia
once more. With this view, a couple of days afterwards he returned to
Minsky’s lodgings. But the military servant told him roughly that his
master received nobody, pushed him out of the antechamber, and slammed
the door in his face. The Postmaster stood and stood, and at last went
away.

That same day, in the evening, he was walking along the Leteinaia,
having been to service at the Church of the All Saints, when a smart
_drojki_ flew past him, and in it the Postmaster recognised Minsky.
The _drojki_ stopped in front of a three-storeyed house at the very
entrance, and the hussar ran up the steps. A happy thought occurred to
the Postmaster. He retraced his steps.

“Whose horses are these?” he inquired of the coachman. “Don’t they
belong to Minsky?”

“Exactly so,” replied the coachman. “Why do you ask?”

“Why! your master told me to deliver a note for him to his Dunia, and I
have forgotten where his Dunia lives.”

“She lives here on the second floor; but you are too late, my friend,
with your note; he is there himself now.”

“No matter,” answered the Postmaster, who had an undefinable sensation
at his heart. “Thanks for your information; I shall be able to manage
my business.” With these words he ascended the steps.

The door was locked; he rang. There were several seconds of painful
delay. Then the key jingled, and the door opened.

“Does Avdotia Simeonovna live here?” he inquired.

“She does,” replied the young maid-servant, “What do you want with her?”

The Postmaster did not reply, but walked on.

“You must not, must not,” she called after him; “Avdotia Simeonovna has
visitors.” But the Postmaster, without listening, went on. The first
two rooms were dark. In the third there was a light. He approached the
open door and stopped. In the room, which was beautifully furnished,
sat Minsky in deep thought. Dunia, dressed in all the splendour of
the latest fashion, sat on the arm of his easy chair, like a rider
on an English side saddle. She was looking tenderly at Minsky, while
twisting his black locks round her glittering fingers. Poor Postmaster!
His daughter had never before seemed so beautiful to him. In spite of
himself, he stood admiring her.

“Who is there?” she asked, without raising her head.

He was silent.

Receiving no reply Dunia looked up, and with a cry she fell on the
carpet.

Minsky, in alarm, rushed to pick her up, when suddenly seeing the old
Postmaster in the doorway, he left Dunia and approached him, trembling
with rage.

“What do you want?” he inquired, clenching his teeth. “Why do you steal
after me everywhere, like a burglar? Or do you want to murder me?
Begone!” and with a strong hand he seized the old man by the scruff of
the neck and pushed him down the stairs.

The old man went back to his rooms. His friend advised him to take
proceedings, but the Postmaster reflected, waved his hand, and decided
to give the matter up. Two days afterwards he left Petersburg for his
station and resumed his duties.

“This is the third year,” he concluded, “that I am living without my
Dunia; and I have had no tidings whatever of her. Whether she is alive
or not God knows. Many tilings happen. She is not the first, nor the
last, whom a wandering blackguard has _enticed_ away, kept for a time,
and then dropped. There are many such young fools in Petersburg to-day,
in satins and velvets, and to-morrow you see them sweeping the streets
in the company of drunkards in rags. When I think sometimes that Dunia,
too, may end in the same way, then, in spite of myself, I sin, and wish
her in her grave.”

Such was the story of my friend, the old Postmaster, the story more
than once interrupted by tears, which he wiped away picturesquely
with the flap of his coat like the faithful Terentieff in Dmitrieff’s
beautiful ballad. The tears were partly caused by punch, of which he
had consumed five tumblers in the course of his narrative. But whatever
their origin, I was deeply affected by them. After parting with him, it
was long before I could forget the old Postmaster, and I thought long
of poor Dunia.

Lately, again passing through the small place of ——, I remembered
my friend. I heard that the station over which he ruled had been done
away with. To my inquiry, “Is the Postmaster alive?” no one could give
a satisfactory answer. Having resolved to pay a visit to the familiar
place, I hired horses of my own, and started for the village of N—-.

It was autumn. Grey clouds covered the sky; a cold wind blew from the
close reaped fields, carrying with it the brown and yellow leaves
of the trees which it met. I arrived in the village at sunset, and
stopped at the station house. In the passage (where once Dunia had
kissed me) a stout woman met me; and to my inquiries, replied that the
old Postmaster had died about a year before; that a brewer occupied
his house; and that she was the wife of that brewer. I regretted my
fruitless journey, and my seven roubles of useless expense.

“Of what did he die?” I asked the brewer’s wife.

“Of drink,” she answered.

“And where is he buried?”

“Beyond the village, by the side of his late wife.”

“Could someone take me to his grave?”

“Certainly! Hi, Vanka! cease playing with the cat and take this
gentleman to the cemetery, and show him the Postmaster’s grave.”

At these words, a ragged boy, with red hair and a squint, ran towards
me to lead the way.

“Did you know the poor man?” I asked him, on the road.

“How should I not know him? He taught me to make whistles. When (may
he be in heaven!) we met him coming from the tavern, _we_ used to run
after him calling, ‘Daddy! daddy! some nuts,’ and he gave us nuts. He
idled most of his time away with, us.”

“And do the travellers ever speak of him?”

“There are few travellers now-a-days, unless the assize judge turns up;
and he is too busy to think of the dead. But a lady, passing through
last summer, did ask after the old Postmaster, and she went to his
grave.”

“What was the ladylike?” I inquired curiously.

“A beautiful lady,” answered the boy. “She travelled in a coach with
six horses, three beautiful little children, a nurse, and a little
black dog; and when she heard that the old Postmaster was dead, she
wept, and told the children to keep quiet while she went to the
cemetery. I offered to show her the way, but the lady said, ‘I know
the way,’ and she gave me a silver _piatak_ (twopence) … such a kind
lady!”

We reached the cemetery. It was a bare place unenclosed, marked with
wooden crosses and unshaded by a single tree. Never before had I seen
such a melancholy cemetery.

“Here is the grave of the old Postmaster,” said the boy to me, as he
pointed to a heap of sand into which had been stuck a black cross with
a brass _icon_ (image).

“Did the lady come here?” I asked.

“She did,” replied Vanka. “I saw her from a distance. She lay down
here, and remained lying down for a long while. Then she went into the
village and saw the priest. She gave him some money and drove off. To
me she gave a silver _piatak._ She was a splendid lady!”

And I also gave the boy a silver _piatak,_ regretting neither the
journey nor the seven roubles that it had cost me.

In one of our distant provinces was the estate of Ivan Petrovitch
Berestoff. As a youth he served in the guards, but having left the
army early in 1797 he retired to his country seat and there remained.
He married a wife from among the poor nobility, and when she died in
childbed he happened to be detained on farming business in one of his
distant fields. His daily occupations soon brought him consolation. He
built a house on his own plan, set up his own cloth factory, became his
own auditor and accountant, and began to think himself the cleverest
fellow in the whole district. The neighbours who used to come to him
upon a visit and bring their families and dogs took good care not to
contradict him. His work-a-day dress was a short coat of velveteen;
on holidays he wore a frock-coat of cloth from his own factory. His
accounts took most of his time, and he read nothing but the _Senatorial
News_. On the whole, though he was considered proud, he was not
disliked. The only person who could never get on with him was his
nearest neighbour, Grigori Ivanovitch Muromsky. A true Russian _barin,_
he had squandered in Moscow a large part of his estate, and having lost
his wife as well as his money he had retired to his sole remaining
property, and there continued his extragavance but in a different way.
He set up an English garden on which he spent nearly all the income he
had left. His grooms wore English liveries. An English governess taught
his daughter. He farmed his land upon the English system. But foreign
farming grows no Russian corn.

So, in spite of his retirement, the income of Grigori Ivanovitch did
not increase. Even in the country he had a faculty for making new
debts. But he was no fool, people said, for was he not the first
landowner in all that province to mortgage his property to the
government–a process then generally believed to be one of great
complexity and risk? Among his detractors Berestoff, a thorough hater
of innovation, was the most severe. In speaking of his neighbour’s
Anglo-mania he could scarcely keep his feelings under control, and
missed no opportunity for criticism. To some compliment from a visitor
to his estate he would answer, with a knowing smile:

“Yes, my farming is not like that of Grigori Ivanovitch. I can’t afford
to ruin my land on the English system, but I am satisfied to escape
starvation on the Russian.”

Obliging neighbours reported these and other jokes to Grigori, with
additions and commentaries of their own. The Anglo-maniac was as
irritable as a journalist under this criticism, and wrathfully referred
to his critic as a bumpkin and a bear.

