Yermolaij and the Miller’s Wife

One evening I went with the hunts­man Yer­molaï ‘stand-shoot­ing.’ … But per­haps all my read­ers may not know what ‘stand-shoot­ing’ is. I will tell you.

A quar­ter of an hour be­fore sun­set in spring-time you go out into the woods with your gun, but with­out your dog. You seek out a spot for your­self on the out­skirts of the for­est, take a look round, ex­am­ine your caps, and glance at your com­pan­ion. A quar­ter of an hour passes; the sun has set, but it is still light in the for­est; the sky is clear and trans­par­ent; the birds are chat­ter­ing and twit­ter­ing; the young grass shines with the bril­liance of emer­ald…. You wait. Grad­u­ally the re­cesses of the for­est grow dark; the blood-red glow of the evening sky creeps slowly on to the roots and the trunks of the trees, and keeps ris­ing higher and higher, passes from the lower, still al­most leaf­less branches, to the mo­tion­less, slum­ber­ing tree-tops…. And now even the top­most branches are dark­ened; the pur­ple sky fades to dark-blue. The for­est fra­grance grows stronger; there is a scent of warmth and damp earth; the flut­ter­ing breeze dies away at your side. The birds go to sleep—not all at once—but after their kinds; first the finches are hushed, a few min­utes later the war­blers, and after them the yel­low buntings. In the for­est it grows darker and darker. The trees melt to­gether into great masses of black­ness; in the dark-blue sky the first stars come timidly out. All the birds are asleep. Only the red­starts and the nuthatches are still chirp­ing drowsily…. And now they too are still. The last echo­ing call of the pee-wit rings over our heads; the ori­ole’s melan­choly cry sounds some­where in the dis­tance; then the nightin­gale’s first note. Your heart is weary with sus­pense, when sud­denly—but only sports­men can un­der­stand me—sud­denly in the deep hush there is a pe­cu­liar croak­ing and whirring sound, the mea­sured sweep of swift wings is heard, and the snipe, grace­fully bend­ing its long beak, sails smoothly down be­hind a dark bush to meet your shot.

That is the mean­ing of ‘stand-shoot­ing.’ And so I had gone out stand- shoot­ing with Yer­molaï; but ex­cuse me, reader: I must first in­tro­duce you to Yer­molaï.

