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    I.

    The hot July sun shone dazzlingly over Smlkina, flooding its aged huts with an abundant torrent of brilliant rays. There was an especially great amount of sunlight on the roof of the village Elder's hut, which had recently been covered afresh with smoothly planed boards, yellow and fragrant. It was Sunday, and almost the entire population of the village had come out into the street, thickly overgrown with grass, and sprinkled with hillocks of dried mud. In front of the Elder's hut, a large group of peasant men and women had assembled, some were sitting on the earth, which was banked up around the foundation of the hut, others flat on the ground, others, still, were standing; small children were chasing one another in and out among them, every now and then receiving from their elders angry shouts and raps.

    The centre of the throng was a tall man, with long, drooping mustaches. From his light-brown face, covered with a thick, blue mark of beard and a network of deep wrinkles, from the locks of gray hair which hung down beneath a dirty straw hat,one might judge that this man was fifty years of age. He was staring at the ground, and the nostrils of his large, cartilaginous nose were quivering, and when he raised his head, casting a glance at the windows of the Elder's hut, his eyes became visible,large, sad, even gloomy eyes, which were deeply sunken in their orbits,[Pg 466] while his thick eyebrows threw a shadow over the dark pupils. He was clad in the cinnamon-brown, tattered cassock of a monastic lay-brother, which barely covered his knees, and was girt about him with a rope. On his back was a canvas wallet, in his right hand, a long staff with an iron ferrule, with his left hand he clutched at his breast. The people round about stared at him suspiciously, sneeringly, with scorn, and, at last, with plain delight, that they had succeeded in catching the wolf before he had managed to do any damage to their flock. He had passed through the village, and, approaching the window of the Elder's hut, he had asked for a drink. The Elder had given him kvas[1] and had talked with him. But the wayfarer, contrary to the habit of pilgrims, had answered very reluctantly The Elder had asked him if he had a passport, and it turned out that he had not. And they had detained the wayfarer, resolved to send him to the District Council. The Elder had selected the stsky[2] as his escort, and now, inside his hut, he was giving the latter instructions concerning the journey, leaving the prisoner in the midst of the crowd, who were making merry at his expense.

    [1] See footnote on p. 13.Translator.

    [2] A sort of police-captain, elected by the peasants.Translator.

    As the prisoner had been brought to a halt at the trunk of a white willow tree, so he remained standing, with his curved back resting against it.

    But now, on the porch of the hut, a wall-eyed old man, with a foxy face, and a small, gray, wedge-shaped beard, made his appearance. He lowered his booted feet sedately from step to step, and his round little belly waggled solidly under his long shirt of sarpinka.[3] And over his shoulders peered the square, bearded face of the policeman.

    [3] See footnote on p. 242.

    [Pg 467]

    "You understand, Efmushka?" the Elder asked the policeman.

    "What is there to understand? I understand all about it. That means, that I, the policeman of Smlkina, am bound to conduct this man to the Rural Chief, andthat's all there is to it!"and having uttered his speech with distinct articulation, and with comical importance, the policeman winked at the spectators.

    "And the document?"

    "The documentlives in my breast."

    "Well, all right!" said the Elder argumentatively, and he added, as he scratched his ribs violently:

    "Then go ahead, and God be with you!"

    "Start up! Shall we march on, father?" the policeman smilingly asked the prisoner.

    "You might provide a conveyance," replied the latter, in a low tone to the policeman's question. The Elder grinned.

    "A con-ve-eyance! Get out with you! There are lots of tramps like you cropping up in the fields and villages  there wouldn't be horses enough to go around for them all. So trot along on your own legs. That's the way!"

    "Never mind, father, we'll walk!"said the policeman encouragingly "Do you think it's far from us? With God's blessing, not more than twenty versts! Yes, and it can't be as much as that. You and I will soon roll there. And there you can rest yourself."

    "In the cooler"[4] explained the Elder.

    [4] This is not arbitrary slang, but a literal translation of the word, kholdnayathe cooler, or cold place.Translator.

    "That's nothing," the policeman hastened to remark  "When a man's tired he can rest even in jail. And[Pg 468] thenthe coolerit's refreshing  after a hot dayit's very nice indeed there!"

    The prisoner cast a surly glance at his escortthe latter smiled frankly and cheerfully.