Relations were thus strained when Berestoff’s son came home. Having
finished his university career, he wanted to go into the army; but his
father objected. For the civil service young Berestoff had no taste.
Neither would yield, so young Alexis took up the life of a country
gentleman, and to be ready for emergencies cultivated a moustache. He
was really a handsome fellow, and it would indeed have been a pity
never to pinch his fine figure into a military uniform, and instead
of displaying his broad shoulders on horseback to round them over an
office desk. Ever foremost in the hunting-field, and a straight rider,
it was quite clear, declared the neighbours, that he could never make
a good official. The shy young ladies glanced and the bold stared at
him in admiration; but he took no notice of them, and each could only
attribute his indifference to some prior attachment. In fact, there was
in private circulation, copied from an envelope in his handwriting,
this address:

A. N. P.,
Care of Akulina Petrovna Kurotchkina,
Opposite Alexeieff Monastery.

Those readers who have not seen our country life can hardly realize the
charm of these provincial girls. Breathing pure air under the shadow
of their apple trees, their only knowledge of the world is drawn from
books. In solitude and unrestrained, their feelings and their passions
develop early to a degree unknown to the busier beauties of our towns.
For them the tinkling of a bell is an event, a drive into the nearest
town an epoch, and a chance visit a long, sometimes an everlasting
remembrance. At their oddities he may laugh who will, but superficial
sneers cannot impair their real merits–their individuality, which, so
says Jean Paul, is a necessary element of greatness. The women in large
towns may be better educated, but the levelling influence of the world
soon makes all women as much alike as their own head-dresses.

Let not this be regarded as condemnation. Still as an ancient writer
says _nota nostra manet._

It may be imagined what an impression Alexis made on our country
misses. He was the first gloomy and disenchanted hero they had ever
beheld; the first who ever spoke to them of vanished joys and blighted
past. Besides, he wore a black ring with a death’s head on it. All this
was quite a new thing in that province, and the young ladies all went
crazy.

But she in whose thoughts he dwelt most deeply was Lisa, or, as the old
Anglo-maniac called her, Betty, the daughter of Grigori Ivanovitch.
Their fathers did not visit, so she had never seen Alexis, who was
the sole topic of conversation among her young neighbours. She was
just seventeen, with dark eyes lighting up her pretty face. An only,
and consequently a spoilt child, full of life and mischief, she was
the delight of her father, and the distraction of her governess, Miss
Jackson, a prim spinster in the forties, who powdered her face and
blackened her eyebrows, read Pamela twice a year, drew a salary of
2,000 rubles, and was nearly bored to death in barbarous Russia.

Lisa’s maid Nastia was older, but quite as flighty as her mistress, who
was very fond of her, and had her as confidante in all her secrets and
as fellow-conspirator in her mischief.

In fact, no leading lady played half such an important part in French
tragedy as was played by Nastia in the village.

Said Nastia, while dressing her young lady:

“May I go to-day and visit a friend?”

“Yes. Where?”

“To the Berestoff’s. It is the cook’s namesday. He called yesterday to
ask us to dinner.”

“Then,” said Lisa, “the masters quarrel and the servants entertain one
another.”

“And what does that matter to us?” said Nastia. “I belong to you and
not to your father. You have not quarrelled with young Berestoff yet.
Let the old people fight if they please.”

“Nastia! try and see Alexei Berestoff. Come back and tell me all about
him.”

Nastia promised; Lisa spent the whole day impatiently waiting for her.
In the evening she returned.

“Well, Lisaveta Grigorievna!” she said, as she entered the room.

“I have seen young Berestoff. I had a good look at him. We spent the
whole day together.”

“How so? tell me all about it.”

“Certainly? We started, I and Anissia—-”

“Yes, yes, I know! What then?”

“I would rather tell you in proper order. We were just in time for
dinner; the room was quite full. There were the Zaharievskys, the
steward’s wife and daughters, the Shlupinskys—-”

“Yes, yes! And Berestoff?”

“Wait a bit. We sat down to dinner. The steward’s wife had the seat of
honour; I sat next to her, and her daughters were huffy; but what do I
care!”

“Oh, Nastia! How tiresome you are with these everlasting details!”

“How impatient you are! Well, then we rose from table–we had been
sitting for about three hours and it was a splendid dinner-party,
blue, red and striped creams–then we went into the garden to play at
kiss-in-the-ring when the young gentleman appeared.”

“Well, is it true? Is he so handsome?”

“Wonderfully handsome! I may say beautiful. Tall, stately, with a
lovely colour.”

“Really! I thought his face was pale. Well, how did he strike you–Was
he melancholy and thoughtful?”

“Oh, no! I never saw such a mad fellow. He took it into his head to
join us at kiss-in-the-ring.” “He played at kiss-in-the-ring! It is
impossible.”

“No, it’s very possible; and what more do you think? When he caught any
one he kissed her.” “Of course you may tell lies if you like, Nastia.”

“As you please, miss, only I am not lying. I could scarcely get away
from him. Indeed he spent the whole day with us.”

“Why do people say then that he is in love and looks at nobody?”

“I am sure I don’t know, miss. He looked too much at me and Tania too,
the steward’s daughter, and at Pasha too. In fact, he neglected nobody.
He is such a wild fellow!”

“This is surprising; and what do the servants say about him?”

“They say he is a splendid gentleman–so kind, so lively! He has only
one fault: he is too fond of the girls. But I don’t think that is such
a great fault. He will get steadier in time.”

“How I should like to see him,” said Lisa, with a sigh.

“And why can’t you? Tugilovo is only a mile off. Take a walk in that
direction, or a ride, and you are sure to meet him. He shoulders his
gun and goes shooting every morning.”

“No, it would never do. He would think I was running after him.
Besides, our fathers have quarrelled, so he and I could hardly set up
a friendship. Oh, Nastia! I know what I’ll do. I will dress up like a
peasant.”

“That will do. Put on a coarse chemise and a _sarafan_, and set out
boldly for Tugilovo. Berestoff will never miss you I promise you.”

“I can talk like a peasant splendidly. Oh, Nastia, dear Nastia, what
a happy thought!” and Lisa went to bed resolved to carry out her
plan. Next day she made her preparations. She went to the market for
some coarse linen, some dark blue stuff, and some brass buttons, and
out of these Nastia and she cut a chemise and a _sarafan._ All the
maid-servants were set down to sew, and by evening everything was
ready.

As she tried on her new costume before the glass, Lisa said to herself
that she had never looked so nice. Then she began to rehearse her
meeting with Alexis. First she gave him a low bow as she passed along,
then she continued to nod her head like a mandarin. Next she addressed
him in a peasant _patois,_ simpering and shyly hiding her face behind
her sleeve. Nastia gave the performance her full approval. But there
was one difficulty. She tried to cross the yard barefooted, but the
grass stalks pricked her tender feet and the gravel caused intolerable
pain. Nastia again came to the rescue.

She took the measure of Lisa’s foot and hurried across the fields to
the herdsman Trophim, of whom she ordered a pair of bark shoes.

The next morning before daylight Lisa awoke. The whole household was
still asleep. Nastia was at the gate waiting for the herdsman; soon
the sound of his horn drew near, and the village herd straggled past
the Manor gates. After them came Trophim, who, as he passed, handed to
Nastia a little pair of speckled bark shoes, and received a ruble.

Lisa, who had quietly donned her peasant dress, whispered to Nastia
her last instructions about Miss Jackson; then she went through the
kitchen, out of the back door, into the open field, then she began to
run.

Dawn was breaking, and the rows of golden clouds stood like courtiers
waiting for their monarch. The clear sky, the fresh morning air, the
dew, the breeze and singing of the birds filled Lisa’s heart with
child-like joy.

Fearing to meet with some acquaintance, she did nor walk but flew. As
she drew near the wood where lay the boundary of her father’s property
she slackened her pace. It was here she was to meet Alexis. Her heart
beat violently, she knew not why. The terrors of our youthful escapades
are their chief charm.

Lisa stepped forward into the darkness of the wood; its hollow
echoes bade her welcome. Her buoyant spirits gradually gave place to
meditation. She thought–but who shall truly tell the thoughts of sweet
seventeen in a wood, alone, at six o’clock on a spring morning?

And as she walked in meditation under the shade of lofty trees,
suddenly a beautiful pointer began to bark at her. Lisa cried out with
fear, and at the same moment a voice exclaimed, “_Tout beau Shogar,
ici,_” and a young sportsman stepped from behind the bushes. “Don’t be
afraid, my dear, he won’t bite.”

Lisa had already recovered from her fright, and instantly took
advantage of the situation.

“It’s all very well, sir,” she said, with assumed timidity and shyness,
_”I_ am afraid of him, he seems such a savage creature, and may fly at
me again.”

