The Cossacks : A Tale of 1852

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1863

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(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.)
• "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....)
• "It is necessary that men should understand things as they are, should call them by their right names, and should know that an army is an instrument for killing, and that the enrollment and management of an army -- the very things which Kings, Emperors, and Presidents occupy themselves with so self-confidently -- is a preparation for murder." (From : "'Thou Shalt Not Kill'," by Leo Tolstoy, August 8,....)

Sections

This document contains 42 sections, with 64,152 words or 366,627 characters.


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All is quiet in Moscow. The squeak of wheels is seldom heard in the snow-covered street. There are no lights left in the windows and the street lamps have been extinguished. Only the sound of bells, borne over the city from the church towers, suggests the approach of morning. The streets are deserted. At rare intervals a night-cabman's sledge kneads up the snow and sand in the street as the driver makes his way to another corner where he falls asleep while waiting for a fare. An old woman passes by on her way to church, where a few wax candles burn with a red light reflected on the gilt mountings of the icons. Workmen are already getting up after the long winter night and going to their work—but for the gentlefolk it is still evening. From a window in Chevalier's Restaurant a light—illegal at that hour—is still to be seen through a chink in the shutter. At the entrance a carriage, a sledge, and a cabman's sledge, stand close together with th... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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'I'm fond of them, very fond! … First-rate fellows! … Fine!' he kept repeating, and felt ready to cry. But why he wanted to cry, who were the first-rate fellows he was so fond of—was more than he quite knew. Now and then he looked round at some house and wondered why it was so curiously built; sometimes he began wondering why the post-boy and Vanyusha, who were so different from himself, sat so near, and together with him were being jerked about and swayed by the tugs the side-horses gave at the frozen traces, and again he repeated: 'First rate … very fond!' and once he even said: 'And how it seizes one … excellent!' and wondered what made him say it. 'Dear me, am I drunk?' he asked himself. He had had a couple of bottles of wine, but it was not the wine alone that was having this effect on Olenin. He remembered all the words of friendship heartily, bashfully, spontaneously (as he believed) addressed to him on his departure. He remembe... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The farther Olenin traveled from Central Russia the farther he left his memories behind, and the nearer he drew to the Caucasus the lighter his heart became. "I'll stay away for good and never return to show myself in society," was a thought that sometimes occurred to him. "These people whom I see here are NOT people. None of them know me and none of them can ever enter the Moscow society I was in or find out about my past. And no one in that society will ever know what I am doing, living among these people." And quite a new feeling of freedom from his whole past came over him among the rough beings he met on the road whom he did not consider to be PEOPLE in the sense that his Moscow acquaintances were. The rougher the people and the fewer the signs of civilization the freer he felt. Stavropol, through which he had to pass, irked him. The signboards, some of them even in French, ladies in carriages, cabs in the marketplace, and a gentleman wearing a fur cloak and tall... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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That whole part of the Terek line (about fifty miles) along which lie the villages of the Grebensk Cossacks is uniform in character both as to country and inhabitants. The Terek, which separates the Cossacks from the mountaineers, still flows turbid and rapid though already broad and smooth, always depositing grayish sand on its low reedy right bank and washing away the steep, though not high, left bank, with its roots of century-old oaks, its rotting plane trees, and young brushwood. On the right bank lie the villages of pro-Russian, though still somewhat restless, Tartars. Along the left bank, back half a mile from the river and standing five or six miles apart from one another, are Cossack villages. In olden times most of these villages were situated on the banks of the river; but the Terek, shifting northward from the mountains year by year, washed away those banks, and now there remain only the ruins of the old villages and of the gardens of pear and plum trees a... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was one of those wonderful evenings that occur only in the Caucasus. The sun had sunk behind the mountains but it was still light. The evening glow had spread over a third of the sky, and against its brilliancy the dull white immensity of the mountains was sharply defined. The air was rarefied, motionless, and full of sound. The shadow of the mountains reached for several miles over the steppe. The steppe, the opposite side of the river, and the roads, were all deserted. If very occasionally mounted men appeared, the Cossacks in the cordon and the Chechens in their aouls (villages) watched them with surprised curiosity and tried to guess who those questionable men could be. At nightfall people from fear of one another flock to their dwellings, and only birds and beasts fearless of man prowl in those deserted spaces. Talking merrily, the women who have been tying up the vines hurry away from the gardens before sunset. The vineyards, like all the surrounding district... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The male population of the village spend their time on military expeditions and in the cordon—or 'at their posts', as the Cossacks say. Towards evening, that same Lukashka the Snatcher, about whom the old women had been talking, was standing on a watch-tower of the Nizhni-Prototsk post situated on the very banks of the Terek. Leaning on the railing of the tower and screwing up his eyes, he looked now far into the distance beyond the Terek, now down at his fellow Cossacks, and occasionally he addressed the latter. The sun was already approaching the snowy range that gleamed white above the fleecy clouds. The clouds undulating at the base of the mountains grew darker and darker. The clearness of evening was noticeable in the air. A sense of freshness came from the woods, though round the post it was still hot. The voices of the talking Cossacks vibrated more sonorously than before. The moving mass of the Terek's rapid brown waters contrasted more vividly with its... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The sun had already set and the shades of night were rapidly spreading from the edge of the wood. The Cossacks finished their task round the cordon and gathered in the hut for supper. Only the old man still stayed under the plane tree watching for the vulture and pulling the string tied to the falcon's leg, but though a vulture was really perching on the plane tree it declined to swoop down on the lure. Lukashka, singing one song after another, was leisurely placing nets among the very thickest brambles to trap pheasants. In spite of his tall stature and big hands every kind of work, both rough and delicate, prospered under Lukashka's fingers. 'Halloo, Luke!' came Nazarka's shrill, sharp voice calling him from the thicket close by. 'The Cossacks have gone in to supper.' Nazarka, with a live pheasant under his arm, forced his way through the brambles and emerged on the footpath. 'Oh!' said Lukashka, breaking off in his song, 'where did you ge... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was quite dark when Uncle Eroshka and the three Cossacks, in their cloaks and shouldering their guns, left the cordon and went towards the place on the Terek where they were to lie in ambush. Nazarka did not want to go at all, but Lukashka shouted at him and they soon started. After they had gone a few steps in silence the Cossacks turned aside from the ditch and went along a path almost hidden by reeds till they reached the river. On its bank lay a thick black log cast up by the water. The reeds around it had been recently beaten down. 'Shall we lie here?' asked Nazarka. 'Why not?' answered Lukashka. 'Sit down here and I'll be back in a minute. I'll only show Daddy where to go.' 'This is the best place; here we can see and not be seen,' said Ergushov, 'so it's here we'll lie. It's a first-rate place!' Nazarka and Ergushov spread out their cloaks and settled down behind the log, while Lukashka went on with Uncle Eroshka... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was growing light. The Chechen's body which was gently rocking in the shallow water was now clearly visible. Suddenly the reeds rustled not far from Luke and he heard steps and saw the feathery tops of the reeds moving. He set his gun at full cock and muttered: 'In the name of the Father and of the Son,' but when the cock clicked the sound of steps ceased. 'Halloo, Cossacks! Don't kill your Daddy!' said a deep bass voice calmly; and moving the reeds apart Daddy Eroshka came up close to Luke. 'I very nearly killed you, by God I did!' said Lukashka. 'What have you shot?' asked the old man. His sonorous voice resounded through the wood and downward along the river, suddenly dispelling the mysterious quiet of night around the Cossack. It was as if everything had suddenly become lighter and more distinct. 'There now. Uncle, you have not seen anything, but I've killed a beast,' said Lukashka, uncocking his gun and getting up... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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On the third day after the events above described, two companies of a Caucasian infantry regiment arrived at the Cossack village of Novomlinsk. The horses had been unharnessed and the companies' wagons were standing in the square. The cooks had dug a pit, and with logs gathered from various yards (where they had not been sufficiently securely stored) were now cooking the food; the pay-sergeants were settling accounts with the soldiers. The Service Corps men were driving piles in the ground to which to tie the horses, and the quartermasters were going about the streets just as if they were at home, showing officers and men to their quarters. Here were green ammunition boxes in a line, the company's carts, horses, and cauldrons in which buckwheat porridge was being cooked. Here were the captain and the lieutenant and the sergeant-major, Onisim Mikhaylovich, and all this was in the Cossack village where it was reported that the companies were ordered to take up their qua... