A. Chekhov -
In the dusk of evening a big house of one storey, with a rusty
iron roof and with dark windows, came into sight. This house was
called a posting-inn, though it had nothing like a stableyard,
and it stood in the middle of the steppe, with no kind of
enclosure round it. A little to one side of it a wretched little
cherry orchard shut in by a hurdle fence made a dark patch, and
under the windows stood sleepy sunflowers drooping their heavy
heads. From the orchard came the clatter of a little toy
windmill, set there to frighten away hares by the rattle.
Nothing more could be seen near the house, and nothing could be
heard but the steppe. The chaise had scarcely stopped at the
porch with an awning over it, when from the house there came the
sound of cheerful voices, one a man's, another a woman's; there
was the creak of a swing-door, and in a flash a tall gaunt
figure, swinging its arms and fluttering its coat, was standing
by the chaise. This was the innkeeper, Moisey Moisevitch, a man
no longer young, with a very pale face and a handsome beard as
black as charcoal. He was wearing a threadbare black coat, which
hung flapping on his narrow shoulders as though on a hatstand,
and fluttered its skirts like wings every time Moisey Moisevitch
flung up his hands in delight or horror. Besides his coat the
innkeeper was wearing full white trousers, not stuck into his
boots, and a velvet waistcoat with brown flowers on it that
looked like gigantic bugs.
Moisey Moisevitch was at first dumb with excess of feeling on
recognizing the travellers, then he clasped his hands and
uttered a moan. His coat swung its skirts, his back bent into a
bow, and his pale face twisted into a smile that suggested that
to see the chaise was not merely a pleasure to him, but actually
a joy so sweet as to be painful.
"Oh dear! oh dear!" he began in a thin sing-song voice,
breathless, fussing about and preventing the travellers from
getting out of the chaise by his antics. "What a happy day for
me! Oh, what am I to do now? Ivan Ivanitch! Father Christopher!
What a pretty little gentleman sitting on the box, God strike me
dead! Oh, my goodness! why am I standing here instead of asking
the visitors indoors? Please walk in, I humbly beg you. . . .
You are kindly welcome! Give me all your things. . . . Oh, my
Moisey Moisevitch, who was rummaging in the chaise and assisting
the travellers to alight, suddenly turned back and shouted in a
voice as frantic and choking as though he were drowning and
calling for help:
"Solomon! Solomon!" a woman's voice repeated indoors.
The swing-door creaked, and in the doorway appeared a rather
short young Jew with a big beak-like nose, with a bald patch
surrounded by rough red curly hair; he was dressed in a short
and very shabby reefer jacket, with rounded lappets and short
sleeves, and in short serge trousers, so that he looked skimpy
and short-tailed like an unfledged bird. This was Solomon, the
brother of Moisey Moisevitch. He went up to the chaise, smiling
rather queerly, and did not speak or greet the travellers.
"Ivan Ivanitch and Father Christopher have come," said Moisey
Moisevitch in a tone as though he were afraid his brother would
not believe him. "Dear, dear! What a surprise! Such honoured
guests to have come us so suddenly! Come, take their things,
Solomon. Walk in, honoured guests."
A little later Kuzmitchov, Father Christopher, and Yegorushka
were sitting in a big gloomy empty room at an old oak table. The
table was almost in solitude, for, except a wide sofa covered
with torn American leather and three chairs, there was no other
furniture in the room. And, indeed, not everybody would have
given the chairs that name. They were a pitiful semblance of
furniture, covered with American leather that had seen its best
days, and with backs bent backwards at an unnaturally acute
angle, so that they looked like children's sledges. It was hard
to imagine what had been the unknown carpenter's object in
bending the chairbacks so mercilessly, and one was tempted to
imagine that it was not the carpenter's fault, but that some
athletic visitor had bent the chairs like this as a feat, then
had tried to bend them back again and had made them worse. The
room looked gloomy, the walls were grey, the ceilings and the
cornices were grimy; on the floor were chinks and yawning holes
that were hard to account for (one might have fancied they were
made by the heel of the same athlete), and it seemed as though
the room would still have been dark if a dozen lamps had hung in
it. There was nothing approaching an ornament on the walls or
the windows. On one wall, however, there hung a list of
regulations of some sort under a two-headed eagle in a grey
wooden frame, and on another wall in the same sort of frame an
engraving with the inscription, "The Indifference of Man." What
it was to which men were indifferent it was impossible to make
out, as the engraving was very dingy with age and was
extensively flyblown. There was a smell of something decayed and
sour in the room.
