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Copyright, 1904, by
Charles Scribner's Sons

Copyright, 1903, by
Charles Scribner's Sons











READER, dost thou know those small man-
ors of the gentry in which our great Rus-
sian Ukraina abounded thirty years ago? Now
they are rarely to be met with, and ten years
hence the last of them will, probably, have van-
ished without a trace. A pond with a stream
running through it, all overgrown with willow-
bushes and reeds, the delight of scurrying ducks,
which are now and then joined by a cautious
"teal"; beyond the pond a garden with linden
alleys, that beauty and honour of our Black Earth
prairies, with beds weed-choked of " Spanish "
strawberries, with dense thickets of gooseberry,
currant, and raspberry bushes, amid which, in the
languid hour of motionless midday heat, the gay-
hued kerchief of a house-serf maiden will inevi-
tably be gleaming, and her piercing voice will be
ringing. There, also, is the little storehouse, on
props,^ a small greenhouse, a wretched vegetable-

^ This military rank, between colonel and general, established by
Peter the Great, was abolished by Paul I. — Thansijvtor.

2 Literally, on chickens' legs; like the favourite revolving hut of
the Bilba Yaga, or witch, in the national fairy-tales.— Tkanslatoe.


garden, with a flock of sparrows on the fence, and
a squatting cat near the ruined well; farther on
are gnarled apple-trees over tall grass, green
below and grey above, spindling cherry-trees, and
pear-trees, on which there is never any fruit ; then
flower-beds with flowers— poppies, peonies,
heart's-ease,^ spider-lilies, " maids in green "
(wood-sorrel) , bushes of Tatar honeysuckle, wild
jasmine, lilacs, and acacia, with an incessant hum
of bees and bumblebees in their thick, fragrant,
sticky branches; and the narrow sashes, with a
sloping, never-painted roof, with a small veranda
from which the jug-shaped balusters have tum-
bled down, with a crooked mezzanine,^ with a
voiceless old dog in a hollow under the front
steps. Behind the house is a spacious courtyard,
with nettles, wormwood, and burdock in the cor-
ners, offices with sliding doors, with pigeons and
daws on the perforated straw-thatched roofs,
a small ice-house with a rusty weather-cock, two
or three birch-trees with daws' nests in their
bare upper branches; and yonder, beyond, is the
highway, with little cushions of soft dust along
the wheel-ruts, and the fields, and the long,
wattled fences of the hemp plantations, and the
grey little cots of the village, and the squawks of
the geese from the distant overflowed meadows.
.... Is all this known to thee, reader? In the

1 In Russian, "pretty little eyes." — Translator.

2 A " mezzanine," in Russia, signifies a partial second storey, either
in the middle, at the ends, or both. — Translator.



house itself everything is a little awry, — every-
thing is rather rickety, — but that matters not! It
stands firm, and keeps one warm; the stoves are
like elephants, the furniture is a motley collection
of home manufacture; whitish paths, worn by
trampling feet, run from the doors across the
painted floors ; in the anteroom are bullfinches and
larks in tiny cages; in the corner of the dining-
room is a huge English clock, in the form of a
tower, with the inscription: "Strike — Silent."
In the drawing-room are the portraits of the mas-
ter and mistress, painted in oils, with an expres-
sion of surly fear on their brick-red faces, and
sometimes, also, a warped old picture depicting
either flowers and fruits, or some mythological
subject; everywhere there is an odour of kvas,
apples, varnish, and leather; flies buzz and drone
close to the ceiling and on the windows, an auda-
cious cockroach suddenly waggles his feelers
from behind the frame of the mirror. . . Never
mind ! one can live, and even live far from badly,


It was just such a manor that I chanced to visit,
thirty years ago .... a thing of days long past
— as you see. The tiny estate where the manor
lay belonged to one of my comrades at the uni-
versity. It had recently fallen to him, on the



death of a granduncle, a bachelor, and he him-
self did not live in it. . . . But a short distance
thence extensive steppe marshes began, in which,
during the period of the summer flight, there
were a great many snipe. My comrade and I
were both passionate sportsmen, and therefore
we had agreed to set out— he from Moscow, I
from my own little village — for his little house
about St. Peter's day.^ My friend was delayed
in Moscow and was two days late ; I did not wish
to begin the hunt without him. ... I was received
by an old serving-man, by name Narki'z Semyo-
noff. He had been forewarned of my coming.
This old servant did not, in the least, resemble
" Savelitch " or *' Caleb " ; ^ my comrade was wont
to call him, in jest, " Marquis." There was some-
thing self-confident, even refined, about him ; not
without dignity did he look down upon us young
folks; and for the other landed proprietors he
cherished no special reverence. He expressed
himself in careless terms about his former master,
and simply despised his brethren — for their igno-
rance. He himself could read and write, ex-
pressed himself correctly and intelligently, — and
did not drink liquor. He rarely went to church —
so that he was called an "Old Believer."^ In

