A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories : Part 06, Chapter 02

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1887

People

(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "You are surprised that soldiers are taught that it is right to kill people in certain cases and in war, while in the books admitted to be holy by those who so teach, there is nothing like such a permission..." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)
• "If, in former times, Governments were necessary to defend their people from other people's attacks, now, on the contrary, Governments artificially disturb the peace that exists between the nations, and provoke enmity among them." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)
• "Only by recognizing the land as just such an article of common possession as the sun and air will you be able, without bias and justly, to establish the ownership of land among all men, according to any of the existing projects or according to some new project composed or chosen by you in common." (From : "To the Working People," by Leo Tolstoy, Yasnaya P....)

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Part 06, Chapter 02

II.

The coach was ready, but the driver loitered. He had gone into the driver's cottage,[89] where it was warm, close, dark, and suffocating; smelling of human occupation, of cooking bread, of cabbage, and of sheep-skin garments.

Several drivers were in the room; the cook was engaged near the oven, on top of which lay a sick man wrapped up in pelts.

"Uncle Khveódor! hey! Uncle Khveódor," called a young man, the driver, in a tulup, and with his knout in his belt, coming into the room, and addressing the sick man.

"What do you want, rattlepate? What are you calling to Fyédka[90] for?" demanded one of the drivers. "There's your carriage waiting for you."

"I want to borrow his boots. Mine are worn out," replied the young fellow, tossing back his curls and straightening his mittens in his belt. "Why? is he asleep? Say, Uncle Khveódor!" he insisted, going to the oven.

"What is it?" a weak voice was heard saying, and a blowzy, emaciated face was lifted up from the oven.

A broad, gaunt hand, bloodless and covered with hairs, pulled up his overcoat over the dirty shirt that covered his bony shoulder. "Give me something to drink, brother; what is it you want?"

[295]

The young fellow handed him a small dish of water.

"I say, Fyédya," said he, hesitating, "I reckon you won't want your new boots now; let me have them? Probably you won't need them any more."

The sick man dropping his weary head down to the lacquered bowl, and dipping his thin, hanging mustache in the brown water, drank feebly and eagerly.

His tangled beard was unclean; his sunken, clouded eyes were with difficulty raised to the young man's face. When he had finished drinking, he tried to raise his hand to wipe his wet lips, but his strength failed him, and he wiped them on the sleeve of his overcoat. Silently, and breathing with difficulty through his nose, he looked straight into the young man's eyes, and tried to collect his strength.

"Maybe you have promised them to some one else?" said the young driver. "If that's so, all right. The worst of it is, it is wet outside, and I have to go out to my work, and so I said to myself, 'I reckon I'll ask Fyédka for his boots; I reckon he won't be needing them.' But maybe you will need them,—just say"....

Something began to bubble up and rumble in the sick man's chest; he bent over, and began to strangle, with a cough that rattled in his throat.

"Now I should like to know where he would need them?" unexpectedly snapped out the cook, angrily addressing the whole hovel. "This is the second month that he has not crept down from the oven. Just see how he is all broken up! and you can hear how it must hurt him inside. Where would he need boots? They would not think of burying him in new ones! And it was time long ago, God pardon me the sin of saying so. Just see how he chokes! He ought to[296] be taken from this hovel to another, or somewhere. They say there's hospitals in the city; but what's you going to do? he takes up the whole room, and that's too much. There isn't any room at all. And yet you are expected to keep neat."

"Hey! Seryóha, come along, take your place, the people are waiting," cried the head man of the station, coming to the door.

Seryóha started to go without waiting for his reply, but the sick man during his cough intimated by his eyes that he was going to speak.

"You can take the boots, Seryóha," said he, conquering the cough and getting his breath a little. "Only, do you hear, buy me a stone when I am dead," he added hoarsely.

"Thank you, uncle; then I will take them, and as for the stone,—éï-éï!—I will buy you one."

"There, children, you are witnesses," the sick man was able to articulate, and then once more he bent over and began to choke.

"All right, we have heard," said one of the drivers. "But run, Seryóha, or else the stárosta will be after you again. You know Lady Shirkínskaya is sick."

Seryóha quickly pulled off his ragged, unwieldy boots, and flung them under the bench. Uncle Feódor's fitted his feet exactly, and the young driver could not keep his eyes off them as he went to the carriage.

"Ek! what splendid boots! Here's some grease," called another driver with the grease-pot in his hand, as Seryóha mounted to his box and gathered up the reins. "Get them for nothing?"

"So you're jealous, are you?" cried Seryóha, lifting up and tucking around his legs the tails of his overcoat. "Off with you, my darlings," he cried to[297] the horses, cracking his knout; and the coach and barouche with their occupants, trunks, and other belongings, were hidden in the thick autumnal mist, and rapidly whirled away over the wet road.

The sick driver remained on the oven in the stifling hovel, and, not being able to throw off the phlegm, by a supreme effort turned over on the other-side, and stopped coughing.

Till evening there was a continual coming and going, and eating of meals in the hovel, and the sick man was not noticed. Before night came on, the cook climbed upon the oven, and pulled off the sheep-skin from his legs.

"Don't be angry with me, Nastásya," murmured the sick man. "I shall soon leave you your room."

"All right, all right, it's of no consequence. But what is the matter with you, uncle? Tell me."

"All my innards are gnawed out, God knows what it is!"

"And I don't doubt your gullet hurts you when you cough so?"

"It hurts me all over. My death is at hand, that's what it is. Okh! Okh! Okh!" groaned the sick man.

"Now cover up your legs this way," said Nastásya, comfortably arranging the overcoat so that it would cover him, and then getting down from the oven.

During the night the hovel was faintly lighted by a single taper. Nastásya and a dozen drivers were sleeping, snoring loudly, on the floor and the benches. Only the sick man feebly choked and coughed, and tossed on the oven.

In the morning no sound was heard from him.

"I saw something wonderful in my sleep," said the cook, as she stretched herself in the early twilight the[298] next morning. "I seemed to see Uncle Khveódor get down from the oven, and go out to cut wood. 'Look here,' says he, 'I'm going to help you, Násya;' and I says to him, 'How can you split wood?' but he seizes the hatchet, and begins to cut so fast, so fast that nothing but chips fly. 'Why,' says I, 'ain't you been sick?'—'No,' says he, 'I am well,' and he kind of lifted up the ax, and I was scared; and I screamed and woke up. He can't be dead, can he?—Uncle Khveódor! hey, uncle!"

Feódor did not move.

"Now he can't be dead, can he? Go and see," said one of the drivers who had just waked up. The emaciated hand, covered with reddish hair, that hung down from the oven, was cold and pale.

"Go tell the superintendent; it seems he is dead," said the driver.

Feódor had no relatives. He was a stranger. On the next day they buried him in the new burying-ground behind the grove; and Nastásya for many days had to tell everybody of the dream which she had seen, and how she had been the first to discover that Uncle Feódor was dead.[299]

From : Gutenberg.org

Chronology

December 05, 1887 :
Part 06, Chapter 02 -- Publication.

February 18, 2017 19:28:51 :
Part 06, Chapter 02 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

March 20, 2019 08:14:20 :
Part 06, Chapter 02 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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