Part 4, Chapter 12

1887

People :

Author : Leo Tolstoy

Translator : Nathan Haskell Dole

Text :

The host returned, and smiled as he sat down opposite his guest. Neither of them spoke.

"Oh, yes! I was speaking of Atlásnui. I had a great mind to buy the mares of Dubovitsky. Nothing but rubbish was left."

"He was burned out," said Sierpukhovskoï, and suddenly stood up and looked around. He remembered that he owed this ruined man twenty thousand rubles; and that, if burned out were said of any one, it might by good rights be said about himself. He began to laugh.

Both kept silence long. The master was revolving in his mind how he might boast a little before his guest. Sierpukhovskoï was cogitating how he might show that he did not consider himself burned out. But the thoughts of both moved with difficulty, in spite of the fact that they tried to enliven themselves with cigars.

"Well, when shall we have something to drink?" asked the guest of himself.

"At all events, we must have something to drink, else we shall die of the blues," said the host to himself.

"How is it? are you going to stay here long?" asked Sierpukhovskoï.

"About a month yet. Shall we have a little lunch? What say you? Fritz, is every thing ready?"

*

They went back to the dining-room. There, under a hanging lamp, stood the table loaded with candles and very extraordinary things: siphons, and bottles with fancy stoppers, extraordinary wine in decanters, extraordinary liqueurs and vodka. They drank, sat down, drank again, sat down, and tried to talk. Sierpukhovskoï grew flushed, and began to speak unreservedly.

They talked about women: who kept such and such an one; the gypsy, the ballet-girl, the soubrette.[19]

"Why, you left Mathieu, didn't you?" asked the host.

This was the mistress who had caused Sierpukhovskoï such pain.

"No, she left me. O my friend,[20] how one remembers what one has squandered in life! Now I am glad, fact, when I get a thousand rubles; glad, fact, when I get out of everybody's way. I cannot in Moscow. Ah! what's to be said!"

The host was bored to listen to Sierpukhovskoï. He wanted to talk about himself,—to brag. But Sierpukhovskoï also wanted to talk about himself,—about his glittering past. The host poured out some more wine, and waited till he had finished, so as to tell him about his affairs,—how he was going to arrange his stud as no one ever had before; and how Marie loved him, not for his money, but for himself.

"I was going to tell you that in my stud" ... he began. But Sierpukhovskoï interrupted him.

"There was a time, I may say," he began, "when I loved, and knew how to live. You were talking just now about racing; please tell me what is your best racer."

*

The host was glad of the chance to tell some more about his stud, but Sierpukhovskoï again interrupted him.

"Yes, yes," said he. "But the trouble with you breeders is, that you do it only for ostentation, and not for pleasure, for life. It wasn't so with me. I was telling you this very day that I used to have a piebald racer, with just such spots as I saw among your colts. Okh! what a horse he was! You can't imagine it: this was in '42. I had just come to Moscow. I went to a dealer, and saw a piebald gelding. All in best form. He pleased me. Price? Thousand rubles. He pleased me. I took him, and began to ride him. I never had, and you never had and never will have, such a horse. I never knew a better horse, either for gait, or strength, or beauty. You were a lad then. You could not have known, but you may have heard, I suppose. All Moscow knew him."

"Yes, I heard about him," said the host reluctantly; "but I was going to tell you about my" ...

So you heard about him. I bought him just as he was, without pedigree, without proof; but then I knew Voyéïkof, and I traced him. He was sired by Liubeznuï I. He was called Kholstomír.[21] He'd measure linen for you! On account of his spotting, he was given to the equerry at the Khrenovski stud; and he had him gelded, and sold him to the dealer. Aren't any horses like him anymore, friend! Akh! "What a time that was! Akh! vanished youth!" he said, quoting the words of a gypsy song. He began to get wild. "Ekh! that was a golden time! I was t* wenty-five. I had eighty thousand a year income; then I hadn't a gray hair; all my teeth like pearls.... Whatever I undertook prospered. And yet all came to an end." ...

"Well, you didn't have such lively times then," said the host, taking advantage of the interruption. "I tell you that my first horses began to run without" ...

"Your horses! Horses were more mettlesome then" ...

"How more mettlesome?"

"Yes, more mettlesome. I remember how one time I was at Moscow at the races. None of my horses were in it. I did not care for racing; but I had blooded horses, General Chaulet, Mahomet. I had my piebald with me. My coachman was a splendid young fellow. I liked him. But he was rather given to drink, so I drove.—'Sierpukhovskoï,' said they, 'when are you going to get some trotters?'—'I don't care for your low-bred beasts,[22] the devil take 'em! I have a hackdriver's piebald that's worth all of yours.'—Yes, but he doesn't race.'—'Bet you a thousand rubles.' They took me up. He went round in five seconds, won the wager of a thousand rubles. But that was nothing. With my blooded horses I went in a troïka a hundred versts in three hours. All Moscow knew about it."

And Sierpukhovskoï began to brag so fluently and steadily that the host could not get in a word, and sat facing him with dejected countenance. Only, by way of diversion, he would fill up his glass and that of his companion.

It began already to grow light, but still they sat there. It became painfully tiresome to the host. H* e got up.

"Sleep,—let's go to sleep, then," said Sierpukhovskoï, as he got up, and went staggering and puffing to the room that had been assigned to him.

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The master of the house rejoined his mistress.

"Oh, he's unendurable. He got drunk, and lied faster than he could talk."

"And he made love to me too."

"I fear that he's going to borrow of me."

Sierpukhovskoï threw himself on the bed without undressing, and drew a long breath.

"I must have talked a good deal of nonsense," he thought. "Well, it's all the same. Good wine, but he's a big hog. Something cheap about him.[23] And I am a hog myself," he remarked, and laughed aloud. "Well, I used to support others: now it's my turn. I guess the Winkler girl will help me. I'll borrow some money of her. He may come to it. Suppose I've got to undress. Can't get my boot off. Hey, hey!" he cried; but the man who had been ordered to wait on him had long before gone to bed.

He sat up, took off his kittel and his vest, and somehow managed to crawl out of his trousers; but it was long before his boots would stir: with his stout belly it was hard work to stoop over. He got one off; he struggled and struggled with the other, got out of breath, and gave it up. And so with one leg in the boot he threw himself down, and began to snore, filling the whole room with the odor of wine, tobacco, and vile old age.

[19] Frantsuzhenka.

[20] akh, brat brother.

[21] Kholstomír means a cloth measurer: suggesting the greatest distance from linger to linger of the outstretched arms, and rapidity in accomplishing the motion.

[22] literally, muzhíks.

[23] kupésheskoe, merchant-like.

(Source: Published by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 13 Astor Place, 1887.)

From : Gutenberg.org.

Chronology :

November 30, 1886 : Part 4, Chapter 12 -- Publication.
June 09, 2021 : Part 4, Chapter 12 -- Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.
June 09, 2021 : Part 4, Chapter 12 -- Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.

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