Author : Leo Tolstoy
Translator : Nathan Haskell Dole
As soon as the horses were driven in, they once more gathered around the piebald.
"In the month of August," continued the horse, u I was separated from my mother, and I did not experience any unusual grief. I saw that she was already suckling a small brother,—the famous Usan,—and I was not what I had been before. I was not jealous, but I felt that I had become more than ever cool toward her. Besides, I knew that in leaving my mother I should be transferred to the general division of young horses, where we were stalled in twos and threes, and every day all went out to exercise.
I was in one stall with Milui. Milui was a saddle-horse, and afterwards belonged to the emperor himself, and was put into pictures and statuary. At that time he was a mere colt, with a shiny soft coat, a swan-like neck, and slender straight legs. He was always lively, good-natured, and lovable; was always ready to frisk, and be caressed, and sport with either horse or man. He and I could not help being good friends, living together as we did; and our friendship lasted till we grew up. He was gay, and inclined to be wanton. Even then he began to feel the tender passion to disport with the fillies, and he used to make sport of my guilelessness. To my unhappiness I myself, out of egotism, tried to follow his example, and very soon was in love. And* this early inclination of mine was the cause, in great measure, of my fate.
"But I am not going to relate all the story of my unhappy first love; she herself remembers my stupid passion, which ended for me in the most important change in my life.
"The drovers came along, drove her away, and pounded me. In the evening they led me into a special stall. I whinnied the whole night long, as though with a presentiment of what was coming on the morrow.
"In the morning the general, the equerry, the under grooms, and the hostlers came into the corridor where my stall was, and set up a terrible screaming. The general screamed to the head groom; the groom justified himself, saying that he had not given orders to send me away, but that the under grooms had done it of their own free will. The general said that it had spoiled every thing, but that it was impossible to keep young stallions. The head groom replied that he would have it attended to. They calmed down and went out, I did not understand it at all,—except that something concerning me was under consideration.
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"On the next day I had ceased forever to whinny; I became what I am now. All the light of my eyes was quenched. Nothing seemed sweet to me; I became self-absorbed, and began to be pensive. At first I felt indifferent to every thing. I ceased even to eat, to drink, and to run; and all thought of sprightly sport was gone. Then it nevermore came into my mind to kick up my heels, to roll over, to whi* nny, without bringing up the terrible question,—Why? for what purpose?' And my vigor died away.
"Once they led me out at eventide, at the time when they were driving the stud home from the field. From afar I saw already the cloud of dust in which could be barely distinguished the familiar lineaments of all of our mothers. I heard the cheerful snorting, and the trampling of hoofs. I stopped short, though the halter-rope by which the groom held me cut my neck; and I gazed at the approaching drove as one gazes at happiness that is lost forever and will ne'er return again. They drew near, and my eyes fell upon forms so well known to me,—beautiful, grand, plump, full of life every one. Who among them all deigned to glance at me? I did not feel the pain that the groom in pulling the rope inflicted. I forgot myself, and involuntarily tried to whinny as of yore, and to gallop off; but my whinnying sounded melancholy, ridiculous, and unbecoming. There was no ribaldry among the stud, but I noticed that many of them from politeness turned away from me.
"It was evident that in their eyes I was despicable and pitiable, and worst of all ridiculous. My slender, weakly neck, my big head (I had become thin), my long, thick legs, and the awkward gait that I struck up, in my old fashion, around the groom, all must have seemed absurd to them. No one heeded my whinnying, all turned away from me.
"Suddenly I comprehended it all, comprehended how I was forever sundered from them, every one; and I know not how I stumbled home behind the groom.
"I had already shown a tendency toward gravity and thoughtfulness; but now a decided change came over* me. My variegated coat, which occasioned such a strange prejudice in men, my terrible and unexpected unhappiness, and, moreover, my peculiarly isolated position in the stud—which I felt, but could never explain to myself—compelled me to turn my thoughts inward upon myself. I pondered on the disgust that people showed when they berated me for being a piebald; I pondered on the inconstancy of maternal and especially of female affection, and its dependence upon physical conditions; and, above all, I pondered on the characteristics of that strange race of mortals with whom we are so closely bound, and whom we call men,—those characteristics which were the source of the peculiarity of my position in the stud, felt by me but incomprehensible.
"The significance of this, peculiarity, and of the human characteristics on which it was based, was discovered to me by the following incident:—
"It was winter, at Christmas-tide. All day long no fodder had been given to me, nor had I been led out to water. I afterwards learned that this arose from our groom being drunk. On this day the equerry came to me, saw that I had no food, and began to use hard language about the missing groom, and went %way.
"On the next day, the groom with his mates came out to our stalls to give us some hay. I noticed that he was especially pale and glum, and in the expression of his long back there was a something significant and demanding sympathy.
"He austerely flung the hay behind the grating. I laid my head over his shoulder; but he struck me such a hard blow with his fist on the nose, that I started back. Then he kicked me in the belly with his* boot.
"'If it hadn't been for this scurvy beast,' said he, 'there wouldn't have been any trouble.'
"'Why?' asked another groom.
"'He doesn't come to inquire about the count's you bet! But twice a day he comes out to look after his own.'
"'Have they given him the piebald?' inquired another.