Alexis, whom the reader has already recognised, looked steadily at the
young peasant. “I will escort you, if you are afraid; will you allow me
to walk by your side?”

“Who is to prevent you?” replied Lisa. “A freeman can do as he likes,
and the road is public!”

“Where do you come from?”

“From Prilutchina; I am the daughter of Yassili, the blacksmith, and I
am looking for mushrooms.” She was carrying a basket suspended from her
shoulders by a cord.

“And you, _barin_; are you from Tugilovo?”

“Exactly, I am the young gentleman’s valet” (he wished to equalize
their ranks). But Lisa looked at him and laughed.

“Ah! you are lying,” she said. “I am not a fool. I see you are the
master himself.”

“What makes you think so?”

“Everything.”

“Still—-?”

“How can one help it. You are not dressed like a servant. You speak
differently. You even call your dog in a foreign tongue.”

Lisa charmed him more and more every moment. Accustomed to be
unceremonious with pretty country girls, he tried to kiss her, but
Lisa jumped aside, and suddenly assumed so distant and severe an air
that though it amused him he did not attempt any further familiarities.

“If you wish to remain friends,” she said, with dignity, “do not forget
yourself.”

“Who has taught you this wisdom?” asked Alexis, with a laugh. “Can
it be my little friend Nastia, your mistress’s maid? So this is how
civilization spreads.”

Lisa felt she had almost betrayed herself, and said, “Do you think I
have never been up to the Manor House? I have seen and heard more than
you think. Still, chattering here with you won’t get me mushrooms. You
go that way, _barin_; I’ll go the other, begging your pardon;” and Lisa
made as if to depart, but Alexis held her by the hand.

“What is your name, my dear?”

“Akulina,” she said, struggling to get her fingers free. “Let me go,
_barin,_ it is time for me to be home.”

“Well, my friend Akulina, I shall certainly call on your father,
Yassili, the blacksmith.”

“For the Lord’s sake don’t do that. If they knew at home I had been
talking here alone with the young _barin,_ I should catch it. My father
would beat me within an inch of my life.”

“Well, I must see you again.”

“I will come again some other day for mushrooms.”

“When?”

“To-morrow, if you like.”

“My dear Akulina, I would kiss you if I dared. To-morrow, then, at the
same time; that is a bargain.”

“All right.”

“You will not play me false?”

“No.”

“Swear it.”

“By the Holy Friday, then, I will come.”

The young couple parted. Lisa ran out of the wood across the fields,
stole into the garden, and rushed headlong into the farmyard, where
Nastia was waiting for her. Then she changed her dress, answering at
random the impatient questions of her _confidante_, and went into the
dining-room to find the cloth laid and breakfast ready. Miss Jackson,
freshly powdered and Jaced, until she looked like a wine glass, was
cutting thin slices of bread and butter. Her father complimented Lisa
on her early walk.

“There is no healthier habit,” he remarked, “than to rise at daybreak.”
He quoted from the English papers several cases of longevity, adding
that all centenarians had abstained from spirits, and made it a
practice to rise at daybreak winter and summer. Lisa did not prove
an attentive listener. She was repeating in her mind the details of
her morning’s interview, and as she recalled Akulina’s conversation
with the young sportsman her conscience smote her. In vain she assured
herself that the bounds of decorum had not been passed. This joke, she
argued, could have no evil consequences, but conscience would not be
quieted. What most disturbed her was her promise to repeat the meeting.
She half decided not to keep her word, but then Alexis, tired of
waiting, might go to seek the blacksmiths daughter in the village and
find the real Akulina–a stout, pockmarked girl–and so discover the
hoax. Alarmed at this she determined to re-enact the part of Akulina.
Alexis was enchanted. All day he thought about his new acquaintance
and at night he dreamt of her. It was scarcely dawn when he was up and
dressed. Without waiting even to load his gun he set out followed by
the faithful Shogar, and ran to the meeting place. Half an hour passed
in undeniable delay. At last he caught a glimpse of a blue _sarafan_
among the bushes and rushed to meet dear Akulina. She smiled to see his
eagerness; but he saw traces of anxiety and melancholy on her face. He
asked her the cause, and she at last confessed. She had been flighty
and was very sorry for it. She had meant not to keep her promise, and
this meeting at any rate must be the last. She begged him not to seek
to continue an acquaintance which could have no good end. All this,
of course, was said in peasant dialect; but the thought and feeling
struck Alexis as unusual in a peasant. In eloquent words he urged
her to abandon this cruel resolution. She should have no reason for
repentance; he would obey her in everything, if only she would not rob
him of his one happiness and let him see her alone three times or even
only twice a week. He spoke with passion, and at the moment he was
really in love. Lisa listened to him in silence.

“Promise,” she said, “to seek no other meetings with me but those which
I myself appoint.”

He was about to swear by the Holy Friday when she stopped him with a
smile.

“I do not want you to swear. Your word is enough.”

Then together they wandered talking in the wood, till Lisa said:

“It is time.”

They parted; and Alexis was left to wonder how in two meetings a simple
rustic had gained such influence over him. There was a freshness and
novelty about it all that charmed him, and though the conditions
she imposed were irksome, the thought of breaking his promise never
even entered his mind. After all, in spite of his fatal ring and the
mysterious correspondence, Alexis was a kind and affectionate youth,
with a pure heart still capable of innocent enjoyment. Did I consult
only my own wishes I should dwell at length on the meetings of these
young people, their growing love, their mutual trust, and all they did
and all they said. But my pleasure I know would not be shared by the
majority of my readers; so for their sake I will omit them. I will
only say that in a brief two months Alexis was already madly in love,
and Lisa, though more reticent than he was, not indifferent. Happy
in the present they took little thought for the future. Visions of
indissoluble ties flitted not seldom through the minds of both. But
neither mentioned them. For Alexis, however strong his attachment to
Akulina, could not forget the social distance that was between them,
while Lisa, knowing the enmity between their fathers, dared not count
on their becoming reconciled. Besides, her vanity was stimulated by the
vague romantic hope of at last seeing the lord of Tugilovo at the feet
of the daughter of a village blacksmith. Suddenly something happened
which came near to change the course of their true love. One of those
cold bright mornings so common in our Russian autumns Ivan Berestoff
came a-riding. For all emergencies he brought with him six pointers
and a dozen beaters. That same morning Grigori Muromsky, tempted by
the fine weather, saddled his English mare and came trotting through
his agricultural estates. Nearing the wood he came upon his neighbour
proudly seated in the saddle wearing his fur-lined overcoat. Ivan
Berestoff was waiting for the hare which the beaters were driving with
discordant noises out of the brushwood. If Muromsky could have foreseen
this meeting he would have avoided it. But finding himself suddenly
within pistol-shot there was no escape. Like a cultivated European
gentleman, Muromsky rode up to and addressed his enemy politely.
Berestoff answered with the grace of a chained bear dancing to the
order of his keeper. At this moment out shot the hare and scudded
across the field. Berestoff and his groom shouted to loose the dogs,
and started after them full speed. Muromsky’s mare took fright and
bolted. Her rider, who often boasted of his horsemanship, gave her
her head and chuckled inwardly over this opportunity of escaping a
disagreeable companion. But the mare coming at a gallop to an unseen
ditch swerved. Muromsky lost his seat, fell rather heavily on the
frozen ground, and lay there cursing the animal, which, sobered by the
loss of her master, stopped at once. Berestoff galloped to the rescue,
asking if Muromsky was hurt. Meanwhile the groom led up the culprit by
the bridle. Berestoff helped Muromsky into the saddle and then invited
him to his house. Peeling himself under an obligation Muromsky could
not refuse, and so Berestoff returned in glory, having killed the hare
and bringing home with him his adversary wounded and almost a prisoner
of war.

At breakfast the neighbours fell into rather friendly conversation;
Muromsky asked Berestoff to lend him a droshky, confessing that his
fall made it too painful for him to ride back. Berestoff accompanied
him to the outer gate, and before the leavetaking was over Muromsky
Pad obtained from him a promise to come and bring Alexis to a friendly
dinner at Prelutchina next day. So this old enmity which seemed before
so deeply rooted was on the point of ending because the little mare had
taken fright.

Lisa ran to meet Per father on his return.

“What has happened, papa?” she asked in astonishment. “Why are you
limping? Where is the mare? Whose droshki is this?”

“My dear, you will never guess;”–and then he told Per.

Lisa could not believe Per ears. Before she Pad time to collect herself
she heard that to-morrow both the Berestoffs would come to dinner.

“What do you say?” she exclaimed, turning pale. “The Berestoffs, father
and son! Dine with us to-morrow! No, papa, you can do as you please, I
certainly do not appear.”

