Lebedyan

One of the prin­ci­pal ad­van­tages of hunt­ing, my dear read­ers, con­sists in its forc­ing you to be con­stantly mov­ing from place to place, which is highly agree­able for a man of no oc­cu­pa­tion. It is true that some­times, es­pe­cially in wet weather, it’s not over pleas­ant to roam over by-roads, to cut ‘across coun­try,’ to stop every peas­ant you meet with the ques­tion, ‘Hey! my good man! how are we to get to Mor­dovka?’ and at Mor­dovka to try to ex­tract from a half-wit­ted peas­ant woman (the work­ing pop­u­la­tion are all in the fields) whether it is far to an inn on the high-road, and how to get to it—and then when you have gone on eight miles far­ther, in­stead of an inn, to come upon the de­serted vil­lage of Hu­dobub­nova, to the great amaze­ment of a whole herd of pigs, who have been wal­low­ing up to their ears in the black mud in the mid­dle of the vil­lage street, with­out the slight­est an­tic­i­pa­tion of ever being dis­turbed. There is no great joy ei­ther in hav­ing to cross planks that dance under your feet; to drop down into ravines; to wade across boggy streams: it is not over-pleas­ant to tramp twenty-four hours on end through the sea of green that cov­ers the high­roads or (which God for­bid!) stay for hours stuck in the mud be­fore a striped mile­stone with the fig­ures 22 on one side and 23 on the other; it is not wholly pleas­ant to live for weeks to­gether on eggs, milk, and the rye-bread pa­tri­ots af­fect to be so fond of…. But there is ample com­pen­sa­tion for all these in­con­ve­niences and dis­com­forts in plea­sures and ad­van­tages of an­other sort. Let us come, though, to our story.After all I have said above, there is no need to ex­plain to the reader how I hap­pened five years ago to be at Lebedyan just in the very thick of the horse-fair. We sports­men may often set off on a fine morn­ing from our more or less an­ces­tral roof, in the full in­ten­tion of re­turn­ing there the fol­low­ing evening, and lit­tle by lit­tle, still in pur­suit of snipe, may get at last to the blessed banks of Petchora. Be­sides, every lover of the gun and the dog is a pas­sion­ate ad­mirer of the no­blest an­i­mal in the world, the horse. And so I turned up at Lebedyan, stopped at the hotel, changed my clothes, and went out to the fair. (The waiter, a thin lanky youth of twenty, had al­ready in­formed me in a sweet nasal tenor that his Ex­cel­lency Prince N——, who pur­chases the charg­ers of the—reg­i­ment, was stay­ing at their house; that many other gen­tle­men had ar­rived; that some gyp­sies were to sing in the evenings, and there was to be a per­for­mance of Pan Tvar­dovsky at the the­atre; that the horses were fetch­ing good prices; and that there was a fine show of them.)In the mar­ket square there were end­less rows of carts drawn up, and be­hind the carts, horses of every pos­si­ble kind: rac­ers, stud-horses, dray horses, cart-horses, post­ing-hacks, and sim­ple peas­ants’ nags. Some fat and sleek, as­sorted by colours, cov­ered with striped horse- cloths, and tied up short to high racks, turned furtive glances back­ward at the too fa­mil­iar whips of their own­ers, the horse-deal­ers; pri­vate own­ers’ horses, sent by no­ble­men of the steppes a hun­dred or two hun­dred miles away, in charge of some de­crepit old coach­man and two or three head­strong sta­ble-boys, shook their long necks, stamped with ennui, and gnawed at the fences; roan horses, from Vy­atka, hud­dled close to one an­other; race-horses, dap­ple-grey, raven, and sor­rel, with large hindquar­ters, flow­ing tails, and shaggy legs, stood in ma­jes­tic im­mo­bil­ity like lions. Con­nois­seurs stopped re­spect­fully