Vasili Andreevich went over
to his sledge, found it with
difficulty in the darkness, climbed
in and took the reins.
'Go on in front!' he cried.
Petrushka kneeling in his low
sledge started his horse. Mukhorty,
who had been neighing for some
time past, now scenting a mare
ahead of him started after her,
and they drove out into the street.
They drove again through the
outskirts of the village and
along the same road, past the
yard where the frozen linen had
hung (which, however, was no
longer to be seen), past the
same barn, which was now snowed
up almost to the roof and from
which the snow was still endlessly
pouring past the same dismally
moaning, whistling, and swaying
willows, and again entered into
the sea of blustering snow raging
from above and below. The wind
was so strong that when it blew
from the side and the travellers
steered against it, it tilted
the sledges and turned the horses
to one side. Petrushka drove
his good mare in front at a brisk
trot and kept shouting lustily.
Mukhorty pressed after her.
After travelling so for about
ten minutes, Petrushka turned
round and shouted something.
Neither Vasili Andreevich nor
Nikita could hear anything because
of the wind, but they guessed
that they had arrived at the
turning. In fact Petrushka had
turned to the right, and now
the wind that had blown from
the side blew straight in their
faces, and through the snow they
saw something dark on their right.
It was the bush at the turning.
'Well now, God speed you!'
'Thank you, Petrushka!'
'Storms with mist the sky conceal!'
shouted Petrushka as he disappeared.
'There's a poet for you!' muttered
Vasili Andreevich, pulling at
'Yes, a fine lad--a true peasant,'
They drove on.
Nikita, wrapping his coat closely
about him and pressing his head
down so close to his shoulders
that his short beard covered
his throat, sat silently, trying
not to lose the warmth he had
obtained while drinking tea in
the house. Before him he saw
the straight lines of the shafts
which constantly deceived him
into thinking they were on a
well-travelled road, and the
horse's swaying crupper with
his knotted tail blown to one
side, and farther ahead the high
shaft-bow and the swaying head
and neck of the horse with its
waving mane. Now and then he
caught sight of a way-sign, so
that he knew they were still
on a road and that there was
nothing for him to be concerned
Vasili Andreevich drove on,
leaving it to the horse to keep
to the road. But Mukhorty, though
he had had a breathing-space
in the village, ran reluctantly,
and seemed now and then to get
off the road, so that Vasili
Andreevich had repeatedly to
'Here's a stake to the right,
and another, and here's a third,'
Vasili Andreevich counted, 'and
here in front is the forest,'
thought he, as he looked at something
dark in front of him. But what
had seemed to him a forest was
only a bush. They passed the
bush and drove on for another
hundred yards but there was no
fourth way-mark nor any forest.
'We must reach the forest soon,'
thought Vasili Andreevich, and
animated by the vodka and the
tea he did not stop but shook
the reins, and the good obedient
horse responded, now ambling,
now slowly trotting in the direction
in which he was sent, though
he knew that he was not going
the right way. Ten minutes went
by, but there was still no forest.
'There now, we must be astray
again,' said Vasili Andreevich,
Nikita silently got out of
the sledge and holding his coat,
which the wind now wrapped closely
about him and now almost tore
off, started to feel about in
the snow, going first to one
side and then to the other. Three
or four times he was completely
lost to sight. At last he returned
and took the reins from Vasili
'We must go to the right,'
he said sternly and peremptorily,
as he turned the horse.
'Well, if it's to the right,
go to the right,' said Vasili
Andreevich, yielding up the reins
to Nikita and thrusting his freezing
hands into his sleeves.
Nikita did not reply.
'Now then, friend, stir yourself!'
he shouted to the horse, but
in spite of the shake of the
reins Mukhorty moved only at
The snow in places was up to
his knees, and the sledge moved
by fits and starts with his every
Nikita took the whip that hung
over the front of the sledge
and struck him once. The good
horse, unused to the whip, sprang
forward and moved at a trot,
but immediately fell back into
an amble and then to a walk.
So they went on for five minutes.
It was dark and the snow whirled
from above and rose from below,
so that sometimes the shaft-bow
could not be seen. At times the
sledge seemed to stand still
and the field to run backwards.
Suddenly the horse stopped abruptly,
evidently aware of something
close in front of him. Nikita
again sprang lightly out, throwing
down the reins, and went ahead
to see what had brought him to
a standstill, but hardly had
he made a step in front of the
horse before his feet slipped
and he went rolling down an incline.
'Whoa, whoa, whoa!' he said
to himself as he fell, and he
tried to stop his fall but could
not, and only stopped when his
feet plunged into a thick layer
of snow that had drifted to the
bottom of the hollow.
The fringe of a drift of snow
that hung on the edge of the
hollow, disturbed by Nikita's
fall, showered down on him and
got inside his collar.
'What a thing to do!' said
Nikita reproachfully, addressing
the drift and the hollow and
shaking the snow from under his
'Nikita! Hey, Nikita!' shouted
Vasili Andreevich from above.
But Nikita did not reply. He
was too occupied in shaking out
the snow and searching for the
whip he had dropped when rolling
down the incline. Having found
the whip he tried to climb straight
up the bank where he had rolled
down, but it was impossible to
do so: he kept rolling down again,
and so he had to go along at
the foot of the hollow to find
a way up. About seven yards farther
on he managed with difficulty
to crawl up the incline on all
fours, then he followed the edge
of the hollow back to the place
where the horse should have been.
