A.P. Chekhov -
GLYEB GAVRILOVITCH SMIRNOV, a land surveyor,
arrived at the station of Gnilushki. He had another twenty or
thirty miles to drive before he would reach the estate which he
had been summoned to survey. (If the driver were not drunk and
the horses were not bad, it would hardly be twenty miles, but if
the driver had had a drop and his steeds were worn out it would
mount up to a good forty.)
"Tell me, please, where can I get post-horses here?" the
surveyor asked of the station gendarme.
"What? Post-horses? There's no finding a decent dog for seventy
miles round, let alone post-horses. . . . But where do you want
"To Dyevkino, General Hohotov's estate."
"Well," yawned the gendarme, "go outside the station, there are
sometimes peasants in the yard there, they will take
The surveyor heaved a sigh and made his way out of the station.
There, after prolonged enquiries, conversations, and
hesitations, he found a very sturdy, sullen-looking pock-marked
peasant, wearing a tattered grey smock and bark-shoes.
"You have got a queer sort of cart!" said the surveyor, frowning
as he clambered into the cart. "There is no making out which is
the back and which is the front."
"What is there to make out? Where the horse's tail is, there's
the front, and where your honour's sitting, there's the back."
The little mare was young, but thin, with legs planted wide
apart and frayed ears. When the driver stood up and lashed her
with a whip made of cord, she merely shook her head; when he
swore at her and lashed her once more, the cart squeaked and
shivered as though in a fever. After the third lash the cart
gave a lurch, after the fourth, it moved forward.
"Are we going to drive like this all the way?" asked the
surveyor, violently jolted and marvelling at the capacity of
Russian drivers for combining a slow tortoise-like pace with a
jolting that turns the soul inside out.
"We shall ge-et there!" the peasant reassured him. "The mare is
young and frisky. . . . Only let her get running and then there
is no stopping her. . . . No-ow, cur-sed brute!"
It was dusk by the time the cart drove out of the station. On
the surveyor's right hand stretched a dark frozen plain, endless
and boundless. If you drove over it you would certainly get to
the other side of beyond. On the horizon, where it vanished and
melted into the sky, there was the languid glow of a cold autumn
sunset. . . . On the left of the road, mounds of some sort, that
might be last year's stacks or might be a village, rose up in
the gathering darkness. The surveyor could not see what was in
front as his whole field of vision on that side was covered by
the broad clumsy back of the driver. The air was still, but it
was cold and frosty.
"What a wilderness it is here," thought the surveyor, trying to
cover his ears with the collar of his overcoat. "Neither post
nor paddock. If, by ill-luck, one were attacked and robbed no
one would hear you, whatever uproar you made. . . . And the
driver is not one you could depend on. . . . Ugh, what a huge
back! A child of nature like that has only to move a finger and
it would be all up with one! And his ugly face is suspicious and
"Hey, my good man!" said the surveyor, "What is your name?"
"Well, Klim, what is it like in your parts here? Not dangerous?
Any robbers on the road?"
"It is all right, the Lord has spared us. . . . Who should go
robbing on the road?"
"It's a good thing there are no robbers. But to be ready for
anything I have got three revolvers with me," said the surveyor
untruthfully. "And it doesn't do to trifle with a revolver, you
know. One can manage a dozen robbers. . . ."
It had become quite dark. The cart suddenly began creaking,
squeaking, shaking, and, as though unwillingly, turned sharply
to the left.
"Where is he taking me to?" the surveyor wondered. "He has been
driving straight and now all at once to the left. I shouldn't
wonder if he'll take me, the rascal, to some den of thieves . .
. and. . . . Things like that do happen."
"I say," he said, addressing the driver, "so you tell me it's
not dangerous here? That's a pity. . . I like a fight with
robbers. . . . I am thin and sickly-looking, but I have the
strength of a bull. . . . Once three robbers attacked me and
what do you think? I gave one such a dressing that. . . that he
gave up his soul to God, you understand, and the other two were
sent to penal servitude in Siberia. And where I got the strength
I can't say. . . . One grips a strapping fellow of your sort
with one hand and . . . wipes him out."