As he led the visitors into the room, Moisey Moisevitch went on
wriggling, gesticulating, shrugging and uttering joyful
exclamations; he considered these antics necessary in order to
seem polite and agreeable.
"When did our waggons go by?" Kuzmitchov asked.
"One party went by early this morning, and the other, Ivan
Ivanitch, put up here for dinner and went on towards evening."
"Ah!. . . Has Varlamov been by or not?"
"No, Ivan Ivanitch. His clerk, Grigory Yegoritch, went by
yesterday morning and said that he had to be to-day at the
"Good! so we will go after the waggons directly and then on to
"Mercy on us, Ivan Ivanitch!" Moisey Moisevitch cried in horror,
flinging up his hands. "Where are you going for the night? You
will have a nice little supper and stay the night, and to-morrow
morning, please God, you can go on and overtake anyone you
"There is no time for that. . . . Excuse me, Moisey Moisevitch,
another time; but now I must make haste. We'll stay a quarter of
an hour and then go on; we can stay the night at the Molokans'."
"A quarter of an hour!" squealed Moisey Moisevitch. "Have you no
fear of God, Ivan Ivanitch? You will compel me to hide your caps
and lock the door! You must have a cup of tea and a snack of
"We have no time for tea," said Kuzmitchov.
Moisey Moisevitch bent his head on one side, crooked his knees,
and put his open hands before him as though warding off a blow,
while with a smile of agonized sweetness he began imploring:
"Ivan Ivanitch! Father Christopher! Do be so good as to take a
cup of tea with me. Surely I am not such a bad man that you
can't even drink tea in my house? Ivan Ivanitch!"
"Well, we may just as well have a cup of tea," said Father
Christopher, with a sympathetic smile; "that won't keep us
"Very well," Kuzmitchov assented.
Moisey Moisevitch, in a fluster uttered an exclamation of joy,
and shrugging as though he had just stepped out of cold weather
into warm, ran to the door and cried in the same frantic voice
in which he had called Solomon:
"Rosa! Rosa! Bring the samovar!"
A minute later the door opened, and Solomon came into the room
carrying a large tray in his hands. Setting the tray on the
table, he looked away sarcastically with the same queer smile as
before. Now, by the light of the lamp, it was possible to see
his smile distinctly; it was very complex, and expressed a
variety of emotions, but the predominant element in it was
undisguised contempt. He seemed to be thinking of something
ludicrous and silly, to be feeling contempt and dislike, to be
pleased at something and waiting for the favourable moment to
turn something into ridicule and to burst into laughter. His
long nose, his thick lips, and his sly prominent eyes seemed
tense with the desire to laugh. Looking at his face, Kuzmitchov
smiled ironically and asked:
"Solomon, why did you not come to our fair at N. this summer,
and act some Jewish scenes?"
Two years before, as Yegorushka remembered very well, at one of
the booths at the fair at N., Solomon had performed some scenes
of Jewish life, and his acting had been a great success. The
allusion to this made no impression whatever upon Solomon.
Making no answer, he went out and returned a little later with
When he had done what he had to do at the table he moved a
little aside, and, folding his arms over his chest and thrusting
out one leg, fixed his sarcastic eyes on Father Christopher.
There was something defiant, haughty, and contemptuous in his
attitude, and at the same time it was comic and pitiful in the
extreme, because the more impressive his attitude the more
vividly it showed up his short trousers, his bobtail coat, his
caricature of a nose, and his bird-like plucked-looking little
Moisey Moisevitch brought a footstool from the other room and
sat down a little way from the table.
