Part 4, Chapter 5

1887

People :

Author : Leo Tolstoy

Translator : Nathan Haskell Dole

Text :

In the middle of the yard, flooded with the moonlight, stood the tall, gaunt figure of the gelding, still wearing the high saddle with its prominent pommel. The horses, motionless and in deep silence, stood around him, as though they were learning something new and extraordinary from him. And, indeed, something new and extraordinary they learned from him.

This is what they learned from him:—

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FIRST NIGHT.

"Yes, I was sired by Liubeznuï I. Baba was my dam. According to the genealogy my name is Muzhík I. Muzhík I., I am according to my pedigree; but generally I am known as Kholstomír, on account of a long and glorious gallop, the like of which never took place in Russia. In lineage no horse in the world stands higher than I, for good blood. I would never have told you this. Why should I? You would never have known me as Viazopúrikha knew me when we used to be together at Khrénova, and who only just now recognized me. You would not have believed me had it not been for Viazopúrikha's witness, and I would never have told you this. I do not need the pity of my kind. But you insisted upon it. Well, I am that Kholstomír whom the amateurs are seeking for and cannot find, that Kholstomír whom the co* unt himself named, and whom he let go from his stud because I outran his favorite 'Lebedi.'

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"When I was born I did not know what they meant when they called me a piebald;[7] I thought that I was a horse. The first remark made about my hide, I remember, deeply surprised me and my dam.

"I must have been foaled in the night. In the morning, licked clean by my dam's tongue, I stood on my legs. I remember all my sensations, and that every thing seemed to me perfectly wonderful, and, at the same time, perfectly simple. Our stalls were in a long, warm corridor, with latticed gates, through which nothing could be seen.

"My dam tempted me to suckle; but I was so innocent as yet that I bunted her with my nose, now under her fore-legs, now in other places. Suddenly my dam gazed at the latticed gate, and, throwing her leg over me, stepped to one side. One of the grooms was looking in at us through the lattice.

"'See, Baba has foaled!' he exclaimed, and began to draw the bolt. He came in over the straw bed, and took me up in his arms. 'Come and look, Taras!' he cried; 'see what a piebald colt, a perfect magpie!'

"I tore myself away from him, and fell on my knees.

"'See, a perfect little devil!' he said.

"My dam became disquieted; but she did not take my part, and merely drew a long, long breath, and stepped to one side. The grooms came, and began to look at me. One ran to tell the equerry.

*

"All laughed as they looked at my spotting, and gave me various odd names. I did not understand these names, nor did my dam either. Up to that time in all my family there had never been a single piebald known. We had no idea that there was any thing disgraceful in it. And then all examined my structure and strength.

"See what a lively one!" said the hostler. 'You can't hold him.'

"In a little while came the equerry, and began to marvel at my coloring. He also seemed disgusted.

"'What a nasty beast!' he cried. 'The general will not keep him in the stud. Ekh! Baba, you have caused me much trouble,' he said, turning to my dam. 'You ought to have foaled a colt with a star, but this is completely piebald.'

"My dam vouchsafed no answer, and, as always in such circumstances, merely sighed again.

"'What kind of a devil was his sire? A regular muzhík!' he went on to say. 'It is impossible to keep him in the stud; it's a shame! But we'll see, we'll see,' said he; and all said the same as they looked at me.

"After a few days the general himself came. He took a look at me, and again all seemed horror-struck, and scolded me and my mother also on account of my hide. 'But we'll see, we'll see,' said every one, as soon as they caught sight of me.

"Until spring we young colts lived in separate cells with our dams; only occasionally, when the snow on the roof of the sheds began to melt in the sun, they would let us out into the wide yard, spread with fresh straw. There for the first time I became acquainted with all my kin, near and remote. There I saw how from different doors issued all the famous mares * of that time with their colts. There was the old Holland mare, Mushka, sired by Smetankin, Krasnukha, the saddle-horse Dobrokhotíkha, all celebrities at that time. All gathered together there with their colts, walked up and down in the sunshine, rolled over on the fresh straw, and sniffed of each other like ordinary horses.

"I cannot even now forget the sight of that paddock, full of the beauties of that day. It may seem strange to you to think of me as ever having been young and frisky, but I used to be. This very same Viazopúrikha was there then, a yearling, whose mane had just been cut,[8]—a kind, jolly, frolicsome little horse. But let it not be taken as unkindly meant when I say, that, though she is now considered a rarity among you on account of her pedigree, then she was only one of the meanest horses of that stud. She herself will corroborate this.

"Though my coat of many colors had been displeasing to the men, it was exceedingly attractive to all the horses. They all stood round me, expressing their delight, and frisking with me. I even began to forget the words of the men about my hide, and felt happy. But I soon experienced the first sorrow of my life, and the cause of it was my dam. As soon as it began to thaw, and the swallows chirped on the roof, and the spring made itself felt more and more in the air, my dam began to change in her behavior toward me.

"Her whole character was transformed. Suddenly, without any reason, she began to frisk, galloping around the yard, which certainly did not accord with her dignified growth; then she would pause and consider, and begin to whinny; then she would bite and kick her sister mares; then she began to sme* ll of me, and neigh with dissatisfaction; then trotting out into the sun she would lay her head across the shoulder of my two-year-old sister Kúpchika, and long and earnestly scratch her back, and push me away from nursing her. One time the equerry came, commanded the halter to be put on her, and they led her out of the paddock. She whinnied; I replied to her, and darted after her, but she would not even look at me. The groom Taras seized me in both arms, just as they shut the door on my mother's retreating form.

"I struggled, threw the groom on the straw; but the door was closed, and I only heard my mother's whinnying growing fainter and fainter. And in this whinnying I perceived that she called not for me, but I perceived a very different expression. In reply to her voice, there was heard in the distance a mighty voice.

"I don't remember how Taras got out of my stall; it was too grievous for me. I felt that I had forever lost my mother's love; and wholly because I was a piebald, I said to myself, remembering what the people said of my hide; and such passionate anger came over me, that I began to pound the sides of the stall with my head and feet, and I pounded them until the sweat poured from me, and I could not stand up from exhaustion.

"After some time my dam returned to me. I heard her as she came along the corridor in a prancing trot, wholly unusual to her, and entered our stall. The door was opened for her. I did not recognize her, so much younger and handsomer had she grown. She snuffed at me, neighed, and began to snort. But in her whole expression I could see that she did not love me.

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"Soon they led us to pasture. I now began to experience new pleasures which consoled me for the loss of my mother's love. I had friends and companions. We learned together to eat grass, to neigh like the old horses, and to lift our tails and gallop in wide circles around our dams. This was a happy time. Every thing was forgiven to me; all loved me, and were loved by me, and looked indulgently on all that I did. This did not last long.

"Here something terrible happened to me."

The gelding sighed deeply, deeply, and moved aside from the horses.

The dawn was already far advanced. The gates creaked. Nester came. The horses scattered. The drover straightened the saddle on the gelding's back, and drove away the horses.

[7] pyégi.

[8] All expressed in the word strigúnchik.

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

From : Gutenberg.org.

Chronology :

November 30, 1886 : Part 4, Chapter 5 -- Publication.
June 09, 2021 : Part 4, Chapter 5 -- Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.
June 09, 2021 : Part 4, Chapter 5 -- Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.

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