Peasant Wives by Anton Chekhov
IN the village of Reybuzh, just facing the church, stands a two-storeyed
house with a stone foundation and an iron roof. In the lower storey the
owner himself, Filip Ivanov Kashin, nicknamed Dyudya, lives with his
family, and on the upper floor, where it is apt to be very hot in summer
and very cold in winter, they put up government officials, merchants, or
landowners, who chance to be travelling that way. Dyudya rents some bits
of land, keeps a tavern on the highroad, does a trade in tar, honey,
cattle, and jackdaws, and has already something like eight thousand
roubles put by in the bank in the town.
His elder son, Fyodor, is head engineer in the factory, and, as the
peasants say of him, he has risen so high in the world that he is quite
out of reach now. Fyodor's wife, Sofya, a plain, ailing woman, lives at
home at her father-in-law's. She is for ever crying, and every Sunday she
goes over to the hospital for medicine. Dyudya's second son, the hunchback
Alyoshka, is living at home at his father's. He has only lately been
married to Varvara, whom they singled out for him from a poor family. She
is a handsome young woman, smart and buxom. When officials or merchants
put up at the house, they always insist on having Varvara to bring in the
samovar and make their beds.
One June evening when the sun was setting and the air was full of the
smell of hay, of steaming dung-heaps and new milk, a plain-looking cart
drove into Dyudya's yard with three people in it: a man of about thirty in
a canvas suit, beside him a little boy of seven or eight in a long black
coat with big bone buttons, and on the driver's seat a young fellow in a
The young fellow took out the horses and led them out into the street to
walk them up and down a bit, while the traveller washed, said a prayer,
turning towards the church, then spread a rug near the cart and sat down
with the boy to supper. He ate without haste, sedately, and Dyudya, who
had seen a good many travellers in his time, knew him from his manners for
a businesslike man, serious and aware of his own value.
Dyudya was sitting on the step in his waistcoat without a cap on, waiting
for the visitor to speak first. He was used to hearing all kinds of
stories from the travellers in the evening, and he liked listening to them
before going to bed. His old wife, Afanasyevna, and his daughter-in-law
Sofya, were milking in the cowshed. The other daughter-in-law, Varvara,
was sitting at the open window of the upper storey, eating sunflower
"The little chap will be your son, I'm thinking?" Dyudya asked the
"No; adopted. An orphan. I took him for my soul's salvation."
They got into conversation. The stranger seemed to be a man fond of
talking and ready of speech, and Dyudya learned from him that he was from
the town, was of the tradesman class, and had a house of his own, that his
name was Matvey Savitch, that he was on his way now to look at some
gardens that he was renting from some German colonists, and that the boy's
name was Kuzka. The evening was hot and close, no one felt inclined for
sleep. When it was getting dark and pale stars began to twinkle here and
there in the sky, Matvey Savitch began to tell how he had come by Kuzka.
Afanasyevna and Sofya stood a little way off, listening. Kuzka had gone to
"It's a complicated story, old man," began Matvey Savitch, "and if I were
to tell you all just as it happened, it would take all night and more. Ten
years ago in a little house in our street, next door to me, where now
there's a tallow and oil factory, there was living an old widow, Marfa
Semyonovna Kapluntsev, and she had two sons: one was a guard on the
railway, but the other, Vasya, who was just my own age, lived at home with
his mother. Old Kapluntsev had kept five pair of horses and sent carriers
all over the town; his widow had not given up the business, but managed
the carriers as well as her husband had done, so that some days they would
bring in as much as five roubles from their rounds.
"The young fellow, too, made a trifle on his own account. He used to breed
fancy pigeons and sell them to fanciers; at times he would stand for hours
on the roof, waving a broom in the air and whistling; his pigeons were
right up in the clouds, but it wasn't enough for him, and he'd want them
to go higher yet. Siskins and starlings, too, he used to catch, and he
made cages for sale. All trifles, but, mind you, he'd pick up some ten
roubles a month over such trifles. Well, as time went on, the old lady
lost the use of her legs and took to her bed. In consequence of which
event the house was left without a woman to look after it, and that's for
all the world like a man without an eye. The old lady bestirred herself
and made up her mind to marry Vasya. They called in a matchmaker at once,
the women got to talking of one thing and another, and Vasya went off to
have a look at the girls. He picked out Mashenka, a widow's daughter. They
made up their minds without loss of time and in a week it was all settled.
