The New Villa by Anton Chekhov
Two miles from the village of Obrutchanovo a huge bridge was being built.
From the village, which stood up high on the steep river-bank, its
trellis-like skeleton could be seen, and in foggy weather and on still
winter days, when its delicate iron girders and all the scaffolding around
was covered with hoar frost, it presented a picturesque and even fantastic
spectacle. Kutcherov, the engineer who was building the bridge, a stout,
broad-shouldered, bearded man in a soft crumpled cap drove through the
village in his racing droshky or his open carriage. Now and then on
holidays navvies working on the bridge would come to the village; they
begged for alms, laughed at the women, and sometimes carried off
something. But that was rare; as a rule the days passed quietly and
peacefully as though no bridge-building were going on, and only in the
evening, when camp fires gleamed near the bridge, the wind faintly wafted
the songs of the navvies. And by day there was sometimes the mournful
clang of metal, don-don-don.
It happened that the engineer's wife came to see him. She was pleased with
the river-banks and the gorgeous view over the green valley with trees,
churches, flocks, and she began begging her husband to buy a small piece
of ground and to build them a cottage on it. Her husband agreed. They
bought sixty acres of land, and on the high bank in a field, where in
earlier days the cows of Obrutchanovo used to wander, they built a pretty
house of two storeys with a terrace and a verandah, with a tower and a
flagstaff on which a flag fluttered on Sundays—they built it in
about three months, and then all the winter they were planting big trees,
and when spring came and everything began to be green there were already
avenues to the new house, a gardener and two labourers in white aprons
were digging near it, there was a little fountain, and a globe of
looking-glass flashed so brilliantly that it was painful to look at. The
house had already been named the New Villa.
On a bright, warm morning at the end of May two horses were brought to
Obrutchanovo to the village blacksmith, Rodion Petrov. They came from the
New Villa. The horses were sleek, graceful beasts, as white as snow, and
"Perfect swans!" said Rodion, gazing at them with reverent admiration.
His wife Stepanida, his children and grandchildren came out into the
street to look at them. By degrees a crowd collected. The Lytchkovs,
father and son, both men with swollen faces and entirely beardless, came
up bareheaded. Kozov, a tall, thin old man with a long, narrow beard, came
up leaning on a stick with a crook handle: he kept winking with his crafty
eyes and smiling ironically as though he knew something.
"It's only that they are white; what is there in them?" he said. "Put mine
on oats, and they will be just as sleek. They ought to be in a plough and
with a whip, too...."
The coachman simply looked at him with disdain, but did not utter a word.
And afterwards, while they were blowing up the fire at the forge, the
coachman talked while he smoked cigarettes. The peasants learned from him
various details: his employers were wealthy people; his mistress, Elena
Ivanovna, had till her marriage lived in Moscow in a poor way as a
governess; she was kind-hearted, compassionate, and fond of helping the
poor. On the new estate, he told them, they were not going to plough or to
sow, but simply to live for their pleasure, live only to breathe the fresh
air. When he had finished and led the horses back a crowd of boys followed
him, the dogs barked, and Kozov, looking after him, winked sarcastically.
"Landowners, too-oo!" he said. "They have built a house and set up horses,
but I bet they are nobodies—landowners, too-oo."
Kozov for some reason took a dislike from the first to the new house, to
the white horses, and to the handsome, well-fed coachman. Kozov was a
solitary man, a widower; he had a dreary life (he was prevented from
working by a disease which he sometimes called a rupture and sometimes
worms) he was maintained by his son, who worked at a confectioner's in
Harkov and sent him money; and from early morning till evening he
sauntered at leisure about the river or about the village; if he saw, for
instance, a peasant carting a log, or fishing, he would say: "That log's
dry wood—it is rotten," or, "They won't bite in weather like this."
In times of drought he would declare that there would not be a drop of
rain till the frost came; and when the rains came he would say that
everything would rot in the fields, that everything was ruined. And as he
said these things he would wink as though he knew something.
At the New Villa they burned Bengal lights and sent up fireworks in the
evenings, and a sailing-boat with red lanterns floated by Obrutchanovo.
One morning the engineer's wife, Elena Ivanovna, and her little daughter
drove to the village in a carriage with yellow wheels and a pair of dark
bay ponies; both mother and daughter were wearing broad-brimmed straw
hats, bent down over their ears.
