Although Vasili Andreevich felt
quite warm in his two fur coats,
especially after struggling in
the snow-drift, a cold shiver
ran down his back on realizing
that he must really spend the
night where they were. To calm
himself he sat down in the sledge
and got out his cigarettes and
Nikita meanwhile unharnessed
Mukhorty. He unstrapped the belly-band
and the back-band, took away
the reins, loosened the collar-strap,
and removed the shaft-bow, talking
to him all the time to encourage
'Now come out! come out!' he
said, leading him clear of the
shafts. 'Now we'll tie you up
here and I'll put down some straw
and take off your bridle. When
you've had a bite you'll feel
But Mukhorty was restless and
evidently not comforted by Nikita's
remarks. He stepped now on one
foot and now on another, and
pressed close against the sledge,
turning his back to the wind
and rubbing his head on Nikita's
sleeve. Then, as if not to pain
Nikita by refusing his offer
of the straw he put before him,
he hurriedly snatched a wisp
out of the sledge, but immediately
decided that it was now no time
to think of straw and threw it
down, and the wind instantly
scattered it, carried it away,
and covered it with snow.
'Now we will set up a signal,'
said Nikita, and turning the
front of the sledge to the wind
he tied the shafts together with
a strap and set them up on end
in front of the sledge. 'There
now, when the snow covers us
up, good folk will see the shafts
and dig us out,' he said, slapping
his mittens together and putting
them on. 'That's what the old
folk taught us!'
Vasili Andreevich meanwhile
had unfastened his coat, and
holding its skirts up for shelter,
struck one sulphur match after
another on the steel box. But
his hands trembled, and one match
after another either did not
kindle or was blown out by the
wind just as he was lifting it
to the cigarette. At last a match
did burn up, and its flame lit
up for a moment the fur of his
coat, his hand with the gold
ring on the bent forefinger,
and the snow-sprinkled oat-straw
that stuck out from under the
drugget. The cigarette lighted,
he eagerly took a whiff or two,
inhaled the smoke, let it out
through his moustache, and would
have inhaled again, but the wind
tore off the burning tobacco
and whirled it away as it had
done the straw.
But even these few puffs had
'If we must spend the night
here, we must!' he said with
decision. 'Wait a bit, I'll arrange
a flag as well,' he added, picking
up the kerchief which he had
thrown down in the sledge after
taking it from round his collar,
and drawing off his gloves and
standing up on the front of the
sledge and stretching himself
to reach the strap, he tied the
handkerchief to it with a tight
The kerchief immediately began
to flutter wildly, now clinging
round the shaft, now suddenly
streaming out, stretching and
'Just see what a fine flag!'
said Vasili Andreevich, admiring
his handiwork and letting himself
down into the sledge. 'We should
be warmer together, but there's
not room enough for two,' he
'I'll find a place,' said Nikita.
'But I must cover up the horse
first--he sweated so, poor thing.
Let go!' he added, drawing the
drugget from under Vasili Andreevich.
Having got the drugget he folded
it in two, and after taking off
the breechband and pad, covered
Mukhorty with it.
'Anyhow it will be warmer,
silly!' he said, putting back
the breechband and the pad on
the horse over the drugget. Then
having finished that business
he returned to the sledge, and
addressing Vasili Andreevich,
said: 'You won't need the sackcloth,
will you? And let me have some
And having taken these things
from under Vasili Andreevich,
Nikita went behind the sledge,
dug out a hole for himself in
the snow, put straw into it,
wrapped his coat well round him,
covered himself with the sackcloth,
and pulling his cap well down
seated himself on the straw he
had spread, and leant against
the wooden back of the sledge
to shelter himself from the wind
and the snow.
Vasili Andreevich shook his
head disapprovingly at what Nikita
was doing, as in general he disapproved
of the peasant's stupidity and
lack of education, and he began
to settle himself down for the
He smoothed the remaining straw
over the bottom of the sledge,
putting more of it under his
side. Then he thrust his hands
into his sleeves and settled
down, sheltering his head in
the corner of the sledge from
the wind in front.