    "Orge on, now, respected father! Farewell, Vasl Gavrlitch! Go along!"

    "The Lord be with you, Efmushka!Keep a sharp lookout!"

    "Look as sharpas though you had three eyes!" put in a young fellow in the crowd.

    "Lo-ook here now! Am I a baby, I'd like to know?"

    And they set off, keeping close to the huts, in order to walk in the strip of shade. The man in the cassock went first, with the loose but swinging gait of a pedestrian accustomed to walking. The policeman, with a stout cudgel in his hand, walked behind.

    Efmushka was a small peasant, low of stature, squarely built, with a broad, kindly face, framed in a light-brown beard which fell in tufts, and began just below his clear, gray eyes. He was almost always smiling at something, displaying strong, yellow teeth, and wrinkling the skin between his eyebrows, as though he were on the point of sneezing. He was clad in a long, full smock, whose skirts were tucked into his girdle, in order that they might not entangle his legs, on his head was stuck a dark-green cap without a visor, which was pulled down over his brows in front, and bore a strong resemblance to a prison-cap.

    His companion walked on, paying no attention to him, as though he were not even conscious of his presence behind him. Their way led along a narrow country road; it wound, in serpentine curves, through a waving sea of rye, and the shadows of the travellers crept over the gold of the ears.

    On the horizon the crest of a forest shone blue, on the wayfarers' left, the sown fields stretched out into the end[Pg 469]less distance, and among them la; the dark blot of a village, and beyond it, again, were fields, which vanished in pale-blue mist.

    On their right, from behind a clump of willows, the spire of a belfry, still surrounded by scaffoldings, and not yet painted, pierced the blue skyit gleamed so brilliantly in the sun, that it was painful to look at.

    Larks were trilling in the sky, corn-flowers smiled among the rye, and the weather was hotalmost stifling. The dust flew up from under the travellers' feet.

    Efmushka began to feel bored. Being a great chatterer by nature, he could not hold his tongue for long, and clearing his throat, he suddenly struck up, in a falsetto voice:

    "Heyekhthe-ere, and why-y is thi-i-is

    An' why do-oth sor-row gnaw my heart?"

    "If your voice gives out, blow it up to its limits! Hmye-es  but I did use to sing  The Vshenki teacher used to say,'come on, now, Efmushka, strike up!' And he and I burst into a flood of song! he was a just young fellow"

    "Who was he?" inquired the man in the cassock, with a bass voice.

    "Why, the Vshenki teacher"

    "Vshenkiwas that his name?"

    "Vshenki is the name of a village, brother. But the teacher's name was Pvel Mikh?litch. He was a first-class man. He died three years ago"

    "Was he young?"

    "He was under thirty"

    "What did he die of?"

    "Of grief, I suppose."

    Efmushka's companion cast a sidelong glance at him, and burst out laughing.

    [Pg 470]

    "You see, my dear man, this is the way it washe taught, he taught seven years in succession, and then he began to cough. He coughed, and coughed, and began to grieve Well, and with the grief, of course, he began to drink vdka. But Father Alexi did not like him, and when he took to drink, that Father Alexi sent off a document to the townthus and so, says hethe teacher drinks, and 'tis nothing but a scandal. Then they sent another document from the town, in reply, and a woman teacher. She was a very long woman, and bony, with a huge nose. Well Pvel Mikh?litch sees that his business is done for. He was grieved; 'here I've taught and taught,' says he  'akh, you devils!' He went from the school straight to the hospital, and five days later, he gave up his soul to God That's all"

    They walked on for some time in silence. The forest drew nearer to the pedestrians with every step, growing before their very eyes, and turning green from blue.

    "Are we going through the forest?" inquired Efmushka's companion.

    "We shall cut across the corner of it, about half a verst. But why? Hey? What are you up to? I perceive that you are a goose, respected father!"

    And Efmushka laughed, and wagged his head.

    "What do you mean?" inquired the prisoner.

    "Why, nothing. Akh, you stupid!" Shall we go through the forest?9 says he. You're simple, my dear man, nobody with any sense would have asked that question. Any sensible man would have walked straight up to the forest, and then"

    "What?"

    "Nothing! I see through you, brother. Ekh, you dear, sly humbug! Noyou drop that ideaabout the forest! Do you think you can get the better of me? Why, I could[Pg 471] manage three such as you, and I could whip you with one hand, while the other was bound to my body  Do you understand?"