1 June 29 (July 12.)— Trakslator.

2 In the "Bride of Lammermoor." "Savelitch" is the typical
faithful servitor, in Russian, to correspond.— Translator.

* Literally, a schismatic; one of the sect which still clings to the
clerical errors in the Scriptures and Church-service books that were
corrected under the Patriarch Nikon, in the reign of Peter the
Great's father. — Translatok.


personal appearance he was gaunt and tall, he
had a long and comely pointed nose, and over-
hanging brows which he was incessantly either
contracting or elevating; he wore a roomy, clean
coat, and boots to his knees, with the tops cut out
in heart-shape.


On the very day of my arrival Narkiz, after he
had served my breakfast and cleared the table,
halted at the door, gazed intently at me, and
twitching his eyebrows, articulated :

" What are you going to do now, sir? "

" Why, really, I don't know. If Nikolai Petro-
vitch had kept his word, and had arrived, — we
would have gone hunting together."

" And did you really, sir, expect that he would
come exactly at the time he had promised? "

" Of course I did."

"H'm."— Narkiz again looked at me, and
shook his head, as though in compassion. " If you
would like to amuse yourself with reading,"— he
went on, — "the old master left some little books
behind him ; I will fetch them, if you wish ; only,
you will not read them, I am bound to suppose."


" They are empty little books; not written for
the gentlemen of the present day."

" Hast thou read them? "

" I have not— I would not tell if I had. Tlie
Dream-book, for instance . , . what sort of a book


is that? Well, there are others . . . only, you
will not read them either."

"Why so?"

" They are religious books."

I maintained silence. . . Narkiz did the same.

" The principal thing that vexes me is," — I be-
gan, — "is to sit at home in this weather."

" Stroll in the garden; or go to the grove. We
have a grove behind the threshing-floor. Would
not you like to go fishing? "

" But have you fish here? "

"We have; in the pond both gudgeons and
perch are to be had. Now, of course, the best time
is past: it is almost July. Well . . . you can try,
nevertheless. . . . Do you command me to pre-
j)are the tackle?"

" Pray do."

" I will send a small boy with you .... to put
on the worms. Or, I might go myself? " — Narkiz
was evidently in doubt as to whether I could get
along by myself.

" Pray come with me."

Narkiz grinned in silence, but to the full extent
of his mouth, then suddenly lowered his brows
and left the room.


Half an hour later, we set out on our fishing ex-
pedition. Narkiz had donned a remarkable sort
of cap with ear-pieces, and had become more ma-


jestic than ever. He strode on ahead, with a
stately, even pace; two fishing-rods rocked with
measured sway on his shoulder ; a dirty little bare-
footed boy carried the water-can and a pot with
worms after him.

" Yonder, near the dam, on a float, a shed has
been built for comfort," — Narkiz began to ex-
plain to me, then glanced ahead, and suddenly ex-
claimed: — "Ehe! why, our paupers are already
there. . . . They've made a habit of it!"

I craned my head from behind him, and be-
held on the float, in the shed of which he had
spoken, two persons sitting with their backs to-
ward us : they were catching fish with the utmost

"Who are they? "I asked.

"Neighbours," — replied Narkiz, with displea-
sure. — " They have nothing to eat at home, so
they do us the favour to come here."

" But have they permission? "

" The former master permitted them . . . per-
haps Nikolai Petrovitch here will give leave. . . .
That long-legged one is a chanter out of a job: a
thoroughly empty man ; well, and the other, that
fatter one, is a brigadier."

" What do you mean by a brigadier? " — I re-
peated in amazement. The clothing on the
" Brigadier " was almost more dilapidated than
the chanter's.

" But I tell you he is a brigadier. And he had



a good property. But now, out of compassion, a
nook is provided for him, and he lives .... on
what the Lord sends. But what are we to do?
They have tr.ken possession of the best place. . . .
We must disturb our dear guests."