He did not wish to sleep. He
lay and thought: thought ever
of the one thing that constituted
the sole aim, meaning, pleasure,
and pride of his life--of how
much money he had made and might
still make, of how much other
people he knew had made and possessed,
and of how those others had made
and were making it, and how he,
like them, might still make much
more. The purchase of the Goryachkin
grove was a matter of immense
importance to him. By that one
deal he hoped to make perhaps
ten thousand rubles. He began
mentally to reckon the value
of the wood he had inspected
in autumn, and on five acres
of which he had counted all the
'The oaks will go for sledge-runners.
The undergrowth will take care
of itself, and there'll still
be some thirty sazheens of fire-wood
left on each desyatin,' said
he to himself. 'That means there
will be at least two hundred
and twenty-five rubles' worth
left on each desyatin. Fifty-six
desyatiins means fifty-six hundreds,
and fifty-six hundreds, and fifty-six
tens, and another fifty-six tens,
and then fifty-six fives. . .
.' He saw that it came out to
more than twelve thousand rubles,
but could not reckon it up exactly
without a counting-frame. 'But
I won't give ten thousand, anyhow.
I'll give about eight thousand
with a deduction on account of
the glades. I'll grease the surveyor's
palm--give him a hundred rubles,
or a hundred and fifty, and he'll
reckon that there are some five
desyatins of glade to be deducted.
And he'll let it go for eight
thousand. Three thousand cash
down. That'll move him, no fear!'
he thought, and he pressed his
pocket-book with his forearm.
'God only knows how we missed
the turning. The forest ought
to be there, and a watchman's
hut, and dogs barking. But the
damned things don't bark when
they're wanted.' He turned his
collar down from his ear and
listened, but as before only
the whistling of the wind could
be heard, the flapping and fluttering
of the kerchief tied to the shafts,
and the pelting of the snow against
the woodwork of the sledge. He
again covered up his ear.
'If I had known I would have
stayed the night. Well, no matter,
we'll get there to-morrow. It's
only one day lost. And the others
won't travel in such weather.'
Then he remembered that on the
9th he had to receive payment
from the butcher for his oxen.
'He meant to come himself, but
he won't find me, and my wife
won't know how to receive the
money. She doesn't know the right
way of doing things,' he thought,
recalling how at their party
the day before she had not known
how to treat the police-officer
who was their guest. 'Of course
she's only a woman! Where could
she have seen anything? In my
father's time what was our house
like? Just a rich peasant's house:
just an oatmill and an inn--that
was the whole property. But what
have I done in these fifteen
years? A shop, two taverns, a
flour-mill, a grain-store, two
farms leased out, and a house
with an iron-roofed barn,' he
thought proudly. 'Not as it was
in Father's time! Who is talked
of in the whole district now?
Brekhunov! And why? Because I
stick to business. I take trouble,
not like others who lie abed
or waste their time on foolishness
while I don't sleep of nights.
Blizzard or no blizzard I start
out. So business gets done. They
think money-making is a joke.
No, take pains and rack your
brains! You get overtaken out
of doors at night, like this,
or keep awake night after night
till the thoughts whirling in
your head make the pillow turn,'
he meditated with pride. 'They
think people get on through luck.
After all, the Mironovs are now
millionaires. And why? Take pains
and God gives. If only He grants
The thought that he might himself
be a millionaire like Mironov,
who began with nothing, so excited
Vasili Andreevich that he felt
the need of talking to somebody.
But there was no one to talk
to. . . . If only he could have
reached Goryachkin he would have
talked to the landlord and shown
him a thing or two.
'Just see how it blows! It
will snow us up so deep that
we shan't be able to get out
in the morning!' he thought,
listening to a gust of wind that
blew against the front of the
sledge, bending it and lashing
the snow against it. He raised
himself and looked round. All
he could see through the whirling
darkness was Mukhorty's dark
head, his back covered by the
fluttering drugget, and his thick
knotted tail; while all round,
in front and behind, was the
same fluctuating whity darkness,
sometimes seeming to get a little
lighter and sometimes growing
'A pity I listened to Nikita,'
he thought. 'We ought to have
driven on. We should have come
out somewhere, if only back to
Grishkino and stayed the night
at Taras's. As it is we must
sit here all night. But what
was I thinking about? Yes, that
God gives to those who take trouble,
but not to loafers, lie-abeds,
or fools. I must have a smoke!'