Klim looked round at the surveyor, wrinkled up his whole face,
and lashed his horse.
"Yes . . ." the surveyor went on. "God forbid anyone should
tackle me. The robber would have his bones broken, and, what's
more, he would have to answer for it in the police court too. .
. . I know all the judges and the police captains, I am a man in
the Government, a man of importance. Here I am travelling and
the authorities know . . . they keep a regular watch over me to
see no one does me a mischief. There are policemen and village
constables stuck behind bushes all along the road. . . . Sto . .
. sto . . . . stop!" the surveyor bawled suddenly. "Where have
you got to? Where are you taking me to?"
"Why, don't you see? It's a forest!"
"It certainly is a forest," thought the surveyor. "I was
frightened! But it won't do to betray my feelings. . . . He has
noticed already that I am in a funk. Why is it he has taken to
looking round at me so often? He is plotting something for
certain. . . . At first he drove like a snail and now how he is
"I say, Klim, why are you making the horse go like that?"
"I am not making her go. She is racing along of herself. . . .
Once she gets into a run there is no means of stopping her. It's
no pleasure to her that her legs are like that."
"You are lying, my man, I see that you are lying. Only I advise
you not to drive so fast. Hold your horse in a bit. . . . Do you
hear? Hold her in!"
"Why . . . why, because four comrades were to drive after me
from the station. We must let them catch us up. . . . They
promised to overtake us in this forest. It will be more cheerful
in their company. . . . They are a strong, sturdy set of
fellows. . . . And each of them has got a pistol. Why do you
keep looking round and fidgeting as though you were sitting on
thorns? eh? I, my good fellow, er . . . my good fellow . . .
there is no need to look around at me . . . there is nothing
interesting about me. . . . Except perhaps the revolvers. Well,
if you like I will take them out and show you. . . ."
The surveyor made a pretence of feeling in his pockets and at
that moment something happened which he could not have expected
with all his cowardice. Klim suddenly rolled off the cart and
ran as fast as he could go into the forest.
"Help!" he roared. "Help! Take the horse and the cart, you
devil, only don't take my life. Help!"
There was the sound of footsteps hurriedly retreating, of twigs
snapping -- and all was still. . . . The surveyor had not
expected such a dnouement. He first stopped the horse and then
settled himself more comfortably in the cart and fell to
"He has run off . . . he was scared, the fool. Well, what's to
be done now? I can't go on alone because I don't know the way;
besides they may think I have stolen his horse. . . . What's to
"Klim! Klim," he cried.
"Klim," answered the echo.
At the thought that he would have to sit through the whole night
in the cold and dark forest and hear nothing but the wolves, the
echo, and the snorting of the scraggy mare, the surveyor began
to have twinges down his spine as though it were being rasped
with a cold file.
"Klimushka," he shouted. "Dear fellow! Where are you, Klimushka?"
For two hours the surveyor shouted, and it was only after he was
quite husky and had resigned himself to spending the night in
the forest that a faint breeze wafted the sound of a moan to
"Klim, is it you, dear fellow? Let us go on."
"You'll mu-ur-der me!"
"But I was joking, my dear man! I swear to God I was joking! As
though I had revolvers! I told a lie because I was frightened.
For goodness sake let us go on, I am freezing!"
Klim, probably reflecting that a real robber would have vanished
long ago with the horse and cart, came out of the forest and
went hesitatingly up to his passenger.
"Well, what were you frightened of, stupid? I . . . I was joking
and you were frightened. Get in!"
"God be with you, sir," Klim muttered as he clambered into the
cart, "if I had known I wouldn't have taken you for a hundred
roubles. I almost died of fright. . . ."
Klim lashed at the little mare. The cart swayed. Klim lashed
once more and the cart gave a lurch. After the fourth stroke of
the whip when the cart moved forward, the surveyor hid his ears
in his collar and sank into thought.
The road and Klim no longer seemed dangerous to him.
Klimushka: diminutive form of Klim; diminutives are used in
Russian only with family members, inferiors, and intimate