Hor and Kalinitch

by Ivan Turgenev

Any­one who has chanced to pass from the Bol­hovsky dis­trict into the Zhiz­drin­sky dis­trict, must have been im­pressed by the strik­ing dif­fer­ence be­tween the race of peo­ple in the province of Orel and the pop­u­la­tion of the province of Kaluga. The peas­ant of Orel is not tall, is bent in fig­ure, sullen and sus­pi­cious in his looks; he lives in wretched lit­tle hov­els of as­pen-wood, labours as a serf in the fields, and en­gages in no kind of trad­ing, is mis­er­ably fed, and wears slip­pers of bast: the rent-pay­ing peas­ant of Kaluga lives in roomy cot­tages of pine-wood; he is tall, bold, and cheer­ful in his looks, neat and clean of coun­te­nance; he car­ries on a trade in but­ter and tar, and on hol­i­days he wears boots. The vil­lage of the Orel province (we are speak­ing now of the east­ern part of the province) is usu­ally sit­u­ated in the midst of ploughed fields, near a wa­ter-course which has been con­verted into a filthy pool. Ex­cept for a few of the ever- ac­com­mo­dat­ing wil­lows, and two or three gaunt birch-trees, you do not see a tree for a mile round; hut is hud­dled up against hut, their roofs cov­ered with rot­ting thatch…. The vil­lages of Kaluga, on the con­trary, are gen­er­ally sur­rounded by for­est; the huts stand more freely, are more up­right, and have boarded roofs; the gates fas­ten closely, the hedge is not bro­ken down nor trail­ing about; there are no gaps to in­vite the vis­its of the pass­ing pig…. And things are much bet­ter in the Kaluga province for the sports­man. In the Orel province the last of the woods and copses will have dis­ap­peared five years hence, and there is no trace of moor­land left; in Kaluga, on the con­trary, the moors ex­tend over tens, the for­est over hun­dreds of miles, and a splen­did bird, the grouse, is still ex­tant there; there are abun­dance of the friendly larger snipe, and the loud-clap­ping par­tridge cheers and star­tles the sports­man and his dog by its abrupt up­ward flight.

On a visit to the Zhiz­drin­sky dis­trict in search of sport, I met in the fields a petty pro­pri­etor of the Kaluga province called Po­lu­tikin, and made his ac­quain­tance. He was an en­thu­si­as­tic sports­man; it fol­lows, there­fore, that he was an ex­cel­lent fel­low. He was li­able, in­deed, to a few weak­nesses; he used, for in­stance, to pay his ad­dresses to every un­mar­ried heiress in the province, and when he had been re­fused her hand and house, bro­ken-hearted he con­fided his sor­rows to all his friends and ac­quain­tances, and con­tin­ued to shower of­fer­ings of sour peaches and other raw pro­duce from his gar­den upon the young lady’s rel­a­tives; he was fond of re­peat­ing one and the same anec­dote, which, in spite of Mr. Po­lu­tikin’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion of its mer­its, had cer­tainly never amused any­one; he ad­mired the works of Akim Nahi­mov and the novel Pinna; he stam­mered; he called his dog As­tronomer; in­stead of ‘how­ever’ said ‘how­somever’; and had es­tab­lished in his house­hold a French sys­tem of cook­ery, the se­cret of which con­sisted, ac­cord­ing to his cook’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion, in a com­plete trans­for­ma­tion of the nat­ural taste of each dish; in this artiste’s hands meat as­sumed the flavour of fish, fish of mush­rooms, mac­a­roni of gun­pow­der; to make up for this, not a sin­gle car­rot went into the soup with­out tak­ing the shape of a rhom­bus or a trapeze. But, with the ex­cep­tion of these few and in­signif­i­cant fail­ings, Mr. Po­lu­tikin was, as has been said al­ready, an ex­cel­lent fel­low.

On the first day of my ac­quain­tance with Mr. Po­lu­tikin, he in­vited me to stay the night at his house.

‘It will be five miles far­ther to my house,’ he added; ‘it’s a long way to walk; let us first go to Hor’s.’ (The reader must ex­cuse my omit­ting his stam­mer.)

‘Who is Hor?’

‘A peas­ant of mine. He is quite close by here.’