He sat down again, got out
his cigarette-case, and stretched
himself flat on his stomach,
screening the matches with the
skirt of his coat. But the wind
found its way in and put out
match after match. At last he
got one to burn and lit a cigarette.
He was very glad that he had
managed to do what he wanted,
and though the wind smoked more
of the cigarette than he did,
he still got two or three puffs
and felt more cheerful. He again
leant back, wrapped himself up,
started reflecting and remembering,
and suddenly and quite unexpectedly
lost consciousness and fell asleep.
Suddenly something seemed to
give him a push and awoke him.
Whether it was Mukhorty who had
pulled some straw from under
him, or whether something within
him had startled him, at all
events it woke him, and his heart
began to beat faster and faster
so that the sledge seemed to
tremble under him. He opened
his eyes. Everything around him
was just as before. 'It looks
lighter,' he thought. 'I expect
it won't be long before dawn.'
But he at once remembered that
it was lighter because the moon
had risen. He sat up and looked
first at the horse. Mukhorty
still stood with his back to
the wind, shivering all over.
One side of the drugget, which
was completely covered with snow,
had been blown back, the breeching
had slipped down and the snow-covered
head with its waving forelock
and mane were now more visible.
Vasili Andreevich leant over
the back of the sledge and looked
behind. Nikita still sat in the
same position in which he had
settled himself. The sacking
with which he was covered, and
his legs, were thickly covered
'If only that peasant doesn't
freeze to death! His clothes
are so wretched. I may be held
responsible for him. What shiftless
people they are--such a want
of education,' thought Vasili
Andreevich, and he felt like
taking the drugget off the horse
and putting it over Nikita, but
it would be very cold to get
out and move about and, moreover,
the horse might freeze to death.
'Why did I bring him with me?
It was all her stupidity!' he
thought, recalling his unloved
wife, and he rolled over into
his old place at the front part
of the sledge. 'My uncle once
spent a whole night like this,'
he reflected, 'and was all right.'
But another case came at once
to his mind. 'But when they dug
Sebastian out he was dead--stiff
like a frozen carcass. If I'd
only stopped the night in Grishkino
all this would not have happened!'
And wrapping his coat carefully
round him so that none of the
warmth of the fur should be wasted
but should warm him all over,
neck, knees, and feet, he shut
his eyes and tried to sleep again.
But try as he would he could
not get drowsy, on the contrary
he felt wide awake and animated.
Again he began counting his gains
and the debts due to him, again
he began bragging to himself
and feeling pleased with himself
and his position, but all this
was continually disturbed by
a stealthily approaching fear
and by the unpleasant regret
that he had not remained in Grishkino.
'How different it would be
to be lying warm on a bench!'
He turned over several times
in his attempts to get into a
more comfortable position more
sheltered from the wind, he wrapped
up his legs closer, shut his
eyes, and lay still. But either
his legs in their strong felt
boots began to ache from being
bent in one position, or the
wind blew in somewhere, and after
lying still for a short time
he again began to recall the
disturbing fact that he might
now have been lying quietly in
the warm hut at Grishkino. He
again sat up, turned about, muffled
himself up, and settled down
Once he fancied that he heard
a distant cock-crow. He felt
glad, turned down his coat-collar
and listened with strained attention,
but in spite of all his efforts
nothing could be heard but the
wind whistling between the shafts,
the flapping of the kerchief,
and the snow pelting against
the frame of the sledge.
Nikita sat just as he had done
all the time, not moving and
not even answering Vasili Andreevich
who had addressed him a couple
of times. 'He doesn't care a
bit--he's probably asleep!' thought
Vasili Andreevich with vexation,
looking behind the sledge at
Nikita who was covered with a
thick layer of snow.
Vasili Andreevich got up and
lay down again some twenty times.
It seemed to him that the night
would never end. 'It must be
getting near morning,' he thought,
getting up and looking around.
'Let's have a look at my watch.
It will be cold to unbutton,
but if I only know that it's
getting near morning I shall
at any rate feel more cheerful.