be­fore them. The av­enues formed by the rows of carts were thronged with peo­ple of every class, age, and ap­pear­ance; horse-deal­ers in long blue coats and high caps, with sly faces, were on the look-out for pur­chasers; gyp­sies, with star­ing eyes and curly heads, strolled up and down, like un­easy spir­its, look­ing into the horses’ mouths, lift­ing up a hoof or a tail, shout­ing, swear­ing, act­ing as go-be­tweens, cast­ing lots, or hang­ing about some army horse-con­tracter in a for­ag­ing-cap and mil­i­tary cloak, with beaver col­lar. A stal­wart Cos­sack rode up and down on a lanky geld­ing with the neck of a stag, of­fer­ing it for sale ‘in one lot,’ that is, sad­dle, bri­dle, and all. Peas­ants, in sheep­skins torn at the arm-pits, were forc­ing their way de­spair­ingly through the crowd, or pack­ing them­selves by dozens into a cart har­nessed to a horse, which was to be ‘put to the test,’ or some­where on one side, with the aid of a wily gypsy, they were bar­gain­ing till they were ex­hausted, clasp­ing each other’s hands a hun­dred times over, each still stick­ing to his price, while the sub­ject of their dis­pute, a wretched lit­tle jade cov­ered with a shrunken mat, was blink­ing quite un­moved, as though it was no con­cern of hers…. And, after all, what dif­fer­ence did it make to her who was to have the beat­ing of her? Broad-browed landown­ers, with dyed mous­taches and an ex­pres­sion of dig­nity on their faces, in Pol­ish hats and cot­ton over­coats pulled half-on, were talk­ing con­de­scend­ingly with fat mer­chants in felt hats and green gloves. Of­fi­cers of dif­fer­ent reg­i­ments were crowd­ing every­where; an ex­tra­or­di­nar­ily lanky cuirassier of Ger­man ex­trac­tion was lan­guidly in­quir­ing of a lame horse-dealer ‘what he ex­pected to get for that chest­nut.’ A fair-haired young hus­sar, a boy of nine­teen, was choos­ing a trace-horse to match a lean car­riage-horse; a post-boy in a low- crowned hat, with a pea­cock’s feather twisted round it, in a brown coat and long leather gloves tied round the arm with nar­row, green­ish bands, was look­ing for a shaft-horse. Coach­men were plait­ing the horses’ tails, wet­ting their manes, and giv­ing re­spect­ful ad­vice to their mas­ters. Those who had com­pleted a stroke of busi­ness were hur­ry­ing to hotel or to tav­ern, ac­cord­ing to their class…. And all the crowd were mov­ing, shout­ing, bustling, quar­relling and mak­ing it up again, swear­ing and laugh­ing, all up to their knees in the mud. I wanted to buy a set of three horses for my cov­ered trap; mine had begun to show signs of break­ing down. I had found two, but had not yet suc­ceeded in pick­ing up a third. After a hotel din­ner, which I can­not bring my­self to de­scribe (even Ae­neas had dis­cov­ered how painful it is to dwell on sor­rows past), I re­paired to a café so-called, which was the evening re­sort of the pur­chasers of cav­alry mounts, horse-breed­ers, and other per­sons. In the bil­liard-room, which was plunged in grey floods of to­bacco smoke, there were about twenty men. Here were free-and-easy young landown­ers in em­broi­dered jack­ets and grey trousers, with long curl­ing hair and lit­tle waxed mous­taches, star­ing about them with gen­tle­manly in­so­lence; other no­ble­men in Cos­sack dress, with ex­tra­or­di­nar­ily short necks, and eyes lost in lay­ers of fat, were snort­ing with dis­tress­ing dis­tinct­ness; mer­chants sat a lit­tle apart on the qui-vive, as it is called; of­fi­cers were chat­ting freely among them­selves. At the bil­liard-table was Prince N——a young man of two- and-twenty, with a lively and rather con­temp­tu­ous face, in a coat hang­ing open, a