"I wish you a good appetite! Tea and sugar!" he began, trying to
entertain his visitors. "I hope you will enjoy it. Such rare
guests, such rare ones; it is years since I last saw Father
Christopher. And will no one tell me who is this nice little
gentleman?" he asked, looking tenderly at Yegorushka.
"He is the son of my sister, Olga Ivanovna," answered
"And where is he going?"
"To school. We are taking him to a high school."
In his politeness, Moisey Moisevitch put on a look of wonder and
wagged his head expressively.
"Ah, that is a fine thing," he said, shaking his finger at the
samovar. "That's a fine thing. You will come back from the high
school such a gentleman that we shall all take off our hats to
you. You will be wealthy and wise and so grand that your mamma
will be delighted. Oh, that's a fine thing!"
He paused a little, stroked his knees, and began again in a
jocose and deferential tone.
"You must excuse me, Father Christopher, but I am thinking of
writing to the bishop to tell him you are robbing the merchants
of their living. I shall take a sheet of stamped paper and write
that I suppose Father Christopher is short of pence, as he has
taken up with trade and begun selling wool."
"H'm, yes . . . it's a queer notion in my old age," said Father
Christopher, and he laughed. "I have turned from priest to
merchant, brother. I ought to be at home now saying my prayers,
instead of galloping about the country like a Pharaoh in his
chariot. . . . Vanity!"
"But it will mean a lot of pence!"
"Oh, I dare say! More kicks than halfpence, and serve me right.
The wool's not mine, but my son-in-law MikhailХs!"
"Why doesn't he go himself?"
"Why, because . . . His mother's milk is scarcely dry upon his
lips. He can buy wool all right, but when it comes to selling,
he has no sense; he is young yet. He has wasted all his money;
he wanted to grow rich and cut a dash, but he tried here and
there, and no one would give him his price. And so the lad went
on like that for a year, and then he came to me and said,
'Daddy, you sell the wool for me; be kind and do it! I am no
good at the business!' And that is true enough. As soon as there
is anything wrong then it's 'Daddy,' but till then they could
get on without their dad. When he was buying he did not consult
me, but now when he is in difficulties it's Daddy's turn. And
what does his dad know about it? If it were not for Ivan
Ivanitch, his dad could do nothing. I have a lot of worry with
"Yes; one has a lot of worry with one's children, I can tell you
that," sighed Moisey Moisevitch. "I have six of my own. One
needs schooling, another needs doctoring, and a third needs
nursing, and when they grow up they are more trouble still. It
is not only nowadays, it was the same in Holy Scripture. When
Jacob had little children he wept, and when they grew up he wept
still more bitterly."
"H'm, yes . . ." Father Christopher assented pensively, looking
at his glass. "I have no cause myself to rail against the Lord.
I have lived to the end of my days as any man might be thankful
to live. . . . I have married my daughters to good men, my sons
I have set up in life, and now I am free; I have done my work
and can go where I like. I live in peace with my wife. I eat and
drink and sleep and rejoice in my grandchildren, and say my
prayers and want nothing more. I live on the fat of the land,
and don't need to curry favour with anyone. I have never had any
trouble from childhood, and now suppose the Tsar were to ask me,
'What do you need? What would you like?' why, I don't need
anything. I have everything I want and everything to be thankful
for. In the whole town there is no happier man than I am. My
only trouble is I have so many sins, but there -- only God is
without sin. That's right, isn't it?"
"No doubt it is."
"I have no teeth, of course; my poor old back aches; there is
one thing and another, . . . asthma and that sort of thing. . .
. I ache. . . . The flesh is weak, but then think of my age! I
am in the eighties! One can't go on for ever; one mustn't
outstay one's welcome."
Father Christopher suddenly thought of something, spluttered
into his glass and choked with laughter. Moisey Moisevitch
laughed, too, from politeness, and he, too, cleared his throat.