Pic­ture to your­self a tall gaunt man of forty-five, with a long thin nose, a nar­row fore­head, lit­tle grey eyes, a bristling head of hair, and thick sar­cas­tic lips. This man wore, win­ter and sum­mer alike, a yel­low nankin coat of Ger­man cut, but with a sash round the waist; he wore blue pan­taloons and a cap of as­trakhan, pre­sented to him in a merry hour by a spend­thrift landowner. Two bags were fas­tened on to his sash, one in front, skil­fully tied into two halves, for pow­der and for shot; the other be­hind for game: wadding Yer­molaï used to pro­duce out of his pe­cu­liar, seem­ingly in­ex­haustible cap. With the money he gained by the game he sold, he might eas­ily have bought him­self a car­tridge- box and pow­der-flask; but he never once even con­tem­plated such a pur­chase, and con­tin­ued to load his gun after his old fash­ion, ex­cit­ing the ad­mi­ra­tion of all be­hold­ers by the skill with which he avoided the risks of spilling or mix­ing his pow­der and shot. His gun was a sin­gle- bar­relled flint-lock, en­dowed, more­over, with a vil­lain­ous habit of ‘kick­ing.’ It was due to this that Yer­molaï’s right cheek was per­ma­nently swollen to a larger size than the left. How he ever suc­ceeded in hit­ting any­thing with this gun, it would take a shrewd man to dis­cover—but he did. He had too a set­ter-dog, by name Valetka, a most ex­tra­or­di­nary crea­ture. Yer­molaï never fed him. ‘Me feed a dog!’ he rea­soned; ‘why, a dog’s a clever beast; he finds a liv­ing for him­self.’ And cer­tainly, though Valetka’s ex­treme thin­ness was a shock even to an in­dif­fer­ent ob­server, he still lived and had a long life; and in spite of his pitiable po­si­tion he was not even once lost, and never showed an in­cli­na­tion to desert his mas­ter. Once in­deed, in his youth, he had ab­sented him­self for two days, on court­ing bent, but this folly was soon over with him. Valetka’s most no­tice­able pe­cu­liar­ity was his im­pen­e­tra­ble in­dif­fer­ence to every­thing in the world…. If it were not a dog I was speak­ing of, I should have called him ‘dis­il­lu­sioned.’ He usu­ally sat with his cropped tail curled up under him, scowl­ing and twitch­ing at times, and he never smiled. (It is well known that dogs can smile, and smile very sweetly.) He was ex­ceed­ingly ugly; and the idle house-serfs never lost an op­por­tu­nity of jeer­ing cru­elly at his ap­pear­ance; but all these jeers, and even blows, Valetka bore with as­ton­ish­ing in­dif­fer­ence. He was a source of spe­cial de­light to the cooks, who would all leave their work at once and give him chase with shouts and abuse, when­ever, through a weak­ness not con­fined to dogs, he thrust his hun­gry nose through the half-open door of the kitchen, tempt­ing with its warmth and ap­petis­ing smells. He dis­tin­guished him­self by un­tir­ing en­ergy in the chase, and had a good scent; but if he chanced to over­take a slightly wounded hare, he de­voured it with rel­ish to the last bone, some­where in the cool shade under the green bushes, at a re­spect­ful dis­tance from Yer­molaï, who was abus­ing him in every known and un­known di­alect. Yer­molaï be­longed to one of my neigh­bours, a landowner of the old style. Landown­ers of the old style don’t care for game, and pre­fer the do­mes­tic fowl. Only on ex­tra­or­di­nary oc­ca­sions, such as birth­days, name­days, and elec­tions, the cooks of the old-fash­ioned landown­ers set to work to pre­pare some long-beaked birds, and, falling into the state of frenzy pe­cu­liar to Rus­sians when they don’t quite know what to do, they con­coct such mar­vel­lous sauces for them that the guests ex­am­ine the prof­fered dishes cu­ri­ously and at­ten­tively, but rarely make up their minds to try them. Yer­molaï was under or­ders to pro­vide his mas­ter’s kitchen with two brace of grouse and par­tridges once a month. But he might live where and how he pleased. They had given him up as a man of no use for work of any kind—’bone lazy,’ as the ex­pres­sion is among us in Orel. Pow­der and shot, of course, they did not pro­vide him, fol­low­ing pre­cisely the same prin­ci­ple in virtue of which he did not feed his dog. Yer­molaï was a very strange kind of man; heed­less as a bird, rather fond of talk­ing, awk­ward and va­cant-look­ing; he was ex­ces­sively fond of drink, and never could sit still long; in walk­ing he sham­bled along, and rolled from side to side; and yet he got over fifty miles in the day with his rolling, sham­bling gait. He ex­posed him­self to the most var­ied ad­ven­tures: spent the night in the marshes, in trees, on roofs, or under bridges; more than once he had got shut up in lofts, cel­lars, or barns; he some­times lost his gun, his dog, his most in­dis­pens­able gar­ments; got long and se­vere thrash­ings; but he al­ways re­turned home, after a lit­tle while, in his clothes, and with his gun and his dog. One could not call him a cheer­ful man, though one al­most al­ways found him in an even frame of mind; he was looked on gen­er­ally as an ec­cen­tric. Yer­molaï liked a lit­tle chat with a good com­pan­ion, es­pe­cially over a glass, but he would not stop long; he would get up and go. ‘But where the devil are you going? It’s dark out of doors.’ ‘To Tchap­lino.’ ‘But what’s tak­ing you to Tchap­lino, ten miles away?’ ‘I am going to stay the night at Sophron’s there.’ ‘But stay the night here.’ ‘No, I can’t.’ And Yer­molaï, with his Valetka, would go off into the dark night, through woods and wa­ter-courses, and the peas­ant Sophron very likely did not let him into his place, and even, I am afraid, gave him a blow to teach him ‘not to dis­turb hon­est folks.’ But none could com­pare with Yer­molaï in skill in deep-wa­ter fish­ing in spring-time, in catch­ing cray­fish with his hands, in track­ing game by scent, in snar­ing quails, in train­ing hawks, in cap­tur­ing the nightin­gales who had the great­est va­ri­ety of notes. … One thing he could not do, train a dog; he had not pa­tience enough. He had a wife too. He went to see her once a week. She lived in a wretched, tum­ble-down lit­tle hut, and led a hand-to-mouth ex­is­tence, never know­ing overnight whether she would have food to eat on the mor­row; and in every way her lot was a piti­ful one. Yer­molaï, who seemed such a care­less and easy-go­ing fel­low, treated his wife with cruel harsh­ness; in his own house he as­sumed a stern, and men­ac­ing man­ner; and his poor wife did every­thing she could to please him, trem­bled when he looked at her, and spent her last far­thing to buy him vodka; and when he stretched him­self ma­jes­ti­cally on the stove and fell into an heroic sleep, she ob­se­quiously cov­ered him with a sheep­skin. I hap­pened my­self more than once to catch an in­vol­un­tary look in him of a kind of sav­age fe­roc­ity; I did not like the ex­pres­sion of his face when he fin­ished off a wounded bird with his teeth. But Yer­molaï never re­mained more than a day at home, and away from home he was once more the same ‘Yer­molka’ (i.e. the shoot­ing-cap), as he was called for a hun­dred miles round, and as he some­times called him­self. The low­est house-serf was con­scious of being su­pe­rior to this vagabond —and per­haps this was pre­cisely why they treated him with friend­li­ness; the peas­ants at first amused them­selves by chas­ing him and dri­ving him like a hare over the open coun­try, but af­ter­wards they left him in God’s hands, and when once they recog­nised him as ‘queer,’ they no longer tor­mented him, and even gave him bread and en­tered into talk with him…. This was the man I took as my hunts­man, and with him I went stand-shoot­ing to a great birch-wood on the banks of the Ista.