He could not see either horse
or sledge, but as he walked against
the wind he heard Vasili Andreevich's
shouts and Mukhorty's neighing,
'I'm coming! I'm coming! What
are you cackling for?' he muttered.
Only when he had come up to
the sledge could he make out
the horse, and Vasili Andreevich
standing beside it and looking
'Where the devil did you vanish
to? We must go back, if only
to Grishkino,' he began reproaching
'I'd be glad to get back, Vasili
Andreevich, but which way are
we to go? There is such a ravine
here that if we once get in it
we shan't get out again. I got
stuck so fast there myself that
I could hardly get out.'
'What shall we do, then? We
can't stay here! We must go somewhere!'
said Vasili Andreevich.
Nikita said nothing. He seated
himself in the sledge with his
back to the wind, took off his
boots, shook out the snow that
had got into them, and taking
some straw from the bottom of
the sledge, carefully plugged
with it a hole in his left boot.
Vasili Andreevich remained
silent, as though now leaving
everything to Nikita. Having
put his boots on again, Nikita
drew his feet into the sledge,
put on his mittens and took up
the reins, and directed the horse
along the side of the ravine.
But they had not gone a hundred
yards before the horse again
stopped short. The ravine was
in front of him again.
Nikita again climbed out and
again trudged about in the snow.
He did this for a considerable
time and at last appeared from
the opposite side to that from
which he had started.
'Vasili Andreevich, are you
alive?' he called out.
'Here!' replied Vasili Andreevich.
'Well, what now?'
'I can't make anything out.
It's too dark. There's nothing
but ravines. We must drive against
the wind again.'
They set off once more. Again
Nikita went stumbling through
the snow, again he fell in, again
climbed out and trudged about,
and at last quite out of breath
he sat down beside the sledge.
'Well, how now?' asked Vasili
'Why, I am quite worn out and
the horse won't go.'
'Then what's to be done?'
'Why, wait a minute.'
Nikita went away again but
'Follow me!' he said, going
in front of the horse.
Vasili Andreevich no longer
gave orders but implicitly did
what Nikita told him.
'Here, follow me!' Nikita shouted,
stepping quickly to the right,
and seizing the rein he led Mukhorty
down towards a snow-drift.
At first the horse held back,
then he jerked forward, hoping
to leap the drift, but he had
not the strength and sank into
it up to his collar.
'Get out!' Nikita called to
Vasili Andreevich who still sat
in the sledge, and taking hold
of one shaft he moved the sledge
closer to the horse. 'It's hard,
brother!' he said to Mukhorty,
'but it can't be helped. Make
an effort! Now, now, just a little
one!' he shouted.
The horse gave a tug, then
another, but failed to clear
himself and settled down again
as if considering something.
'Now, brother, this won't do!'
Nikita admonished him. 'Now once
Again Nikita tugged at the
shaft on his side, and Vasili
Andreevich did the same on the
Mukhorty lifted his head and
then gave a sudden jerk.
'That's it! That's it!' cried
Nikita. 'Don't be afraid--you
One plunge, another, and a
third, and at last Mukhorty was
out of the snow-drift, and stood
still, breathing heavily and
shaking the snow off himself.
Nikita wished to lead him farther,
but Vasili Andreevich, in his
two fur coats, was so out of
breath that he could not walk
farther and dropped into the
'Let me get my breath!' he
said, unfastening the kerchief
with which he had tied the collar
of his fur coat at the village.
'It's all right here. You lie
there,' said Nikita. 'I will
lead him along.' And with Vasili
Andreevich in the sledge he led
the horse by the bridle about
ten paces down and then up a
slight rise, and stopped.
The place where Nikita had
stopped was not completely in
the hollow where the snow sweeping
down from the hillocks might
have buried them altogether,
but still it was partly sheltered
from the wind by the side of
the ravine. There were moments
when the wind seemed to abate
a little, but that did not last
long and as if to make up for
that respite the storm swept
down with tenfold vigour and
tore and whirled the more fiercely.
Such a gust struck them at the
moment when Vasili Andreevich,
having recovered his breath,
got out of the sledge and went
up to Nikita to consult him as
to what they should do. They
both bent down involuntarily
and waited till the violence
of the squall should have passed.
Mukhorty too laid back his ears
and shook his head discontentedly.
As soon as the violence of the
blast had abated a little, Nikita
took off his mittens, stuck them
into his belt, breathed onto
his hands, and began to undo
the straps of the shaft-bow.
'What's that you are doing
there?' asked Vasili Andreevich.
'Unharnessing. What else is
there to do? I have no strength
left,' said Nikita as though
'Can't we drive somewhere?'
'No, we can't. We shall only
kill the horse. Why, the poor
beast is not himself now,' said
Nikita, pointing to the horse,
which was standing submissively
waiting for what might come,
with his steep wet sides heaving
heavily. 'We shall have to stay
the night here,' he said, as
if preparing to spend the night
at an inn, and he proceeded to
unfasten the collar-straps. The
buckles came undone.
'But shan't we be frozen?'
remarked Vasili Andreevich.
'Well, if we are we can't help
it,' said Nikita.