Nikita awoke before daybreak.
He was aroused by the cold that
had begun to creep down his back.
He had dreamt that he was coming
from the mill with a load of
his master's flour and when crossing
the stream had missed the bridge
and let the cart get stuck. And
he saw that he had crawled under
the cart and was trying to lift
it by arching his back. But strange
to say the cart did not move,
it stuck to his back and he could
neither lift it nor get out from
under it. It was crushing the
whole of his loins. And how cold
it felt! Evidently he must crawl
out. 'Have done!' he exclaimed
to whoever was pressing the cart
down on him. 'Take out the sacks!'
But the cart pressed down colder
and colder, and then he heard
a strange knocking, awoke completely,
and remembered everything. The
cold cart was his dead and frozen
master lying upon him. And the
knock was produced by Mukhorty,
who had twice struck the sledge
'Andreevich! Eh, Andreevich!'
Nikita called cautiously, beginning
to realize the truth, and straightening
his back. But Vasili Andreevich
did not answer and his stomach
and legs were stiff and cold
and heavy like iron weights.
'He must have died! May the
Kingdom of Heaven be his!' thought
He turned his head, dug with
his hand through the snow about
him and opened his eyes. It was
daylight; the wind was whistling
as before between the shafts,
and the snow was falling in the
same way, except that it was
no longer driving against the
frame of the sledge but silently
covered both sledge and horse
deeper and deeper, and neither
the horse's movements nor his
breathing were any longer to
'He must have frozen too,'
thought Nikita of Mukhorty, and
indeed those hoof knocks against
the sledge, which had awakened
Nikita, were the last efforts
the already numbed Mukhorty had
made to keep on his feet before
'O Lord God, it seems Thou
art calling me too!' said Nikita.
'Thy Holy Will be done. But it's
uncanny. . . . Still, a man can't
die twice and must die once.
If only it would come soon!'
And he again drew in his head,
closed his eyes, and became unconscious,
fully convinced that now he was
certainly and finally dying.
It was not till noon that day
that peasants dug Vasili Andreevich
and Nikita out of the snow with
their shovels, not more than
seventy yards from the road and
less than half a mile from the
The snow had hidden the sledge,
but the shafts and the kerchief
tied to them were still visible.
Mukhorty, buried up to his belly
in snow, with the breeching and
drugget hanging down, stood all
white, his dead head pressed
against his frozen throat: icicles
hung from his nostrils, his eyes
were covered with hoar-frost
as though filled with tears,
and he had grown so thin in that
one night that he was nothing
but skin and bone.
Vasili Andreevich was stiff
as a frozen carcass, and when
they rolled him off Nikita his
legs remained apart and his arms
stretched out as they had been.
His bulging hawk eyes were frozen,
and his open mouth under his
clipped moustache was full of
snow. But Nikita though chilled
through was still alive. When
he had been brought to, he felt
sure that he was already dead
and that what was taking place
with him was no longer happening
in this world but in the next.
When he heard the peasants shouting
as they dug him out and rolled
the frozen body of Vasili Andreevich
from off him, he was at first
surprised that in the other world
peasants should be shouting in
the same old way and had the
same kind of body, and then when
he realized that he was still
in this world he was sorry rather
than glad, especially when he
found that the toes on both his
feet were frozen.
Nikita lay in hospital for
two months. They cut off three
of his toes, but the others recovered
so that he was still able to
work and went on living for another
twenty years, first as a farm-labourer,
then in his old age as a watchman.
He died at home as he had wished,
only this year, under the icons
with a lighted taper in his hands.
Before he died he asked his wife's
forgiveness and forgave her for
the cooper. He also took leave
of his son and grandchildren,
and died sincerely glad that
he was relieving his son and
daughter-in-law of the burden
of having to feed him, and that
he was now really passing from
this life of which he was weary
into that other life which every
year and every hour grew clearer
and more desirable to him. Whether
he is better or worse off there
where he awoke after his death,
whether he was disappointed or
found there what he expected,
we shall all soon learn.