The girl was a little slip of a thing, seventeen, but fair-skinned and
pretty-looking, and like a lady in all her ways; and a decent dowry with
her, five hundred roubles, a cow, a bed.... Well, the old lady—it
seemed as though she had known it was coming—three days after the
wedding, departed to the Heavenly Jerusalem where is neither sickness nor
sighing. The young people gave her a good funeral and began their life
together. For just six months they got on splendidly, and then all of a
sudden another misfortune. It never rains but it pours: Vasya was summoned
to the recruiting office to draw lots for the service. He was taken, poor
chap, for a soldier, and not even granted exemption. They shaved his head
and packed him off to Poland. It was God's will; there was nothing to be
done. When he said good-bye to his wife in the yard, he bore it all right;
but as he glanced up at the hay-loft and his pigeons for the last time, he
burst out crying. It was pitiful to see him.
"At first Mashenka got her mother to stay with her, that she mightn't be
dull all alone; she stayed till the baby—this very Kuzka here—was
born, and then she went off to Oboyan to another married daughter's and
left Mashenka alone with the baby. There were five peasants—the
carriers—a drunken saucy lot; horses, too, and dray-carts to see to,
and then the fence would be broken or the soot afire in the chimney—jobs
beyond a woman, and through our being neighbours, she got into the way of
turning to me for every little thing.... Well, I'd go over, set things to
rights, and give advice.... Naturally, not without going indoors, drinking
a cup of tea and having a little chat with her. I was a young fellow,
intellectual, and fond of talking on all sorts of subjects; she, too, was
well-bred and educated. She was always neatly dressed, and in summer she
walked out with a sunshade. Sometimes I would begin upon religion or
politics with her, and she was flattered and would entertain me with tea
and jam.... In a word, not to make a long story of it, I must tell you,
old man, a year had not passed before the Evil One, the enemy of all
mankind, confounded me. I began to notice that any day I didn't go to see
her, I seemed out of sorts and dull. And I'd be continually making up
something that I must see her about: 'It's high time,' I'd say to myself,
'to put the double windows in for the winter,' and the whole day I'd idle
away over at her place putting in the windows and take good care to leave
a couple of them over for the next day too.
"'I ought to count over Vasya's pigeons, to see none of them have
strayed,' and so on. I used always to be talking to her across the fence,
and in the end I made a little gate in the fence so as not to have to go
so far round. From womankind comes much evil into the world and every kind
of abomination. Not we sinners only; even the saints themselves have been
led astray by them. Mashenka did not try to keep me at a distance. Instead
of thinking of her husband and being on her guard, she fell in love with
me. I began to notice that she was dull without me, and was always walking
to and fro by the fence looking into my yard through the cracks.
"My brains were going round in my head in a sort of frenzy. On Thursday in
Holy Week I was going early in the morning—it was scarcely light—to
market. I passed close by her gate, and the Evil One was by me—at my
elbow. I looked—she had a gate with open trellis work at the top—and
there she was, up already, standing in the middle of the yard, feeding the
ducks. I could not restrain myself, and I called her name. She came up and
looked at me through the trellis.... Her little face was white, her eyes
soft and sleepy-looking.... I liked her looks immensely, and I began
paying her compliments, as though we were not at the gate, but just as one
does on namedays, while she blushed, and laughed, and kept looking
straight into my eyes without winking.... I lost all sense and began to
declare my love to her.... She opened the gate, and from that morning we
began to live as man and wife...."
The hunchback Alyoshka came into the yard from the street and ran out of
breath into the house, not looking at any one. A minute later he ran out
of the house with a concertina. Jingling some coppers in his pocket, and
cracking sunflower seeds as he ran, he went out at the gate.
"And who's that, pray?" asked Matvey Savitch.
"My son Alexey," answered Dyudya. "He's off on a spree, the rascal. God
has afflicted him with a hump, so we are not very hard on him."
"And he's always drinking with the other fellows, always drinking," sighed
Afanasyevna. "Before Carnival we married him, thinking he'd be steadier,
but there! he's worse than ever."
"It's been no use. Simply keeping another man's daughter for nothing,"
Somewhere behind the church they began to sing a glorious, mournful song.
The words they could not catch and only the voices could be heard—two
tenors and a bass. All were listening; there was complete stillness in the
yard.... Two voices suddenly broke off with a loud roar of laughter, but
the third, a tenor, still sang on, and took so high a note that every one
instinctively looked upwards, as though the voice had soared to heaven
Varvara came out of the house, and screening her eyes with her hand, as
though from the sun, she looked towards the church.