red silk shirt, and loose vel­vet pan­taloons; he was play­ing with the ex-lieu­tenant, Vik­tor Hlopakov.The ex-lieu­tenant, Vik­tor Hlopakov, a lit­tle, thin­nish, dark man of thirty, with black hair, brown eyes, and a thick snub nose, is a dili­gent fre­quenter of elec­tions and horse-fairs. He walks with a skip and a hop, waves his fat hands with a jovial swag­ger, cocks his cap on one side, and tucks up the sleeves of his mil­i­tary coat, show­ing the blue-black cot­ton lin­ing. Mr. Hlopakov knows how to gain the favour of rich scape­graces from Pe­ters­burg; smokes, drinks, and plays cards with them; calls them by their Chris­t­ian names. What they find to like in him it is rather hard to com­pre­hend. He is not clever; he is not amus­ing; he is not even a buf­foon. It is true they treat him with friendly ca­su­al­ness, as a good-na­tured fel­low, but rather a fool; they chum with him for two or three weeks, and then all of a sud­den do not recog­nise him in the street, and he on his side, too, does not recog­nise them. The chief pe­cu­liar­ity of Lieu­tenant Hlopakov con­sists in his con­tin­u­ally for a year, some­times two at a time, using in sea­son and out of sea­son one ex­pres­sion, which, though not in the least hu­mor­ous, for some rea­son or other makes every­one laugh. Eight years ago he used on every oc­ca­sion to say, “‘Umble re­specks and duty,” and his pa­trons of that date used al­ways to fall into fits of laugh­ter and make him re­peat ”Umble re­specks and duty’; then he began to adopt a more com­pli­cated ex­pres­sion: ‘No, that’s too, too k’essk’say,’ and with the same bril­liant suc­cess; two years later he had in­vented a fresh say­ing: ‘Ne voo ex­cite _voo_­self pa, man of sin, sewn in a sheep­skin,’ and so on. And strange to say! these, as you see, not over­whelm­ingly witty phrases, keep him in food and drink and clothes. (He has run through his prop­erty ages ago, and lives solely upon his friends.) There is, ob­serve, ab­solutely no other at­trac­tion about him; he can, it is true, smoke a hun­dred pipes of Zhukov to­bacco in a day, and when he plays bil­liards, throws his right leg higher than his head, and while tak­ing aim shakes his cue af­fect­edly; but, after all, not every­one has a fancy for these ac­com­plish­ments. He can drink, too … but in Rus­sia it is hard to gain dis­tinc­tion as a drinker. In short, his suc­cess is a com­plete rid­dle to me…. There is one thing, per­haps; he is dis­creet; he has no taste for wash­ing dirty linen away from home, never speaks a word against any­one.’Well,’ I thought, on see­ing Hlopakov, ‘I won­der what his catch­word is now?’The prince hit the white.’Thirty love,’ whined a con­sump­tive marker, with a dark face and blue rings under his eyes.The prince sent the yel­low with a crash into the far­thest pocket.’Ah!’ a stoutish mer­chant, sit­ting in the cor­ner at a tot­ter­ing lit­tle one-legged table, boomed ap­prov­ingly from the depths of his chest, and im­me­di­ately was over­come by con­fu­sion at his own pre­sump­tion. But luck­ily no one no­ticed him. He drew a long breath, and stroked his beard.’Thirty-six love!’ the marker shouted in a nasal voice.’Well, what do you say to that, old man?’ the prince asked Hlopakov.’What! rrrrakaliooon, of course, sim­ply rrrrakaliooooon!’The prince roared with laugh­ter.’What? what? Say it again.”Rrrrrakaliooon!’ re­peated the ex-lieu­tenant com­pla­cently.’So that’s the catch­word!’ thought I.The prince sent the red into the pocket.’Oh! that’s not the way, prince, that’s not the way,’ lisped a fair- haired young of­fi­cer with red eyes, a tiny nose, and a baby­ish, sleepy face. ‘You shouldn’t play like that … you ought … not that way!”Eh?’ the prince queried over his shoul­der.’You ought to have done it … in a triplet.”Oh, re­ally?’ mut­tered the prince.’What do you say, prince? Shall we go this evening to hear the gyp­sies?’ the young man hur­riedly went on in con­fu­sion. ‘Styoshka will sing … Ilyushka….’The prince vouch­safed no reply.’Rrrrrakaliooon, old boy,’ said Hlopakov, with a sly wink of his left eye.And the prince ex­ploded.’Thirty-nine to love,’ sang out the marker.’Love … just look, I’ll do the trick with that yel­low.’ … Hlopakov, fid­get­ing his cue in his hand, took aim, and missed.’Eh, rrrakalioon,’ he cried with vex­a­tion.The prince laughed again.’What, what, what?”Your ho­n­our made a miss,’ ob­served the marker. ‘Allow me to chalk the cue…. Forty love.”Yes, gen­tle­men,’ said the prince, ad­dress­ing the whole com­pany, and not look­ing at any one in par­tic­u­lar; ‘you know, Verzhem­bit­skaya must be called be­fore the cur­tain to-night.”To be sure, to be sure, of course,’ sev­eral voices cried in ri­valry, amaz­ingly flat­tered at the chance of an­swer­ing the prince’s speech; ‘Verzhem­bit­skaya, to be sure….”Verzhem­bit­skaya’s an ex­cel­lent ac­tress, far su­pe­rior to Sop­nyakova,’ whined an ugly lit­tle man in the cor­ner with mous­taches and spec­ta­cles. Luck­less wretch! he was se­cretly sigh­ing at Sop­nyakova’s feet, and the prince did not even vouch­safe him a look.’Wai-ter, hey, a pipe!’ a tall gen­tle­man, with reg­u­lar fea­tures and a most ma­jes­tic man­ner—in fact, with all the ex­ter­nal symp­toms of a card-sharper—mut­tered into his cra­vat.A waiter ran for a pipe, and when he came back, an­nounced to his ex­cel­lency that the groom Bak­laga was ask­ing for him.’Ah! tell him to wait a minute and take him some vodka.”Yes, sir.’Bak­laga, as I was told af­ter­wards, was the name of a youth­ful, hand­some, and ex­ces­sively de­praved groom; the prince loved him, made him pre­sents of horses, went out hunt­ing with him, spent whole nights with him…. Now you would not know this same prince, who was once a rake and a scape­grace…. In what good odour he is now; how straight- laced, how su­per­cil­ious! How de­voted to the gov­ern­ment—and, above all, so pru­dent and ju­di­cious!How­ever, the to­bacco smoke had begun to make my eyes smart. After hear­ing Hlopakov’s ex­cla­ma­tion and the prince’s chuckle one last time more, I went off to my room, where, on a nar­row, hair-stuffed sofa pressed into hol­lows, with a high, curved back, my man had al­ready made me up a bed.The next day I went out to look at the horses in the sta­bles, and began with the fa­mous horsedealer Sit­nikov’s. I went through a gate into a yard strewn with sand. Be­fore a wide open sta­ble-door stood the horsedealer him­self—a tall, stout man no longer young, in a hare­skin coat, with a raised turnover col­lar. Catch­ing sight of me, he moved slowly to meet me, held his cap in both hands above his head, and in a sing-song voice brought out:’Ah, our re­spects to you. You’d like to have a look at the horses, may be?”Yes; I’ve come to look at the horses.”And what sort of horses, pre­cisely, I make bold to ask?”Show me what you have.”With plea­sure.’We went into the sta­ble. Some white pug-dogs got up from the hay and ran up to us, wag­ging their tails, and a long-bearded old goat walked away with an air of dis­sat­is­fac­tion; three sta­ble-boys, in strong but greasy sheep­skins, bowed to us with­out speak­ing. To right and to left, in horse-boxes raised above the ground, stood nearly thirty horses, groomed to per­fec­tion. Pi­geons flut­tered coo­ing about the rafters.’What, now, do you want a horse for? for dri­ving or for breed­ing?’Sit­nikov in­quired of me.’Oh, I’ll see both sorts.”To be sure, to be sure,’ the horsedealer com­mented, dwelling on each syl­la­ble. ‘Petya, show the gen­tle­man Er­mine.’We came out into the yard.’But won’t you let them bring you a bench out of the hut?