The good stallion took the sledge
along at a brisk pace over the
smooth-frozen road through the
village, the runners squeaking
slightly as they went.
'Look at him hanging on there!
Hand me the whip, Nikita!' shouted
Vasili Andreevich, evidently
enjoying the sight of his 'heir,'
who standing on the runners was
hanging on at the back of the
sledge. 'I'll give it you! Be
off to mamma, you dog!'
The boy jumped down. The horse
increased his amble and, suddenly
changing foot, broke into a fast
The Crosses, the village where
Vasili Andreevich lived, consisted
of six houses. As soon as they
had passed the blacksmith's hut,
the last in the village, they
realized that the wind was much
stronger than they had thought.
The road could hardly be seen.
The tracks left by the sledge-runners
were immediately covered by snow
and the road was only distinguished
by the fact that it was higher
than the rest of the ground.
There was a swirl of snow over
the fields and the line where
sky and earth met could not be
seen. The Telyatin forest, usually
clearly visible, now only loomed
up occasionally and dimly through
the driving snowy dust. The wind
came from the left, insistently
blowing over to one side the
mane on Mukhorty's sleek neck
and carrying aside even his fluffy
tail, which was tied in a simple
knot. Nikita's wide coat-collar,
as he sat on the windy side,
pressed close to his cheek and
'This road doesn't give him
a chance--it's too snowy,' said
Vasili Andreevich, who prided
himself on his good horse. 'I
once drove to Pashutino with
him in half an hour.'
'What?' asked Nikita, who could
not hear on account of his collar.
'I say I once went to Pashutino
in half an hour,' shouted Vasili
'It goes without saying that
he's a good horse,' replied Nikita.
They were silent for a while.
But Vasili Andreevich wished
'Well, did you tell your wife
not to give the cooper any vodka?'
he began in the same loud tone,
quite convinced that Nikita must
feel flattered to be talking
with so clever and important
a person as himself, and he was
so pleased with his jest that
it did not enter his head that
the remark might be unpleasant
The wind again prevented Nikita's
hearing his master's words.
Vasili Andreevich repeated
the jest about the cooper in
his loud, clear voice.
'That's their business, Vasili
Andreevich. I don't pry into
their affairs. As long as she
doesn't ill-treat our boy--God
be with them.'
'That's so,' said Vasili Andreevich.
'Well, and will you be buying
a horse in spring?' he went on,
changing the subject.
'Yes, I can't avoid it,' answered
Nikita, turning down his collar
and leaning back towards his
The conversation now became
interesting to him and he did
not wish to lose a word.
'The lad's growing up. He must
begin to plough for himself,
but till now we've always had
to hire someone,' he said.
'Well, why not have the lean-cruppered
one. I won't charge much for
it,' shouted Vasili Andreevich,
feeling animated, and consequently
starting on his favourite occupation--that
of horse-dealing--which absorbed
all his mental powers.
'Or you might let me have fifteen
rubles and I'll buy one at the
horse-market,' said Nikita, who
knew that the horse Vasili Andreevich
wanted to sell him would be dear
at seven rubles, but that if
he took it from him it would
be charged at twenty-five, and
then he would be unable to draw
any money for half a year.
'It's a good horse. I think
of your interest as of my own--according
to conscience. Brekhunov isn't
a man to wrong anyone. Let the
loss be mine. I'm not like others.
Honestly!' he shouted in the
voice in which he hypnotized
his customers and dealers. 'It's
a real good horse.'
'Quite so!' said Nikita with
a sigh, and convinced that there
was nothing more to listen to,
he again released his collar,
which immediately covered his
ear and face.
They drove on in silence for
about half an hour. The wind
blew sharply onto Nikita's side
and arm where his sheepskin was
He huddled up and breathed
into the collar which covered
his mouth, and was not wholly
'What do you think--shall we
go through Karamyshevo or by
the straight road?' asked Vasili
The road through Karamyshevo
was more frequented and was well
marked with a double row of high
stakes. The straight road was
nearer but little used and had
no stakes, or only poor ones
covered with snow.
Nikita thought awhile.
'Though Karamyshevo is farther,
it is better going,' he said.
'But by the straight road,
when once we get through the
hollow by the forest, it's good
going--sheltered,' said Vasili
Andreevich, who wished to go
the nearest way.
'Just as you please,' said
Nikita, and again let go of his
Vasili Andreevich did as he
had said, and having gone about
half a verst came to a tall oak
stake which had a few dry leaves
still dangling on it, and there
he turned to the left.
On turning they faced directly
against the wind, and snow was
beginning to fall. Vasili Andreevich,
who was driving, inflated his
cheeks, blowing the breath out
through his moustache. Nikita
So they went on in silence
for about ten minutes. Suddenly
Vasili Andreevich began saying
'Eh, what?' asked Nikita, opening
Vasili Andreevich did not answer,
but bent over, looking behind
them and then ahead of the horse.
The sweat had curled Mukhorty's
coat between his legs and on
his neck. He went at a walk.
'What is it?' Nikita asked
'What is it? What is it?' Vasili
Andreevich mimicked him angrily.