This was exactly at the time when they were carting manure, and the
blacksmith Rodion, a tall, gaunt old man, bareheaded and barefooted, was
standing near his dirty and repulsive-looking cart and, flustered, looked
at the ponies, and it was evident by his face that he had never seen such
little horses before.
"The Kutcherov lady has come!" was whispered around. "Look, the Kutcherov
lady has come!"
Elena Ivanovna looked at the huts as though she were selecting one, and
then stopped at the very poorest, at the windows of which there were so
many children's heads—flaxen, red, and dark. Stepanida, Rodion's
wife, a stout woman, came running out of the hut; her kerchief slipped off
her grey head; she looked at the carriage facing the sun, and her face
smiled and wrinkled up as though she were blind.
"This is for your children," said Elena Ivanovna, and she gave her three
Stepanida suddenly burst into tears and bowed down to the ground. Rodion,
too, flopped to the ground, displaying his brownish bald head, and as he
did so he almost caught his wife in the ribs with the fork. Elena Ivanovna
was overcome with confusion and drove back.
The Lytchkovs, father and son, caught in their meadows two cart-horses, a
pony, and a broad-faced Aalhaus bull-calf, and with the help of red-headed
Volodka, son of the blacksmith Rodion, drove them to the village. They
called the village elder, collected witnesses, and went to look at the
"All right, let 'em!" said Kozov, winking, "le-et em! Let them get out of
it if they can, the engineers! Do you think there is no such thing as law?
All right! Send for the police inspector, draw up a statement!..."
"Draw up a statement," repeated Volodka.
"I don't want to let this pass!" shouted the younger Lytchkov. He shouted
louder and louder, and his beardless face seemed to be more and more
swollen. "They've set up a nice fashion! Leave them free, and they will
ruin all the meadows! You've no sort of right to ill-treat people! We are
not serfs now!"
"We are not serfs now!" repeated Volodka.
"We got on all right without a bridge," said the elder Lytchkov gloomily;
"we did not ask for it. What do we want a bridge for? We don't want it!"
"Brothers, good Christians, we cannot leave it like this!"
"All right, let 'em!" said Kozov, winking. "Let them get out of it if they
can! Landowners, indeed!"
They went back to the village, and as they walked the younger Lytchkov
beat himself on the breast with his fist and shouted all the way, and
Volodka shouted, too, repeating his words. And meanwhile quite a crowd had
gathered in the village round the thoroughbred bull-calf and the horses.
The bullcalf was embarrassed and looked up from under his brows, but
suddenly lowered his muzzle to the ground and took to his heels, kicking
up his hind legs; Kozov was frightened and waved his stick at him, and
they all burst out laughing. Then they locked up the beasts and waited.
In the evening the engineer sent five roubles for the damage, and the two
horses, the pony and the bull-calf, without being fed or given water,
returned home, their heads hanging with a guilty air as though they were
On getting the five roubles the Lytchkovs, father and son, the village
elder and Volodka, punted over the river in a boat and went to a hamlet on
the other side where there was a tavern, and there had a long carousal.
Their singing and the shouting of the younger Lytchkov could be heard from
the village. Their women were uneasy and did not sleep all night. Rodion
did not sleep either.
"It's a bad business," he said, sighing and turning from side to side.
"The gentleman will be angry, and then there will be trouble.... They have
insulted the gentleman.... Oh, they've insulted him. It's a bad
It happened that the peasants, Rodion amongst them, went into their forest
to divide the clearings for mowing, and as they were returning home they
were met by the engineer. He was wearing a red cotton shirt and high
boots; a setter dog with its long tongue hanging out, followed behind him.
"Good-day, brothers," he said.
The peasants stopped and took off their hats.
"I have long wanted to have a talk with you, friends," he went on. "This
is what it is. Ever since the early spring your cattle have been in my
copse and garden every day. Everything is trampled down; the pigs have
rooted up the meadow, are ruining everything in the kitchen garden, and
all the undergrowth in the copse is destroyed. There is no getting on with
your herdsmen; one asks them civilly, and they are rude. Damage is done on
my estate every day and I do nothing—I don't fine you or make a
complaint; meanwhile you impounded my horses and my bull calf and exacted
five roubles. Was that right? Is that neighbourly?" he went on, and his
face was so soft and persuasive, and his expression was not forbidding.
"Is that the way decent people behave? A week ago one of your people cut
down two oak saplings in my copse. You have dug up the road to Eresnevo,
and now I have to go two miles round. Why do you injure me at every step?
