In the Ravine
News had come long before that Anisim had
been put in prison for coining and passing bad money. Months
passed, more than half a year passed, the long winter was over,
spring had begun, and everyone in the house and the village had
grown used to the fact that Anisim was in prison. And when
anyone passed by the house or the shop at night he would
remember that Anisim was in prison; and when they rang at the
churchyard for some reason, that, too, reminded them that he was
in prison awaiting trial.
It seemed as though a shadow had fallen upon the house. The
house looked darker, the roof was rustier, the heavy, iron-bound
door into the shop, which was painted green, was covered with
cracks, or, as the deaf man expressed it, "blisters"; and old
Tsybukin seemed to have grown dingy, too. He had given up
cutting his hair and beard, and looked shaggy. He no longer
sprang jauntily into his chaise, nor shouted to beggars: "God
will provide!" His strength was on the wane, and that was
evident in everything. People were less afraid of him now, and
the police officer drew up a formal charge against him in the
shop though he received his regular bribe as before; and three
times the old man was called up to the town to be tried for
illicit dealing in spirits, and the case was continually
adjourned owing to the non-appearance of witnesses, and old
Tsybukin was worn out with worry.
He often went to see his son, hired somebody, handed in a
petition to somebody else, presented a holy banner to some
church. He presented the governor of the prison in which Anisim
was confined with a silver glass stand with a long spoon and the
inscription: "The soul knows its right measure."
"There is no one to look after things for us," said Varvara. "Tut,
tut. . . . You ought to ask someone of the gentlefolks, they
would write to the head officials. . . . At least they might let
him out on bail! Why wear the poor fellow out?"
She, too, was grieved, but had grown stouter and whiter; she
lighted the lamps before the ikons as before, and saw that
everything in the house was clean, and regaled the guests with
jam and apple cheese. The deaf man and Aksinya looked after the
shop. A new project was in progress -- a brickyard in Butyokino
-- and Aksinya went there almost every day in the chaise. She
drove herself, and when she met acquaintances she stretched out
her neck like a snake out of the young rye, and smiled navely
and enigmatically. Lipa spent her time playing with the baby
which had been born to her before Lent. It was a tiny, thin,
pitiful little baby, and it was strange that it should cry and
gaze about and be considered a human being, and even be called
Nikifor. He lay in his swinging cradle, and Lipa would walk away
towards the door and say, bowing to him:
"Good-day, Nikifor Anisimitch!"
And she would rush at him and kiss him. Then she would walk away
to the door, bow again, and say:
'Good-day, Nikifor Anisimitch!
And he kicked up his little red legs, and his crying was mixed
with laughter like the carpenter Elizarov's.
At last the day of the trial was fixed. Tsybukin went away five
days before. Then they heard that the peasants called as
witnesses had been fetched; their old workman who had received a
notice to appear went too.
The trial was on a Thursday. But Sunday had passed, and Tsybukin
was still not back, and there was no news. Towards the evening
on Tuesday Varvara was sitting at the open window, listening for
her husband to come. In the next room Lipa was playing with her
baby. She was tossing him up in her arms and saying
"You will grow up ever so big, ever so big. You will be a
peasant, we shall go out to work together! We shall go out to
"Come, come," said Varvara, offended. "Go out to work, what an
idea, you silly girl! He will be a merchant . . .!"
Lipa sang softly, but a minute later she forgot and again:
"You will grow ever so big, ever so big. You will be a peasant,
we'll go out to work together."
"There she is at it again!"
Lipa, with Nikifor in her arms, stood still in the doorway and
"Why do I love him so much, mamma? Why do I feel so sorry for
him?" she went on in a quivering voice, and her eyes glistened
with tears. "Who is he? What is he like? As light as a little
feather, as a little crumb, but I love him; I love him like a
real person. Here he can do nothing, he can't talk, and yet I
know what he wants with his little eyes."
Varvara was listening; the sound of the evening train coming in
to the station reached her. Had her husband come? She did not
hear and she did not heed what Lipa was saying, she had no idea
how the time passed, but only trembled all over -- not from
dread, but intense curiosity. She saw a cart full of peasants
roll quickly by with a rattle. It was the witnesses coming back
from the station. When the cart passed the shop the old workman
jumped out and walked into the yard. She could hear him being
greeted in the yard and being asked some questions. . . .