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Towards evening the master of the house returned from his fishing, and having learned that the cadet would pay for the lodging, pacified the old woman and satisfied Vanyusha's demands. Everything was arranged in the new quarters. Their hosts moved into the winter hut and let their summer hut to the cadet for three rubles a month. Olenin had something to eat and went to sleep. Towards evening he woke up, washed and made himself tidy, dined, and having lit a cigarette sat down by the window that looked onto the street. It was cooler. The slanting shadow of the hut with its ornamental gables fell across the dusty road and even bent upwards at the base of the wall of the house opposite. The steep reed-thatched roof of that house shone in the rays of the setting sun. The air grew fresher. Everything was peaceful in the village. The soldiers had settled down and become quiet. The herds had not yet been driven home and the people had not returned from their work. (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Vanyusha, who meanwhile had finished his housekeeping arrangements and had even been shaved by the company's barber and had pulled his trousers out of his high boots as a sign that the company was stationed in comfortable quarters, was in excellent spirits. He looked attentively but not benevolently at Eroshka, as at a wild beast he had never seen before, shook his head at the floor which the old man had dirtied and, having taken two bottles from under a bench, went to the landlady. 'Good evening, kind people,' he said, having made up his mind to be very gentle. 'My master has sent me to get some chikhir. Will you draw some for me, good folk?' The old woman gave no answer. The girl, who was arranging the kerchief on her head before a little Tartar mirror, looked round at Vanyusha in silence. 'I'll pay money for it, honored people,' said Vanyusha, jingling the coppers in his pocket. 'Be kind to us and we, too will be kind to you,' he added. (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Meanwhile the tattoo had sounded in the village square. The people had returned from their work. The herd lowed as in clouds of golden dust it crowded at the village gate. The girls and the women hurried through the streets and yards, turning in their cattle. The sun had quite hidden itself behind the distant snowy peaks. One pale bluish shadow spread over land and sky. Above the darkened gardens stars just discernible were kindling, and the sounds were gradually hushed in the village. The cattle having been attended to and left for the night, the women came out and gathered at the corners of the streets and, cracking sunflower seeds with their teeth, settled down on the earthen embankments of the houses. Later on Maryanka, having finished milking the buffalo and the other two cows, also joined one of these groups. The group consisted of several women and girls and one old Cossack man. They were talking about the abrek who had been killed. T... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was quite true that Olenin had been walking about the yard when Maryanka entered the gate, and had heard her say, 'That devil, our lodger, is walking about.' He had spent that evening with Daddy Eroshka in the porch of his new lodging. He had had a table, a samovar, wine, and a candle brought out, and over a cup of tea and a cigar he listened to the tales the old man told seated on the threshold at his feet. Though the air was still, the candle dripped and flickered: now lighting up the post of the porch, now the table and crockery, now the cropped white head of the old man. Moths circled round the flame and, shedding the dust of their wings, fluttered on the table and in the glasses, flew into the candle flame, and disappeared in the black space beyond. Olenin and Eroshka had emptied five bottles of chikhir. Eroshka filled the glasses every time, offering one to Olenin, drinking his health, and talking untiringly. He told of Cossack life in the old days: of his fa... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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'Well, what was I saying?' he continued, trying to remember. 'Yes, that's the sort of man I am. I am a hunter. There is no hunter to equal me in the whole army. I will find and show you any animal and any bird, and what and where. I know it all! I have dogs, and two guns, and nets, and a screen and a hawk. I have everything, thank the Lord! If you are not bragging but are a real sportsman, I'll show you everything. Do you know what a man I am? When I have found a track—I know the animal. I know where he will lie down and where he'll drink or wallow. I make myself a perch and sit there all night watching. What's the good of staying at home? One only gets into mischief, gets drunk. And here women come and chatter, and boys shout at me—enough to drive one mad. It's a different matter when you go out at nightfall, choose yourself a place, press down the reeds and sit there and stay waiting, like a jolly fellow. One knows everything that goes on in the woods. On... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Daddy Eroshka was a superannuated and solitary Cossack: twenty years ago his wife had gone over to the Orthodox Church and run away from him and married a Russian sergeant-major, and he had no children. He was not bragging when he spoke of himself as having been the boldest dare-devil in the village when he was young. Everybody in the regiment knew of his old-time prowess. The death of more than one Russian, as well as Chechen, lay on his conscience. He used to go plundering in the mountains, and robbed the Russians too; and he had twice been in prison. The greater part of his life was spent in the forests, hunting. There he lived for days on a crust of bread and drank nothing but water. But on the other hand, when he was in the village he made merry from morning to night. After leaving Olenin he slept for a couple of hours and awoke before it was light. He lay on his bed thinking of the man he had become acquainted with the evening before. Olenin's 'simplicity' (simp... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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From Eroshka's hut Lukashka went home. As he returned, the dewy mists were rising from the ground and enveloped the village. In various places the cattle, though out of sight, could be heard beginning to stir. The cocks called to one another with increasing frequency and insistence. The air was becoming more transparent, and the villagers were getting up. Not till he was close to it could Lukishka discern the fence of his yard, all wet with dew, the porch of the hut, and the open shed. From the misty yard he heard the sound of an ax chopping wood. Lukashka entered the hut. His mother was up, and stood at the oven throwing wood into it. His little sister was still lying in bed asleep. 'Well, Lukashka, had enough holiday-making?' asked his mother softly. 'Where did you spend the night?' 'I was in the village,' replied her son reluctantly, reaching for his musket, which he drew from its cover and examined carefully. His mother swayed... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Lukasha returned to the cordon and at the same time Daddy Eroshka whistled to his dogs and, climbing over his wattle fence, went to Olenin's lodging, passing by the back of the houses (he disliked meeting women before going out hunting or shooting). He found Olenin still asleep, and even Vanyusha, though awake, was still in bed and looking round the room considering whether it was not time to get up, when Daddy Eroshka, gun on shoulder and in full hunter's trappings, opened the door. 'A cudgel!' he shouted in his deep voice. 'An alarm! The Chechens are upon us! Ivan! get the samovar ready for your master, and get up yourself—quick,' cried the old man. 'That's our way, my good man! Why even the girls are already up! Look out of the window. See, she's going for water and you're still sleeping!' Olenin awoke and jumped up, feeling fresh and lighthearted at the sight of the old man and at the sound of his voice. 'Quick, Vanyusha, quick!'... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The mist had partly lifted, showing the wet reed thatches, and was now turning into dew that moistened the road and the grass beside the fence. Smoke rose everywhere in clouds from the chimneys. The people were going out of the village, some to their work, some to the river, and some to the cordon. The hunters walked together along the damp, grass-grown path. The dogs, wagging their tails and looking at their masters, ran on both sides of them. Myriads of gnats hovered in the air and pursued the hunters, covering their backs, eyes, and hands. The air was fragrant with the grass and with the dampness of the forest. Olenin continually looked round at the ox-cart in which Maryanka sat urging on the oxen with a long switch. It was calm. The sounds from the village, audible at first, now no longer reached the sportsmen. Only the brambles cracked as the dogs ran under them, and now and then birds called to one another. Olenin knew that danger lurked in the forest,... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The next day Olenin went alone to the spot where he and the old man startled the stag. Instead of passing round through the gate he climbed over the prickly hedge, as everybody else did, and before he had had time to pull out the thorns that had caught in his coat, his dog, which had run on in front, started two pheasants. He had hardly stepped among the briers when the pheasants began to rise at every step (the old man had not shown him that place the day before as he meant to keep it for shooting from behind the screen). Olenin fired twelve times and killed five pheasants, but clambering after them through the briers he got so fatigued that he was drenched with perspiration. He called off his dog, uncocked his gun, put in a bullet above the small shot, and brushing away the mosquitoes with the wide sleeve of his Circassian coat he went slowly to the spot where they had been the day before. It was however impossible to keep back the dog, who found trails on the very p... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Suddenly it was as though the sun had shone into his soul. He heard Russian being spoken, and also heard the rapid smooth flow of the Terek, and a few steps farther in front of him saw the brown moving surface of the river, with the dim-colored wet sand of its banks and shallows, the distant steppe, the cordon watch-tower outlined above the water, a saddled and hobbled horse among the brambles, and then the mountains opening out before him. The red sun appeared for an instant from under a cloud and its last rays glittered brightly along the river over the reeds, on the watch-tower, and on a group of Cossacks, among whom Lukashka's vigorous figure attracted Olenin's involuntary attention. Olenin felt that he was again, without any apparent cause, perfectly happy. He had come upon the Nizhni-Prototsk post on the Terek, opposite a pro-Russian Tartar village on the other side of the river. He accosted the Cossacks, but not finding as yet any excuse for doing any... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The Captain and the head of the village rode away, and Olenin, to please Lukashka as well as to avoid going back alone through the dark forest, asked the corporal to give Lukashka leave, and the corporal did so. Olenin thought that Lukashka wanted to see Maryanka and he was also glad of the companionship of such a pleasant-looking and sociable Cossack. Lukashka and Maryanka he involuntarily united in his mind, and he found pleasure in thinking about them. 'He loves Maryanka,' thought Olenin, 'and I could love her,' and a new and powerful emotion of tenderness overcame him as they walked homeward together through the dark forest. Lukashka too felt happy; something akin to love made itself felt between these two very different young men. Every time they glanced at one another they wanted to laugh. 'By which gate do you enter?' asked Olenin. 'By the middle one. But I'll see you as far as the marsh. After that you have nothing to fear.' Olenin... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Olenin's life went on with monotonous regularity. He had little intercourse with the commanding officers or with his equals. The position of a rich cadet in the Caucasus was peculiarly advantageous in this respect. He was not sent out to work, or for training. As a reward for going on an expedition he was recommended for a commission, and meanwhile he was left in peace. The officers regarded him as an aristocrat and behaved towards him with dignity. Cardplaying and the officers' carousals accompanied by the soldier-singers, of which he had had experience when he was with the detachment, did not seem to him attractive, and he also avoided the society and life of the officers in the village. The life of officers stationed in a Cossack village has long had its own definite form. Just as every cadet or officer when in a fort regularly drinks porter, plays cards, and discusses the rewards given for taking part in the expeditions, so in the Cossack villages he regularly dri... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was five in the morning. Vanyusha was in the porch heating the samovar, and using the leg of a long boot instead of bellows. Olenin had already ridden off to bathe in the Terek. (He had recently invented a new amusement: to swim his horse in the river.) His landlady was in her outhouse, and the dense smoke of the kindling fire rose from the chimney. The girl was milking the buffalo cow in the shed. 'Can't keep quiet, the damned thing!' came her impatient voice, followed by the rhythmical sound of milking. From the street in front of the house horses' hoofs were heard clattering briskly, and Olenin, riding bareback on a handsome dark-gray horse which was still wet and shining, rode up to the gate. Maryanka's handsome head, tied round with a red kerchief, appeared from the shed and again disappeared. Olenin was wearing a red silk shirt, a white Circassian coat girdled with a strap which carried a dagger, and a tall cap. He sat his well-fed wet horse with a s... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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'How is it you don't know your own lodger?' said Beletski, addressing Maryanka. 'How is one to know him if he never comes to see us?' answered Maryanka, with a look at Olenin. Olenin felt frightened, he did not know of what. He flushed and, hardly knowing what he was saying, remarked: 'I'm afraid of your mother. She gave me such a scolding the first time I went in.' Maryanka burst out laughing. 'And so you were frightened?' she said, and glanced at him and turned away. It was the first time Olenin had seen the whole of her beautiful face. Till then he had seen her with her kerchief covering her to the eyes. It was not for nothing that she was reckoned the beauty of the village. Ustenka was a pretty girl, small, plump, rosy, with merry brown eyes, and red lips which were perpetually smiling and chattering. Maryanka on the contrary was certainly not pretty but beautiful. Her features might have been considered too... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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'Yes,' thought Olenin, as he walked home. 'I need only slacken the reins a bit and I might fall desperately in love with this Cossack girl.' He went to bed with these thoughts, but expected it all to blow over and that he would continue to live as before. But the old life did not return. His relations to Maryanka were changed. The wall that had separated them was broken down. Olenin now greeted her every time they met. The master of the house having returned to collect the rent, on hearing of Olenin's wealth and generosity invited him to his hut. The old woman received him kindly, and from the day of the party onwards Olenin often went in of an evening and sat with them till late at night. He seemed to be living in the village just as he used to, but within him everything had changed. He spent his days in the forest, and towards eight o'clock, when it began to grow dusk, he would go to see his hosts, alone or with Daddy Eroshka. They grew so used to... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Just before the vintage Lukashka came on horseback to see Olenin. He looked more dashing than ever. 