What harm have I done you? For God's sake, tell me! My wife and I do our
utmost to live with you in peace and harmony; we help the peasants as we
can. My wife is a kind, warm-hearted woman; she never refuses you help.
That is her dream—to be of use to you and your children. You reward
us with evil for our good. You are unjust, my friends. Think of that. I
ask you earnestly to think it over. We treat you humanely; repay us in the
He turned and went away. The peasants stood a little longer, put on their
caps and walked away. Rodion, who always understood everything that was
said to him in some peculiar way of his own, heaved a sigh and said:
"We must pay. 'Repay in coin, my friends'... he said."
They walked to the village in silence. On reaching home Rodion said his
prayer, took off his boots, and sat down on the bench beside his wife.
Stepanida and he always sat side by side when they were at home, and
always walked side by side in the street; they ate and they drank and they
slept always together, and the older they grew the more they loved one
another. It was hot and crowded in their hut, and there were children
everywhere—on the floors, in the windows, on the stove.... In spite
of her advanced years Stepanida was still bearing children, and now,
looking at the crowd of children, it was hard to distinguish which were
Rodion's and which were Volodka's. Volodka's wife, Lukerya, a plain young
woman with prominent eyes and a nose like the beak of a bird, was kneading
dough in a tub; Volodka was sitting on the stove with his legs hanging.
"On the road near Nikita's buckwheat... the engineer with his dog..."
Rodion began, after a rest, scratching his ribs and his elbow. "'You must
pay,' says he... 'coin,' says he.... Coin or no coin, we shall have to
collect ten kopecks from every hut. We've offended the gentleman very
much. I am sorry for him...."
"We've lived without a bridge," said Volodka, not looking at anyone, "and
we don't want one."
"What next; the bridge is a government business."
"We don't want it."
"Your opinion is not asked. What is it to you?"
"'Your opinion is not asked,'" Volodka mimicked him. "We don't want to
drive anywhere; what do we want with a bridge? If we have to, we can cross
by the boat."
Someone from the yard outside knocked at the window so violently that it
seemed to shake the whole hut.
"Is Volodka at home?" he heard the voice of the younger Lytchkov.
"Volodka, come out, come along."
Volodka jumped down off the stove and began looking for his cap.
"Don't go, Volodka," said Rodion diffidently. "Don't go with them, son.
You are foolish, like a little child; they will teach you no good; don't
"Don't go, son," said Stepanida, and she blinked as though about to shed
tears. "I bet they are calling you to the tavern."
"'To the tavern,'" Volodka mimicked.
"You'll come back drunk again, you currish Herod," said Lukerya, looking
at him angrily. "Go along, go along, and may you burn up with vodka, you
"You hold your tongue," shouted Volodka.
"They've married me to a fool, they've ruined me, a luckless orphan, you
red-headed drunkard..." wailed Lukerya, wiping her face with a hand
covered with dough. "I wish I had never set eyes on you."
Volodka gave her a blow on the ear and went off.
Elena Ivanovna and her little daughter visited the village on foot. They
were out for a walk. It was a Sunday, and the peasant women and girls were
walking up and down the street in their brightly-coloured dresses. Rodion
and Stepanida, sitting side by side at their door, bowed and smiled to
Elena Ivanovna and her little daughter as to acquaintances. From the
windows more than a dozen children stared at them; their faces expressed
amazement and curiosity, and they could be heard whispering:
"The Kutcherov lady has come! The Kutcherov lady!"
"Good-morning," said Elena Ivanovna, and she stopped; she paused, and then
asked: "Well, how are you getting on?"
"We get along all right, thank God," answered Rodion, speaking rapidly.
"To be sure we get along."
"The life we lead!" smiled Stepanida. "You can see our poverty yourself,
dear lady! The family is fourteen souls in all, and only two
bread-winners. We are supposed to be blacksmiths, but when they bring us a
horse to shoe we have no coal, nothing to buy it with. We are worried to
death, lady," she went on, and laughed. "Oh, oh, we are worried to death."
Elena Ivanovna sat down at the entrance and, putting her arm round her
little girl, pondered something, and judging from the little girl's
expression, melancholy thoughts were straying through her mind, too; as
she brooded she played with the sumptuous lace on the parasol she had
taken out of her mother's hands.
"Poverty," said Rodion, "a great deal of anxiety—you see no end to
it. Here, God sends no rain... our life is not easy, there is no denying
"You have a hard time in this life," said Elena Ivanovna, "but in the
other world you will be happy."