"It's the priest's sons with the schoolmaster," she said.
Again all the three voices began to sing together. Matvey Savitch sighed
and went on:
"Well, that's how it was, old man. Two years later we got a letter from
Vasya from Warsaw. He wrote that he was being sent home sick. He was ill.
By that time I had put all that foolishness out of my head, and I had a
fine match picked out all ready for me, only I didn't know how to break it
off with my sweetheart. Every day I'd make up my mind to have it out with
Mashenka, but I didn't know how to approach her so as not to have a
woman's screeching about my ears. The letter freed my hands. I read it
through with Mashenka; she turned white as a sheet, while I said to her:
'Thank God; now,' says I, 'you'll be a married woman again.' But says she:
'I'm not going to live with him.' 'Why, isn't he your husband?' said I.
'Is it an easy thing?... I never loved him and I married him not of my own
free will. My mother made me.' 'Don't try to get out of it, silly,' said
I, 'but tell me this: were you married to him in church or not?' 'I was
married,' she said, 'but it's you that I love, and I will stay with you to
the day of my death. Folks may jeer. I don't care....' 'You're a Christian
woman,' said I, 'and have read the Scriptures; what is written there?'
"Once married, with her husband she must live," said Dyudya.
"'Man and wife are one flesh. We have sinned,' I said, 'you and I, and it
is enough; we must repent and fear God. We must confess it all to Vasya,'
said I; 'he's a quiet fellow and soft—he won't kill you. And
indeed,' said I, 'better to suffer torments in this world at the hands of
your lawful master than to gnash your teeth at the dread Seat of
Judgment.' The wench wouldn't listen; she stuck to her silly, 'It's you I
love!' and nothing more could I get out of her.
"Vasya came back on the Saturday before Trinity, early in the morning.
From my fence I could see everything; he ran into the house, and came back
a minute later with Kuzka in his arms, and he was laughing and crying all
at once; he was kissing Kuzka and looking up at the hay-loft, and hadn't
the heart to put the child down, and yet he was longing to go to his
pigeons. He was always a soft sort of chap—sentimental. That day
passed off very well, all quiet and proper. They had begun ringing the
church bells for the evening service, when the thought struck me:
'To-morrow's Trinity Sunday; how is it they are not decking the gates and
the fence with green? Something's wrong,' I thought. I went over to them.
I peeped in, and there he was, sitting on the floor in the middle of the
room, his eyes staring like a drunken man's, the tears streaming down his
cheeks and his hands shaking; he was pulling cracknels, necklaces,
gingerbread nuts, and all sorts of little presents out of his bundle and
flinging them on the floor. Kuzka—he was three years old—was
crawling on the floor, munching the gingerbreads, while Mashenka stood by
the stove, white and shivering all over, muttering: 'I'm not your wife; I
can't live with you,' and all sorts of foolishness. I bowed down at
Vasya's feet, and said: 'We have sinned against you, Vassily Maximitch;
forgive us, for Christ's sake!' Then I got up and spoke to Mashenka: 'You,
Marya Semyonovna, ought now to wash Vassily Maximitch's feet and drink the
water. Do you be an obedient wife to him, and pray to God for me, that He
in His mercy may forgive my transgression.' It came to me like an
inspiration from an angel of Heaven; I gave her solemn counsel and spoke
with such feeling that my own tears flowed too. And so two days later
Vasya comes to me: 'Matyusha,' says he, 'I forgive you and my wife; God
have mercy on you! She was a soldier's wife, a young thing all alone; it
was hard for her to be on her guard. She's not the first, nor will she be
the last. Only,' he says, 'I beg you to behave as though there had never
been anything between you, and to make no sign, while I,' says he, 'will
do my best to please her in every way, so that she may come to love me
again.' He gave me his hand on it, drank a cup of tea, and went away more
"'Well,' thought I, 'thank God!' and I did feel glad that everything had
gone off so well. But no sooner had Vasya gone out of the yard, when in
came Mashenka. Ah! What I had to suffer! She hung on my neck, weeping and
praying: 'For God's sake, don't cast me off; I can't live without you!'"
"The vile hussy!" sighed Dyudya.
"I swore at her, stamped my foot, and dragging her into the passage, I
fastened the door with the hook. 'Go to your husband,' I cried. 'Don't
shame me before folks. Fear God!' And every day there was a scene of that
"One morning I was standing in my yard near the stable cleaning a bridle.
