Having stumbled back to the
sledge Vasili Andreevich caught
hold of it and for a long time
stood motionless, trying to calm
himself and recover his breath.
Nikita was not in his former
place, but something, already
covered with snow, was lying
in the sledge and Vasili Andreevich
concluded that this was Nikita.
His terror had now quite left
him, and if he felt any fear
it was lest the dreadful terror
should return that he had experienced
when on the horse and especially
when he was left alone in the
snow-drift. At any cost he had
to avoid that terror, and to
keep it away he must do something--occupy
himself with something. And the
first thing he did was to turn
his back to the wind and open
his fur coat. Then, as soon as
he recovered his breath a little,
he shook the snow out of his
boots and out of his left-hand
glove (the right-hand glove was
hopelessly lost and by this time
probably lying somewhere under
a dozen inches of snow); then
as was his custom when going
out of his shop to buy grain
from the peasants, he pulled
his girdle low down and tightened
it and prepared for action. The
first thing that occurred to
him was to free Mukhorty's leg
from the rein. Having done that,
and tethered him to the iron
cramp at the front of the sledge
where he had been before, he
was going round the horse's quarters
to put the breechband and pad
straight and cover him with the
cloth, but at that moment he
noticed that something was moving
in the sledge and Nikita's head
rose up out of the snow that
covered it. Nikita, who was half
frozen, rose with great difficulty
and sat up, moving his hand before
his nose in a strange manner
just as if he were driving away
flies. He waved his hand and
said something, and seemed to
Vasili Andreevich to be calling
him. Vasili Andreevich left the
cloth unadjusted and went up
to the sledge.
'What is it?' he asked. 'What
are you saying?'
'I'm dy . . . ing, that's what,'
said Nikita brokenly and with
difficulty. 'Give what is owing
to me to my lad, or to my wife,
'Why, are you really frozen?'
asked Vasili Andreevich.
'I feel it's my death. Forgive
me for Christ's sake . . .' said
Nikita in a tearful voice, continuing
to wave his hand before his face
as if driving away flies.
Vasili Andreevich stood silent
and motionless for half a minute.
Then suddenly, with the same
resolution with which he used
to strike hands when making a
good purchase, he took a step
back and turning up his sleeves
began raking the snow off Nikita
and out of the sledge. Having
done this he hurriedly undid
his girdle, opened out his fur
coat, and having pushed Nikita
down, lay down on top of him,
covering him not only with his
fur coat but with the whole of
his body, which glowed with warmth.
After pushing the skirts of his
coat between Nikita and the sides
of the sledge, and holding down
its hem with his knees, Vasili
Andreevich lay like that face
down, with his head pressed against
the front of the sledge. Here
he no longer heard the horse's
movements or the whistling of
the wind, but only Nikita's breathing.
At first and for a long time
Nikita lay motionless, then he
sighed deeply and moved.
'There, and you say you are
dying! Lie still and get warm,
that's our way . . .' began Vasili
But to his great surprise he
could say no more, for tears
came to his eyes and his lower
jaw began to quiver rapidly.
He stopped speaking and only
gulped down the risings in his
throat. 'Seems I was badly frightened
and have gone quite weak,' he
thought. But this weakness was
not only unpleasant, but gave
him a peculiar joy such as he
had never felt before.
'That's our way!' he said to
himself, experiencing a strange
and solemn tenderness. He lay
like that for a long time, wiping
his eyes on the fur of his coat
and tucking under his knee the
right skirt, which the wind kept
But he longed so passionately
to tell somebody of his joyful
condition that he said: 'Nikita!'
'It's comfortable, warm!' came
a voice from beneath.
'There, you see, friend, I
was going to perish. And you
would have been frozen, and I
should have . . .'
But again his jaws began to
quiver and his eyes to fill with
tears, and he could say no more.
'Well, never mind,' he thought.
'I know about myself what I know.'
He remained silent and lay
like that for a long time.
Nikita kept him warm from below
and his fur coats from above.
Only his hands, with which he
kept his coat-skirts down round
Nikita's sides, and his legs
which the wind kept uncovering,
began to freeze, especially his
right hand which had no glove.