… You don’t want to sit down…. As you please.’There was the thud of hoofs on the boards, the crack of a whip, and Petya, a swarthy fel­low of forty, marked by small-pox, popped out of the sta­ble with a rather well-shaped grey stal­lion, made it rear, ran twice round the yard with it, and adroitly pulled it up at the right place. Er­mine stretched him­self, snorted, raised his tail, shook his head, and looked side­ways at me.’A clever beast,’ I thought.’Give him his head, give him his head,’ said Sit­niker, and he stared at me.’What may you think of him?’ he in­quired at last.’The horse’s not bad—the hind legs aren’t quite sound.”His legs are first-rate!’ Sit­nikov re­joined, with an air of con­vic­tion;’ and his hind-quar­ters … just look, sir … broad as an oven—you could sleep up there.’ ‘His pasterns are long.”Long! mercy on us! Start him, Petya, start him, but at a trot, a trot … don’t let him gal­lop.’Again Petya ran round the yard with Er­mine. None of us spoke for a lit­tle.’There, lead him back,’ said Sit­nikov,’ and show us Fal­con.’Fal­con, a gaunt beast of Dutch ex­trac­tion with slop­ing hind-quar­ters, as black as a bee­tle, turned out to be lit­tle bet­ter than Er­mine. He was one of those beasts of whom fanciers will tell you that ‘they go chop­ping and minc­ing and danc­ing about,’ mean­ing thereby that they prance and throw out their fore-legs to right and to left with­out mak­ing much head­way. Mid­dle-aged mer­chants have a great fancy for such horses; their ac­tion re­calls the swag­ger­ing gait of a smart waiter; they do well in sin­gle har­ness for an af­ter-din­ner drive; with minc­ing paces and curved neck they zeal­ously draw a clumsy droshky laden with an overfed coach­man, a de­pressed, dys­pep­tic mer­chant, and his lym­phatic wife, in a blue silk man­tle, with a lilac hand­ker­chief over her head. Fal­con too I de­clined. Sit­nikov showed me sev­eral horses…. One at last, a dap­ple-grey beast of Voy­akov breed, took my fancy. I could not re­strain my sat­is­fac­tion, and pat­ted him on the with­ers. Sit­nikov at once feigned ab­solute in­dif­fer­ence.”Well, does he go well in har­ness?” I in­quired. (They never speak of a trot­ting horse as “being dri­ven.”)”Oh, yes,” an­swered the horsedealer care­lessly.”Can I see him?””If you like, cer­tainly. Hi, Kuzya, put Pur­suer into the droshky!”Kuzya, the jockey, a real mas­ter of horse­man­ship, drove three times past us up and down the street. The horse went well, with­out chang­ing its pace, nor sham­bling; it had a free ac­tion, held its tail high, and cov­ered the ground well.”And what are you ask­ing for him?”Sit­nikov asked an im­pos­si­ble price. We began bar­gain­ing on the spot in the street, when sud­denly a splen­didly-matched team of three post­ing- horses flew nois­ily round the cor­ner and drew up sharply at the gates be­fore Sit­nikov’s house. In the smart lit­tle sports­man’s trap sat Prince N——; be­side him Hlopakov. Bak­laga was dri­ving … and how he drove! He could have dri­ven them through an ear­ring, the ras­cal! The bay trace-horses, lit­tle, keen, black-eyed, black-legged beasts, were all im­pa­tience; they kept rear­ing—a whis­tle, and off they would have bolted! The dark-bay shaft-horse stood firmly, its neck arched like a swan’s, its breast for­ward, its legs like ar­rows, shak­ing its head and proudly blink­ing…. They were splen­did! No one could de­sire a