“Why? Are you mad? Since when have you become so shy? Have you imbibed
hereditary hatred like a heroine of romance? Come, don’t be afoot.”

“No, papa, nothing on earth shall induce me to meet the Berestoffs.”

Her father shrugged his shoulders, and left off arguing. He knew he
could not prevail with her by opposition, so he went to bed after his
memorable ride. Lisa, too, went to her room, and summoned Nastia.
Long did they discuss the coming visit. What will Alexis think on
recognising in the cultivated young lady his Akulina? What opinion will
he form as to her behaviour and her sense? On the other hand, Lisa was
very curious to see how such an unexpected meeting would affect him.
Then an idea struck her. She told it to Nastia, and with rejoicing they
determined to carry it into effect.

Next morning at breakfast Muromsky asked his daughter whether she still
meant to hide from the Berestoffs.

“Papa,” she answered, “I will receive them if you wish it, on one
condition. However I may appear before them, whatever I may do, you
must promise me not to be angry, and you must show no surprise or
disapproval.”

“At your tricks again!” exclaimed Muromsky, laughing. “Well, well, I
consent; do as you please, my black-eyed mischief.” With these words
he kissed her forehead, and Lisa ran off to make her preparations.

Punctually at two, six horses, drawing the home-made carriage, drove
into the courtyard, and skirted the circle of green turf that formed
its centre.

Old Berestoff, helped by two of Muromsky’s servants in livery, mounted
the steps. His son followed immediately on horseback, and the two
together entered the dining-room, where the table was already laid.

Muromsky gave his guests a cordial welcome, and proposing a tour of
inspection of the garden and live stock before dinner, led them along
his well-swept gravel paths.

Old Berestoff secretly deplored the time and trouble wasted on such a
useless whim as this Anglo-mania, but politeness forbade him to express
his feelings.

His son shared neither the disapproval of the careful farmer, nor the
enthusiasm of the complacent Anglo-maniac. He impatiently awaited the
appearance of his hosts daughter, of whom he had often heard; for,
though his heart as we know was no longer free, a young and unknown
beauty might still claim his interest.

When they had come back and were all seated in the drawing-room,
the old men talked over bygone days, re-telling the stories of the
mess-room, while Alexis considered what attitude he should assume
towards Lisa. He decided upon a cold preoccupation as most suitable,
and arranged accordingly.

The door opened, he turned his head round with indifference–with such
proud indifference–that the heart of the most hardened coquette must
have quivered. Unfortunately there came in not Lisa but elderly Miss
Jackson, whitened, laced in, with downcast eyes and her little curtsey,
and Alexis’ magnificent military movement failed. Before he could
reassemble his scattered forces the door opened again and this time
entered Lisa. All rose, Muromsky began the introductions, but suddenly
stopped and bit his lip. Lisa, his dark Lisa, was painted white up
to her ears, and pencilled worse than Miss Jackson herself. She wore
false fair ringlets, puffed out like a Louis XIV. wig; her sleeves _à
l’imbécille_ extended like the hoops of Madame de Pompadour. Her figure
was laced in like a letter X, and all those of her mother’s diamonds
which had escaped the pawnbroker sparkled on her fingers, neck, and
ears. Alexis could not discover in this ridiculous young lady his
Akulina. His father kissed her hand, and he, much to his annoyance,
had to do the same. As he touched her little white fingers they seemed
to tremble. He noticed, too, a tiny foot intentionally displayed and
shod in the most coquettish of shoes. This reconciled him a little to
the rest of her attire. The white paint and black pencilling–to tell
the truth–in his simplicity he did not notice at first, nor indeed
afterwards.

Grigori Muromsky, remembering his promise, tried not to show surprise;
for the rest, he was so much amused at his daughter’s mischief, that
he could scarcely keep his countenance. For the prim Englishwoman,
however, it was no laughing matter. She guessed that the white and
black paint had been abstracted from her drawer, and a red patch of
indignation shone through the artificial whiteness of her face. Flaming
glances shot from her eyes at the young rogue, who, reserving all
explanation for the future, pretended not to notice them. They sat down
to table, Alexis continuing his performance as an absent-minded pensive
man. Lisa was all affectation. She minced her words, drawled, and would
speak only in French. Her father glanced at her from time to time,
unable to divine her object, but he thought it all a great joke. The
Englishwoman fumed, but said nothing. Ivan Berestoff alone felt at his
ease. He ate for two, drank his fill, and as the meal went on became
more and more friendly, and laughed louder and louder.

At last they rose from the table. The guests departed and Muromsky gave
vent to his mirth and curiosity.

“What made you play such tricks upon them?” he inquired. “Do you know,
Lisa, that white paint really becomes you? I do not wish to pry into
the secrets of a lady’s toilet, but if I were you I should always
paint, not too much, of course, but a little.”

Lisa was delighted with her success. She kissed her father, promised
to consider his suggestion, and ran off to propitiate the enraged Miss
Jackson, whom she could scarcely prevail upon to open the door and hear
her excuses.

Lisa was ashamed, she said, to show herself before the visitors–such a
blackamoor. She had not dared to ask; she knew dear kind Miss Jackson
would forgive her.

Miss Jackson, persuaded that her pupil had not meant to ridicule her,
became pacified, kissed Lisa, and in token of forgiveness presented her
with a little pot of English white, which the latter, with expressions
of deep gratitude, accepted.

Next morning, as the reader will have guessed, Lisa hastened to the
meeting in the wood.

“You were yesterday at our master’s, sir?” she began to Alexis. “What
did you think of our young lady?”

Alexis answered that he had not observed her.

“That is a pity.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted to ask you if what they say is true.”

“What do they say?”

“That I resemble our young lady; do you think so?”

“What nonsense, she is a deformity beside you!”

“Oh! _barin,_ it is a sin of you to say so. Our young lady is so fair,
so elegant! How can I vie with her?”

Alexis vowed that she was prettier than all imaginable fair young
ladies, and to appease her thoroughly, began describing her young lady
so funnily that Lisa burst into a hearty laugh.

“Still,” she said, with a sigh, “though she may be ridiculous, yet by
her side I am an illiterate fool.”

“Well, that _is_ a thing to worry yourself about. If you like I will
teach you to read at once.”

“Are you in earnest, shall I really try?”

“If you like, my darling, we will begin at once.”

They sat down. Alexis produced a pencil and note-book, and Akulina
proved astonishingly quick in learning the alphabet. Alexis wondered at
her intelligence. At their next meeting she wished to learn to write.
The pencil at first would not obey her, but in a few minutes she could
trace the letters pretty well.

“How wonderfully we get on, faster than by the Lancaster method.”

Indeed, at the third lesson Akulina could read words of even three
syllables, and the intelligent remarks with which she interrupted the
lessons fairly astonished Alexis. As for writing she covered a whole
page with aphorisms, taken from the story she had been reading. A week
passed and they had begun a correspondence. Their post-office was the
trunk of an old oak, and Nastia secretly played the part of postman.
Thither Alexis would bring his letters, written in a large round hand,
and there he found the letters of his beloved scrawled on coarse blue
paper. Akulina’s style was evidently improving, and her mind clearly
was developing under cultivation.

Meanwhile the new-made acquaintance between Berestoff and Muromsky
grew stronger, soon it became friendship. Muromsky often reflected
that on the death of old Berestoff his property would come to Alexis,
who would then be one of the richest landowners in that province. Why
should he not marry Lisa? Old Berestoff, on the other hand, though he
looked on his neighbour as a lunatic, did not deny that he possessed
many excellent qualities, among them a certain cleverness. Muromsky
was related to Count Pronsky, a distinguished and influential man.
The count might be very useful to Alexis, and Muromsky (so thought
Berestoff) would probably be glad to marry his daughter so well. Both
the old men pondered all this so thoroughly that at last they broached
the subject, confabulated, embraced, and severally began a plan of
campaign. Muromsky foresaw one difficulty–how to persuade his Betty to
make the better acquaintance of Alexis, whom she had never seen since
the memorable dinner. They hardly seemed to suit each other well. At
any rate Alexis had not renewed his visit to Prelutchina. Whenever old
Berestoff called Lisa made a point of retreating to her own room.

“But,” thought Muromsky, “if Alexis called every day Betty could not
help falling in love with him. That is the way to manage it. Time will
settle everything.”

Berestoff troubled himself less about his plans. That same evening
he called his son into his study, lit his pipe, and, after a short
silence, began:

“You have not spoken about the army lately, Alexis. Has the Hussar
uniform lost its attraction for you?”

“No, father,” he replied respectfully. “I know you do not wish me to
join the Hussars. It is my duty to consult your wishes.”