We went in that di­rec­tion. In a well-cul­ti­vated clear­ing in the mid­dle of the for­est rose Hor’s soli­tary home­stead. It con­sisted of sev­eral pine-wood build­ings, en­closed by plank fences; a porch ran along the front of the prin­ci­pal build­ing, sup­ported on slen­der posts. We went in. We were met by a young lad of twenty, tall and good-look­ing.

‘Ah, Fedya! is Hor at home?’ Mr. Po­lu­tikin asked him.

‘No. Hor has gone into town,’ an­swered the lad, smil­ing and show­ing a row of snow-white teeth. ‘You would like the lit­tle cart brought out?’

‘Yes, my boy, the lit­tle cart. And bring us some kvas.’

We went into the cot­tage. Not a sin­gle cheap glar­ing print was pasted up on the clean boards of the walls; in the cor­ner, be­fore the heavy, holy pic­ture in its sil­ver set­ting, a lamp was burn­ing; the table of lin­den-wood had been lately planed and scrubbed; be­tween the joists and in the cracks of the win­dow-frames there were no lively Pruss­ian bee­tles run­ning about, nor gloomy cock­roaches in hid­ing. The young lad soon reap­peared with a great white pitcher filled with ex­cel­lent kvas, a huge hunch of wheaten bread, and a dozen salted cu­cum­bers in a wooden bowl. He put all these pro­vi­sions on the table, and then, lean­ing with his back against the door, began to gaze with a smil­ing face at us. We had not had time to fin­ish eat­ing our lunch when the cart was al­ready rat­tling be­fore the doorstep. We went out. A curly-headed, rosy-cheeked boy of fif­teen was sit­ting in the cart as dri­ver, and with dif­fi­culty hold­ing in the well-fed piebald horse. Round the cart stood six young gi­ants, very like one an­other, and Fedya.

‘All of these Hor’s sons!’ said Po­lu­tikin.

‘These are all Horkies’ (i.e. wild cats), put in Fedya, who had come after us on to the step; ‘but that’s not all of them: Potap is in the wood, and Sidor has gone with old Hor to the town. Look out, Vasya,’ he went on, turn­ing to the coach­man; ‘drive like the wind; you are dri­ving the mas­ter. Only mind what you’re about over the ruts, and easy a lit­tle; don’t tip the cart over, and upset the mas­ter’s stom­ach!’

The other Horkies smiled at Fedya’s sally. ‘Lift As­tronomer in!’ Mr. Po­lu­tikin called ma­jes­ti­cally. Fedya, not with­out amuse­ment, lifted the dog, who wore a forced smile, into the air, and laid her at the bot­tom of the cart. Vasya let the horse go. We rolled away. ‘And here is my count­ing-house,’ said Mr. Po­lu­tikin sud­denly to me, point­ing to a lit­tle low-pitched house. ‘Shall we go in?’ ‘By all means.’ ‘It is no longer used,’ he ob­served, going in; ‘still, it is worth look­ing at.’ The count­ing-house con­sisted of two empty rooms. The care­taker, a one- eyed old man, ran out of the yard. ‘Good day, Minyaitch,’ said Mr. Po­lu­tikin; ‘bring us some water.’ The one-eyed old man dis­ap­peared, and at once re­turned with a bot­tle of water and two glasses. ‘Taste it,’ Po­lu­tikin said to me; ‘it is splen­did spring water.’ We drank off a glass each, while the old man bowed low. ‘Come, now, I think we can go on,’ said my new Friend. ‘In that count­ing-house I sold the mer­chant Alliluev four acres of for­est-land for a good price.’ We took our seats in the cart, and in half-an-hour we had reached the court of the manor- house.

‘Tell me, please,’ I asked Po­lu­tikin at sup­per; ‘why does Hor live apart from your other peas­ants?’

‘Well, this is why; he is a clever peas­ant. Twenty-five years ago his cot­tage was burnt down; so he came up to my late fa­ther and said: “Allow me, Niko­lai Kouzmitch,” says he, “to set­tle in your for­est, on the bog. I will pay you a good rent.” “But what do you want to set­tle on the bog for?” “Oh, I want to; only, your ho­n­our, Niko­lai Kouzmitch, be so good as not to claim any labour from me, but fix a rent as you think best.” “Fifty rou­bles a year!” “Very well.” “But I’ll have no ar­rears, mind!” “Of course, no ar­rears”; and so he set­tled on the bog. Since then they have called him Hor’ (i.e. wild cat).

‘Well, and has he grown rich?’ I in­quired.