"'Whether they've given it to him or sold it to him, the dog only knows! The count's might die o' starvation—it wouldn't make any difference; but see how it upset him when I didn't give his horse his fodder! 'Go to bed,' says he, 'and then you'll get a basting.' No Christianity in it. More pity on the cattle than on a man. I don't believe he's ever been christened, he himself counted the blows, the barbarian! The general did not use the whip so. He made my back all welts. There's no soul of a Christian in him!'
"Now, what they said about whips and Christianity, I understood well enough; but it was perfectly dark to me as to the meaning of the words, my horse, his horse, by which I perceived that men understood some sort of bond between me and the groom. Wherein consisted this bond, I could not then understand at all. Only long after, when I was separated from the other horses, I came to learn what it meant. At that time I could not understand at all that it meant that they considered me the property of a man. To say my horse in reference to me, a live horse, seemed to me as strange as to say, my earth, my atmosphere, my water.
"But these words had a monstrous influence upon me. I pondered upon them ceaselessly; and only after lo* ng and varied relations with men did I come at last to comprehend the meaning that men find in these strange words.
"The meaning is this: Men rule in life, not by deeds, but by words. They love not so much the possibility of doing or not doing any thing, as the possibility of talking about different objects in words agreed upon between them. Such words, considered very important among them, are the words, my, mine, ours, which they employ for various things, beings, and objects; even for the earth, people, and horses. In regard to any particular thing, they agree that only one person shall say 'It is mine.' And he who in this play, which they engage in, can say mine in regard to the greatest number of things, is considered the most fortunate among them. Why this is so, I know not; but it is so. Long before, I had tried to explain this to my satisfaction, by some direct advantage; but it seemed that I was wrong.
"Many of the men who, for instance, called me their horse, did not ride on me, but entirely different men rode on me. They themselves did not feed me, but entirely different people fed me. Again, it was not those who called me their horse who treated me kindly, but the coachman, the veterinary, and, as a general thing, outside men.
"Afterwards, as I widened the sphere of my experiences, I became convinced that the concept my, as applied not only to us horses, but to other things, has no other foundation than a low and animal, a human instinct, which they call the sentiment or right of property. Man says, my house, and never lives in it, but is only cumbered with the building and maintenance of it. The merchant says, my shop,—my clothing-s* hop, for example,—and he does not even wear clothes made of the best cloth in the shop.
"There are people who call land theirs, and have never seen their land, and have never been on it. There are men who call other people theirs, but have never seen these people; and the whole relationship of these owners, to these people, consists in doing them harm.
"There are men who call women theirs,—their wives or mistresses; but these women live with other men. And men struggle in life not to do what they consider good, but to be possessors of what they call their own.
"I am convinced now that herein lies the substantial difference between men and us. And, therefore, not speaking of other things, where we are superior to men, we are able boldly to say that in this one respect at least, we stand, in the scale of living beings, higher than men. The activity of men—at all events, of those with whom I have had to do—is guided by words; ours, by deeds.
"And here the head groom obtained this right to say about me, my horse; and hence he lashed the hostler. This discovery deeply disturbed me; and those thoughts and opinions which my variegated coat aroused in men, and the thoughtfulness aroused in me by the change in my mother, together subserved to make me into that solemn and contemplative gelding that I am.
"I was threefold unhappy: I was piebald; I was a gelding; and men imagined that I did not belong to God and myself, as is the prerogative of every living thing, but that I belonged to the equerry.
"The consequences of their imagining this about me were many. The first was, that they kept me apart from the others, fed me better, led me more often* , and harnessed me up earlier. They harnessed me first when I was in my third year. I remember the first time, the equerry himself, who imagined that I was his, began, with a crowd of grooms, to harness me, expecting from me some ebullition of temper or contrariness. They put leather straps on me, and conducted me into the stalls. They laid on my back a wide leather cross, and attached it to the thills, so that I should not kick; but I was only waiting an opportunity to show my gait, and my love for work.
"They marveled because I went like an old horse. They began to drive me, and I began to practice trotting. Every day I made greater and greater improvement, so that in three months the general himself, and many others, praised my gait. But this was a strange thing: for the very reason that they imagined that I was the equerry's, and not theirs, my gait had for them an entirely different significance.
"The stallions, my brothers, were put through their paces; their time was reckoned; people came to see them; they were driven in gilded drozhkies. Costly saddles were put upon them. But I was driven in the equerry's simple drozhkies, when he had business at Chesmenka and other manor-houses. All this resulted from the fact that I was piebald, but more than all from the fact that I was, according to their idea, not the property of the count, but of the equerry.
"To-morrow, if we are alive, I will tell you what a serious influence upon me was exercised by this right of proprietorship which the equerry arrogated to himself."
All that day the horses treated Kholstomír with great consideration; but Nester, from old custom, rode him* into the field. But Nester's ways were so rough! The muzhík's gray stallion, coming toward the drove, whinnied: and again the chestnut filly coquettishly replied to him.
(Source: Published by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 13 Astor Place, 1887.)
From : Gutenberg.org.
November 30, 1886 : Part 4, Chapter 6 -- Publication.
June 09, 2021 : Part 4, Chapter 6 -- Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.
June 09, 2021 : Part 4, Chapter 6 -- Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.
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