    "Yes! You fool!" said the prisoner, curtly and significantly.

    "What? Did I guess you?"said Efmushka triumphantly.

    "Blockhead! What have you guessed?" said the prisoner, with a wry smile.

    "About the forest  I understand! 'I,' says hethat is you,'when we come to the forest, will cut him down'meaning me,'I'll cut him down, and make off across the fields, and the forests?' Isn't that it?"

    "You're stupid " said the man who had been divined, shrugging his shoulders."Orge now, where could I go to?"

    "Well, wherever you pleasethat's your affair."

    "But where?" Efmushka's companion was either angry, or was very anxious to hear from his escort precisely where he could go.

    "Wherever you please, I tell you!" repeated Efmushka calmly.

    "I have no place to run to, brother, none!"said his companion quietly.

    "Oh, co-ome now!" ejaculated the escort incredulously, and even waved his hand. "There's always some place to run to. The earth is big. There's always room for one man on it."

    "Well, what do you mean? Do you mean that I am to run away?"inquired the prisoner with curiosity, and he laughed.

    "What a man you are! You're very fine! Is that proper? If you run away, whom can they put in prison, instead of[Pg 472] you? They'll put me there in your place. No, I only said that by way of talking"

    "You're a blessed fool yet you seem a good sort of peasant," said Efmushka's travelling-companion with a sigh. Efmushka hastened to agree with him.

    "That's just what some folks do call me, a blessed fool  and as for my being a good sort of a peasantthat's true too. I'm straightforward, that's the chief thing. Some folks always act in a roundabout way, with guile, but what's that to me? I'm a man who is alone in the world. If you're guileful, you die, and if you live uprightly, you die. So I try to be as straightforward as possible."

    "You do well!"remarked Efmushka's companion indifferently.

    "Why not? Why should I begin to squirm in my soul, when I'm alone, that's all there is to it. I'm a free man, brother. As I like, so I live, I pass my life according to the law Ye-es And what is your name?"

    "My name? Well call me Pvel Ivnoff, if you like"

    "Very well! Are you an ecclesiastic?"

    "N-no"

    "Well, now? Why, I thought you were"

    "Did you think so from my dress?"

    "Yes, exactly so! You're for all the world like a runaway monk, or a disfrocked priest But your face doesn't suit, in the face you look more like a soldier God knows what sort of a man you are"and Efmushka cast an inquisitive glance at the pilgrim. The latter sighed, adjusted his hat on his head, mopped his perspiring brow, and asked the policeman:

    "Do you smoke tobacco?"

    "Oh, mercy me! Of course I smoke!"

    [Pg 473]

    He pulled a dirty tobacco-pouch out of his bosom, and bending his head, but not halting, he began to stuff tobacco into a clay pipe.

    "There now, smoke that!"The prisoner stopped, and bending toward a match which his escort lighted, he drew in his cheeks. Blue smoke floated up into the air.

    "From what class do you come? Are you a petty burgher?"

    "A noble" said the prisoner briefly, and spat to one side, on the ears of rye, already clothed in a golden glow.

    "E-eh! That's clever! Then how do you come to be going about without a passport?"

    "Why, I'm just roaming."

    "Wellwell! That's practical! Your nobility is accustomed to this wolfs life, I guess? E-ekh, you unfortunate!"

    "Well, that will do  stop your chatter,"said the unfortunate curtly.

    But Efmushka, with growing curiosity and sympathy, scrutinized the passportless man, and wagging his head thoughtfully, he went on:

    "A-a?! How Fate does play with a man, when you come to think of it! How, I suppose it is true that you are a nobleman, because you carry yourself so magnificently. Have you been living long in this manner?"

    The man with the magnificent carriage cast a surly glance at Efmushka, and waved him off with his hand, as he would have treated a troublesome wasp.

    "drop it, I say! Why are you persisting, like a woman?"

    "Now, don't you get angry!"remarked Efmushka soothingly. "I'm speaking with pure motives  I have a very kind heart"

    [Pg 474]

    "Well, that's lucky for you  But your tongue wags incessantlythat's unlucky for me."

    "Well, all right! I can hold my tongue  a man can hold his tongue if people don't want to listen to his conversation. But you're getting angry without any cause Is it my fault that you have been compelled to live the life of a vagabond?"