‘Yes, he has grown rich. Now he pays me a round hun­dred for rent, and I shall raise it again, I dare say. I have said to him more than once, “Buy your free­dom, Hor; come, buy your free­dom.” … But he de­clares, the rogue, that he can’t; has no money, he says…. As though that were likely….’

The next day, di­rectly after our morn­ing tea, we started out hunt­ing again. As we were dri­ving through the vil­lage, Mr. Po­lu­tikin or­dered the coach­man to stop at a low-pitched cot­tage and called loudly, ‘Kalin­itch!’ ‘Com­ing, your ho­n­our, com­ing’ sounded a voice from the yard; ‘I am tying on my shoes.’ We went on at a walk; out­side the vil­lage a man of about forty over-took us. He was tall and thin, with a small and erect head. It was Kalin­itch. His good-hu­moured; swarthy face, some­what pit­ted with small-pox, pleased me from the first glance. Kalin­itch (as I learnt af­ter­wards) went hunt­ing every day with his mas­ter, car­ried his bag, and some­times also his gun, noted where game was to be found, fetched water, built shanties, and gath­ered straw­ber­ries, and ran be­hind the droshky; Mr. Po­lu­tikin could not stir a step with­out him. Kalin­itch was a man of the mer­ri­est and gen­tlest dis­po­si­tion; he was con­stantly singing to him­self in a low voice, and look­ing care­lessly about him. He spoke a lit­tle through his nose, with a laugh­ing twin­kle in his light blue eyes, and he had a habit of pluck­ing at his scanty, wedge-shaped beard with his hand. He walked not rapidly, but with long strides, lean­ing lightly on a long thin staff. He ad­dressed me more than once dur­ing the day, and he waited on me with­out, ob­se­quious­ness, but he looked after his mas­ter as if he were a child. When the un­bear­able heat drove us at mid-day to seek shel­ter, he took us to his bee­house in the very heart of the for­est. There Kalin­itch opened the lit­tle hut for us, which was hung round with bunches of dry scented herbs. He made us com­fort­able on some dry hay, and then put a kind of bag of net­work over his head, took a knife, a lit­tle pot, and a smoul­der­ing stick, and went to the hive to cut us out some honey-comb. We had a draught of spring water after the warm trans­par­ent honey, and then dropped asleep to the sound of the mo­not­o­nous hum­ming of the bees and the rustling chat­ter of the leaves. A slight gust of wind awak­ened me…. I opened my eyes and saw Kalin­itch: he was sit­ting on the thresh­old of the half-opened door, carv­ing a spoon with his knife. I gazed a long time ad­mir­ing his face, as sweet and clear as an evening sky. Mr. Po­lu­tikin too woke up. We did not get up at once. After our long walk and our deep sleep it was pleas­ant to lie with­out mov­ing in the hay; we felt weary and lan­guid in body, our faces were in a slight glow of warmth, our eyes were closed in de­li­cious lazi­ness. At last we got up, and set off on our wan­der­ings again till evening. At sup­per I began again to talk of Hor and Kalin­itch. ‘Kalin­itch is a good peas­ant,’ Mr. Po­lu­tikin told me; ‘he is a will­ing and use­ful peas­ant; he can’t farm his land prop­erly; I am al­ways tak­ing him away from it. He goes out hunt­ing every day with me…. You can judge for your­self how his farm­ing must fare.’

I agreed with him, and we went to bed.

The next day Mr. Po­lu­tikin was obliged to go to town about some busi­ness with his neigh­bour Pitchukoff. This neigh­bour Pitchukoff had ploughed over some land of Po­lu­tikin’s, and had flogged a peas­ant woman of his on this same piece of land. I went out hunt­ing alone, and be­fore evening I turned into Hor’s house. On the thresh­old of the cot­tage I was met by an old man—bald, short, broad-shoul­dered, and stout—Hor him­self. I looked with cu­rios­ity at the man. The cut of his face re­called Socrates; there was the same high, knobby fore­head, the same lit­tle eyes, the same snub nose. We went into the cot­tage to­gether. The same Fedya brought me some milk and black bread. Hor sat down on a bench, and, qui­etly stroking his curly beard, en­tered into con­ver­sa­tion with me. He seemed to know his own value; he spoke and moved slowly; from time to time a chuckle came from be­tween his long mous­taches.