“I am pleased to find you such an obedient son, still I do not wish
to force your inclinations. I will not insist upon your entering the
Civil Service at once; and in the meantime I mean to marry you.”

“To whom, father?” exclaimed his astonished son.

“To Lisa Muromskaia; she is good enough for any one, isn’t she?”

“Father, I did not think of marrying just yet.”

“Perhaps not, but I have thought about it for you.”

“As you please, but I don’t care about Lisa Muromskaia at all.”

“You will care about her afterwards. You will get used to her, and you
will learn to love her.”

“I feel I could not make her happy.”

“You need not trouble yourself about that. All you have to do is to
respect the wishes of your father.”

“I do not wish to marry, and I won’t.”

“You shall marry or I will curse you; and, by Heaven, I will sell and
squander my property, and not leave you a farthing! I will give you
three days for reflection, and, in the meanwhile, do not dare to show
your face in my presence.”

Alexis knew that when his father took a thing into his head nothing
could knock it out again; but then Alexis was as obstinate as his
father. He went to his room and there reflected upon the limits of
parental authority, on Lisa Muromskaia, his father’s threat to make him
a beggar, and finally he thought of Akulina.

For the first time he clearly saw how much he loved her. The romantic
idea of marrying a peasant girl and working for a living came into his
mind; and the more he thought of it, the more he approved it. Their
meetings in the wood had been stopped of late by the wet weather.

He wrote to Akulina in the roundest hand and the maddest style, telling
her of his impending ruin, and asking her to be his wife. He took
the letter at once to the tree trunk, dropped it in, and went much
satisfied with himself to bed.

Next morning, firm in resolution, he started early to call on Muromsky
and explain the situation. He meant to win him over by appealing to his
generosity.

“Is Mr. Muromsky at home?” he asked reining up his horse at the porch.

“No, sir, Mr. Muromsky went out early this morning.”

How provoking, thought Alexis.

“Well, is Miss Lisa at home?”

“Yes, sir.”

And throwing the reins to the footman, Alexis leapt from his horse and
entered unannounced.

“It will soon be over,” he thought, going towards the drawing-room.
“I will explain to Miss Muromsky herself.” He entered … and was
transfixed. Lisa!… no, Akulina, dear, dark Akulina, wearing no
_sarafan_ but a white morning frock, sat by the window reading his
letter. So intent was she upon it that she did not hear him enter.
Alexis could not repress a cry of delight. Lisa started, raised her
hand, cried out, and attempted to run away. He rushed to stop her.
“Akulina! Akulina!” Lisa tried to free herself.

“_Mais laissez moi donc, Monsieur! mais êtes vous fou?_” she repeated,
turning away.

“Akulina! my darling Akulina!” he repeated, kissing her hand.

Miss Jackson, who was an eye-witness of this scene, knew not what to
think. The door opened and Grigori Muromsky entered.

“Ah!” cried he, “you seem to have settled things between you.”…

The reader will excuse me the unnecessary trouble of winding up.

KIRDJALI.

Kirdjali was by birth a Bulgarian.

Kirdjali, in Turkish, means a bold fellow, a knight-errant.

Kirdjali with his depredations brought terror upon the whole of
Moldavia. To give some idea of him I will relate one of his exploits.
One night he and the Arnout Michailaki fell together upon a Bulgarian
village. They set fire to it from both ends and went from hut to hut,
Kirdjali killing, while Michailaki carried off the plunder. Both cried,
“Kirdjali! Kirdjali!” and the whole village ran.

When Alexander Ipsilanti proclaimed the insurrection and began raising
his army, Kirdjali brought him several of his old followers. They
knew little of the real object of the _hetairi._ But war presented an
opportunity for getting rich at the expense of the Turks, and perhaps
of the Moldavians too.

Alexander Ipsilanti was personally brave, but he was wanting in
the qualities necessary for playing the part he had with such eager
recklessness assumed. He did not know how to manage the people under
his command. They had neither respect for him nor confidence.

After the unfortunate battle, when the flower of Greek youth fell,
Jordaki Olimbisti advised him to retire, and himself took his place.
Ipsilanti escaped to the frontiers of Austria, whence he sent his
curse to the people whom he now stigmatised as mutineers, cowards, and
blackguards. These cowards and blackguards mostly perished within the
walls of the monastery of Seke, or on the banks of the Pruth, defending
themselves desperately against a foe ten times their number.

Kirdjali belonged to the detachment commanded by George Cantacuzène, of
whom might be repeated what has already been said of Ipsilanti.

On the eve of the battle near Skuliana, Cantacuzène asked permission
of the Russian authorities to enter their quarters. The band was left
without a commander. But Kirdjali, Sophianos, Cantagoni, and others had
no need of a commander.

The battle of Skuliana seems not to have been described by any one in
all its pathetic truth. Just imagine seven hundred Arnouts, Albanians,
Greeks, Bulgarians, and every kind of rabble, with no notion of
military art, retreating within sight of fifteen thousand Turkish
cavalry. The band kept close to the banks of the Pruth, placing in
front two tiny cannons, found at Jassy, in the courtyard of the
Hospodar, and which had formerly been used for firing salutes on
festive occasions.

The Turks would have been glad to use their cartridges, but dared not
without permission from the Russian authorities; for the shots would
have been sure to fly over to our banks. The commander of the Russian
military post (now dead), though he had been forty years in the army,
had never heard the whistle of a bullet; but he was fated to hear it
now. Several bullets buzzed passed his ears. The old man got very angry
and began to swear at Ohotsky, major of one of the infantry battalions.
The major, not knowing what to do, ran towards the river, on the other
side of which some insurgent cavalry were capering about. He shook his
finger at them, on which they turned round and galloped along, with
the whole Turkish army after them. The major who had shaken his finger
was called Hortchevsky. I don’t know what became of him. The next day,
however, the Turks attacked the Arnouts. Hot daring to use cartridges
or cannon balls, they resolved, contrary to their custom, to employ
cold steel. The battle was fierce. The combatants slashed and stabbed
one another.

The Turks were seen with lances, which, hitherto they had never
possessed, and these lances were Russian. Our Nekrassoff refugees were
fighting in their ranks. The _hetairi,_ thanks to the permission of our
Emperor, were allowed to cross the Pruth and seek the protection of our
garrison. They began to cross the river, Cantagoni and Sophianos being
the last to quit the Turkish bank; Kirdjali, wounded the day before,
was already lying in Russian quarters. Sophianos was killed. Cantagoni,
a very stout man, was wounded with a spear in his stomach. With one
hand he raised his sword, with the other he seized the enemy’s spear,
pushed it deeper into himself, and by that means was able to reach his
murderer with his own sword, when they fell together.

All was over. The Turks remained victorious, Moldavia was cleared of
insurgents. About six hundred Arnouts were scattered over Bessarabia.
Unable to obtain the means of subsistence, they still felt grateful
to Russia for her protection. They led an idle though not a dissolute
life. They could be seen in coffee-houses of half Turkish Bessarabia,
with long pipes in their mouths sipping thick coffee out of small cups.
Their figured Zouave jackets and red slippers with pointed toes were
beginning to look shabby. But they still wore their tufted scull-cap
on one side of the head; and daggers and pistols still protruded
from beneath, their broad girdles. No one complained of them. It
was impossible to imagine that these poor, peaceable fellows were
the celebrated pikemen of Moldavia, the followers of the ferocious
Kirdjali, and that he himself had been one of them.

The Pasha governing Jassy heard of all this, and, on the basis of
treaty rights, requested the Russian authorities to deliver up the
brigand. The police made inquiries, and found that Kirdjali really was
at Kishineff. They captured him in the house of a runaway monk in the
evening, while he was at supper, sitting in the twilight with seven
comrades.

Kirdjali was arraigned. He did not attempt to conceal the truth. He
owned he was Kirdjali.

“But,” he added, “since I crossed the Pruth, I have not touched a
hair of property that did not belong to me, nor have I cheated the
meanest gipsy. To the Turks, the Moldavians, and the Walachians I am
certainly a brigand, but to the Russians a guest. When Sophianos, after
exhausting all his cartridges, came over here, he collected buttons
from the uniforms, nails, watch-chains, and nobs from the daggers for
the final discharge, and I myself handed him twenty _beshléks_ to fire
off, leaving myself without money. God is my witness that I, Kirdjali,
lived by charity. Why then do the Russians now hand me over to my
enemies?”

After that Kirdjali was silent, and quietly awaited his fate. It was
soon announced to him. The authorities, not thinking themselves hound
to look upon brigandage from its romantic side, and admitting the
justice of the Turkish demand, ordered Kirdjali to be given up that he
might be sent to Jassy.

A man of brains and feeling, at that time young and unknown, but
now occupying an important post, gave me a graphic description of
Kirdjali’s departure.