'Well? Are you getting married?' asked Olenin, greeting him merrily. Lukashka gave no direct reply. 'There, I've exchanged your horse across the river. This is a horse! A Kabarda horse from the Lov stud. I know horses.' They examined the new horse and made him caracole about the yard. The horse really was an exceptionally fine one, a broad and long gelding, with glossy coat, thick silky tail, and the soft fine mane and crest of a thoroughbred. He was so well fed that 'you might go to sleep on his back' as Lukashka expressed it. His hoofs, eyes, teeth, were exquisitely shaped and sharply outlined, as one only finds them in very pure-bred horses. Olenin could not help admiring the horse, he had not yet met with such a beauty in the Caucasus. 'And how it goes!' said Lukashka, patting its neck. 'What a step! And so clever&mdash... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The bethrothal was taking place in the cornet's hut. Lukashka had returned to the village, but had not been to see Olenin, and Olenin had not gone to the betrothal though he had been invited. He was sad as he had never been since he settled in this Cossack village. He had seen Lukashka earlier in the evening and was worried by the question why Lukashka was so cold towards him. Olenin shut himself up in his hut and began writing in his diary as follows: 'Many things have I pondered over lately and much have I changed,' wrote he, 'and I have come back to the copybook maxim: The one way to be happy is to love, to love self-denyingly, to love everybody and everything; to spread a web of love on all sides and to take all who come into it. In this way I caught Vanyusha, Daddy Eroshka, Lukashka, and Maryanka.' As Olenin was finishing this sentence Daddy Eroshka entered the room. Eroshka was in the happiest frame of mind. A few evenings before this,... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was August. For days the sky had been cloudless, the sun scorched unbearably and from early morning the warm wind raised a whirl of hot sand from the sand-drifts and from the road, and bore it in the air through the reeds, the trees, and the village. The grass and the leaves on the trees were covered with dust, the roads and dried-up salt marshes were baked so hard that they rang when trodden on. The water had long since subsided in the Terek and rapidly vanished and dried up in the ditches. The slimy banks of the pond near the village were trodden bare by the cattle and all day long you could hear the splashing of water and the shouting of girls and boys bathing. The sand-drifts and the reeds were already drying up in the steppes, and the cattle, lowing, ran into the fields in the day-time. The boars migrated into the distant reed-beds and to the hills beyond the Terek. Mosquitoes and gnats swarmed in thick clouds over the low lands and villages. The snow-peaks we... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Although there was no escape from the heat and the mosquitoes swarmed in the cool shadow of the wagons, and her little brother tossing about beside her kept pushing her, Maryanka having drawn her kerchief over her head was just falling asleep, when suddenly their neighbor Ustenka came running towards her and, diving under the wagon, lay down beside her. 'Sleep, girls, sleep!' said Ustenka, making herself comfortable under the wagon. 'Wait a bit,' she exclaimed, 'this won't do!' She jumped up, plucked some green branches, and stuck them through the wheels on both sides of the wagon and hung her beshmet over them. 'Let me in,' she shouted to the little boy as she again crept under the wagon. 'Is this the place for a Cossack—with the girls? Go away!' When alone under the wagon with her friend, Ustenka suddenly put both her arms round her, and clinging close to her began kissing her cheeks and neck. 'Darling, sweetheart,... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The sun had come out from behind the pear-tree that had shaded the wagon, and even through the branches that Ustenka had fixed up it scorched the faces of the sleeping girls. Maryanka woke up and began arranging the kerchief on her head. Looking about her, beyond the pear-tree she noticed their lodger, who with his gun on his shoulder stood talking to her father. She nudged Ustenka and smilingly pointed him out to her. 'I went yesterday and didn't find a single one,' Olenin was saying as he looked about uneasily, not seeing Maryanka through the branches. 'Ah, you should go out there in that direction, go right as by compasses, there in a disused vineyard denominated as the Waste, hares are always to be found,' said the cornet, having at once changed his manner of speech. 'A fine thing to go looking for hares in these busy times! You had better come and help us, and do some work with the girls,' the old woman said merrily. 'Now then, girls,... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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He stopped once or twice, listening to the ringing laughter of Maryanka and Ustenka who, having come together, were shouting something. Olenin spent the whole evening hunting in the forest and returned home at dusk without having killed anything. When crossing the road he noticed her open the door of the outhouse, and her blue smock showed through it. He called to Vanyusha very loud so as to let her know that he was back, and then sat down in the porch in his usual place. His hosts now returned from the vineyard; they came out of the outhouse and into their hut, but did not ask of the latch and knocked. The floor hardly creaked under the bare cautious footsteps which approached the door. The latch clicked, the door creaked, and he noticed a faint smell of marjoram and pumpkin, and Maryanka's whole figure appeared in the doorway. He saw her only for an instant in the moonlight. She slammed the door and, muttering something, ran lightly back again. Olenin began rapping... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was late when he awoke the next day. His hosts were no longer in. He did not go shooting, but now took up a book, and now went out into the porch, and now again reentered the hut and lay down on the bed. Vanyusha thought he was ill. Towards evening Olenin got up, resolutely began writing, and wrote on till late at night. He wrote a letter, but did not post it because he felt that no one would have understood what he wanted to say, and besides it was not necessary that anyone but himself should understand it. This is what he wrote: 'I receive letters of condolence from Russia. They are afraid that I shall perish, buried in these wilds. They say about me: "He will become coarse; he will be behind the times in everything; he will take to drink, and who knows but that he may marry a Cossack girl." It was not for nothing, they say, that Ermolov declared: "Anyone serving in the Caucasus for ten years either becomes a confirmed drunkard or marries a loo... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Late that evening, after writing this letter, Olenin went to his hosts' hut. The old woman was sitting on a bench behind the oven unwinding cocoons. Maryanka with her head uncovered sat sewing by the light of a candle. On seeing Olenin she jumped up, took her kerchief and stepped to the oven. 'Maryanka dear,' said her mother, 'won't you sit here with me a bit?' 'No, I'm bareheaded,' she replied, and sprang up on the oven. Olenin could only see a knee, and one of her shapely legs hanging down from the oven. He treated the old woman to tea. She treated her guest to clotted cream which she sent Maryanka to fetch. But having put a plateful on the table Maryanka again sprang on the oven from whence Olenin felt her eyes upon him. They talked about household matters. Granny Ulitka became animated and went into raptures of hospitality. She brought Olenin preserved grapes and a grape tart and some of her best wine, and pressed him to eat and drink with the rough yet proud hosp... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The next day was a holiday. In the evening all the villagers, their holiday clothes shining in the sunset, were out in the street. That season more wine than usual had been produced, and the people were now free from their labors. In a month the Cossacks were to start on a campaign and in many families preparations were being made for weddings. Most of the people were standing in the square in front of the Cossack Government Office and near the two shops, in one of which cakes and pumpkin seeds were sold, in the other kerchiefs and cotton prints. On the earth-embankment of the office-building sat or stood the old men in sober gray, or black coats without gold trimmings or any kind of ornament. They conversed among themselves quietly in measured tones, about the harvest, about the young folk, about village affairs, and about old times, looking with dignified equanimity at the younger generation. Passing by them, the women and girls stopped and bent their heads... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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Just then two men rode out of the side street into the square. One of them was Nazarka. The other, Lukashka, sat slightly sideways on his well-fed bay Kabarda horse which stepped lightly over the hard road jerking its beautiful head with its fine glossy mane. The well-adjusted gun in its cover, the pistol at his back, and the cloak rolled up behind his saddle showed that Lukashka had not come from a peaceful place or from one near by. The smart way in which he sat a little sideways on his horse, the careless motion with which he touched the horse under its belly with his whip, and especially his half-closed black eyes, glistening as he looked proudly around him, all expressed the conscious strength and self-confidence of youth. 'Ever seen as fine a lad?' his eyes, looking from side to side, seemed to say. The elegant horse with its silver ornaments and trappings, the weapons, and the handsome Cossack himself attracted the attention of everyone in the square. Nazarka,... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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'Your health!' said Lukashka, taking from his mother's hands a cup filled to the brim with chikhir and carefully raising it to his bowed head. 'A bad business!' said Nazarka. 'You heard how Daddy Burlak said, "Have you stolen many horses?" He seems to know!' 'A regular wizard!' Lukashka replied shortly. 'But what of it!' he added, tossing his head. 'They are across the river by now. Go and find them!' 'Still it's a bad lookout.' 'What's a bad lookout? Go and take some chikhir to him to-morrow and nothing will come of it. Now let's make merry. Drink!' shouted Lukashka, just in the tone in which old Eroshka uttered the word. 'We'll go out into the street and make merry with the girls. You go and get some honey; or no, I'll send our dumb wench. We'll make merry till morning.' Nazarka smiled. 