    The prisoner halted, and set his teeth so tightly, that his cheek-bones stood out like two acute angles, and the gray bristles on them stood on end. He eyed Efmushka from head to foot, with eyes puckered up and blazing with wrath.

    But before Efmushka observed this pantomime, he began again to cover the ground with long strides.

    On the countenance of the loquacious policeman lay an impress of pensiveness. He stared upward, at the spot whence the trills of the larks poured forth, and whistled to them through his teeth, brandishing his cudgel in time with his steps. They reached the edge of the forest. It stood like a dark, motionless wallnot a sound was wafted from it to greet the travellers. The sun was already setting, and its slanting rays dyed the crests of the trees with crimson and gold. From the trees breathed forth a fragrant dampness, the twilight, and concentrated silence, which filled the forest gave birth to a feeling of awe.

    When a forest stands before one's eyes, dark and motionless, when it is completely submerged in mysterious stillness, and every tree seems to be listening keenly to somethingthen the forest appears to be full of something living, which is only temporarily keeping quiet. And one waits, with the expectation that the next moment something vast and incomprehensible to human understanding will emerge from it, will emerge, and begin to speak in a mighty voice about the great mysteries of Nature's creation

    [Pg 475]

    II.

    On reaching the edge of the forest, Efmushka and his companion decided to take a rest, and seated themselves on the grass, near a large oak stump. The prisoner slowly drew the wallet from his shoulders, and indifferently inquired of the policeman:

    "Would you like some bread?"

    "If you give it, I'll chew it," replied Efmushka, with a smile.

    And so they began, in silence, to chew their bread. Efmushka ate slowly, sighing all the while, and gazing off somewhere into the distance, across a field on his left, but his companion was entirely engrossed in the process of satisfying his hunger, ate fast, and munched noisily, measuring his crust of bread with his eyes. The field darkened, the grain had already lost its golden hue, and had become rosy-yellow, tufts of dark clouds crept up the sky from the southwest, and shadows fell from them upon the plain,fell, and crept over the ears of grain to the forest, where sat the two dark human figures. And the trees, also, cast dark shadows on the earth, and from the shadow sadness breathed upon the soul.

    "I thank thee, oh Lord!" exclaimed Efmushka, gathering up from the skirts of his smock the crumbs of bread, and licking them from his palm with his tongue. "The Lord has fed meno one saw it, and he who saw it, took no offence! Friend! Shall we sit here a little hour? Shall we get to the cooler soon enough?"

    The friend shook his head.

    "Well, then, see here This place is very beautiful, it's a memorable spot to me  Yonder, to the left, the manor of the Tutchkffs used to stand"

    [Pg 476]

    "Where?"  asked the prisoner quickly, turning in the direction in which Efmushka waved his hand

    "Why, yonderbeyond the point of forest  Everything around here used to belong to them. They were the richest of gentry, but after the Emancipation they went to decay I used to belong to them,all of us used to be their serfs. It was a big family  The Colonel himself was Alexnder Niktitch Tutchkff. There were children: four sonswhat has become of them all now? It's as if people were blown away by the wind, like the leaves in autumn. Only Ivn Alexndrovitch remains,I'm taking you to him now, he's our Rural Chief  He's an old man"

    The prisoner began to laugh. He laughed in a low tone, with a peculiar sort of internal laughter,his chest and belly heaved, but his face remained immovable, only through his grinning teeth broke forth dull sounds, resembling a bark.

    Efmushka shrivelled up apprehensively, and drawing his cudgel nearer to his hand, he asked him:

    "What's the matter with you? Have you got a fit, or what? hey?"

    "Nothing  it will pass off," said the prisoner spasmodically but amiably. "You were telling me, you know"

    "Well, ye-es! So you see, these Tutchkff gentry were great folks, and now they are gone Some have died, others have disappeared, and left no trace behind them There was one in particular? the youngest of them all. His name was Vctor  Vtya. He and I were chums At the time when the Emancipation was proclaimed, he and I were fourteen years old What a boy he was, may the Lord remember his soul for good! Pure as a brook! Like it he[Pg 477] streamed on all day long, and rippled like it Where is he now? Is he alive or not?"

    "How was he so good?" his companion softly asked Efmushka.