But he did not think of his legs
or of his hands but only of how
to warm the peasant who was lying
under him. He looked out several
times at Mukhorty and could see
that his back was uncovered and
the drugget and breeching lying
on the snow, and that he ought
to get up and cover him, but
he could not bring himself to
leave Nikita and disturb even
for a moment the joyous condition
he was in. He no longer felt
any kind of terror.
'No fear, we shan't lose him
this time!' he said to himself,
referring to his getting the
peasant warm with the same boastfulness
with which he spoke of his buying
Vasili Andreevich lay in that
way for one hour, another, and
a third, but he was unconscious
of the passage of time. At first
impressions of the snow-storm,
the sledge-shafts, and the horse
with the shaft-bow shaking before
his eyes, kept passing through
his mind, then he remembered
Nikita lying under him, then
recollections of the festival,
his wife, the police-officer,
and the box of candles, began
to mingle with these; then again
Nikita, this time lying under
that box, then the peasants,
customers and traders, and the
white walls of his house with
its iron roof with Nikita lying
underneath, presented themselves
to his imagination. Afterwards
all these impressions blended
into one nothingness. As the
colours of the rainbow unite
into one white light, so all
these different impressions mingled
into one, and he fell asleep.
For a long time he slept without
dreaming, but just before dawn
the visions recommenced. It seemed
to him that he was standing by
the box of tapers and that Tikhon's
wife was asking for a five kopek
taper for the Church fete. He
wished to take one out and give
it to her, but his hands would
not life, being held tight in
his pockets. He wanted to walk
round the box but his feet would
not move and his new clean goloshes
had grown to the stone floor,
and he could neither lift them
nor get his feet out of the goloshes.
Then the taper-box was no longer
a box but a bed, and suddenly
Vasili Andreevich saw himself
lying in his bed at home. He
was lying in his bed and could
not get up. Yet it was necessary
for him to get up because Ivan
Matveich, the police-officer,
would soon call for him and he
had to go with him--either to
bargain for the forest or to
put Mukhorty's breeching straight.
He asked his wife: 'Nikolaevna,
hasn't he come yet?' 'No, he
hasn't,' she replied. He heard
someone drive up to the front
steps. 'It must be him.' 'No,
he's gone past.' 'Nikolaevna!
I say, Nikolaevna, isn't he here
yet?' 'No.' He was still lying
on his bed and could not get
up, but was always waiting. And
this waiting was uncanny and
yet joyful. Then suddenly his
joy was completed. He whom he
was expecting came; not Ivan
Matveich the police-officer,
but someone else--yet it was
he whom he had been waiting for.
He came and called him; and it
was he who had called him and
told him to lie down on Nikita.
And Vasili Andreevich was glad
that that one had come for him.
'I'm coming!' he cried joyfully,
and that cry awoke him, but woke
him up not at all the same person
he had been when he fell asleep.
He tried to get up but could
not, tried to move his arm and
could not, to move his leg and
also could not, to turn his head
and could not. He was surprised
but not at all disturbed by this.
He understood that this was death,
and was not at all disturbed
by that either.
He remembered that Nikita was
lying under him and that he had
got warm and was alive, and it
seemed to him that he was Nikita
and Nikita was he, and that his
life was not in himself but in
Nikita. He strained his ears
and heard Nikita breathing and
even slightly snoring. 'Nikita
is alive, so I too am alive!'
he said to himself triumphantly.
And he remembered his money,
his shop, his house, the buying
and selling, and Mironov's millions,
and it was hard for him to understand
why that man, called Vasili Brekhunov,
had troubled himself with all
those things with which he had
'Well, it was because he did
not know what the real thing
was,' he thought, concerning
that Vasili Brekhunov. 'He did
not know, but now I know and
know for sure. Now I know!' And
again he heard the voice of the
one who had called him before.
'I'm coming! Coming!' he responded
gladly, and his whole being was
filled with joyful emotion. He
felt himself free and that nothing
could hold him back any longer.
After that Vasili Andreevich
neither saw, heard, nor felt
anything more in this world.
All around the snow still eddied.
The same whirlwinds of snow circled
about, covering the dead Vasili
Andreevich's fur coat, the shivering
Mukhorty, the sledge, now scarcely
to be seen, and Nikita lying
at the bottom of it, kept warm
beneath his dead master.