"So funny!" said Father Christopher, and he waved his hand. "My
eldest son Gavrila came to pay me a visit. He is in the medical
line, and is a district doctor in the province of Tchernigov. .
. . 'Very well . . .' I said to him, 'here I have asthma and one
thing and another. . . . You are a doctor; cure your father!' He
undressed me on the spot, tapped me, listened, and all sorts of
tricks, . . . kneaded my stomach, and then he said, 'Dad, you
ought to be treated with compressed air.' " Father Christopher
laughed convulsively, till the tears came into his eyes, and got
"And I said to him, 'God bless your compressed air!' " he
brought out through his laughter, waving both hands. "God bless
your compressed air!"
Moisey Moisevitch got up, too, and with his hands on his
stomach, went off into shrill laughter like the yap of a
"God bless the compressed air!" repeated Father Christopher,
Moisey Moisevitch laughed two notes higher and so violently that
he could hardly stand on his feet.
"Oh dear!" he moaned through his laughter. "Let me get my
breath. . . . You'll be the death of me."
He laughed and talked, though at the same time he was casting
timorous and suspicious looks at Solomon. The latter was
standing in the same attitude and still smiling. To judge from
his eyes and his smile, his contempt and hatred were genuine,
but that was so out of keeping with his plucked-looking figure
that it seemed to Yegorushka as though he were putting on his
defiant attitude and biting sarcastic smile to play the fool for
the entertainment of their honoured guests.
After drinking six glasses of tea in silence, Kuzmitchov cleared
a space before him on the table, took his bag, the one which he
kept under his head when he slept under the chaise, untied the
string and shook it. Rolls of paper notes were scattered out of
the bag on the table.
"While we have the time, Father Christopher, let us reckon up,"
Moisey Moisevitch was embarrassed at the sight of the money. He
got up, and, as a man of delicate feeling unwilling to pry into
other people's secrets, he went out of the room on tiptoe,
swaying his arms. Solomon remained where he was.
"How many are there in the rolls of roubles?" Father Christopher
"The rouble notes are done up in fifties, . . . the three-rouble
notes in nineties, the twenty-five and hundred roubles in
thousands. You count out seven thousand eight hundred for
Varlamov, and I will count out for Gusevitch. And mind you don't
make a mistake. . ."
Yegorushka had never in his life seen so much money as was lying
on the table before him. There must have been a great deal of
money, for the roll of seven thousand eight hundred, which
Father Christopher put aside for Varlamov, seemed very small
compared with the whole heap. At any other time such a mass of
money would have impressed Yegorushka, and would have moved him
to reflect how many cracknels, buns and poppy-cakes could be
bought for that money. Now he looked at it listlessly, only
conscious of the disgusting smell of kerosene and rotten apples
that came from the heap of notes. He was exhausted by the
jolting ride in the chaise, tired out and sleepy. His head was
heavy, his eyes would hardly keep open and his thoughts were
tangled like threads. If it had been possible he would have been
relieved to lay his head on the table, so as not to see the lamp
and the fingers moving over the heaps of notes, and to have let
his tired sleepy thoughts go still more at random. When he tried
to keep awake, the light of the lamp, the cups and the fingers
grew double, the samovar heaved and the smell of rotten apples
seemed even more acrid and disgusting.
"Ah, money, money!" sighed Father Christopher, smiling. "You
bring trouble! Now I expect my Mihailo is asleep and dreaming
that I am going to bring him a heap of money like this."
"Your Mihailo Timofevitch is a man who doesn't understand
business," said Kuzmitchov in an undertone; "he undertakes what
isn't his work, but you understand and can judge. You had better
hand over your wool to me, as I have said already, and I would
give you half a rouble above my own price -- yes, I would,
simply out of regard for you. . . ."
"No, Ivan Ivanitch." Father Christopher sighed. "I thank you for
your kindness. . . . Of course, if it were for me to decide, I
shouldn't think twice about it; but as it is, the wool is not
mine, as you know. . . ."