We could begin harnessing.'
In the depth of his heart Vasili
Andreevich knew that it could
not yet be near morning, but
he was growing more and more
afraid, and wished both to get
to know and yet to deceive himself.
He carefully undid the fastening
of his sheepskin, pushed in his
hand, and felt about for a long
time before he got to his waistcoat.
With great difficulty he managed
to draw out his silver watch
with its enamelled flower design,
and tried to make out the time.
He could not see anything without
a light. Again he went down on
his knees and elbows as he had
done when he lighted a cigarette,
got out his matches, and proceeded
to strike one. This time he went
to work more carefully, and feeling
with his fingers for a match
with the largest head and the
greatest amount of phosphorus,
lit it at the first try. Bringing
the face of the watch under the
light he could hardly believe
his eyes. . . . It was only ten
minutes past twelve. Almost the
whole night was still before
'Oh, how long the night is!'
he thought, feeling a cold shudder
run down his back, and having
fastened his fur coats again
and wrapped himself up, he snuggled
into a corner of the sledge intending
to wait patiently. Suddenly,
above the monotonous roar of
the wind, he clearly distinguished
another new and living sound.
It steadily strengthened, and
having become quite clear diminished
just as gradually. Beyond all
doubt it was a wolf, and he was
so near that the movement of
his jaws as he changed his cry
was brought down the wind. Vasili
Andreevich turned back the collar
of his coat and listened attentively.
Mukhorty too strained to listen,
moving his ears, and when the
wolf had ceased its howling he
shifted from foot to foot and
gave a warning snort. After this
Vasili Andreevich could not fall
asleep again or even calm himself.
The more he tried to think of
his accounts, his business, his
reputation, his worth and his
wealth, the more and more was
he mastered by fear, and regrets
that he had not stayed the night
at Grishkino dominated and mingled
in all his thoughts.
'Devil take the forest! Things
were all right without it, thank
God. Ah, if we had only put up
for the night!' he said to himself.
'They say it's drunkards that
freeze,' he thought, 'and I have
had some drink.' And observing
his sensations he noticed that
he was beginning to shiver, without
knowing whether it was from cold
or from fear. He tried to wrap
himself up and lie down as before,
but could no longer do so. He
could not stay in one position.
He wanted to get up, to do something
to master the gathering fear
that was rising in him and against
which he felt himself powerless.
He again got out his cigarettes
and matches, but only three matches
were left and they were bad ones.
The phosphorus rubbed off them
all without lighting.
'The devil take you! Damned
thing! Curse you!' he muttered,
not knowing whom or what he was
cursing, and he flung away the
crushed cigarette. He was about
to throw away the matchbox too,
but checked the movement of his
hand and put the box in his pocket
instead. He was seized with such
unrest that he could no longer
remain in one spot. He climbed
out of the sledge and standing
with his back to the wind began
to shift his belt again, fastening
it lower down in the waist and
'What's the use of lying and
waiting for death? Better mount
the horse and get away!' The
thought suddenly occurred to
him. 'The horse will move when
he has someone on his back. As
for him,' he thought of Nikita--'it's
all the same to him whether he
lives or dies. What is his life
worth? He won't grudge his life,
but I have something to live
for, thank God.'
He untied the horse, threw
the reins over his neck and tried
to mount, but his coats and boots
were so heavy that he failed.
Then he clambered up in the sledge
and tried to mount from there,
but the sledge tilted under his
weight, and he failed again.
At last he drew Mukhorty nearer
to the sledge, cautiously balanced
on one side of it, and managed
to lie on his stomach across
the horse's back. After lying
like that for a while he shifted
forward once and again, threw
a leg over, and finally seated
himself, supporting his feet
on the loose breeching-straps.
The shaking of the sledge awoke
Nikita. He raised himself, and
it seemed to Vasili Andreevich
that he said something.
'Listen to such fools as you!
Am I to die like this for nothing?'
exclaimed Vasili Andreevich.
And tucking the loose skirts
of his fur coat in under his
knees, he turned the horse and
rode away from the sledge in
the direction in which he thought
the forest and the forester's
hut must be.