All at once I saw her running through the little gate into my yard, with
bare feet, in her petticoat, and straight towards me; she clutched at the
bridle, getting all smeared with the pitch, and shaking and weeping, she
cried: 'I can't stand him; I loathe him; I can't bear it! If you don't
love me, better kill me!' I was angry, and I struck her twice with the
bridle, but at that instant Vasya ran in at the gate, and in a despairing
voice he shouted: 'Don't beat her! Don't beat her!' But he ran up himself,
and waving his arms, as though he were mad, he let fly with his fists at
her with all his might, then flung her on the ground and kicked her. I
tried to defend her, but he snatched up the reins and thrashed her with
them, and all the while, like a colt's whinny, he went: 'He—he—he!'"
"I'd take the reins and let you feel them," muttered Varvara, moving away;
"murdering our sister, the damned brutes!..."
"Hold your tongue, you jade!" Dyudya shouted at her.
"'He—he—he!'" Matvey Savitch went on. "A carrier ran out of
his yard; I called to my workman, and the three of us got Mashenka away
from him and carried her home in our arms. The disgrace of it! The same
day I went over in the evening to see how things were. She was lying in
bed, all wrapped up in bandages, nothing but her eyes and nose to be seen;
she was looking at the ceiling. I said: 'Good-evening, Marya Semyonovna!'
She did not speak. And Vasya was sitting in the next room, his head in his
hands, crying and saying: 'Brute that I am! I've ruined my life! O God,
let me die!' I sat for half an hour by Mashenka and gave her a good
talking-to. I tried to frighten her a bit. 'The righteous,' said I, 'after
this life go to Paradise, but you will go to a Gehenna of fire, like all
adulteresses. Don't strive against your husband, go and lay yourself at
his feet.' But never a word from her; she didn't so much as blink an
eyelid, for all the world as though I were talking to a post. The next day
Vasya fell ill with something like cholera, and in the evening I heard
that he was dead. Well, so they buried him, and Mashenka did not go to the
funeral; she didn't care to show her shameless face and her bruises. And
soon there began to be talk all over the district that Vasya had not died
a natural death, that Mashenka had made away with him. It got to the ears
of the police; they had Vasya dug up and cut open, and in his stomach they
found arsenic. It was clear he had been poisoned; the police came and took
Mashenka away, and with her the innocent Kuzka. They were put in
prison.... The woman had gone too far—God punished her.... Eight
months later they tried her. She sat, I remember, on a low stool, with a
little white kerchief on her head, wearing a grey gown, and she was so
thin, so pale, so sharp-eyed it made one sad to look at her. Behind her
stood a soldier with a gun. She would not confess her guilt. Some in the
court said she had poisoned her husband and others declared he had
poisoned himself for grief. I was one of the witnesses. When they
questioned me, I told the whole truth according to my oath. 'Hers,' said
I, 'is the guilt. It's no good to conceal it; she did not love her
husband, and she had a will of her own....' The trial began in the morning
and towards night they passed this sentence: to send her to hard labour in
Siberia for thirteen years. After that sentence Mashenka remained three
months longer in prison. I went to see her, and from Christian charity I
took her a little tea and sugar. But as soon as she set eyes on me she
began to shake all over, wringing her hands and muttering: 'Go away! go
away!' And Kuzka she clasped to her as though she were afraid I would take
him away. 'See,' said I, 'what you have come to! Ah, Masha, Masha! you
would not listen to me when I gave you good advice, and now you must
repent it. You are yourself to blame,' said I; 'blame yourself!' I was
giving her good counsel, but she: 'Go away, go away!' huddling herself and
Kuzka against the wall, and trembling all over.
"When they were taking her away to the chief town of our province, I
walked by the escort as far as the station and slipped a rouble into her
bundle for my soul's salvation. But she did not get as far as Siberia....
She fell sick of fever and died in prison."
"Live like a dog and you must die a dog's death," said Dyudya.
"Kuzka was sent back home.... I thought it over and took him to bring up.
After all—though a convict's child—still he was a living soul,
a Christian.... I was sorry for him. I shall make him my clerk, and if I
have no children of my own, I'll make a merchant of him. Wherever I go
now, I take him with me; let him learn his work."
All the while Matvey Savitch had been telling his story, Kuzka had sat on
a little stone near the gate. His head propped in both hands, he gazed at
the sky, and in the distance he looked in the dark like a stump of wood.
"Kuzka, come to bed," Matvey Savitch bawled to him.