Moisey Moisevitch came in on tiptoe. Trying from delicacy not to
look at the heaps of money, he stole up to Yegorushka and pulled
at his shirt from behind.
"Come along, little gentleman," he said in an undertone, "come
and see the little bear I can show you! Such a queer, cross
little bear. Oo-oo!"
The sleepy boy got up and listlessly dragged himself after
Moisey Moisevitch to see the bear. He went into a little room,
where, before he saw anything, he felt he could not breathe from
the smell of something sour and decaying, which was much
stronger here than in the big room and probably spread from this
room all over the house. One part of the room was occupied by a
big bed, covered with a greasy quilt and another by a chest of
drawers and heaps of rags of all kinds from a woman's stiff
petticoat to children's little breeches and braces. A tallow
candle stood on the chest of drawers.
Instead of the promised bear, Yegorushka saw a big fat Jewess
with her hair hanging loose, in a red flannel skirt with black
sprigs on it; she turned with difficulty in the narrow space
between the bed and the chest of drawers and uttered drawn-out
moaning as though she had toothache. On seeing Yegorushka, she
made a doleful, woe-begone face, heaved a long drawn-out sigh,
and before he had time to look round, put to his lips a slice of
bread smeared with honey.
"Eat it, dearie, eat it!" she said. "You are here without your
mamma, and no one to look after you. Eat it up."
Yegorushka did eat it, though after the goodies and poppy-cakes
he had every day at home, he did not think very much of the
honey, which was mixed with wax and bees' wings. He ate while
Moisey Moisevitch and the Jewess looked at him and sighed.
"Where are you going, dearie?" asked the Jewess.
"To school," answered Yegorushka.
"And how many brothers and sisters have you got?"
"I am the only one; there are no others."
"O-oh!" sighed the Jewess, and turned her eyes upward. "Poor
mamma, poor mamma! How she will weep and miss you! We are going
to send our Nahum to school in a year. O-oh!"
"Ah, Nahum, Nahum!" sighed Moisey Moisevitch, and the skin of
his pale face twitched nervously. "And he is so delicate."
The greasy quilt quivered, and from beneath it appeared a
child's curly head on a very thin neck; two black eyes gleamed
and stared with curiosity at Yegorushka. Still sighing, Moisey
Moisevitch and the Jewess went to the chest of drawers and began
talking in Yiddish. Moisey Moisevitch spoke in a low bass
undertone, and altogether his talk in Yiddish was like a
continual "ghaal-ghaal-ghaal-ghaal, . . ." while his wife
answered him in a shrill voice like a turkeycock's, and the
whole effect of her talk was something like "Too-too-too-too!"
While they were consulting, another little curly head on a thin
neck peeped out of the greasy quilt, then a third, then a
fourth. . . . If Yegorushka had had a fertile imagination he
might have imagined that the hundred-headed hydra was hiding
under the quilt.
"Ghaal-ghaal-ghaal-ghaal!" said Moisey Moisevitch.
"Too-too-too-too!" answered the Jewess.
The consultation ended in the Jewess's diving with a deep sigh
into the chest of drawers, and, unwrapping some sort of green
rag there, she took out a big rye cake made in the shape of a
"Take it, dearie," she said, giving Yegorushka the cake; "you
have no mamma now -- no one to give you nice things."
Yegorushka stuck the cake in his pocket and staggered to the
door, as he could not go on breathing the foul, sour air in
which the innkeeper and his wife lived. Going back to the big
room, he settled himself more comfortably on the sofa and gave
up trying to check his straying thoughts.
As soon as Kuzmitchov had finished counting out the notes he put
them back into the bag. He did not treat them very respectfully
and stuffed them into the dirty sack without ceremony, as
indifferently as though they had not been money but waste paper.
Father Christopher was talking to Solomon.
"Well, Solomon the Wise!" he said, yawning and making the sign
of the cross over his mouth. "How is business?"
"What sort of business are you talking about?" asked Solomon,
and he looked as fiendish, as though it were a hint of some
crime on his part.