Rodion did not understand her, and simply coughed into his clenched hand
by way of reply. Stepanida said:
"Dear lady, the rich men will be all right in the next world, too. The
rich put up candles, pay for services; the rich give to beggars, but what
can the poor man do? He has no time to make the sign of the cross. He is
the beggar of beggars himself; how can he think of his soul? And many sins
come from poverty; from trouble we snarl at one another like dogs, we
haven't a good word to say to one another, and all sorts of things happen,
dear lady—God forbid! It seems we have no luck in this world nor the
next. All the luck has fallen to the rich."
She spoke gaily; she was evidently used to talking of her hard life. And
Rodion smiled, too; he was pleased that his old woman was so clever, so
ready of speech.
"It is only on the surface that the rich seem to be happy," said Elena
Ivanovna. "Every man has his sorrow. Here my husband and I do not live
poorly, we have means, but are we happy? I am young, but I have had four
children; my children are always being ill. I am ill, too, and constantly
"And what is your illness?" asked Rodion.
"A woman's complaint. I get no sleep; a continual headache gives me no
peace. Here I am sitting and talking, but my head is bad, I am weak all
over, and I should prefer the hardest labour to such a condition. My soul,
too, is troubled; I am in continual fear for my children, my husband.
Every family has its own trouble of some sort; we have ours. I am not of
noble birth. My grandfather was a simple peasant, my father was a
tradesman in Moscow; he was a plain, uneducated man, too, while my
husband's parents were wealthy and distinguished. They did not want him to
marry me, but he disobeyed them, quarrelled with them, and they have not
forgiven us to this day. That worries my husband; it troubles him and
keeps him in constant agitation; he loves his mother, loves her dearly. So
I am uneasy, too, my soul is in pain."
Peasants, men and women, were by now standing round Rodion's hut and
listening. Kozov came up, too, and stood twitching his long, narrow beard.
The Lytchkovs, father and son, drew near.
"And say what you like, one cannot be happy and satisfied if one does not
feel in one's proper place." Elena Ivanovna went on. "Each of you has his
strip of land, each of you works and knows what he is working for; my
husband builds bridges—in short, everyone has his place, while I, I
simply walk about. I have not my bit to work. I don't work, and feel as
though I were an outsider. I am saying all this that you may not judge
from outward appearances; if a man is expensively dressed and has means it
does not prove that he is satisfied with his life."
She got up to go away and took her daughter by the hand.
"I like your place here very much," she said, and smiled, and from that
faint, diffident smile one could tell how unwell she really was, how young
and how pretty; she had a pale, thinnish face with dark eyebrows and fair
hair. And the little girl was just such another as her mother: thin, fair,
and slender. There was a fragrance of scent about them.
"I like the river and the forest and the village," Elena Ivanovna went on;
"I could live here all my life, and I feel as though here I should get
strong and find my place. I want to help you—I want to dreadfully—to
be of use, to be a real friend to you. I know your need, and what I don't
know I feel, my heart guesses. I am sick, feeble, and for me perhaps it is
not possible to change my life as I would. But I have children. I will try
to bring them up that they may be of use to you, may love you. I shall
impress upon them continually that their life does not belong to them, but
to you. Only I beg you earnestly, I beseech you, trust us, live in
friendship with us. My husband is a kind, good man. Don't worry him, don't
irritate him. He is sensitive to every trifle, and yesterday, for
instance, your cattle were in our vegetable garden, and one of your people
broke down the fence to the bee-hives, and such an attitude to us drives
my husband to despair. I beg you," she went on in an imploring voice, and
she clasped her hands on her bosom—"I beg you to treat us as good
neighbours; let us live in peace! There is a saying, you know, that even a
bad peace is better than a good quarrel, and, 'Don't buy property, but buy
neighbours.' I repeat my husband is a kind man and good; if all goes well
we promise to do everything in our power for you; we will mend the roads,
we will build a school for your children. I promise you."
"Of course we thank you humbly, lady," said Lytchkov the father, looking
at the ground; "you are educated people; it is for you to know best. Only,
you see, Voronov, a rich peasant at Eresnevo, promised to build a school;
he, too, said, 'I will do this for you,' 'I will do that for you,' and he
only put up the framework and refused to go on. And then they made the
peasants put the roof on and finish it; it cost them a thousand roubles.