" No, Narkiz, please don't disturb them. We '11
sit down yonder, to one side: they will not be in
our way. I want to make acquaintance with the

" As you like, sir. Only, so far as making ac-
quaintance is concerned . . . you must not count
on much satisfaction, sir; he has grown very dull
of understanding, and stupid in conversation ....
like a little baby. 'T is enough to say that he is in
his eighties."

"What is his name?'*

"Vasily Fomitch. His surname is GuskofF."

"And the chanter's?"

"The chanter's, you say? .... His nickname
is ' The Cucumber.' Everybody hereabouts calls
him that ; but Avhat his real name is, the Lord only
knows ! A foolish man ! A regular vagabond."

" Do they live together? "

" No, they don't ; but the devil . . . you know
. . . has bound them with a cord."



We drew near the dam. The Brigadier east a
glance at us ... . and immediately riveted his
eyes on his float. The Cucumber sprang to his
feet, pulled out his rod, removed his threadbare
priestly cap, passed a trembling hand over his
harsh yellow hair, made a flourishing bow, and
broke into a flabby laugh. His bloated face de-
noted the habitual drunkard; his little, screwed-
up eyes blinked abjectly. He nudged his com-
panion in the ribs, as though imparting to him a
hint that they must take themselves off. . . . The
Brigadier fidgeted on the bench.

" Sit still, I beg; don't disturb yourselves," I
hastened to say. — " You are not at all in our way.
We will place ourselves yonder; sit stifl."

The Cucumber wrapped his long, tattered
crash kaftan about him, twitched his shoulders,
his lips, his beard. . . . Our presence, evidently,
embarrassed him .... and he would gladly have
beaten a retreat, but the Brigadier had again be-
come absorbed in the contemplation of his float.
. . . . " The vagabond " coughed a couple of
times, laid his cap on his knees, and tucking his
bare legs up under him, modestly flung his line.

"^Fish biting? " — asked Narkiz pompously, as
he slowly unwound the reel.

" We 've enticed five loach," replied the Cucum-



ber, in a hoarse, cracked voice;— "and he has
caught a good-sized perch."

" Yes, a perch," — the Brigadier repeated after
him, in a squeaking voice.


I BEGAN to watch intently — not him, but his re-
versed reflection in the pond. It presented itself
to me as clearly as though in a mirror, somewhat
darker, somewhat more silvery. The broad pond
breathed coolness upon us; coolness exhaled also
from the damp, steep shore; and it was all the
more agreeable because overhead, in the golden-
dark azure, high аЬол^е the crests of the trees, the
motionless sultry heat hung like a palpable bur-
den. The water did not undulate about the dam ;
in the shadow which fell upon it from the wide-
spreading bushes on the shore the water-flies, as
they described their everlasting circles, gleamed
out like tiny silver buttons ; only now and then did
a barely perceptible ripple emanate from the float,
when a fish " toyed " with the worm. The fishing
was poor; in the course of a whole hour we drew
out two loach and one gudgeon. I could not have
explained why the Brigadier aroused my curios-
ity: his rank could have no eff*ect on me, — ruined
noblemen were not accounted a rarity at that
epoch, — and his personal appearance presented
no remarkable features. Beneath the warm cap



which covered the whole top of his head down to
his eyebrows and his ears, there was visible a red,
smooth-shaven round face, with a small nose, tiny
lips, and small, light-grey eyes. That submis-
sive, almost childish face expressed simplicity,
and intellectual weakness, and a sort of help-
less melancholy of long standing; there was
something incapable, also, about his small, plump
white hands, with their short fingers. ... I was
utterly unable to imagine how that poor old fel-
low could once have been a military man, have
commanded, have filled an executive position —
and that in the stern age of Katherine II, to
boot I I gazed at him: sometimes he puffed out
his cheeks, and panted softly, like a baby; some-
times he screwed up his eyes in an ailing way,
with an effort, as all decrepit people do. Once he
opened his eyes very wide and raised them. . . .
They fixed themselves on me from out of their wa-
tery depths — and their mournful gaze seemed to
be strangely touching and even significant.


I TRIED to enter into conversation with the Brig-
adier. . . . But Narkiz had not misled me; the
poor old man really had grown very feeble of un-
derstanding. He inquired my name, and after
having interrogated me a couple of times, he re-
flected, and finally said: "Yes, I believe we did



have a judge of that name. Cucumber, did we
have a judge of that name — hey?" — "We did,
we did, batiushka,^ Vasily Fomitch, Your High-
born," — answered the Cucumber, who, in gen-
eral, treated him Ике a child. — " There really was
one. But please give me your rod; the worms
must be nibbled off. . . . Nibbled off they are."