    "In every way!"exclaimed Efmushka."In beauty, brains, kind heart Akh, you strange man! my darling, my ripe berry! you ought to have seen us two in those days  a?, a?, a?! What games we played, how merry life was,the sweetest of the sweet! He used to shout'Efmka![1]let's go hunting!' He had a gun,his father gave it to him on his saint's day,and I used to carry the gun. And we would ramble about here in the forest for one day, two days, three days! When we got home, he got a scolding and I got a thrashing; and, behold, the next day, it was again: 'Efmka! let's go after mushrooms!' He and I killed birds by the thousand! We gathered puds[2] of mushrooms! He used to catch butterflies and beetles, and stick them on pins, in little boxes. It was a busy time! He taught me to read and write  'Efmka,' says he, 'I'll teach you. Go ahead!' Well, and so I began. 'Say A,' says he! I yell'A-A!' We laugh! At first I looked on the matter as a jokewhat does a peasant want with reading and writing? Well, and he exhorted me: 'Your mind is given to you, you fool, so that you may learn If you know how to read and write,' says he, 'you'll know how a man must live, and where to seek the truth.'  Of course, a little child is apt, evidently he had heard that sort of speech from his elders, and began to talk like that himself It was all nonsense, of course That sort of knowledge is in the heart, and the heart will point out about the[Pg 478] right Itthe heartis quick-sighted. Well, and so he taught me, and he got so interested in that matter, that he wouldn't let me rest! I was worn out! I entreated him! 'Vtya,' says I, 'reading and writing are beyond my power, I can't conquer them,' says I. Then ho-ow he did roar at me!? I'll thrash you with papa's kazk whip,learn your lesson!' 'Akh, have mercy! I'll learn' Once I ran away from my lesson. I just jumped up and took to my heels! Then he hunted me all day long, with his gunhe wanted to shoot me. He said to me afterward' if I had met you that day,' says he, 'I'd have shot you!' You see what a sharp fellow he was! Inflexible, fierya real gentleman He was fond of me; he had a flaming soul Once my daddy decorated my back with the reins, and when he, that Vtya, saw it, he came to our hut,and my heavens!what a row! he turned all pale, and shook all over, and clenched his fists, and wanted to go after daddy in the loft! 'How dared you do it?' says he. Daddy says'I'm his father! Aha!' 'Well, very good, father, I won't come to an agreement with you, until your back is just like Efmka's.' He burst out crying after these words and ran away Well, and what do you say to that, father? For he kept his word. Evidently, he instigated the house-servants, or something of that sort, only, one day daddy came home grunting; he tried to take off his shirt, but it had dried fast to his back Father was very angry with me that time'all on account of you,' says he, 'I'm suffering, you nobleman's toady.' And he gave me a healthy licking. But as for my being a nobleman's toady, he was wrong about that,I wasn't anything of the sort"

    [1] Efmushka and Efmka are both diminutives of Efm,Euthymus.Translator.

    [2] A pud is thirty-six pounds.Translator.

    "That's true, Efmka, you were not!" said the prisoner in confirmation, and trembled all over. "It's immediately[Pg 479] apparent that you could not be a nobleman's toady," he added rather hastily.

    "Exactly so!" exclaimed Efmushka  "I simply loved him, that Vtya  He was just the sort of a child whom everyone loved,and not I alone He used to make various remarks  I don't remember what they were, more than thirty years have passed since those daysAkh, oh Lord! where is he now? I think, that if he is still alive, he must be either occupying a very lofty place, or  be seething in the very gulf of misery Such is human life! It boils and boils, and nothing sensible ever comes of it  And people disappear  and one feels sorry for the people, deadly sorry!" Efmushka, sighing heavily, hung his head upon his breast. The silence lasted for a minute.

    "And are you sorry for me?" asked the prisoner merrily. Merrily is the only way to describe his manner of asking, his whole face was illuminated by such a fine, kind smile

    "Yes, you queer man!" exclaimed Efmushka,"how can I help being sorry for you? What are you, when you stop to think about it? If you tramp about in this way, evidently, it is because you have nothing of your own on earth, neither nook nor chip  But perhaps you are bearing a great sin with youwho knows? you're an unfortunate manthat's the only word for it"

    "Exactly so," said the prisoner.