Voronov did not care; he only stroked his beard, but the peasants felt it
a bit hard."
"That was a crow, but now there's a rook, too," said Kozov, and he winked.
There was the sound of laughter.
"We don't want a school," said Volodka sullenly. "Our children go to
Petrovskoe, and they can go on going there; we don't want it."
Elena Ivanovna seemed suddenly intimidated; her face looked paler and
thinner, she shrank into herself as though she had been touched with
something coarse, and walked away without uttering another word. And she
walked more and more quickly, without looking round.
"Lady," said Rodion, walking after her, "lady, wait a bit; hear what I
would say to you."
He followed her without his cap, and spoke softly as though begging.
"Lady, wait and hear what I will say to you."
They had walked out of the village, and Elena Ivanovna stopped beside a
cart in the shade of an old mountain ash.
"Don't be offended, lady," said Rodion. "What does it mean? Have patience.
Have patience for a couple of years. You will live here, you will have
patience, and it will all come round. Our folks are good and peaceable;
there's no harm in them; it's God's truth I'm telling you. Don't mind
Kozov and the Lytchkovs, and don't mind Volodka. He's a fool; he listens
to the first that speaks. The others are quiet folks; they are silent.
Some would be glad, you know, to say a word from the heart and to stand up
for themselves, but cannot. They have a heart and a conscience, but no
tongue. Don't be offended... have patience.... What does it matter?"
Elena Ivanovna looked at the broad, tranquil river, pondering, and tears
flowed down her cheeks. And Rodion was troubled by those tears; he almost
"Never mind..." he muttered. "Have patience for a couple of years. You can
have the school, you can have the roads, only not all at once. If you
went, let us say, to sow corn on that mound you would first have to weed
it out, to pick out all the stones, and then to plough, and work and
work... and with the people, you see, it is the same... you must work and
work until you overcome them."
The crowd had moved away from Rodion's hut, and was coming along the
street towards the mountain ash. They began singing songs and playing the
concertina, and they kept coming closer and closer....
"Mamma, let us go away from here," said the little girl, huddling up to
her mother, pale and shaking all over; "let us go away, mamma!
"To Moscow.... Let us go, mamma."
The child began crying.
Rodion was utterly overcome; his face broke into profuse perspiration; he
took out of his pocket a little crooked cucumber, like a half-moon,
covered with crumbs of rye bread, and began thrusting it into the little
"Come, come," he muttered, scowling severely; "take the little cucumber,
eat it up.... You mustn't cry. Mamma will whip you.... She'll tell your
father of you when you get home. Come, come...."
They walked on, and he still followed behind them, wanting to say
something friendly and persuasive to them. And seeing that they were both
absorbed in their own thoughts and their own griefs, and not noticing him,
he stopped and, shading his eyes from the sun, looked after them for a
long time till they disappeared into their copse.
The engineer seemed to grow irritable and petty, and in every trivial
incident saw an act of robbery or outrage. His gate was kept bolted even
by day, and at night two watchmen walked up and down the garden beating a
board; and they gave up employing anyone from Obrutchanovo as a labourer.
As ill-luck would have it someone (either a peasant or one of the workmen)
took the new wheels off the cart and replaced them by old ones, then soon
afterwards two bridles and a pair of pincers were carried off, and murmurs
arose even in the village. People began to say that a search should be
made at the Lytchkovs' and at Volodka's, and then the bridles and the
pincers were found under the hedge in the engineer's garden; someone had
thrown them down there.
It happened that the peasants were coming in a crowd out of the forest,
and again they met the engineer on the road. He stopped, and without
wishing them good-day he began, looking angrily first at one, then at
"I have begged you not to gather mushrooms in the park and near the yard,
but to leave them for my wife and children, but your girls come before
daybreak and there is not a mushroom left....Whether one asks you or not
it makes no difference. Entreaties, and friendliness, and persuasion I see
are all useless."
He fixed his indignant eyes on Rodion and went on:
"My wife and I behaved to you as human beings, as to our equals, and you?
But what's the use of talking! It will end by our looking down upon you.
There is nothing left!"
And making an effort to restrain his anger, not to say too much, he turned
and went on.
On getting home Rodion said his prayer, took off his boots, and sat down
beside his wife.
"Yes..." he began with a sigh. "We were walking along just now, and Mr.
Kutcherov met us.... Yes.... He saw the girls at daybreak... 'Why don't
they bring mushrooms,'... he said 'to my wife and children?' he said....