We dis­cussed the sow­ing, the crops, the peas­ant’s life…. He al­ways seemed to agree with me; only af­ter­wards I had a sense of awk­ward­ness and felt I was talk­ing fool­ishly…. In this way our con­ver­sa­tion was rather cu­ri­ous. Hor, doubt­less through cau­tion, ex­pressed him­self very ob­scurely at times…. Here is a spec­i­men of our talk.

“Tell me, Hor,” I said to him, “why don’t you buy your free­dom from your mas­ter?”

“And what would I buy my free­dom for? Now I know my mas­ter, and I know my rent…. We have a good mas­ter.”

‘It’s al­ways bet­ter to be free,’ I re­marked. Hor gave me a du­bi­ous look.

‘Surely,’ he said.

‘Well, then, why don’t you buy your free­dom?’ Hor shook his head.

‘What would you have me buy it with, your ho­n­our?’

‘Oh, come, now, old man!’

‘If Hor were thrown among free men,’ he con­tin­ued in an un­der­tone, as though to him­self, ‘every­one with­out a beard would be a bet­ter man than Hor.’

‘Then shave your beard.’

‘What is a beard? a beard is grass: one can cut it.’

‘Well, then?’

‘But Hor will be a mer­chant straight away; and mer­chants have a fine life, and they have beards.’

‘Why, do you do a lit­tle trad­ing too?’ I asked him.

‘We trade a lit­tle in a lit­tle but­ter and a lit­tle tar…. Would your ho­n­our like the cart put to?’

‘You’re a close man and keep a tight rein on your tongue,’ I thought to my­self. ‘No,’ I said aloud, ‘I don’t want the cart; I shall want to be near your home­stead to-mor­row, and if you will let me, I will stay the night in your hay-barn.’

‘You are very wel­come. But will you be com­fort­able in the barn? I will tell the women to lay a sheet and put you a pil­low…. Hey, girls!’ he cried, get­ting up from his place; ‘here, girls!… And you, Fedya, go with them. Women, you know, are fool­ish folk.’

A quar­ter of an hour later Fedya con­ducted me with a lantern to the barn. I threw my­self down on the fra­grant hay; my dog curled him­self up at my feet; Fedya wished me good-night; the door creaked and slammed to. For rather a long time I could not get to sleep. A cow came up to the door, and breathed heav­ily twice; the dog growled at her with dig­nity; a pig passed by, grunt­ing pen­sively; a horse some­where near began to munch the hay and snort…. At last I fell asleep.

At sun­rise Fedya awak­ened me. This brisk, lively young man pleased me; and, from what I could see, he was old Hor’s favourite too. They used to ban­ter one an­other in a very friendly way. The old man came to meet me. Whether be­cause I had spent the night under his roof, or for some other rea­son, Hor cer­tainly treated me far more cor­dially than the day be­fore.

‘The samovar is ready,’ he told me with a smile; ‘let us come and have tea.’

We took our seats at the table. A ro­bust-look­ing peas­ant woman, one of his daugh­ters-in-law, brought in a jug of milk. All his sons came one after an­other into the cot­tage.

‘What a fine set of fel­lows you have!’ I re­marked to the old man.

‘Yes,’ he said, break­ing off a tiny piece of sugar with his teeth; ‘me and my old woman have noth­ing to com­plain of, seem­ingly.’

‘And do they all live with you?’

‘Yes; they choose to, them­selves, and so they live here.’

‘And are they all mar­ried?’

‘Here’s one not mar­ried, the scamp!’ he an­swered, point­ing to Fedya, who was lean­ing as be­fore against the door. ‘Vaska, he’s still too young; he can wait.’

‘And why should I get mar­ried?’ re­torted Fedya; ‘I’m very well off as I am. What do I want a wife for? To squab­ble with, eh?’

‘Now then, you … ah, I know you! you wear a sil­ver ring…. You’d al­ways be after the girls up at the manor house…. “Have done, do, for shame!”‘ the old man went on, mim­ic­k­ing the ser­vant girls. ‘Ah, I know you, you white-handed ras­cal!’

‘But what’s the good of a peas­ant woman?’

‘A peas­ant woman—is a labourer,’ said Hor se­ri­ously; ‘she is the peas­ant’s ser­vant.’

‘And what do I want with a labourer?’

‘I dare say; you’d like to play with the fire and let oth­ers burn their fin­gers: we know the sort of chap you are.’

‘Well, marry me, then. Well, why don’t you an­swer?’

