Marvels on a Hurdle
A little while afterwards the stranger came in again, and
brought a strange thing with him like a hurdle, or like the
figure II. On the crosspiece on the top of this roughly made
wooden frame hung a bell, and a pistol was also tied to it;
there were strings from the tongue of the bell, and the trigger
of the pistol. The stranger put the frame in the middle of the
room, spent a long time tying and untying something, then looked
at the gander and said: "Ivan Ivanitch, if you please!"
The gander went up to him and stood in an expectant attitude.
"Now then," said the stranger, "let us begin at the very
beginning. First of all, bow and make a curtsey! Look sharp!"
Ivan Ivanitch craned his neck, nodded in all directions, and
scraped with his foot.
"Right. Bravo. . . . Now die!"
The gander lay on his back and stuck his legs in the air. After
performing a few more similar, unimportant tricks, the stranger
suddenly clutched at his head, and assuming an expression of
horror, shouted: "Help! Fire! We are burning!"
Ivan Ivanitch ran to the frame, took the string in his beak, and
set the bell ringing.
The stranger was very much pleased. He stroked the gander's neck
"Bravo, Ivan Ivanitch! Now pretend that you are a jeweller
selling gold and diamonds. Imagine now that you go to your shop
and find thieves there. What would you do in that case?"
The gander took the other string in his beak and pulled it, and
at once a deafening report was heard. Kashtanka was highly
delighted with the bell ringing, and the shot threw her into so
much ecstasy that she ran round the frame barking.
"Auntie, lie down!" cried the stranger; "be quiet!"
Ivan Ivanitch's task was not ended with the shooting. For a
whole hour afterwards the stranger drove the gander round him on
a cord, cracking a whip, and the gander had to jump over
barriers and through hoops; he had to rear, that is, sit on his
tail and wave his legs in the air. Kashtanka could not take her
eyes off Ivan Ivanitch, wriggled with delight, and several times
fell to running after him with shrill barks. After exhausting
the gander and himself, the stranger wiped the sweat from his
brow and cried:
"Marya, fetch Havronya Ivanovna here!"
A minute later there was the sound of grunting. Kashtanka
growled, assumed a very valiant air, and to be on the safe side,
went nearer to the stranger. The door opened, an old woman
looked in, and, saying something, led in a black and very ugly
sow. Paying no attention to Kashtanka's growls, the sow lifted
up her little hoof and grunted good-humouredly. Apparently it
was very agreeable to her to see her master, the cat, and Ivan
Ivanitch. When she went up to the cat and gave him a light tap
on the stomach with her hoof, and then made some remark to the
gander, a great deal of good-nature was expressed in her
movements, and the quivering of her tail. Kashtanka realised at
once that to growl and bark at such a character was useless.
The master took away the frame and cried. "Fyodor Timofeyitch,
if you please!"
The cat stretched lazily, and reluctantly, as though performing
a duty, went up to the sow.
"Come, let us begin with the Egyptian pyramid," began the
He spent a long time explaining something, then gave the word of
command, "One . . . two . . . three!" At the word "three" Ivan
Ivanitch flapped his wings and jumped on to the sow's back. . .
. When, balancing himself with his wings and his neck, he got a
firm foothold on the bristly back, Fyodor Timofeyitch listlessly
and lazily, with manifest disdain, and with an air of scorning
his art and not caring a pin for it, climbed on to the sow's
back, then reluctantly mounted on to the gander, and stood on
his hind legs. The result was what the stranger called the
Egyptian pyramid. Kashtanka yapped with delight, but at that
moment the old cat yawned and, losing his balance, rolled off
the gander. Ivan Ivanitch lurched and fell off too. The stranger
shouted, waved his hands, and began explaining something again.
After spending an hour over the pyramid their indefatigable
master proceeded to teach Ivan Ivanitch to ride on the cat, then
began to teach the cat to smoke, and so on.
The lesson ended in the stranger's wiping the sweat off his brow
and going away. Fyodor Timofeyitch gave a disdainful sniff, lay
down on his mattress, and closed his eyes; Ivan Ivanitch went to
the trough, and the pig was taken away by the old woman. Thanks
to the number of her new impressions, Kashranka hardly noticed
how the day passed, and in the evening she was installed with
her mattress in the room with the dirty wall-paper, and spent
the night in the society of Fyodor Timofeyitch and the gander.