And then he looked at me and he said: 'I and my wife will look after you,'
he said. I wanted to fall down at his feet, but I hadn't the courage....
God give him health... God bless him!..."
Stephania crossed herself and sighed.
"They are kind, simple-hearted people," Rodion went on. "'We shall look
after you.'... He promised me that before everyone. In our old age... it
wouldn't be a bad thing.... I should always pray for them.... Holy Mother,
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the fourteenth of September, was
the festival of the village church. The Lytchkovs, father and son, went
across the river early in the morning and returned to dinner drunk; they
spent a long time going about the village, alternately singing and
swearing; then they had a fight and went to the New Villa to complain.
First Lytchkov the father went into the yard with a long ashen stick in
his hands. He stopped irresolutely and took off his hat. Just at that
moment the engineer and his family were sitting on the verandah, drinking
"What do you want?" shouted the engineer.
"Your honour..." Lytchkov began, and burst into tears. "Show the Divine
mercy, protect me... my son makes my life a misery... your honour..."
Lytchkov the son walked up, too; he, too, was bareheaded and had a stick
in his hand; he stopped and fixed his drunken senseless eyes on the
"It is not my business to settle your affairs," said the engineer. "Go to
the rural captain or the police officer."
"I have been everywhere.... I have lodged a petition..." said Lytchkov the
father, and he sobbed. "Where can I go now? He can kill me now, it seems.
He can do anything. Is that the way to treat a father? A father?"
He raised his stick and hit his son on the head; the son raised his stick
and struck his father just on his bald patch such a blow that the stick
bounced back. The father did not even flinch, but hit his son again and
again on the head. And so they stood and kept hitting one another on the
head, and it looked not so much like a fight as some sort of a game. And
peasants, men and women, stood in a crowd at the gate and looked into the
garden, and the faces of all were grave. They were the peasants who had
come to greet them for the holiday, but seeing the Lytchkovs, they were
ashamed and did not go in.
The next morning Elena Ivanovna went with the children to Moscow. And
there was a rumour that the engineer was selling his house....
The peasants had long ago grown used to the sight of the bridge, and it
was difficult to imagine the river at that place without a bridge. The
heap of rubble left from the building of it had long been overgrown with
grass, the navvies were forgotten, and instead of the strains of the
"Dubinushka" that they used to sing, the peasants heard almost every hour
the sounds of a passing train.
The New Villa has long ago been sold; now it belongs to a government clerk
who comes here from the town for the holidays with his family, drinks tea
on the terrace, and then goes back to the town again. He wears a cockade
on his cap; he talks and clears his throat as though he were a very
important official, though he is only of the rank of a collegiate
secretary, and when the peasants bow he makes no response.
In Obrutchanovo everyone has grown older; Kozov is dead. In Rodion's hut
there are even more children. Volodka has grown a long red beard. They are
still as poor as ever.
In the early spring the Obrutchanovo peasants were sawing wood near the
station. And after work they were going home; they walked without haste
one after the other. Broad saws curved over their shoulders; the sun was
reflected in them. The nightingales were singing in the bushes on the
bank, larks were trilling in the heavens. It was quiet at the New Villa;
there was not a soul there, and only golden pigeons—golden because
the sunlight was streaming upon them—were flying over the house. All
of them—Rodion, the two Lytchkovs, and Volodka—thought of the
white horses, the little ponies, the fireworks, the boat with the
lanterns; they remembered how the engineer's wife, so beautiful and so
grandly dressed, had come into the village and talked to them in such a
friendly way. And it seemed as though all that had never been; it was like
a dream or a fairy-tale.
They trudged along, tired out, and mused as they went.... In their
village, they mused, the people were good, quiet, sensible, fearing God,
and Elena Ivanovna, too, was quiet, kind, and gentle; it made one sad to
look at her, but why had they not got on together? Why had they parted
like enemies? How was it that some mist had shrouded from their eyes what
mattered most, and had let them see nothing but damage done by cattle,
bridles, pincers, and all those trivial things which now, as they
remembered them, seemed so nonsensical? How was it that with the new owner
they lived in peace, and yet had been on bad terms with the engineer?
And not knowing what answer to make to these questions they were all
silent except Volodka, who muttered something.
"What is it?" Rodion asked.
"We lived without a bridge..." said Volodka gloomily. "We lived without a
bridge, and did not ask for one... and we don't want it...."
No one answered him and they walked on in silence with drooping heads.