"Are you acquainted with the Lomoff fam-
ily?" — the Brigadier suddenly asked me, in a
constrained voice.

" What Lomoff family do you mean?"

"What family?- Well, Feodor Ivanitch,
Evstignyei Ivanitch, Alexyei Ivanitch, the Jew;
well, and Feoduliya Ivanovna, the thief .... and
besides them . . . ."

The Brigadier suddenly fell silent, and hung
his head.

"He was very intimate with them," — whis-
pered Narkiz, bending toward me; — "it was
through them, through that same Alexyei Ivan-
itch, whom be called a Jew, and through one of
Alexyei Ivanitch's sisters, Agrafena Ivanovna,
that he was deprived of his property, one may

" What 's that thou art saying about Agrafena
Ivanovna?" — suddenly exclaimed the Brigadier,
and his head rose, his white eyebrows contracted
in a frown. — " Just mind thine own business!

^ Literally, dear little father: the genuine Russian way
of Eiddressing men of all ranks. — Translator.



And what dost thou mean by calling her Agra-
fena?^ Agrippina Ivanovna — that 's what ....
she must be called."

" Come now, come, come, come now, bati-
ushka," — stammered the Cucumber.

" Dost thou not know that MilonofF wrote
verses about her? " — went on the old man, sud-
denly flying into fury, for which I was utterly
unprepared. " ' 'T is not the wedding tapers
that are kindled ' " — he began, in a singsong tone,
pronouncing all the vowels through his nose, and
the syllables " an " and " en " like those sylla-
bles in French, — and it was strange to hear this
coherent speech from his lips;— "'not torches'
.... No, that 's not right; this is it:

"Not in the frail idol of corruption,
Not in amaranth, not in porphyry,
Do they so much delight ....
One thing alone in them

That refers to us. — Hearest thou?

*'One thing alone in them is blameless.
Pleasant, languid, longed-for:
To cherish mutual fervor in their blood !

And thou call'st her Agrafena!"

Narkiz emitted a half -scornful, half-indiifer-
ent laugh. — " Ekh-ma,— what an idiot! "—he

1 Agrafena (pronounced Agrafdyna) is the colloquial
Russian form of Agrippina. — Thanslator.



muttered to himself. But the Brigadier had al-
ready hung his head again, and the fishing-rod
fell from his hands and slipped into the water.


"As I look at the matter, this affair of ours is
no good," — said the Cucumber; — "the fish, you
see, don't bite at all. It has grown hot, and mel-
ancholy has overtaken our master. — Evidently —
we ought to go home; it will be better so." — He
cautiously drew from his pocket a tin flask with
a small wooden stopper, uncorked it, shook out
some snufF into the hollow of his hand, — and
sniffed it up into both nostrils simultaneously. . .
" Ekh, the dear snuff!" — he moaned, as he re-
covered; — " 't is as though a thrill began to play
through one's teeth! — Come, my dear fellow, Va-
sfly Fomitch, please to get up — 't is time!"

The Brigadier rose from the bench.

"Do you live far from here?" — I asked the

" Why, he lives not far off . . . less than a

" Will you permit me to go with you? " — I said,
addressing the Brigadier. I did not wish to part
from him.

He looked at me, and smiling with that pe-
culiar, pompous, courteous, and someлvhat af-
fected smile, which always reminds me — however



it may strike others — of powder, strass buckles —
of the eighteenth century in general — he said with
old-fashioned faltering, that "he — would — be —
ve-ry hap-py " . . . . and immediately sat down
again. The cavalier of Katherine's day had
flashed forth in him for a moment — and vanished.
Narkiz was astounded at my intention; but I
paid no heed to the disapproving shaking of his
eared cap, and quitted the park in company with
the Brigadier, who was supported by the Cucum-
ber. — The old man moved on quite briskly, as
though on wooden legs.