Many Russ­ian rivers, like the Volga, have one bank rugged and pre­cip­i­tous, the other bounded by level mead­ows; and so it is with the Ista. This small river winds ex­tremely capri­ciously, coils like a snake, and does not keep a straight course for half-a-mile to­gether; in some places, from the top of a sharp de­cliv­ity, one can see the river for ten miles, with its dykes, its pools and mills, and the gar­dens on its banks, shut in with wil­lows and thick flower-gar­dens. There are fish in the Ista in end­less num­bers, es­pe­cially roaches (the peas­ants take them in hot weather from under the bushes with their hands); lit­tle sand-pipers flut­ter whistling along the stony banks, which are streaked with cold clear streams; wild ducks dive in the mid­dle of the pools, and look round war­ily; in the coves under the over­hang­ing cliffs herons stand out in the shade…. We stood in am­bush nearly an hour, killed two brace of wood snipe, and, as we wanted to try our luck again at sun­rise (stand-shoot­ing can be done as well in the early morn­ing), we re­solved to spend the night at the near­est mill. We came out of the wood, and went down the slope. The dark-blue wa­ters of the river ran below; the air was thick with the mists of night. We knocked at the gate. The dogs began bark­ing in the yard.

‘Who is there?’ asked a hoarse and sleepy voice.

‘We are sports­men; let us stay the night.’ There was no reply. ‘We will pay.’

‘I will go and tell the mas­ter—Sh! Curse the dogs! Go to the devil with you!’

We lis­tened as the work­man went into the cot­tage; he soon came back to the gate. ‘No,’ he said; ‘the mas­ter tells me not to let you in.’

‘Why not?’

‘He is afraid; you are sports­men; you might set the mill on fire; you’ve firearms with you, to be sure.’

‘But what non­sense!’

‘We had our mill on fire like that last year; some fish-deal­ers stayed the night, and they man­aged to set it on fire some­how.’

‘But, my good friend, we can’t sleep in the open air!’

‘That’s your busi­ness.’ He went away, his boots clack­ing as he walked.

Yer­molaï promised him var­i­ous un­pleas­ant things in the fu­ture. ‘Let us go to the vil­lage,’ he brought out at last, with a sigh. But it was two miles to the vil­lage.

‘Let us stay the night here,’ I said, ‘in the open air—the night is warm; the miller will let us have some straw if we pay for it.’

Yer­molaï agreed with­out dis­cus­sion. We began again to knock.

‘Well, what do you want?’ the work­man’s voice was heard again; ‘I’ve told you we can’t.’