"Deprivation of rights and all his property," he said loudly,
"and six years' penal servitude in Siberia."
She could see Aksinya come out of the shop by the back way; she
had just been selling kerosene, and in one hand held a bottle
and in the other a can, and in her mouth she had some silver
"Where is father?" she asked, lisping.
"At the station," answered the labourer. " 'When it gets a
little darker,' he said, 'then I shall come.' "
And when it became known all through the household that Anisim
was sentenced to penal servitude, the cook in the kitchen
suddenly broke into a wail as though at a funeral, imagining
that this was demanded by the proprieties:
"There is no one to care for us now you have gone, Anisim
Grigoritch, our bright falcon. . . ."
The dogs began barking in alarm. Varvara ran to the window, and
rushing about in distress, shouted to the cook with all her
might, straining her voice:
"Sto-op, Stepanida, sto-op! Don't harrow us, for Christ's sake!"
They forgot to set the samovar, they could think of nothing.
Only Lipa could not make out what it was all about and went on
playing with her baby.
When the old father arrived from the station they asked him no
questions. He greeted them and walked through all the rooms in
silence; he had no supper.
"There was no one to see about things . . ." Varvara began when
they were alone. "I said you should have asked some of the
gentry, you would not heed me at the time. . . . A petition
would . . ."
"I saw to things," said her husband with a wave of his hand.
"When Anisim was condemned I went to the gentleman who was
defending him. 'It's no use now,' he said, 'it's too late'; and
Anisim said the same; it's too late. But all the same as I came
out of the court I made an agreement with a lawyer, I paid him
something in advance. I'll wait a week and then I will go again.
It is as God wills."
Again the old man walked through all the rooms, and when he went
back to Varvara he said:
"I must be ill. My head's in a sort of . . . fog. My thoughts
are in a maze."
He closed the door that Lipa might not hear, and went on softly:
"I am unhappy about my money. Do you remember on Low Sunday
before his wedding Anisim's bringing me some new roubles and
half-roubles? One parcel I put away at the time, but the others
I mixed with my own money. When my uncle Dmitri Filatitch -- the
kingdom of heaven be his -- was alive, he used constantly to go
journeys to Moscow and to the Crimea to buy goods. He had a
wife, and this same wife, when he was away buying goods, used to
take up with other men. She had half a dozen children. And when
uncle was in his cups he would laugh and say: 'I never can make
out,' he used to say, 'which are my children and which are other
people's.' An easy-going disposition, to be sure; and so I now
can't distinguish which are genuine roubles and which are false
ones. And it seems to me that they are all false."
"Nonsense, God bless you."
"I take a ticket at the station, I give the man three roubles,
and I keep fancying they are false. And I am frightened. I must
"There's no denying it, we are all in God's hands. . . . Oh
dear, dear . . ." said Varvara, and she shook her head. "You
ought to think about this, Grigory Petrovitch: you never know,
anything may happen, you are not a young man. See they don't
wrong your grandchild when you are dead and gone. Oy, I am
afraid they will be unfair to Nikifor! He has as good as no
father, his mother's young and foolish . . . you ought to secure
something for him, poor little boy, at least the land, Butyokino,
Grigory Petrovitch, really! Think it over!" Varvara went on
persuading him. "The pretty boy, one is sorry for him! You go
to-morrow and make out a deed; why put it off?"
"I'd forgotten about my grandson," said Tsybukin. "I must go and
have a look at him. So you say the boy is all right? Well, let
him grow up, please God."
He opened the door and, crooking his finger, beckoned to Lipa.
She went up to him with the baby in her arms.
"If there is anything you want, Lipinka, you ask for it," he
said. "And eat anything you like, we don't grudge it, so long as
it does you good. . . ." He made the sign of the cross over the
baby. "And take care of my grandchild. My son is gone, but my
grandson is left."
Tears rolled down his cheeks; he gave a sob and went away. Soon
afterwards he went to bed and slept soundly after seven