"Oh, things in general. What are you doing?"
"What am I doing?" Solomon repeated, and he shrugged his
shoulders. "The same as everyone else. . . . You see, I am a
menial, I am my brother's servant; my brother's the servant of
the visitors; the visitors are Varlamov's servants; and if I had
ten millions, Varlamov would be my servant."
"Why would he be your servant?"
"Why, because there isn't a gentleman or millionaire who isn't
ready to lick the hand of a scabby Jew for the sake of making a
kopeck. Now, I am a scabby Jew and a beggar. Everybody looks at
me as though I were a dog, but if I had money Varlamov would
play the fool before me just as Moisey does before you."
Father Christopher and Kuzmitchov looked at each other. Neither
of them understood Solomon. Kuzmitchov looked at him sternly and
dryly, and asked:
"How can you compare yourself with Varlamov, you blockhead?"
"I am not such a fool as to put myself on a level with
Varlamov," answered Solomon, looking sarcastically at the
speaker. "Though Varlamov is a Russian, he is at heart a scabby
Jew; money and gain are all he lives for, but I threw my money
in the stove! I don't want money, or land, or sheep, and there
is no need for people to be afraid of me and to take off their
hats when I pass. So I am wiser than your Varlamov and more like
A little later Yegorushka, half asleep, heard Solomon in a
hoarse hollow voice choked with hatred, in hurried stuttering
phrases, talking about the Jews. At first he talked correctly in
Russian, then he fell into the tone of a Jewish recitation, and
began speaking as he had done at the fair with an exaggerated
"Stop! . . ." Father Christopher said to him. "If you don't like
your religion you had better change it, but to laugh at it is a
sin; it is only the lowest of the low who will make fun of his
"You don't understand," Solomon cut him short rudely. "I am
talking of one thing and you are talking of something else. . .
"One can see you are a foolish fellow," sighed Father
Christopher. "I admonish you to the best of my ability, and you
are angry. I speak to you like an old man quietly, and you
answer like a turkeycock: 'Bla---bla---bla!' You really are a
queer fellow. . . ."
Moisey Moisevitch came in. He looked anxiously at Solomon and at
his visitors, and again the skin on his face quivered nervously.
Yegorushka shook his head and looked about him; he caught a
passing glimpse of Solomon's face at the very moment when it was
turned three-quarters towards him and when the shadow of his
long nose divided his left cheek in half; the contemptuous smile
mingled with that shadow; the gleaming sarcastic eyes, the
haughty expression, and the whole plucked-looking little figure,
dancing and doubling itself before Yegorushka's eyes, made him
now not like a buffoon, but like something one sometimes dreams
of, like an evil spirit.
"What a ferocious fellow you've got here, Moisey Moisevitch! God
bless him!" said Father Christopher with a smile. "You ought to
find him a place or a wife or something. . . . There's no
knowing what to make of him. . . ."
Kuzmitchov frowned angrily. Moisey Moisevitch looked uneasily
and inquiringly at his brother and the visitors again.
"Solomon, go away!" he said shortly. "Go away!" and he added
something in Yiddish. Solomon gave an abrupt laugh and went out.
"What was it?" Moisey Moisevitch asked Father Christopher
"He forgets himself," answered Kuzmitchov. "He's rude and thinks
too much of himself."
"I knew it!" Moisey Moisevitch cried in horror, clasping his
hands. "Oh dear, oh dear!" he muttered in a low voice. "Be so
kind as to excuse it, and don't be angry. He is such a queer
fellow, such a queer fellow! Oh dear, oh dear! He is my own
brother, but I have never had anything but trouble from him. You
know he's. . ."
Moisey Moisevitch crooked his finger by his forehead and went
"He is not in his right mind; . . . he's hopeless. And I don't
know what I am to do with him! He cares for nobody, he respects
nobody, and is afraid of nobody. . . . You know he laughs at
everybody, he says silly things, speaks familiarly to anyone.