'Are we stopping here long?' he asked. Till we've had a bit of fun. Run and get some vodka. Here's the money.'... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was already dark when Lukashka went out into the street. The autumn night was fresh and calm. The full golden moon floated up behind the tall dark poplars that grew on one side of the square. From the chimneys of the outhouses smoke rose and spread above the village, mingling with the mist. Here and there lights shone through the windows, and the air was laden with the smell of kisyak, grape-pulp, and mist. The sounds of voices, laughter, songs, and the cracking of seeds mingled just as they had done in the daytime, but were now more distinct. Clusters of white kerchiefs and caps gleamed through the darkness near the houses and by the fences. In the square, before the shop door which was lit up and open, the black and white figures of Cossack men and maids showed through the darkness, and one heard from afar their loud songs and laughter and talk. The girls, hand in hand, went round and round in a circle stepping lightly in the dusty square. A skinny girl,... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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It was already late in the night when Olenin came out of Beletski's hut following Maryanka and Ustenka. He saw in the dark street before him the gleam of the girl's white kerchief. The golden moon was descending towards the steppe. A silvery mist hung over the village. All was still; there were no lights anywhere and one heard only the receding footsteps of the young women. Olenin's heart beat fast. The fresh moist atmosphere cooled his burning face. He glanced at the sky and turned to look at the hut he had just come out of: the candle was already out. Then he again peered through the darkness at the girls' retreating shadows. The white kerchief disappeared in the mist. He was afraid to remain alone, he was so happy. He jumped down from the porch and ran after the girls. 'Bother you, someone may see…' said Ustenka. 'Never mind!' Olenin ran up to Maryanka and embraced her. Maryanka did not resist. 'Haven't you kiss... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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The next day Olenin awoke earlier than usual, and immediately remembered what lay before him, and he joyfully recalled her kisses, the pressure of her hard hands, and her words, 'What white hands you have!' He jumped up and wished to go at once to his hosts' hut to ask for their consent to his marriage with Maryanka. The sun had not yet risen, but it seemed that there was an unusual bustle in the street and side-street: people were moving about on foot and on horseback, and talking. He threw on his Circassian coat and hastened out into the porch. His hosts were not yet up. Five Cossacks were riding past and talking loudly together. In front rode Lukashka on his broad-backed Kabarda horse. The Cossacks were all speaking and shouting so that it was impossible to make out exactly what they were saying. 'Ride to the Upper Post,' shouted one. 'Saddle and catch us up, be quick,' said another. 'It's nearer through the other gate!'... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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'Are they far?' was all Lukashka said. Just then they heard a sharp shot some thirty paces off. The corporal smiled slightly. 'Our Gurka is having shots at them,' he said, nodding in the direction of the shot. Having gone a few paces farther they saw Gurka sitting behind a sand-hillock and loading his gun. To while away the time he was exchanging shots with the ABREKS, who were behind another sand-heap. A bullet came whistling from their side. The cornet was pale and grew confused. Lukashka dismounted from his horse, threw the reins to one of the other Cossacks, and went up to Gurka. Olenin also dismounted and, bending down, followed Lukashka. They had hardly reached Gurka when two bullets whistled above them. Lukashka looked around laughing at Olenin and stooped a little. 'Look out or they will kill you, Dmitri Andreich,' he said. 'You'd better go away—you have no business here.' But O... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

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For two hours after returning home he lay on his bed motionless. Then he went to his company commander and obtained leave to visit the staff. Without taking leave of anyone, and sending Vanyusha to settle his accounts with his landlord, he prepared to leave for the fort where his regiment was stationed. Daddy Eroshka was the only one to see him off. They had a drink, and then a second, and then yet another. Again as on the night of his departure from Moscow, a three-horsed conveyance stood waiting at the door. But Olenin did not confer with himself as he had done then, and did not say to himself that all he had thought and done here was 'not it'. He did not promise himself a new life. He loved Maryanka more than ever, and knew that he could never be loved by her. 'Well, good-bye, my lad!' said Daddy Eroshka. 'When you go on an expedition, be wise and listen to my words—the words of an old man. When you are out on a raid or the like (you know I'm an old w... (From : Gutenberg.org.)

Chronology

1863 :
The Cossacks -- Publication.

February 17, 2017 ; 7:51:50 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.

May 13, 2021 ; 6:38:24 AM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.

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