“At the gates of the prison,” he said, “stood a hired _karutsa._
Perhaps you don’t know what a _karutsa_ is? It is a low
basket-carriage, to which quite recently used to be harnessed six or
eight miserable screws. A Moldavian, with a moustache and a sheepskin
hat, sitting astride one of the horses, cried out and cracked his whip
every moment, and his wretched little beasts went on at a sharp trot.
If one of them began to lag, then he unharnessed it with terrific
cursing and left it on the road, not caring what became of it. On the
return journey he was sure to find them in the same place, calmly
grazing on the steppes. Frequently a traveller starting from a station
with eight horses would arrive at the next with a pair only. It was
so about fifteen years ago. Now in Russianized Bessarabia, Russian
harness and Russian _telegas_ (carts) have been adopted.

“Such a _karutsa_ as I have described stood at the gate of the jail in
1821, towards the end of September. Jewesses with their sleeves hanging
down and with flapping slippers, Arnouts in ragged but picturesque
costumes, stately Moldavian women with black-eyed children in their
arms, surrounded the _harutsa._ The men maintained silence. The women
were excited, as if expecting something to happen.

“The gates opened, and several police officers stepped into the street,
followed by two soldiers leading Kirdjali in chains.

“He looked about thirty. The features of his dark face were regular and
austere. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and seemed to possess great
physical strength. He wore a variegated turban on the side of his head,
and a broad sash round his slender waist. A dolman of thick, dark blue
cloth, the wide plaits of his over-shirt falling just above the knees,
and a pair of handsome slippers completed his dress. His bearing was
calm and haughty.

“One of the officials, a red-faced old man in a faded uniform, with
three buttons hanging loose, a pair of lead spectacles which pinched
a crimson knob doing duty for a nose, unrolled a paper, and stooping,
began to read in the Moldavian tongue. From time to time he glanced
haughtily at the handcuffed Kirdjali, to whom apparently the document
referred. Kirdjali listened attentively. The official finished his
reading, folded the paper, and called out sternly to the people,
ordering them to make way for the _karutsa_ to drive up. Then Kirdjali,
turning towards him, said a few words in Moldavian; his voice trembled,
his countenance changed, he burst into tears, and fell at the feet of
the police officer, with a clanking of his chains. The police officer,
in alarm, started back; the soldiers were going to raise Kirdjali, but
he got up of his own accord, gathered up his chains, and stepping into
the _harutsa_, cried _egaida!’_

“The gens d’armes got in by his side, the Moldavian cracked his whip,
and the _karutsa_ rolled away.

“What was Kirdjali saying to you? inquired a young official of the
police officer.

“He asked me,” replied the officer, smiling, “to take care of his
wife and child, who live a short distance from Kilia, in a Bulgarian
village; he is afraid they might suffer through him. The rabble are so
ignorant!'”

The young official’s story affected me greatly. I was sorry for poor
Kirdjali. For a long while I knew nothing of his fate. Many years
afterwards I met the young official. We began talking of old times.

“How about your friend Kirdjali?” I asked. “Do you know what became of
him?”

“Of course I do,” he replied, and he told me the following.

After being brought to Jassy, Kirdjali was taken before the Pasha,
who condemned him to be impaled. The execution was postponed till
some feast day. Meanwhile he was put in confinement. The prisoner was
guarded by seven Turks–common people, and at the bottom of their
hearts brigands like himself. They respected him and listened with
the eagerness of true orientals to his wonderful stories. Between the
guards and their prisoner a close friendship sprang up. On one occasion
Kirdjali said to them:

“Brothers! My hour is near. No one can escape his doom. I shall soon
part from you, and I should like to leave you something in remembrance
of me.” The Turks opened their ears.

“Brothers;” added Kirdjali, “three years back, when I was engaged in
brigandage with the late Mihailaki, we buried in the Steppes, not far
from Jassy, a kettle with some coins in it. Seemingly, neither he nor
I will ever possess that treasure. So be it; take it to yourselves and
divide it amicably.”

The Turks nearly went crazy. They began considering how they could find
the spot so vaguely indicated. They thought and thought, and at last
decided that Kirdjali must himself show them.

Night set in. The Turks took off the fetters that weighed upon the
prisoner’s feet, hound his hands with a rope, and taking him with them,
started for the Steppes. Kirdjali led them, going in a straight line
from one mound to another. They walked about for some time. At last
Kirdjali stopped close to a broad stone, measured a dozen steps to the
south, stamped, and said, “Here.”

The Turks arranged themselves for work. Four took out their daggers and
began digging the earth, while three remained on guard. Kirdjali sat
down on the stone, and looked on.

“Well, now, shall you be long?” he inquired; “have you found it?”

“Not yet,” replied the Turks, and they worked away till the
perspiration rolled like hail from them.

Kirdjali grew impatient.

“What people!” he exclaimed; “they can’t even dig decently. Why, I
should have found it in two minutes. Children! Untie my hands, and give
me a dagger.”

The Turks reflected, and began to consult with one another.

“Why not?” they concluded. “We will release his hands, and give him a
dagger. What can it matter? He is only one, while we are seven.”

And the Turks unbound his bands and gave him a dagger.

At last Kirdjali was free and armed. What must have been his
sensations. He began digging rapidly, the guard assisting. Suddenly he
thrust his dagger into one of them, leaving the blade sticking in the
man’s breast; he snatched from his girdle a couple of pistols.

The remaining six, seeing Kirdjali armed with two pistols, ran away.

Kirdjali is now carrying on his brigandage near Jassy. Not long ago
he wrote to the Hospodar, demanding from him five thousand louis, and
threatening, in the event of the money not being paid, to set fire to
Jassy, and to reach the Hospodar himself. The five thousand louis were
forwarded to him.

A fine fellow Kirdjali!

THE HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE OF GOROHINA.

Of all professions that of a man of letters has always seemed to me
most enviable.

My parents, respectable but humble folk, had been brought up in the old
fashion. They never read anything; and beyond an alphabet (bought for
me), an almanack, and the latest letter-writer, they had no books in
the house.

The letter-writer had long provided me with entertainment. I knew it by
heart, yet daily found in it fresh beauties; and next to General N—-,
to whom my father had been _aide-de-camp,_ Kurganoff, its author, was,
in my estimation, one of the greatest men. I questioned everyone about
him; but unhappily no one could gratify my curiosity. Nobody knew him
personally. To all my questioning the reply was that Kurganoff was the
author of the latest letter-writer, but that I knew already. He was
wrapped in darkness and mystery like some ancient demi-god. At times
I doubted even his existence. His name was perhaps an invention, the
legend about him an empty myth awaiting the investigation of some
new Niebuhr. Nevertheless he dogged my imagination. I tried to give
some form to this very personage, and finally decided that he must be
like the land-judge, Koriuchkin, a little old man with a red nose and
glittering eyes.

In 1812 I was taken to Moscow and placed at a boarding school belonging
to Karl Ivanovitch Meyer. There I stayed only some three months,
because the school broke up in anticipation of the enemy’s coming. I
returned to the country.

* * * * *

This epoch of my life was to me so important that I shall dilate upon
it, apologizing beforehand if I trespass upon the good nature of the
reader.

It was a dull autumn day. On reaching the station whence I must turn
off to Gorohina (that was the name of our village) I engaged horses,
and drove off by the country road. Though naturally calm, so impatient
was I to revisit the scenes where I had passed the best years of my
life, that I kept urging the driver to quicken speed with alternate
promises of vodka and threats of chastisement. How much easier it was
to belabour him than to unloose my purse. I own I struck him twice or
thrice, a thing I had never done in my life before. I don’t know why,
but I had a great liking for drivers as a class.

The driver urged his troika to a quicker pace, but to me it seemed that
public-driver-like he coaxed the horses and waved his whip but at the
same time tightened the reins. At last I caught sight of Gorohina wood,
and in ten minutes more we drove into the courtyard of the manor house.

My heart beat violently. I looked round with unwonted emotion. For
eight years I had not seen Gorohina. The little birches which I had
seen planted near the palings had now grown into tall branching trees.
The courtyard, once adorned with three regular flower beds divided by
broad gravel paths, was now an unmown meadow, the grazing land of a red
cow.

My britchka stopped at the front door. My servant went to open it, but
it was fastened; yet the shutters were open, and the house seemed to be
inhabited. A woman emerging from a servant’s hut asked what I wanted.
Hearing the master had arrived, she ran back into the hut, and soon
I had all the inhabitants of the courtyard around me. I was deeply
touched to see the known and unknown faces, and I greeted each with a
friendly kiss.