‘There, that’s enough, that’s enough, giddy pate! You see we’re dis­turb­ing the gen­tle­man. I’ll marry you, de­pend on it…. And you, your ho­n­our, don’t be vexed with him; you see, he’s only a baby; he’s not had time to get much sense.’

Fedya shook his head.

‘Is Hor at home?’ sounded a well-known voice; and Kalin­itch came into the cot­tage with a bunch of wild straw­ber­ries in his hands, which he had gath­ered for his friend Hor. The old man gave him a warm wel­come. I looked with sur­prise at Kalin­itch. I con­fess I had not ex­pected such a del­i­cate at­ten­tion on the part of a peas­ant.

That day I started out to hunt four hours later than usual, and the fol­low­ing three days I spent at Hor’s. My new friends in­ter­ested me. I don’t know how I had gained their con­fi­dence, but they began to talk to me with­out con­straint. The two friends were not at all alike. Hor was a pos­i­tive, prac­ti­cal man, with a head for man­age­ment, a ra­tio­nal­ist; Kalin­itch, on the other hand, be­longed to the order of ide­al­ists and dream­ers, of ro­man­tic and en­thu­si­as­tic spir­its. Hor had a grasp of ac­tu­al­ity—that is to say, he looked ahead, was sav­ing a lit­tle money, kept on good terms with his mas­ter and the other au­thor­i­ties; Kalin­itch wore shoes of bast, and lived from hand to mouth. Hor had reared a large fam­ily, who were obe­di­ent and united; Kalin­itch had once had a wife, whom he had been afraid of, and he had had no chil­dren. Hor took a very crit­i­cal view of Mr. Po­lu­tikin; Kalin­itch revered his mas­ter. Hor loved Kalin­itch, and took pro­tect­ing care of him; Kalin­itch loved and re­spected Hor. Hor spoke lit­tle, chuck­led, and thought for him­self; Kalin­itch ex­pressed him­self with warmth, though he had not the flow of fine lan­guage of a smart fac­tory hand. But Kalin­itch was en­dowed with pow­ers which even Hor recog­nised; he could charm away haem­or­rhages, fits, mad­ness, and worms; his bees al­ways did well; he had a light hand. Hor asked him be­fore me to in­tro­duce a newly bought horse to his sta­ble, and with scrupu­lous grav­ity Kalin­itch car­ried out the old scep­tic’s re­quest. Kalin­itch was in closer con­tact with na­ture; Hor with men and so­ci­ety. Kalin­itch had no lik­ing for ar­gu­ment, and be­lieved in every­thing blindly; Hor had reached even an iron­i­cal point of view of life. He had seen and ex­pe­ri­enced much, and I learnt a good deal from him. For in­stance, from his ac­count I learnt that every year be­fore mow­ing-time a small, pe­cu­liar-look­ing cart makes its ap­pear­ance in the vil­lages. In this cart sits a man in a long coat, who sells scythes. He charges one rou­ble twenty-five copecks—a rou­ble and a half in notes—for ready money; four rou­bles if he gives credit. All the peas­ants, of course, take the scythes from him on credit. In two or three weeks he reap­pears and asks for the money. As the peas­ant has only just cut his oats, he is able to pay him; he goes with the mer­chant to the tav­ern, and there the debt is set­tled. Some landown­ers con­ceived the idea of buy­ing the scythes them­selves for ready money and let­ting the peas­ants have them on credit for the same price; but the peas­ants seemed dis­sat­is­fied, even de­jected; they had de­prived them of the plea­sure of tap­ping the scythe and lis­ten­ing to the ring of the metal, turn­ing it over and over in their hands, and telling the scoundrelly city-trader twenty times over, ‘Eh, my friend, you won’t take me in with your scythe!’ The same tricks are played over the sale of sick­les, only with this dif­fer­ence, that the women have a hand in the busi­ness then, and they some­times drive the trader him­self to the ne­ces­sity—for their good, of course—of beat­ing them. But the women suf­fer most ill-treat­ment through the fol­low­ing cir­cum­stances. Con­trac­tors for the sup­ply of stuff for paper fac­to­ries em­ploy for the pur­chase of rags a spe­cial class of men, who in some dis­tricts are called ea­gles. Such an ‘eagle’ re­ceives two hun­dred rou­bles in bank- notes from the mer­chant, and starts off in search of his prey. But, un­like the noble bird from whom he has de­rived his name, he does not swoop down openly and boldly upon it; quite the con­trary; the ‘eagle’ has re­course to de­ceit and cun­ning. He leaves his cart some­where in a thicket near the vil­lage, and goes him­self to the back-yards and back- doors, like some­one ca­su­ally pass­ing, or sim­ply a tramp. The women scent out his prox­im­ity and steal out to meet him. The bar­gain is hur­riedly con­cluded. For a few cop­per half-pence a woman gives the ‘eagle’ not only every use­less rag she has, but often even her hus­band’s