You wouldn't believe it, Varlamov came here one day and Solomon
said such things to him that he gave us both a taste of his
whip. . . . But why whip me? Was it my fault? God has robbed him
of his wits, so it is God's will, and how am I to blame?"
Ten minutes passed and Moisey Moisevitch was still muttering in
an undertone and sighing:
"He does not sleep at night, and is always thinking and thinking
and thinking, and what he is thinking about God only knows. If
you go to him at night he is angry and laughs. He doesn't like
me either. . . . And there is nothing he wants! When our father
died he left us each six thousand roubles. I bought myself an
inn, married, and now I have children; and he burnt all his
money in the stove. Such a pity, such a pity! Why burn it? If he
didn't want it he could give it to me, but why burn it?"
Suddenly the swing-door creaked and the floor shook under
footsteps. Yegorushka felt a draught of cold air, and it seemed
to him as though some big black bird had passed by him and had
fluttered its wings close in his face. He opened his eyes. . . .
His uncle was standing by the sofa with his sack in his hands
ready for departure; Father Christopher, holding his
broad-brimmed top-hat, was bowing to someone and smiling -- not
his usual soft kindly smile, but a respectful forced smile which
did not suit his face at all -- while Moisey Moisevitch looked
as though his body had been broken into three parts, and he were
balancing and doing his utmost not to drop to pieces. Only
Solomon stood in the corner with his arms folded, as though
nothing had happened, and smiled contemptuously as before.
"Your Excellency must excuse us for not being tidy," moaned
Moisey Moisevitch with the agonizingly sweet smile, taking no
more notice of Kuzmitchov or Father Christopher, but swaying his
whole person so as to avoid dropping to pieces. "We are plain
folks, your Excellency."
Yegorushka rubbed his eyes. In the middle of the room there
really was standing an Excellency, in the form of a young plump
and very beautiful woman in a black dress and a straw hat.
Before Yegorushka had time to examine her features the image of
the solitary graceful poplar he had seen that day on the hill
for some reason came into his mind.
"Has Varlamov been here to-day?" a woman's voice inquired.
"No, your Excellency," said Moisey Moisevitch.
"If you see him to-morrow, ask him to come and see me for a
All at once, quite unexpectedly, Yegorushka saw half an inch
from his eyes velvety black eyebrows, big brown eyes, delicate
feminine cheeks with dimples, from which smiles seemed radiating
all over the face like sunbeams. There was a glorious scent.
"What a pretty boy!" said the lady. "Whose boy is it? Kazimir
Mihalovitch, look what a charming fellow! Good heavens, he is
And the lady kissed Yegorushka warmly on both cheeks, and he
smiled and, thinking he was asleep, shut his eyes. The
swing-door squeaked, and there was the sound of hurried
footsteps, coming in and going out.
"Yegorushka, Yegorushka!" he heard two bass voices whisper. "Get
up; it is time to start."
Somebody, it seemed to be Deniska, set him on his feet and led
him by the arm. On the way he half-opened his eyes and once more
saw the beautiful lady in the black dress who had kissed him.
She was standing in the middle of the room and watched him go
out, smiling at him and nodding her head in a friendly way. As
he got near the door he saw a handsome, stoutly built, dark man
in a bowler hat and in leather gaiters. This must have been the
"Woa!" he heard from the yard.
At the front door Yegorushka saw a splendid new carriage and a
pair of black horses. On the box sat a groom in livery, with a
long whip in his hands. No one but Solomon came to see the
travellers off. His face was tense with a desire to laugh; he
looked as though he were waiting impatiently for the visitors to
be gone, so that he might laugh at them without restraint.
"The Countess Dranitsky," whispered Father Christopher,
clambering into the chaise.
"Yes, Countess Dranitsky," repeated Kuzmitchov, also in a
The impression made by the arrival of the countess was probably
very great, for even Deniska spoke in a whisper, and only
ventured to lash his bays and shout when the chaise had driven a
quarter of a mile away and nothing could be seen of the inn but
a dim light.