The boys my playmates had grown to men. The girls who used to squat
upon the floor and run with such alacrity on errands were married
women. The men wept. To the women I said unceremoniously:

“How you have aged.” And they answered sadly:

“And you, little father, how plain you have grown.”

They led me towards the back entrance; I was met by my old
wet-nurse, by whom I was welcomed back with sobs and tears, like the
much-suffering Ulysses. They hastened to heat the bath. The cook, who
in his long holiday had grown a beard, offered to cook my dinner or
supper, for it was growing dark. The rooms hitherto occupied by my
nurse and my late mother’s maids were at once got ready for me. Thus I
found myself in the humble home of my parents, and fell asleep in that
room where three-and-twenty years before I had been born.

Some three weeks passed in business of various kinds. I was engaged
with land judges, presidents, and every imaginable official of the
province. Finally I got possession of my inheritance. I was contented:
but soon the dulness of inaction began to torment me. I was not
yet acquainted with my kind and venerable neighbour N—- Domestic
occupations were altogether strange to me. The conversation of my
nurse, whom I promoted to the rank of housekeeper, consisted of fifteen
family anecdotes. I found them very interesting, but as she always
related them in the same way she soon became for me another Niebuhr
letter-writer, in which I knew precisely on what page every particular
line occurred. That worthy book I found in the storeroom among a
quantity of rubbish sadly dilapidated. I brought it out into the light
and began to read it; but Kurganoff had lost his charm. I read him
through once more and never after opened him again.

In this extremity it struck me:

“Why not write myself?” The reader has been already told that I was
educated on copper money. Besides, to become an author seemed so
difficult, so unattainable, that the idea of writing quite frightened
me at first. Dare I hope ever to be numbered amongst writers, when my
ardent wish even to meet one had not yet been gratified? This reminds
me of something which I shall tell to show my unbounded enthusiasm for
my native literature.

In 1820, while yet an ensign, I chanced to be on government business at
Petersburg. I stayed a week; and although I had not one acquaintance
in he place, I passed the time very pleasantly. I went daily to the
theatre, modestly to the fourth row in the gallery. I learnt the
names of all the actors and fell passionately in love with B—-. She
had played one Sunday with great artistic feeling as Eulalie in _Hass
und Reue_ (in English _The Stranger._) In the morning, on my way from
headquarters, I would call at a small confectioner’s, drink a cup of
chocolate, and read a literary journal. One day, while thus deep in an
article “by Goodintention, some one in a pea-green greatcoat suddenly
approached and gently withdrew the _Hamburg Gazette_ from under my
newspaper. I was so occupied that I did not look up. The stranger
ordered a steak and sat down facing me. I went on reading without
noticing him.

Meanwhile he finished his luncheon, scolded the waiter for some
carelessness, drank half a bottle of wine, and left. Two young men were
also lunching.

“Do you know who that was?” inquired one of them.

“That was Goodintention … the writer.”

“The writer!” I exclaimed involuntarily, and leaving the article unread
and the cup of chocolate undrunk, I hastily paid my reckoning, and
without waiting for the change rushed into the street. Looking round I
descried in the distance the pea-green coat and dashed along the Nevsky
Prospect almost at a run. When I had gone several steps I felt myself
stopped by some one, and looking back I found I had been noticed by an
officer of the guards. I; ought not to have knocked against him on the
pavement, but rather to have stopped and saluted. After this reprimand
I was more careful. Unluckily I met an officer every moment, and every
moment I had to stop, while the author got farther and farther away.
Never before had my soldier’s overcoat proved so irksome, never had
epaulettes appeared so enviable. At last near the Annitchkin Bridge I
came up with the pea-green greatcoat.

“May I inquire,” I said, saluting, “are you Mr. Goodintention, whose
excellent article I have had the pleasure of reading in the _Zealous
Enlightener?_”

“Not at all,” he replied. “I am not a writer but a lawyer. But I know
Goodintention very well. A quarter of an hour ago I passed him at the
Police Bridge.” In this way my respect for Russian letters cost me
80 kopecks of change, an official reprimand, and a narrow escape of
arrest, and all in vain.

In spite of all the protest of my reason, the audacious thought of
becoming a writer kept recurring. At last, unable longer to resist it,
I made a thick copy book and resolved to fill it somehow. All kinds
of poems (humble prose did not yet enter into my reckoning) were in
turn considered and approved. I decided to write an epic furnished on
Russian history. I was not long in finding a hero. I chose Rurik, and I
set to work.

I had acquired a certain aptitude for rhymes, by copying those in
manuscript which used to circulate among our officers, such as the
criticism on the Moscow Boulevards, the Presnensky Ponds, and the
Dangerous Neighbour. In spite of that my poem progressed slowly,
and at the third verse I dropped it. I concluded that the epic was
not my style, and began _Rurik_, _a Tragedy._ The tragedy halted. I
turned it into a ballad, but the ballad hardly seemed to do. At last
I had a happy thought. I began and succeeded in finishing an ode to a
portrait of Rurik. Despite the inauspicious character of such a title,
particularly for a young bard’s first work, I yet felt that I had not
been born a poet, and after this first attempt desisted. These essays
in authorship gave me so great a taste for writing that I could now no
longer abstain from paper and ink. I could descend to prose. But at
first I wished to avoid the preliminary construction of a plot and the
connection of parts. I resolved to write detached thoughts without any
connection or order, just as they struck me. Unfortunately the thoughts
would not come, and in the course of two whole days the only thought
that struck me was the following:

He who disobeys reason and yields to the inclination of his passions
often goes wrong and ends by repenting when it is too late.

This though no doubt true enough was not original.

Abandoning aphorism I took to tales; but being too unpractised in
arranging incidents I selected such remarkable occurrences as I had
heard of at various times and tried to ornament the truth by a lively
style and the flowers of my own imagination. Composing these tales
little by little, I formed my style and learnt to express myself
correctly, pleasantly, and freely. My stock was soon exhausted, and I
again began to seek a subject.

To abandon these childish anecdotes of doubtful authenticity, and
narrate real and great events instead, was an idea by which I had long
been haunted.

To be the judge, the observer, and the prophet of ages and of peoples
seemed to me a most attainable object of ambition to a writer. What
history could I write–I with my pitiable education? Where was I not
forestalled by highly cultivated and conscientious men? What history
had they left unexhausted. Should I write a universal history? But was
there not already the immortal work of Abbé Millot. A national history
of Russia, what could I say after Tatishtcheff Bolitin and Golikoff?
And was it for me to burrow amongst records and to penetrate the
occult meaning of a dead language–for me who could never master the
Slavonian alphabet? Why not try a history on a smaller scale?–for
instance, the history of our town! But even here how very numerous
and insuperable seemed the obstacles–a journey to the town, a visit
to the governor and the bishop, permission to examine the archives,
the monastery, the cellars, and so on. The history of our town would
have been easier; but it could interest neither the philosopher nor
the artist, and afford but little opening for eloquence. The only
noteworthy record in its annals relates to a terrible fire ten years
ago which burnt the bazaar and the courts of justice. An accident
settled my doubts. A woman hanging linen in a loft found an old
basket full of shavings, dust, and books. The whole household knew my
passion for reading. My housekeeper while I sat over my paper gnawing
my pen and meditating on the experience of country prophets entered
triumphantly dragging a basket into my room, and bringing joyfully
“books! books!”

Books! I repeated in delight as I rushed to the basket. Actually a pile
of them with covers of green and of blue paper. It was a collection of
old almanacks. My ardour was cooled by the discovery, still they were
books, and I generously rewarded her pains with half a silver ruble.

When she had gone I began to examine my almanacks; I soon became
absorbed. They formed a complete series from 1744 to 1799 including
exactly 55 years. The blue sheets of paper usually bound in the
almanacks were covered with old-fashioned handwriting. Skimming these
lines I noticed with surprise that besides remarks on the weather
and accounts they contained scraps of historical information about
the village of Gorohina. Among these valuable documents I began my
researches, and soon found that they presented a full history of my
native place for nearly a century, in chronological order, besides an
exhaustive store of economical, statistical, meteorological, and other
learned information. Thenceforth the study of these documents took up
my time, for I perceived that from them a stately, instructive, and
interesting history could be made. As I became sufficiently acquainted
with these valuable notes, I began to search for new sources of
information about the village of Gorohina, and I soon became astonished
at the wealth of material. After devoting six months to a preliminary
study of them, I at last began the long wished for work; and by God’s
grace completed the same on the 3rd of November, 1827. To-day, like a
fellow-historian, whose name I do not recollect, having finished my
hard task, I lay down my pen and sadly walk into my garden to meditate
upon my performance. It seems even to me that now the history of
Gorohina is finished I am no longer wanted in the world. My task is
ended; and it is time for me to die.