    And again they fell silent. The sun had set now, and the shadows had grown more dense. The air smelled of damp earth, and flowers, and forest mould  They sat for a long time, thus silent.

    "Well, however beautiful it is here, we must go on  We have still eight versts to walk Orge on there, father, get up!"

    "Let us sit a little longer," entreated the father.

    [Pg 480]

    "Well, I have no objection, I'm fond of being near the forest by night myself  Only, when shall we get to the Rural Chief? He'll scold metell me I'm late."

    "Never mind, he won't scold"

    "Do you mean to speak a word for me?" grinned the policeman.

    "Yes."

    "You don't say so?"

    "Why not?"

    "You're a joker! He'll pepper you!"

    "Will he thrash me?"

    "He's fierce! And cleverhe'll give you a whack in the ear, and it will be as good as a scythe through your legs."

    "Well, we'll give him as good as he sends," said the prisoner confidently, tapping his escort on the shoulder in a friendly way.

    This was familiar, and Efmushka did not like it. Look at it as you might, he was one of the authorities, and that goose must not forget that Efmushka had his brass shield of office in his breast. Efmushka rose to his feet, took his stick in his hand, hung the shield outside, in the very middle of his breast, and said sternly:

    "Get up, come along!"

    "I won't!" said the prisoner.

    Efmushka was abashed, and, with starting eyes, he made no reply for a minute, not understanding how the prisoner had come to be such a jester all of a sudden.

    "Well, don't loll there, come along!" he repeated more gently.

    "I won't come along!" repeated the prisoner, with decision.

    "Do you mean that you won't come with me?" shouted Efmushka, in wrath and amazement.

    [Pg 481]

    "Exactly that. I want to spend the night here with you  Orge now, light a fire."

    "I'll teach you to spend the night! I'll light such a fire in your ribsI'll make it pleasant for you!" menaced Efmushka. But, in the depths of his soul, he was amazed. The man said, "I won't go"but he offered no opposition, did not begin a fight, but simply lay still on the ground, and nothing more. What was he to do?

    "Don't yell, Efm," the prisoner calmly advised him.

    Again Efmushka was reduced to silence, and shifting from foot to foot, over his prisoner, he stared at him with bursting eyes. And the man stared at him, stared and smiled. Efmushka pondered heavily what he was to do next.

    And what had made this vagabond, hitherto so surly and cross, now suddenly turn so amiable? And what if he were to fall upon him, bind his hands, give him a cut or two across the throat, and so end it all? And in the very severest tone of authority which he had at his command, Efmushka said:

    "Well, you burnt-out scrap, see hereyou've put on airs enough, and I've had enough of it! Get up! Or I'll bind you, and then you'll go, never fear! Understand? Well? Look outI'll thrash you!"

    "Me, do you mean?" laughed the prisoner.

    "Whom do you suppose?"

    "You, Efm Gryzloff, will thrash Vtya Tutchkff?"

    "Akhyou're firing high!" exclaimed Efmushka, in astonishment,"but who are you, anyway? What sort of an exhibition are you going through with me?"

    "Orge, stop shouting, Efmushka, it's time you recognized me," said the prisoner, with a calm smile, and rose to his feet,"won't you exchange greetings!"

    Efmushka staggered back from the hand which was[Pg 482] extended to him, and stared, with all his eyes, into the face of his prisoner. Then his lips quivered, and his whole face wrinkled up

    "Viktor Alexndrovitch, and is it really you?" he asked in a whisper.

    "If you likeI will show you my papers? But the best way of all isto recall old times Orge now  how you fell into the wolfs hole, in the Ramn pine woods? And how I climbed a tree for a bird's nest, and hung head downward from a bough? And how we stole cream from the old dairy-woman, Petrvna? And the fairy-tales she used to tell us?"

    Efmushka sat down heavily on the ground, and began to laugh in a confused manner.

    "Do you believe me?" the prisoner asked him, and sat down beside him, gazing into his face, and laying his hand on the other's shoulder. Efmushka remained dumb. It had become completely dark around them. A confused rustling and whispering arose in the forest. Far away, somewhere in the underbrush, a nocturnal bird was moaning. A dark cloud crept over the forest, with an almost imperceptible movement.

    "Well, Efm,aren't you glad to see me? Or are you glad? Ekh, you  saintly soul! You are exactly as you were when you were a child  aren't you, Efm? Orge, say something, you dear monster!"