We ex­plained to him what we wanted. He went to con­sult the mas­ter of the house, and re­turned with him. The lit­tle side gate creaked. The miller ap­peared, a tall, fat-faced man with a bull-neck, round-bel­lied and cor­pu­lent. He agreed to my pro­posal. A hun­dred paces from the mill there was a lit­tle out­house open to the air on all sides. They car­ried straw and hay there for us; the work­man set a samovar down on the grass near the river, and, squat­ting on his heels, began to blow vig­or­ously into the pipe of it. The em­bers glowed, and threw a bright light on his young face. The miller ran to wake his wife, and sug­gested at last that I my­self should sleep in the cot­tage; but I pre­ferred to re­main in the open air. The miller’s wife brought us milk, eggs, pota­toes and bread. Soon the samovar boiled, and we began drink­ing tea. A mist had risen from the river; there was no wind; from all round came the cry of the corn-crake, and faint sounds from the mill-wheels of drops that dripped from the pad­dles and of water gur­gling through the bars of the lock. We built a small fire on the ground. While Yer­molaï was bak­ing the pota­toes in the em­bers, I had time to fall into a doze. I was waked by a dis­creetly-sub­dued whis­per­ing near me. I lifted my head; be­fore the fire, on a tub turned up­side down, the miller’s wife sat talk­ing to my hunts­man. By her dress, her move­ments, and her man­ner of speak­ing, I had al­ready recog­nised that she had been in do­mes­tic ser­vice, and was nei­ther peas­ant nor city-bred; but now for the first time I got a clear view of her fea­tures. She looked about thirty; her thin, pale face still showed the traces of re­mark­able beauty; what par­tic­u­larly charmed me was her eyes, large and mourn­ful in ex­pres­sion. She was lean­ing her el­bows on her knees, and had her face in her hands. Yer­molaï was sit­ting with his back to me, and thrust­ing sticks into the fire.

‘They’ve the cat­tle-plague again at Zhel­ton­hiny,’ the miller’s wife was say­ing; ‘fa­ther Ivan’s two cows are dead—Lord have mercy on them!’

‘And how are your pigs doing?’ asked Yer­molaï, after a brief pause.

‘They’re alive.’

‘You ought to make me a pre­sent of a suck­ing pig.’

The miller’s wife was silent for a while, then she sighed.

‘Who is it you’re with?’ she asked.

‘A gen­tle­man from Kos­tom­arovo.’

Yer­molaï threw a few pine twigs on the fire; they all caught fire at once, and a thick white smoke came puff­ing into his face.

‘Why didn’t your hus­band let us into the cot­tage?’

‘He’s afraid.’

‘Afraid! the fat old tub! Arina Tim­o­fyevna, my dar­ling, bring me a lit­tle glass of spir­its.’

The miller’s wife rose and van­ished into the dark­ness. Yer­molaï began to sing in an un­der­tone—

‘When I went to see my sweet­heart,

I wore out all my shoes.’

Arina re­turned with a small flask and a glass. Yer­molaï got up, crossed him­self, and drank it off at a draught. ‘Good!’ was his com­ment.

The miller’s wife sat down again on the tub.

‘Well, Arina Tim­o­fyevna, are you still ill?’

‘Yes.’

‘What is it?’

‘My cough trou­bles me at night.’

‘The gen­tle­man’s asleep, it seems,’ ob­served Yer­molaï after a short si­lence. ‘Don’t go to a doc­tor, Arina; it will be worse if you do.’

‘Well, I am not going.’

‘But come and pay me a visit.’

Arina hung down her head de­ject­edly.

‘I will drive my wife out for the oc­ca­sion,’ con­tin­ued Yer­molaï ‘Upon my word, I will.’

‘You had bet­ter wake the gen­tle­man, Yer­molaï Petro­vitch; you see, the pota­toes are done.’

‘Oh, let him snore,’ ob­served my faith­ful ser­vant in­dif­fer­ently; ‘he’s tired with walk­ing, so he sleeps sound.’

I turned over in the hay. Yer­molaï got up and came to me. ‘The pota­toes are ready; will you come and eat them?’

I came out of the out­house; the miller’s wife got up from the tub and was going away. I ad­dressed her.

‘Have you kept this mill long?’

‘It’s two years since I came on Trin­ity day.’

‘And where does your hus­band come from?’

Arina had not caught my ques­tion.

‘Where’s your hus­band from?’ re­peated Yer­molaï, rais­ing his voice.

‘From Byelev. He’s a Byelev towns­man.’

‘And are you too from Byelev?’

‘No, I’m a serf; I was a serf.’

‘Whose?’

‘Zvy­erkoff was my mas­ter. Now I am free.’

‘What Zvy­erkoff?’

‘Alexandr Selitch.’

‘Weren’t you his wife’s lady’s maid?’

‘How did you know? Yes.’

I looked at Arina with re­dou­bled cu­rios­ity and sym­pa­thy.

‘I know your mas­ter,’ I con­tin­ued.