finer turn out for an Easter pro­ces­sion!’Your ex­cel­lency, please to come in!’ cried Sit­nikov.The prince leaped out of the trap. Hlopakov slowly de­scended on the other side.’Good morn­ing, friend … any horses.”You may be sure we’ve horses for your ex­cel­lency! Pray walk in…. Petya, bring out Pea­cock! and let them get Favourite ready too. And with you, sir,’ he went on, turn­ing to me, ‘we’ll set­tle mat­ters an­other time…. Fomka, a bench for his ex­cel­lency.’From a spe­cial sta­ble which I had not at first ob­served they led out Pea­cock. A pow­er­ful dark sor­rel horse seemed to fly across the yard with all its legs in the air. Sit­nikov even turned away his head and winked.’Oh, rrakalion!’ piped Hlopakov; ‘Zhaym­sah (j’aime ça.)’The prince laughed.Pea­cock was stopped with dif­fi­culty; he dragged the sta­ble-boy about the yard; at last he was pushed against the wall. He snorted, started and reared, while Sit­nikov still teased him, bran­dish­ing a whip at him.’What are you look­ing at? there! oo!’ said the horsedealer with ca­ress­ing men­ace, un­able to re­frain from ad­mir­ing his horse him­self.’How much?’ asked the prince.’For your ex­cel­lency, five thou­sand.”Three.”Im­pos­si­ble, your ex­cel­lency, upon my word.”I tell you three, rrakalion,’ put in Hlopakov.I went away with­out stay­ing to see the end of the bar­gain­ing. At the far­thest cor­ner of the street I no­ticed a large sheet of paper fixed on the gate of a lit­tle grey house. At the top there was a pen-and-ink sketch of a horse with a tail of the shape of a pipe and an end­less neck, and below his hoofs were the fol­low­ing words, writ­ten in an old- fash­ioned hand:’Here are for sale horses of var­i­ous colours, brought to the Lebedyan fair from the cel­e­brated steppes stud of Anas­ta­sei Ivan­itch Tchornobai, landowner of Tam­bov. These horses are of ex­cel­lent sort; bro­ken in to per­fec­tion, and free from vice. Pur­chasers will kindly ask for Anas­ta­sei Ivan­itch him­self: should Anas­ta­sei Ivan­itch be ab­sent, then ask for Nazar Ku­bishkin, the coach­man. Gen­tle­men about to pur­chase, kindly ho­n­our an old man.’I stopped. ‘Come,’ I thought, ‘let’s have a look at the horses of the cel­e­brated steppes breeder, Mr. Tchornobai.’I was about to go in at the gate, but found that, con­trary to the com­mon usage, it was locked. I knocked.’Who’s there?… A cus­tomer?’ whined a woman’s voice.’Yes.”Com­ing, sir, com­ing.’The gate was opened. I be­held a peas­ant-woman of fifty, bare­headed, in boots, and a sheep­skin worn open.’Please to come in, kind sir, and I’ll go at once, and tell Anas­ta­seiIvan­itch … Nazar, hey, Nazar!”What?’ mum­bled an old man’s voice from the sta­ble.’Get a horse ready; here’s a cus­tomer.’The old woman ran into the house.’A cus­tomer, a cus­tomer,’ Nazar grum­bled in re­sponse; ‘I’ve not washed all their tails yet.”Oh, Ar­ca­dia!’ thought I.’Good day, sir, pleased to see you,’ I heard a rich, pleas­ant voice say­ing be­hind my back. I looked round; be­fore me, in a long-skirted blue coat, stood an old man of medium height, with white hair, a friendly smile, and fine blue eyes.’You want a lit­tle horse? By all means, my dear sir, by all means….But won’t you step in and drink just a cup of tea with me first?’I de­clined and thanked him.’Well, well, as you please. You must ex­cuse me, my dear sir; you see I’m old-fash­ioned.’ (Mr. Tchornobai spoke with de­lib­er­a­tion, and in a broad Doric.) ‘Every­thing with me is done in a plain way, you know…. Nazar, hey, Nazar!’ he added, not rais­ing his voice, but pro­long­ing each syl­la­ble. Nazar, a wrin­kled old man with a lit­tle hawk nose and a wedge-shaped beard, showed him­self at the sta­ble door.’What sort of horses is it you’re want­ing, my dear sir?’ re­sumed Mr.Tchornobai.’Not too ex­pen­sive; for dri­ving in my cov­ered gig.”To be sure … we have got them to suit you, to be sure…. Nazar, Nazar, show the gen­tle­man the grey geld­ing, you know, that stands at the far­thest cor­ner, and the sor­rel with the star, or else the other sor­rel—foal of Beauty, you know.’Nazar went back to the sta­ble.’And bring them out by their hal­ters just as they are,’ Mr. Tchornobai shouted after him. ‘You won’t find things with me, my good sir,’ he went on, with a clear mild gaze into my face, ‘as they are with the horse-deal­ers; con­found their tricks! There are drugs of all sorts go in there, salt and malted grains; God for­give them! But with me, you will see, sir, every­thing’s above-board; no un­der­hand­ed­ness.’The horses were led in; I did not care for them.’Well, well, take them back, in God’s name,’ said Anas­ta­sei Ivan­itch.’Show us the oth­ers.’Oth­ers were shown. At last I picked out one, rather a cheap one. We began to hag­gle over the price. Mr. Tchornobai did not get ex­cited; he spoke so rea­son­ably, with such dig­nity, that I could not help ‘ho­n­our­ing’ the old man; I gave him the earnest-money.’Well, now,’ ob­served Anas­ta­sei Ivan­itch, ‘allow me to give over the horse to you from hand to hand, after the old fash­ion…. You will thank me for him … as sound as a nut, see … fresh … a true child of the steppes! Goes well in any har­ness.’He crossed him­self, laid the skirt of his coat over his hand, took the hal­ter, and handed me the horse.’You’re his mas­ter now, with God’s bless­ing…. And you still won’t take a cup of tea?”No, I thank you heartily; it’s time I was going home.”That’s as you think best…. And shall my coach­man lead the horse after you?”Yes, now, if you please.”By all means, my dear sir, by all means…. Vass­ily, hey, Vass­ily! step along with the gen­tle­man, lead the horse, and take the money for him. Well, good-bye, my good sir; God bless you.”Good-bye, Anas­ta­sei Ivan­itch.’They led the horse home for me. The next day he turned out to be bro­ken-winded and lame. I tried hav­ing him put in har­ness; the horse backed, and if one gave him a flick with the whip he jibbed, kicked, and pos­i­tively lay down. I set off at once to Mr. Tchornobai’s. I in­quired: ‘At home?”Yes.”What’s the mean­ing of this?’ said I; ‘here you’ve sold me a bro­ken- winded horse.”Bro­ken-winded?… God for­bid!”Yes, and he’s lame too, and vi­cious be­sides.”Lame! I know noth­ing about it: your coach­man must have ill-treated him some­how…. But be­fore God, I—”Look here, Anas­ta­sei Ivan­itch, as things stand, you ought to take him back.”No, my good sir, don’t put your­self in a pas­sion; once gone out of the yard, is done with. You should have looked be­fore, sir.’I un­der­stood what that meant, ac­cepted my fate, laughed, and walked off. Luck­ily, I had not paid very dear for the les­son.Two days later I left, and in a week I was again at Lebedyan on my way home again. In the café I found al­most the same per­sons, and again I came upon Prince N——at bil­liards. But the usual change in the for­tunes of Mr. Hlopakov had taken place in this in­ter­val: the fair- haired young of­fi­cer had sup­planted him in the prince’s favours. The poor ex-lieu­tenant once more tried let­ting off his catch­word in my pres­ence, on the chance it might suc­ceed as be­fore; but, far from smil­ing, the prince pos­i­tively scowled and shrugged his shoul­ders. Mr. Hlopakov looked down­cast, shrank into a cor­ner, and began furtively fill­ing him­self a pipe….
 
 

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