"Yes, it's time," said Dyudya, getting up; he yawned loudly and added:
"Folks will go their own way, and that's what comes of it."
Over the yard the moon was floating now in the heavens; she was moving one
way, while the clouds beneath moved the other way; the clouds were
disappearing into the darkness, but still the moon could be seen high
above the yard.
Matvey Savitch said a prayer, facing the church, and saying good-night, he
lay down on the ground near his cart. Kuzka, too, said a prayer, lay down
in the cart, and covered himself with his little overcoat; he made himself
a little hole in the hay so as to be more comfortable, and curled up so
that his elbows looked like knees. From the yard Dyudya could be seen
lighting a candle in his room below, putting on his spectacles and
standing in the corner with a book. He was a long while reading and
The travellers fell asleep. Afanasyevna and Sofya came up to the cart and
began looking at Kuzka.
"The little orphan's asleep," said the old woman. "He's thin and frail,
nothing but bones. No mother and no one to care for him properly."
"My Grishutka must be two years older," said Sofya. "Up at the factory he
lives like a slave without his mother. The foreman beats him, I dare say.
When I looked at this poor mite just now, I thought of my own Grishutka,
and my heart went cold within me."
A minute passed in silence.
"Doesn't remember his mother, I suppose," said the old woman.
"How could he remember?"
And big tears began dropping from Sofya's eyes.
"He's curled himself up like a cat," she said, sobbing and laughing with
tenderness and sorrow.... "Poor motherless mite!"
Kuzka started and opened his eyes. He saw before him an ugly, wrinkled,
tear-stained face, and beside it another, aged and toothless, with a sharp
chin and hooked nose, and high above them the infinite sky with the flying
clouds and the moon. He cried out in fright, and Sofya, too, uttered a
cry; both were answered by the echo, and a faint stir passed over the
stifling air; a watchman tapped somewhere near, a dog barked. Matvey
Savitch muttered something in his sleep and turned over on the other side.
Late at night when Dyudya and the old woman and the neighbouring watchman
were all asleep, Sofya went out to the gate and sat down on the bench. She
felt stifled and her head ached from weeping. The street was a wide and
long one; it stretched for nearly two miles to the right and as far to the
left, and the end of it was out of sight. The moon was now not over the
yard, but behind the church. One side of the street was flooded with
moonlight, while the other side lay in black shadow. The long shadows of
the poplars and the starling-cotes stretched right across the street,
while the church cast a broad shadow, black and terrible that enfolded
Dyudya's gates and half his house. The street was still and deserted. From
time to time the strains of mu sic floated faintly from the end of the
street—Alyoshka, most likely, playing his concertina.
Someone moved in the shadow near the church enclosure, and Sofya could not
make out whether it were a man or a cow, or perhaps merely a big bird
rustling in the trees. But then a figure stepped out of the shadow,
halted, and said something in a man's voice, then vanished down the
turning by the church. A little later, not three yards from the gate,
another figure came into sight; it walked straight from the church to the
gate and stopped short, seeing Sofya on the bench.
"Varvara, is that you?" said Sofya.
"And if it were?"
It was Varvara. She stood still a minute, then came up to the bench and
"Where have you been?" asked Sofya.
Varvara made no answer.
"You'd better mind you don't get into trouble with such goings-on, my
girl," said Sofya. "Did you hear how Mashenka was kicked and lashed with
the reins? You'd better look out, or they'll treat you the same."
"Well, let them!"
Varvara laughed into her kerchief and whispered:
"I have just been with the priest's son."
"It's a sin!" whispered Sofya.
"Well, let it be.... What do I care? If it's a sin, then it is a sin, but
better be struck dead by thunder than live like this. I'm young and
strong, and I've a filthy crooked hunchback for a husband, worse than
Dyudya himself, curse him! When I was a girl, I hadn't bread to eat, or a
shoe to my foot, and to get away from that wretchedness I was tempted by
Alyoshka's money, and got caught like a fish in a net, and I'd rather have
a viper for my bedfellow than that scurvy Alyoshka. And what's your life?
It makes me sick to look at it. Your Fyodor sent you packing from the
factory and he's taken up with another woman. They have robbed you of your
boy and made a slave of him. You work like a horse, and never hear a kind
word. I'd rather pine all my days an old maid, I'd rather get half a
rouble from the priest's son, I'd rather beg my bread, or throw myself
into the well...
"It's a sin!" whispered Sofya again.
"Well, let it be."
Somewhere behind the church the same three voices, two tenors and a bass,
began singing again a mournful song. And again the words could not be
"They are not early to bed," Varvara said, laughing.