shirt and her own pet­ti­coat. Of late the women have thought it prof­itable to steal even from them­selves, and to sell hemp in the same way—a great ex­ten­sion and im­prove­ment of the busi­ness for the ‘ea­gles’! To meet this, how­ever, the peas­ants have grown more cun­ning in their turn, and on the slight­est sus­pi­cion, on the most dis­tant ru­mors of the ap­proach of an ‘eagle,’ they have prompt and sharp re­course to cor­rec­tive and pre­ven­tive mea­sures. And, after all, wasn’t it dis­grace­ful? To sell the hemp was the men’s busi­ness—and they cer­tainly do sell it—not in the town (they would have to drag it there them­selves), but to traders who come for it, who, for want of scales, reckon forty hand­fuls to the pood—and you know what a Russ­ian’s hand is and what it can hold, es­pe­cially when he ‘tries his best’! As I had had no ex­pe­ri­ence and was not ‘coun­try-bred’ (as they say in Orel) I heard plenty of such de­scrip­tions. But Hor was not al­ways the nar­ra­tor; he ques­tioned me too about many things. He learned that I had been in for­eign parts, and his cu­rios­ity was aroused…. Kalin­itch was not be­hind him in cu­rios­ity; but he was more at­tracted by de­scrip­tions of na­ture, of moun­tains and wa­ter­falls, ex­tra­or­di­nary build­ings and great towns; Hor was in­ter­ested in ques­tions of gov­ern­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tion. He went through every­thing in order. ‘Well, is that with them as it is with us, or dif­fer­ent?… Come, tell us, your ho­n­our, how is it?’ ‘Ah, Lord, thy will be done!’ Kalin­itch would ex­claim while I told my story; Hor did not speak, but frowned with his bushy eye­brows, only ob­serv­ing at times, ‘That wouldn’t do for us; still, it’s a good thing—it’s right.’ All his in­quiries, I can­not re­count, and it is un­nec­es­sary; but from our con­ver­sa­tions I car­ried away one con­vic­tion, which my read­ers will cer­tainly not an­tic­i­pate … the con­vic­tion that Peter the Great was pre-em­i­nently a Russ­ian— Russ­ian, above all, in his re­forms. The Russ­ian is so con­vinced of his own strength and pow­ers that he is not afraid of putting him­self to se­vere strain; he takes lit­tle in­ter­est in his past, and looks boldly for­ward. What is good he likes, what is sen­si­ble he will have, and where it comes from he does not care. His vig­or­ous sense is fond of ridi­cul­ing the thin the­o­ris­ing of the Ger­man; but, in Hor’s words, ‘The Ger­mans are cu­ri­ous folk,’ and he was ready to learn from them a lit­tle. Thanks to his ex­cep­tional po­si­tion, his prac­ti­cal in­de­pen­dence, Hor told me a great deal which you could not screw or—as the peas­ants say—grind with a grind­stone, out of any other man. He did, in fact, un­der­stand his po­si­tion. Talk­ing with Hor, I for the first time lis­tened to the sim­ple, wise dis­course of the Russ­ian peas­ant. His ac­quire­ments were, in his own opin­ion, wide enough; but he could not read, though Kalin­itch could. ‘That ne’er-do-weel has school-learn­ing,’ ob­served Hor, ‘and his bees never die in the win­ter.’ ‘But haven’t you had your chil­dren taught to read?’ Hor was silent a minute. ‘Fedya can read.’ ‘And the oth­ers?’ ‘The oth­ers can’t.’ ‘And why?’ The old man made no an­swer, and changed the sub­ject. How­ever, sen­si­ble as he was, he had many prej­u­dices and crotch­ets. He de­spised women, for in­stance, from the depths of his soul, and in his merry mo­ments he amused him­self by jest­ing at their ex­pense. His wife was a cross old woman who lay all day long on the stove, in­ces­santly grum­bling and scold­ing; her sons paid no at­ten­tion to her, but she kept her daugh­ters-in-law in the fear of God. Very sig­nif­i­cantly the mother-in-law sings in the Russ­ian bal­lad: ‘What a son art thou to me! What a head of a house­hold! Thou dost not beat thy wife; thou dost not beat thy young wife….’ I once at­tempted to in­ter­cede for the daugh­ters-in-law, and tried to rouse Hor’s sym­pa­thy; but he met me with the tran­quil re­join­der, ‘Why did I want to trou­ble about such … tri­fles; let the women fight it out. … If any­thing sep­a­rates them, it only makes it worse … and it’s not worth dirty­ing one’s hands over.’ Some­times the spite­ful old woman got down from the stove and called the yard dog out of the hay, cry­ing, ‘Here, here, dog­gie’; and then beat it on its thin back with the poker, or she would stand in the porch and ‘snarl,’ as Hor ex­pressed it, at every­one that passed. She stood in awe of her hus­band though, and would re­turn, at his com­mand, to her place on the stove. It was spe­cially cu­ri­ous to hear Hor and Kalin­itch dis­pute when­ever Mr. Po­lu­tikin was touched upon.