    Efmushka began to blow his nose violently on the tail of his smock

    "Orge, brother! A?, a?, a?!" the prisoner shook his head reproachfully. "What ails you? Shame on you! You're almost fifty years old, and you busy yourself with such a nonsensical matter! Stop it!" and embracing the policeman's shoulders, he shook him gently. The policeman[Pg 483] began to laugh in a quivering tone, and, at last, he began to speak, but without looking at his companion:

    "Well, what's the matter with me? I'm glad  So it is really you? How am I to believe it? You, and  such an affair! Vtya  and in such a guise! In the cooler Without a passport  You nourish yourself on bread You have no tobacco Oh Lord! Is that right? If it had been I, and you had been the policeman  it would have been easier to bear! But now, how has it turned out? How can I look you in the eye? I have always remembered you with joy  Vtya,I have thought, and my very heart leaped with gladness. But nowwhat have you come to! Oh, Lord  why, if I were to tell the folks, they wouldn't believe me"

    He muttered his broken phrases, with his eyes riveted obstinately on his feet, and his hand kept clutching at his breast and at his throat.

    "But don't you tell the folks about all this, it's not necessary. And stop grievingis it any fault of yours? Don't worry about me  I have my papers, I did not show them to the Elder, because I did not wish to have them recognize me there My brother Ivn will not put me in prison, but, on the contrary, he will help me to get oh my feet  I shall stay with him, and you and I will go hunting again together  You see how well everything is arranging itself."

    Vtya said this affectionately, in the tone with which grown-up people soothe grieving children. Out of the forest, to meet the dark cloud, rose the moon, and the edge of the cloud, silvered by her rays, took on soft, opalescent hues. The quails were calling among the grain, a corncrake was chattering somewhere  The night mist grew denser and denser.

    [Pg 484]

    "That's a fact" began Efmushka, softly, "Ivn Alexndrovitch will rejoice to see his own brother, and you, of course, will adapt yourself to life again  That's all true And we will go hunting  Only, everything isn't as it should be  I thought you were doing great deeds in life! But instead  just see"

    Vtya Tutchkff burst out laughing.

    "I have done deeds enough, brother Efmushka  I have run through my share of the estate, I have not grown rich in the service, I have been an actor, I have been a clerk in the timber trade, then I kept actors myself  then I was burnt out, I got over head and ears in debt, and got mixed up in a scandal  ekh! I've done every sort of thing And everything has been a failure!"

    The prisoner waved his hand, and began to laugh good-humoredly.

    "I'm no longer a gentleman, brother Efmushka I've cured myself of that. Now you and I will begin to live! Won't we? Orge, now! Gather your wits together."

    "Why, I don't mind" began Efmushka, in a suppressed voice,"only, I'm ashamed. Here I've been saying all sorts of things to you  nonsensical words, and, in general  a peasanteverybody knows what he's like  So we are to pass the night here, you say? I'll just build a fire"

    "All right, go ahead"

    The prisoner stretched himself out on the ground, breast upward, and the policeman vanished into the border of the forest, whence there immediately proceeded a crackling and a rustling of branches. Efmushka speedily made his appearance, with an armful of dry brush-wood, and a moment later a serpent of fire began to crawl merrily among the twigs on the little hillock.

    [Pg 485]

    The old comrades gazed thoughtfully at it, as they sat opposite each other, and smoked the pipe by turns.

    "It's exactly as it used to be,"remarked Efmushka sadly.

    "Only the times are different," said Tutchkff.

    "Ye-es, life has become harsher in character Here  it has  broken you up"

    "Well, that isn't certain, as yetwhether it has conquered me, or I have conquered it" laughed Tutchkff.

    They fell silent.

    "Ah? Oh Lord God! Vtya! And here's a nice Sunday greeting!"[1] exclaimed Efmushka bitterly.

    "Eh, enough of that! What's past is past," Tutchkff comforted him philosophically.

    Behind them rose the dark wall of the forest, which was softly whispering about something, the fire crackled merrily, around it the shadows danced noiselessly, and over the plain lay impenetrable mist.

    [1] It is customary to congratulate one another on Sundays and holidays. In the higher circles of society, kisses are often exchanged.Translator.

    The End
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