We walked along a barely-traced path, through
a grassy vale, between two groves of birch-trees.
The sun was blazing hot; orioles called to each
other in the verdant coppice, corn-crakes uttered
their rasping cry alongside the very path, blue but-
terflies flitted in swarms over the white and red
flowers of the low-growing clover ; bees, as though
somnolent, got tangled up and buzzed languidly
among the motionless blades of grass. The Cu-
cumber shook himself, grew animated. He was
afraid of Narkiz — he lived under his eye; I was a
stranger to him, a newcomer — with me he speed-
ily felt at home.—" Here 's our master, now,"— he
said repeatedly,— "he's a small eater, there's no
use talking about it ! but how is he to have his fill



off of one perch? Perhaps you will contribute
something, Your Weil-Born? Just round yon-
der turn in the road, in the little dram-shop, there
are capital fine wheaten rolls. And if you are
gracious, then I, great sinner that I am, will drink
a little glass of liquor, as the opportunity offers,
to your health — Many years, many days."^ — I
gave him a twenty-kopek coin, and barely suc-
ceeded in withdrawing my hand, which he dashed
forward to kiss. He learned that I was a sports-
man, and set to talking about his having a good
friend, an officer, who possessed a min-din-den-
ger-off gun, with a brass barrel stock — " just
like a cannon! thou firest — and it seems as though
f orgetf ulness comes upon thee : the French left it
behind them ! . . . . and his dog was simply a freak
of nature! " — how he himself had always had a
great passion for hunting, and the priest did n't
mind — he used to catch quail in his company —
but the ecclesiastical superintendent tyrannised
over them to the last degree. " And as for Nar-
kiz Semyonitch," — he said in a drawling tone,
— "if I 'm not an important man in this world,
in his opinion, — I 've got this much to say: he has
grown himself eyebrows equal to a woodcock's,
and fancies that thereby he has passed through
all the sciences."— At this point we reached the

^ A partial quotation from the solemn proclamation in church, on
great occasions, of 'Long Life" to the Imperial Family, and to
others, according to the circumstances.— Translator.



dram-shop — an aged, isolated hut, without either
back-yard or store-room; an emaciated dog lay
curled up under the small window; a hen was
scratching in the dust right in front of his nose.
The Cucumber set the Brigadier down on the
earthen bank which surrounded the house, and
instantly whipped into the dram-shop. While
he was buying rolls, and incidentally treating
himself to a drink, I never took my eyes from the
Brigadier, who, God knows why, seemed to be an
enigma. " Something remarkable has certainly
taken place in this man's life," — I said to myself.
But he did not seem to notice me at all ; he sat, all
crouched together, on the earthen bank, and
turned about in his fingers a few clove-pinks
which he had plucked in my friend's garden. The
Cucumber made his appearance, at last, with a
bundle of rolls in his hand ; he presented himself
all red and perspiring, with an expression of joy-
ful surprise on his face, as though he had just
seen something remarkably pleasant and unex-
pected. He immediately suggested that the
Brigadier should eat a roll— and the latter did so.
We continued our journey.


Thanks to the liquor he had drunk, the Cucum-
ber was quite " set up," as the phrase goes. He
undertook to compel the Brigadier, who con-



tinued to hasten onward, staggering as though he
had wooden legs—" Why are you so sad, why do
you hang your head, dear little father? Permit
me to sing you a song. You '11 immediately re-
ceive every sort of satisfaction. . . . Please
don't be surprised,"— he said, addressing me: —
" my master is very greatly disposed to laughter,
and my heavens! Yesterday I look, and behold,
a peasant woman is washing a pair of breeches on
the dam — and she happened to be a fat woman —
and he is standing behind her, and fairly rooted
to the spot with laughter, by heaven, he was ! . . .
Now, please to observe presently : do you know the
song about the hare? You mustn't mind if I am
insignificant to look at ; there lives a gypsy yonder
in our town with a face like a regular snout — but
when it comes to singing — death! you'd just like
to he down and die."— He opened his moist red
lips wide, and began to sing, lolling his head on
one side, closing his eyes, and waggling his beard :

" The hare doth lie beneath a bush ;
The hunters ride in vain ....

The hare Hes on, he scarcely breathes —
While he cocks his ear —
Death he expects !

** How have I vexed ye, huntsmen ?
Or what harm have I done to you ?
Though I go among the cabbages,
I eat but a leaf at a time —
And that not in your gardens!
No, sirs!"



The Cucumber constantly augmented his force.

" The hare bounded into the dark forest —
And showed the hunters his tail.
* Forgive me, ye hunters,
Look at my Httle tail,

I don't belong to you ! ' "

The Cucumber no longer sang. . . . He roared.

" The hunters rode until morn-ing ....

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