‘There, Hor, do let him alone,’ Kalin­itch would say. ‘But why doesn’t he order some boots for you?’ Hor re­torted. ‘Eh? boots!… what do I want with boots? I am a peas­ant.’ ‘Well, so am I a peas­ant, but look!’ And Hor lifted up his leg and showed Kalin­itch a boot which looked as if it had been cut out of a mam­moth’s hide. ‘As if you were like one of us!’ replied Kalin­itch. ‘Well, at least he might pay for your bast shoes; you go out hunt­ing with him; you must use a pair a day.’ ‘He does give me some­thing for bast shoes.’ ‘Yes, he gave you two cop­pers last year.’

Kalin­itch turned away in vex­a­tion, but Hor went off into a chuckle, dur­ing which his lit­tle eyes com­pletely dis­ap­peared.

Kalin­itch sang rather sweetly and played a lit­tle on the bal­alaëca. Hor was never weary of lis­ten­ing to him: all at once he would let his head drop on one side and begin to chime in, in a lugubri­ous voice. He was par­tic­u­larly fond of the song, ‘Ah, my fate, my fate!’ Fedya never lost an op­por­tu­nity of mak­ing fun of his fa­ther, say­ing, ‘What are you so mourn­ful about, old man?’ But Hor leaned his cheek on his hand, cov­ered his eyes, and con­tin­ued to mourn over his fate…. Yet at other times there could not be a more ac­tive man; he was al­ways busy over some­thing—mend­ing the cart, patch­ing up the fence, look­ing after the har­ness. He did not in­sist on a very high de­gree of clean­li­ness, how­ever; and, in an­swer to some re­mark of mine, said once, ‘A cot­tage ought to smell as if it were lived in.’

‘Look,’ I an­swered, ‘how clean it is in Kalin­itch’s bee­house.’

‘The bees would not live there else, your ho­n­our,’ he said with a sigh.

‘Tell me,’ he asked me an­other time, ‘have you an es­tate of your own?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Far from here?’ ‘A hun­dred miles.’ ‘Do you live on your land, your ho­n­our?’ ‘Yes.’

‘But you like your gun best, I dare say?’

‘Yes, I must con­fess I do.’ ‘And you do well, your ho­n­our; shoot grouse to your heart’s con­tent, and change your bailiff pretty often.’

On the fourth day Mr. Po­lu­tikin sent for me in the evening. I was sorry to part from the old man. I took my seat with Kalin­itch in the trap. ‘Well, good-bye, Hor—good luck to you,’ I said; ‘good-bye, Fedya.’

‘Good-bye, your ho­n­our, good-bye; don’t for­get us.’ We started; there was the first red glow of sun­set. ‘It will be a fine day to-mor­row,’ I re­marked look­ing at the clear sky. ‘No, it will rain,’ Kalin­itch replied; ‘the ducks yon­der are splash­ing, and the scent of the grass is strong.’ We drove into the copse. Kalin­itch began singing in an un­der­tone as he was jolted up and down on the dri­ver’s seat, and he kept gaz­ing and gaz­ing at the sun­set.

The next day I left the hos­pitable roof of Mr. Po­lu­tikin.


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