And she began telling in a whisper of her midnight walks with the priest's
son, and of the stories he had told her, and of his comrades, and of the
fun she had with the travellers who stayed in the house. The mournful song
stirred a longing for life and freedom. Sofya began to laugh; she thought
it sinful and terrible and sweet to hear about, and she felt envious and
sorry that she, too, had not been a sinner when she was young and pretty.
In the churchyard they heard twelve strokes beaten on the watchman's
"It's time we were asleep," said Sofya, getting up, "or, maybe, we shall
catch it from Dyudya."
They both went softly into the yard.
"I went away without hearing what he was telling about Mashenka," said
Varvara, making herself a bed under the window.
"She died in prison, he said. She poisoned her husband."
Varvara lay down beside Sofya a while, and said softly:
"I'd make away with my Alyoshka and never regret it."
"You talk nonsense; God forgive you."
When Sofya was just dropping asleep, Varvara, coming close, whispered in
"Let us get rid of Dyudya and Alyoshka!"
Sofya started and said nothing. Then she opened her eyes and gazed a long
while steadily at the sky.
"People would find out," she said.
"No, they wouldn't. Dyudya's an old man, it's time he did die; and they'd
say Alyoshka died of drink."
"I'm afraid... God would chastise us."
"Well, let Him...."
Both lay awake thinking in silence.
"It's cold," said Sofya, beginning to shiver all over. "It will soon be
morning.... Are you asleep?"
"No.... Don't you mind what I say, dear," whispered Varvara; "I get so mad
with the damned brutes, I don't know what I do say. Go to sleep, or it
will be daylight directly.... Go to sleep."
Both were quiet and soon they fell asleep.
Earlier than all woke the old woman. She waked up Sofya and they went
together into the cowshed to milk the cows. The hunchback Alyoshka came in
hopelessly drunk without his concertina; his breast and knees had been in
the dust and straw—he must have fallen down in the road. Staggering,
he went into the cowshed, and without undressing he rolled into a sledge
and began to snore at once. When first the crosses on the church and then
the windows were flashing in the light of the rising sun, and shadows
stretched across the yard over the dewy grass from the trees and the top
of the well, Matvey Savitch jumped up and began hurrying about:
"Kuzka! get up!" he shouted. "It's time to put in the horses! Look sharp!"
The bustle of morning was beginning. A young Jewess in a brown gown with
flounces led a horse into the yard to drink. The pulley of the well
creaked plaintively, the bucket knocked as it went down....
Kuzka, sleepy, tired, covered with dew, sat up in the cart, lazily putting
on his little overcoat, and listening to the drip of the water from the
bucket into the well as he shivered with the cold.
"Auntie!" shouted Matvey Savitch to Sofya, "tell my lad to hurry up and to
harness the horses!"
And Dyudya at the same instant shouted from the window:
"Sofya, take a farthing from the Jewess for the horse's drink! They're
always in here, the mangy creatures!"
In the street sheep were running up and down, baaing; the peasant women
were shouting at the shepherd, while he played his pipes, cracked his
whip, or answered them in a thick sleepy bass. Three sheep strayed into
the yard, and not finding the gate again, pushed at the fence.
Varvara was waked by the noise, and bundling her bedding up in her arms,
she went into the house.
"You might at least drive the sheep out!" the old woman bawled after her,
"I dare say! As if I were going to slave for you Herods!" muttered
Varvara, going into the house.
Dyudya came out of the house with his accounts in his hands, sat down on
the step, and began reckoning how much the traveller owed him for the
night's lodging, oats, and watering his horses.
"You charge pretty heavily for the oats, my good man," said Matvey
"If it's too much, don't take them. There's no compulsion, merchant."
When the travellers were ready to start, they were detained for a minute.
Kuzka had lost his cap.
"Little swine, where did you put it?" Matvey Savitch roared angrily.
"Where is it?"
Kuzka's face was working with terror; he ran up and down near the cart,
and not finding it there, ran to the gate and then to the shed. The old
woman and Sofya helped him look.
"I'll pull your ears off!" yelled Matvey Savitch. "Dirty brat!"
The cap was found at the bottom of the cart.
Kuzka brushed the hay off it with his sleeve, put it on, and timidly he
crawled into the cart, still with an expression of terror on his face as
though he were afraid of a blow from behind.
Matvey Savitch crossed himself. The driver gave a tug at the reins and the
cart rolled out of the yard.