‘Do you?’ she replied in a low voice, and her head drooped.

I must tell the reader why I looked with such sym­pa­thy at Arina. Dur­ing my stay at Pe­ters­burg I had be­come by chance ac­quainted with Mr. Zvy­erkoff. He had a rather in­flu­en­tial po­si­tion, and was re­puted a man of sense and ed­u­ca­tion. He had a wife, fat, sen­ti­men­tal, lachry­mose and spite­ful—a vul­gar and dis­agree­able crea­ture; he had too a son, the very type of the young swell of to-day, pam­pered and stu­pid. The ex­te­rior of Mr. Zvy­erkoff him­self did not pre­pos­sess one in his favour; his lit­tle mouse-like eyes peeped slyly out of a broad, al­most square, face; he had a large, promi­nent nose, with dis­tended nos­trils; his close-cropped grey hair stood up like a brush above his scowl­ing brow; his thin lips were for ever twitch­ing and smil­ing mawk­ishly. Mr. Zvy­erkoff’s favourite po­si­tion was stand­ing with his legs wide apart and his fat hands in his trouser pock­ets. Once I hap­pened some­how to be dri­ving alone with Mr. Zvy­erkoff in a coach out of town. We fell into con­ver­sa­tion. As a man of ex­pe­ri­ence and of judg­ment, Mr. Zvy­erkoff began to try to set me in ‘the path of truth.’

‘Allow me to ob­serve to you,’ he drawled at last; ‘all you young peo­ple crit­i­cise and form judg­ments on every­thing at ran­dom; you have lit­tle knowl­edge of your own coun­try; Rus­sia, young gen­tle­men, is an un­known land to you; that’s where it is!… You are for ever read­ing Ger­man. For in­stance, now you say this and that and the other about any­thing; for in­stance, about the house-serfs…. Very fine; I don’t dis­pute it’s all very fine; but you don’t know them; you don’t know the kind of peo­ple they are.’ (Mr. Zvy­erkoff blew his nose loudly and took a pinch of snuff.) ‘Allow me to tell you as an il­lus­tra­tion one lit­tle anec­dote; it may per­haps in­ter­est you.’ (Mr. Zvy­erkoff cleared his throat.) ‘You know, doubt­less, what my wife is; it would be dif­fi­cult, I should imag­ine, to find a more kind-hearted woman, you will agree. For her wait­ing-maids, ex­is­tence is sim­ply a per­fect par­adise, and no mis­take about it…. But my wife has made it a rule never to keep mar­ried lady’s maids. Cer­tainly it would not do; chil­dren come—and one thing and the other—and how is a lady’s maid to look after her mis­tress as she ought, to fit in with her ways; she is no longer able to do it; her mind is in other things. One must look at things through human na­ture. Well, we were dri­ving once through our vil­lage, it must be—let me be cor­rect—yes, fif­teen years ago. We saw, at the bailiff’s, a young girl, his daugh­ter, very pretty in­deed; some­thing even—you know—some­thing at­trac­tive in her man­ners. And my wife said to me: “Kokó”—you un­der­stand, of course, that is her pet name for me— “let us take this girl to Pe­ters­burg; I like her, Kokó….” I said, “Let us take her, by all means.” The bailiff, of course, was at our feet; he could not have ex­pected such good for­tune, you can imag­ine…. Well, the girl of course cried vi­o­lently. Of course, it was hard for her at first; the parental home … in fact … there was noth­ing sur­pris­ing in that. How­ever, she soon got used to us: at first we put her in the maid­ser­vants’ room; they trained her, of course. And what do you think? The girl made won­der­ful progress; my wife be­came sim­ply de­voted to her, pro­moted her at last above the rest to wait on her­self … ob­serve…. And one must do her the jus­tice to say, my wife had never such a maid, ab­solutely never; at­ten­tive, mod­est, and obe­di­ent—sim­ply all that could be de­sired. But my wife, I must con­fess, spoilt her too much; she dressed her well, fed her from our own table, gave her tea to drink, and so on, as you can imag­ine! So she waited on my wife like this for ten years. Sud­denly, one fine morn­ing, pic­ture to your­self, Arina—her name was Arina—rushes unan­nounced into my study, and flops down at my feet. That’s a thing, I tell you plainly, I can’t en­dure. No human being ought ever to lose sight of their per­sonal dig­nity. Am I not right? What do you say? “Your ho­n­our, Alexandr Selitch, I be­seech a favour of you.” “What favour?” “Let me be mar­ried.” I must con­fess I was taken aback. “But you know, you stu­pid, your mis­tress has no other lady’s maid?” “I will wait on mis­tress as be­fore.” “Non­sense! non­sense! your mis­tress can’t en­dure mar­ried lady’s maids,” “Malanya could take my place.” “Pray don’t argue.” “I obey your will.” I must con­fess it was quite a shock, I as­sure you, I am like that; noth­ing wounds me so— noth­ing, I ven­ture to say, wounds me so deeply as in­grat­i­tude. I need not tell you—you know what my wife is; an angel upon earth, good­ness in­ex­haustible. One would fancy even the worst of men would be ashamed to hurt her. Well, I got rid of Arina. I thought, per­haps, she would come to her senses; I was un­will­ing, do you know, to be­lieve in wicked, black in­grat­i­tude in any­one. What do you think? Within six months she thought fit to come to me again with the same re­quest. I felt re­volted. But imag­ine my amaze­ment when, some time later, my wife comes to me in tears, so ag­i­tated that I felt pos­i­tively alarmed. “What has hap­pened?” “Arina…. You un­der­stand … I am ashamed to tell it.” … “Im­pos­si­ble! … Who is the man?” “Petrushka, the foot­man.” My in­dig­na­tion broke out then. I am like that. I don’t like half mea­sures! Petrushka was not to blame. We might flog him, but in my opin­ion he was not to blame. Arina…. Well, well, well! what more’s to be said? I gave or­ders, of course, that her hair should be cut off, she should be dressed in sack­cloth, and sent into the coun­try. My wife was de­prived of an ex­cel­lent lady’s maid; but there was no help for it: im­moral­ity can­not be tol­er­ated in a house­hold in any case. Bet­ter to cut off the in­fected mem­ber at once. There, there! now you can judge the thing for your­self—you know that my wife is … yes, yes, yes! in­deed!… an angel! She had grown at­tached to Arina, and Arina knew it, and had the face to … Eh? no, tell me … eh? And what’s the use of talk­ing about it. Any way, there was no help for it. I, in­deed—I, in par­tic­u­lar, felt hurt, felt wounded for a long time by the in­grat­i­tude of this girl. What­ever you say—it’s no good to look for feel­ing, for heart, in these peo­ple! You may feed the wolf as you will; he has al­ways a han­ker­ing for the woods. Ed­u­ca­tion, by all means! But I only wanted to give you an ex­am­ple….’