* * * * *

I add a list of the sources whence I drew the history of Gorohina.

I. A collection of ancient almanacks in fifty fifty–five parts. Of
these the first twenty are covered with an old-fashioned writing;
much abbreviated. The manuscript is that of my grandfather; Andrei
Stepanovitch Belkin; and is remarkably clear and concise. For example:
4th of May. Snow.

Trishka for his impertinence beaten. 6th. The red cow died. Senka for
drunkenness beaten. 8th. A fine day. 9th. Rain and snow. Trishka for
drunkenness beaten…. and so on without comment. 11th. The weather
fine, first snow; hunted three hares. The remaining thirty-five parts
were in various hands mostly commercial with or without abbreviations,
usually profuse; disjointed; and incorrectly written. Here and there a
feminine handwriting appeared. In these years occurred my grandfather’s
notes about his wife Bupraxic Aleksevna; others written by her and
others by the steward Grobovitsky.

II. The notes of the Gorohina church clerk. This curious manuscript
was discovered by me at the house of my priest; who has married the
daughter of the writer. The first earlier sheets had been torn out and
used by the priests children for making kites. One of these had fallen
in the middle of my yard. I picked it up? and was about to restore it
to the children when I noticed that it was written on. From the first
lines I saw that the kite was made out of some one’s journal. Luckily I
was in time to save the rest. These journals, which I got for a measure
of oats, are remarkable for depth of thought and dignity of expression.

III. Oral legends. I despised no source of information, but I am
specially indebted for much of this to Agrafena Tryphonovna, the mother
of Avdei the starosta and reputed mistress of the steward Grobovitsky.

IV. Registry reports with remarks by the former _starosta_ on the
morality and condition of the peasants.

“31st October, 1830. Fabulous Times. The Starosta Tryphon.”

The foundation of Gorohina and the history of its original inhabitants
are lost in obscurity. Dark legend tells how that Gorohina was once a
large and wealthy village, that all its inhabitants were rich, that
the obrok (the land proprietor’s tithes) was collected once a year and
carted off in loads no one knew to whom. At that time everything was
bought cheap and sold dear. There were no stewards, and the elders
dealt fairly by all. The inhabitants worked little and lived merrily.
The shepherds as they watched their flocks wore boots. We must not be
deceived by this charming picture. The notion of a golden age is common
to all nations, and only proves that as people are never contented with
the present, and derive from experience small hope for the future,
they adorn the irrevocable past with all the hues of fancy. What is
certain, however, is that the village of Gorohina from ancient times
has belonged to the distinguished race of Belkins. But these ancestors
of mine had many other estates, and paid but little attention to this
remote village. Gorohina paid small tithe and was managed by elders
elected by the people in common council.

At that early period the inheritance of the Belkins was broken up, and
fell in value. The impoverished grandchildren of the rich grandsire,
unable to give up their luxurious habits, required from an estate now
only producing one tenth of its former revenue the full income of
former times. Threats followed threats. The starosta read them out in
common council. The elders declaimed, the commune agitated, and the
masters, instead of the double tithes, received tiresome excuses and
humble complaints written on dirty paper and sealed with a _polushka_
(less than a farthing).

A sombre cloud hung over Gorohina; but no one heeded it. In the last
year of Tryphon’s power, the last of the starostas chosen by the
people, the day of the church festival, when the whole population
either crowded noisily round the house of entertainment (the
public-house) or wandered through the streets embracing one another
or loudly singing the songs of Arhip the Bald, there drove into the
courtyard a covered hired _britchka_ drawn by a couple of half-dead
screws, with a ragged Jew upon the box. From the britchka a head in a
cap looked out and seemed to peer curiously at the merry-making crowd.
The inhabitants greeted the carriage with laughter and rude jokes.
With the flaps of their coats turned up the madmen mocked the Jewish
driver, shouting in doggrell rhyme, “Jew, Jew, eat a pig’s ear.” But
how great was their astonishment (wrote the clerk) when the carriage
stopped in the middle of the village and the occupant jumped out, and
in an authoritative voice called for the starosta Tryphon. This officer
was in the house of pleasure, whence two elders led him forth holding
him under the arms. The stranger looked at him sternly, handed him a
letter, and told him to read it at once. The starostas of Gorohina
were in the habit of never reading anything themselves. The rural
clerk Avdei was sent for. He was found asleep under a hedge and was
brought before the stranger. But either from the sudden fright or from
a sad fore-boding, the words distinctly written in the letter appeared
to him in a mist, and he could not read them. The stranger sent the
starosta Tryphon and the rural clerk Avdei with terrible curses to
bed, postponing the reading of the letter till the morrow and entered
the office hut, whither the Jew carried his small trunk. The people
of Gorohina looked in amazement at this unusual incident, but the
carriage, the stranger, and the Jew were quickly forgotten. They ended
their day with noise and merriment, and Gorohina went to sleep without
presentiments of the future.

At sunrise the inhabitants were awakened with knockings at the windows
and a call to a meeting of the commune. The citizens one after the
other appeared in the courtyard round the office hut, which served as
a council ground. Their eyes were dim and red, their faces swollen;
yawning and scratching their heads, they stared at the man with the
cap, in an old blue caftan, standing pompously on the steps of the
office hut, while they tried to recollect his features, which they
seemed to have seen some time or another.

The starosta and his clerk Avdei stood by his side, bareheaded, with
the same expression of dejection and sorrow.

“Are all here?” inquired the stranger.

“Are all here?” repeated the starosta.

“The whole hundred,” replied the citizens, when, the starosta informed
them that he had received a letter from the master, and, directed the
clerk to read it aloud to the commune. Avdei stepped forward and read
as follows:

N.B. This alarming document, which he kept carefully shut up in the
icon-case, together with other memorandum of his authority over the
people of Gorohina, I copied at the house of Tryphon, our starosta.

“TRYPHON IVANOFF,

“The bearer of this letter, my agent…. is going to my patrimony,
the village of Gorohina, to assume the management of it. Directly he
arrives assemble the peasants and make known to them their master’s
wishes; namely, that they are to obey my agent as they would myself,
and attend to his orders without demur; otherwise he is empowered to
treat them with great severity. I have been forced to take this step
by their shameless disobedience and your, Tryphon Ivanoff, roguish
indulgence.

“(Signed) NIKOLAI _N…._

Then the agent, with his legs extended like an X and his arms akimbo
like a phitab, addressed to them the following pithy speech: “See that
you are not too troublesome, or I will certainly beat the folly out
of your heads quicker than the fumes of yesterday’s drink.” There
were no longer any fumes left in the head of any man of Gorohina. All
were dumbfounded, hung their noses, and dispersed in fear to their own
houses. The agent seized the reins of government, called for the list
of peasants, divided them into rich and poor, and began to carry into
effect his political system, which deserves particular description. It
was founded upon the following maxims: That the richer a peasant, the
more fractious he grows, and the poorer, the quieter.

Consequently, like a good Christian, I cared most for the peace of the
estate.

First, the deficits were distributed among the rich peasants, and were
exacted from them with the greatest severity. Second, the defaulting
or idle hands were forthwith set to plough, and if their labour proved
insufficient according to his standard, he assigned them as workmen
to the other peasants, who paid him for this a voluntary tax. The men
given as bondsmen, on the other hand, possessed the right of redeeming
themselves by paying, besides their deficit, a double annual tithe. All
the communal obligations were thrown upon the rich peasants. But the
recruiting arrangements were the masterpiece of the avaricious ruler,
for by turns all the rich peasants bought themselves off, till at last
the choice fell upon either the blackguard or the ruined one.

Communal assemblies were abolished. The tithes were collected in small
sums and all the year round. The peasants, it seems, did not pay very
much more than before, but they could not earn or save enough to pay.
In three years Gorohina was quite pauperised. Gorohina quieted down;
the bazaar was empty, the songs of Arhip the Bald were unsung, one
half the men were ploughing in the fields, the other half serving
them as bond labourers. The children went begging, and the day of the
church fête became, according to the historian, not a day of joy and
exultation, but an annual mourning and commemoration of sorrow.

FROM A GOROHINA ANNALIST.

The accursed steward put Anton Timofeieff into irons, but the old man
Timofei bought his son’s freedom for one hundred rubles. The steward
then put the irons on Petrusha Gremeieff, who likewise was ransomed
by his father for sixty-eight rubles. The accursed one then wanted to
handcuff Lech Tarassoff, but he escaped into the woods, to the regret
of the steward, who vented his rage in words; but sent to town in place
of Lech Tarassoff Vanka the drunkard, and gave him for a soldier as a
substitute.

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