'There are no stakes to be seen!
We must have got off the road!'
'Well, pull up then, and I'll
look for it,' said Nikita, and
jumping down lightly from the
sledge and taking the whip from
under the straw, he went off
to the left from his own side
of the sledge.
The snow was not deep that
year, so that it was possible
to walk anywhere, but still in
places it was knee-deep and got
into Nikita's boots. He went
about feeling the ground with
his feet and the whip, but could
not find the road anywhere.
'Well, how is it?' asked Vasili
Andreevich when Nikita came back
to the sledge.
'There is no road this side.
I must go to the other side and
try there,' said Nikita.
'There's something there in
front. Go and have a look.'
Nikita went to what had appeared
dark, but found that it was earth
which the wind had blown from
the bare fields of winter oats
and had strewn over the snow,
colouring it. Having searched
to the right also, he returned
to the sledge, brushed the snow
from his coat, shook it out of
his boots, and seated himself
'We must go to the right,'
he said decidedly. 'The wind
was blowing on our left before,
but now it is straight in my
face. Drive to the right,' he
repeated with decision.
Vasili Andreevich took his
advice and turned to the right,
but still there was no road.
They went on in that direction
for some time. The wind was as
fierce as ever and it was snowing
'It seems, Vasili Andreevich,
that we have gone quite astray,'
Nikita suddenly remarked, as
if it were a pleasant thing.
'What is that?' he added, pointing
to some potato vines that showed
up from under the snow.
Vasili Andreevich stopped the
perspiring horse, whose deep
sides were heaving heavily.
'What is it?'
'Why, we are on the Zakharov
lands. See where we've got to!'
'Nonsense!' retorted Vasili
'It's not nonsense, Vasili
Andreevich. It's the truth,'
replied Nikita. 'You can feel
that the sledge is going over
a potato-field, and there are
the heaps of vines which have
been carted here. It's the Zakharov
'Dear me, how we have gone
astray!' said Vasili Andreevich.
'What are we to do now?'
'We must go straight on, that's
all. We shall come out somewhere--if
not at Zakharova, then at the
proprietor's farm,' said Nikita.
Vasili Andreevich agreed, and
drove as Nikita had indicated.
So they went on for a considerable
time. At times they came onto
bare fields and the sledge-runners
rattled over frozen lumps of
earth. Sometimes they got onto
a winter-rye field, or a fallow
field on which they could see
stalks of wormwood, and straws
sticking up through the snow
and swaying in the wind; sometimes
they came onto deep and even
white snow, above which nothing
was to be seen.
The snow was falling from above
and sometimes rose from below.
The horse was evidently exhausted,
his hair had all curled up from
sweat and was covered with hoar-frost,
and he went at a walk. Suddenly
he stumbled and sat down in a
ditch or water-course. Vasili
Andreevich wanted to stop, but
Nikita cried to him:
'Why stop? We've got in and
must get out. Hey, pet! Hey,
darling! Gee up, old fellow!'
he shouted in a cheerful tone
to the horse, jumping out of
the sledge and himself getting
stuck in the ditch.
The horse gave a start and
quickly climbed out onto the
frozen bank. It was evidently
a ditch that had been dug there.
'Where are we now?' asked Vasili
'We'll soon find out!' Nikita
replied. 'Go on, we'll get somewhere.'
'Why, this must be the Goryachkin
forest!' said Vasili Andreevich,
pointing to something dark that
appeared amid the snow in front
'We'll see what forest it is
when we get there,' said Nikita.
He saw that beside the black
thing they had noticed, dry,
oblong willow-leaves were fluttering,
and so he knew it was not a forest
but a settlement, but he did
not wish to say so. And in fact
they had not gone twenty-five
yards beyond the ditch before
something in front of them, evidently
trees, showed up black, and they
heard a new and melancholy sound.
Nikita had guessed right: it
was not a wood, but a row of
tall willows with a few leaves
still fluttering on them here
and there. They had evidently
been planted along the ditch
round a threshing-floor. Coming
up to the willows, which moaned
sadly in the wind, the horse
suddenly planted his forelegs
above the height of the sledge,
drew up his hind legs also, pulling
the sledge onto higher ground,
and turned to the left, no longer
sinking up to his knees in snow.
They were back on a road.
'Well, here we are, but heaven
only knows where!' said Nikita.
The horse kept straight along
the road through the drifted
snow, and before they had gone
another hundred yards the straight
line of the dark wattle wall
of a barn showed up black before
them, its roof heavily covered
with snow which poured down from
it. After passing the barn the
road turned to the wind and they
drove into a snow-drift. But
ahead of them was a lane with
houses on either side, so evidently
the snow had been blown across
the road and they had to drive
through the drift. And so in
fact it was. Having driven through
the snow they came out into a
street. At the end house of the
village some frozen clothes hanging
on a line--shirts, one red and
one white, trousers, leg-bands,
and a petticoat--fluttered wildly
in the wind. The white shirt
in particular struggled desperately,
waving its sleeves about.
'There now, either a lazy woman
or a dead one has not taken her
clothes down before the holiday,'
remarked Nikita, looking at the