And Mr. Zvy­erkoff, with­out fin­ish­ing his sen­tence, turned away his head, and, wrap­ping him­self more closely into his cloak, man­fully re­pressed his in­vol­un­tary emo­tion.

The reader now prob­a­bly un­der­stands why I looked with sym­pa­thetic in­ter­est at Arina.

‘Have you long been mar­ried to the miller?’ I asked her at last.

‘Two years.’

‘How was it? Did your mas­ter allow it?’

‘They bought my free­dom.’

‘Who?’

‘Savely Alexye­vitch.’

‘Who is that?’

‘My hus­band.’ (Yer­molaï smiled to him­self.) ‘Has my mas­ter per­haps spo­ken to you of me?’ added Arina, after a brief si­lence.

I did not know what reply to make to her ques­tion.

‘Arina!’ cried the miller from a dis­tance. She got up and walked away.

‘Is her hus­band a good fel­low?’ I asked Yer­molaï.

‘So-so.’

‘Have they any chil­dren?’

‘There was one, but it died.’

‘How was it? Did the miller take a lik­ing to her? Did he give much to buy her free­dom?’

‘I don’t know. She can read and write; in their busi­ness it’s of use. I sup­pose he liked her.’

‘And have you known her long?’

‘Yes. I used to go to her mas­ter’s. Their house isn’t far from here.’

‘And do you know the foot­man Petrushka?’

‘Piotr Vass­i­lye­vitch? Of course, I knew him.’

‘Where is he now?’

‘He was sent for a sol­dier.’

We were silent for a while.

‘She doesn’t seem well?’ I asked Yer­molaï at last.

‘I should think not! To-mor­row, I say, we shall have good sport. A lit­tle sleep now would do us no harm.’

A flock of wild ducks swept whizzing over our heads, and we heard them drop down into the river not far from us. It was now quite dark, and it began to be cold; in the thicket sounded the melo­di­ous notes of a nightin­gale. We buried our­selves in the hay and fell asleep.

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