Again two carriages stood at the front
door of the house at Petrovskoe. In one of them
sat Mimi, the two girls, and their maid, with the
bailiff, Jakoff, on the box, while in the other a
britchka sat Woloda, myself, and our servant
Vassili. Papa, who was to follow us to Moscow
in a few days, was standing bareheaded on the entrance-steps.
He made the sign of the cross at the windows of the
carriages, and said:
“Christ go with you! Good-bye.”
Jakoff and our coachman (for we had
our own horses) lifted their caps in answer, and also
made the sign of the cross.
“Amen. God go with us!”
The carriages began to roll away,
and the birch-trees of the great avenue filed out
I was not in the least depressed on
this occasion, for my mind was not so much turned
upon what I had left as upon what was awaiting me.
In proportion as the various objects connected with
the sad recollections which had recently filled my
imagination receded behind me, those recollections
lost their power, and gave place to a consolatory feeling
of life, youthful vigour, freshness, and hope.
Seldom have I spent four days more well,
I will not say gaily, since I should still have shrunk
from appearing gay but more agreeably and
pleasantly than those occupied by our journey.
No longer were my eyes confronted
with the closed door of Mamma’s room (which
I had never been able to pass without a pang), nor
with the covered piano (which nobody opened now, and
at which I could never look without trembling), nor
with mourning dresses (we had each of us on our ordinary
travelling clothes), nor with all those other objects
which recalled to me so vividly our irreparable loss,
and forced me to abstain from any manifestation of
merriment lest I should unwittingly offend against
On the contrary, a continual succession
of new and exciting objects and places now caught
and held my attention, and the charms of spring awakened
in my soul a soothing sense of satisfaction with the
present and of blissful hope for the future.
Very early next morning the merciless
Vassili (who had only just entered our service, and
was therefore, like most people in such a position,
zealous to a fault) came and stripped off my counterpane,
affirming that it was time for me to get up, since
everything was in readiness for us to continue our
journey. Though I felt inclined to stretch myself
and rebel though I would gladly have spent
another quarter of an hour in sweet enjoyment of my
morning slumber Vassili’s inexorable
face showed that he would grant me no respite, but
that he was ready to tear away the counterpane twenty
times more if necessary. Accordingly I submitted
myself to the inevitable and ran down into the courtyard
to wash myself at the fountain.
In the coffee-room, a tea-kettle was
already surmounting the fire which Milka the ostler,
as red in the face as a crab, was blowing with a pair
of bellows. All was grey and misty in the courtyard,
like steam from a smoking dunghill, but in the eastern
sky the sun was diffusing a clear, cheerful radiance,
and making the straw roofs of the sheds around the
courtyard sparkle with the night dew. Beneath
them stood our horses, tied to mangers, and I could
hear the ceaseless sound of their chewing. A
curly-haired dog which had been spending the night
on a dry dunghill now rose in lazy fashion and, wagging
its tail, walked slowly across the courtyard.
The bustling landlady opened the creaking
gates, turned her meditative cows into the street
(whence came the lowing and bellowing of other cattle),
and exchanged a word or two with a sleepy neighbour.
Philip, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, was working
the windlass of a draw-well, and sending sparkling
fresh water coursing into an oaken trough, while in
the pool beneath it some early-rising ducks were taking
a bath. It gave me pleasure to watch his strongly-marked,
bearded face, and the veins and muscles as they stood
out upon his great powerful hands whenever he made
an extra effort. In the room behind the partition-wall
where Mimi and the girls had slept (yet so near to
ourselves that we had exchanged confidences overnight)
movements now became audible, their maid kept passing
in and out with clothes, and, at last the door opened
and we were summoned to breakfast. Woloda, however,
remained in a state of bustle throughout as he ran
to fetch first one article and then another and urged
the maid to hasten her preparations.
The horses were put to, and showed
their impatience by tinkling their bells. Parcels,
trunks, dressing-cases, and boxes were replaced, and
we set about taking our seats. Yet, every time
that we got in, the mountain of luggage in the britchka
seemed to have grown larger than before, and we had
much ado to understand how things had been arranged
yesterday, and how we should sit now. A tea-chest,
in particular, greatly inconvenienced me, but Vassili
declared that “things will soon right themselves,”
and I had no choice but to believe him.
The sun was just rising, covered with
dense white clouds, and every object around us was
standing out in a cheerful, calm sort of radiance.
The whole was beautiful to look at, and I felt comfortable
and light of heart.
Before us the road ran like a broad,
sinuous ribbon through cornfields glittering with
dew. Here and there a dark bush or young birch-tree
cast a long shadow over the ruts and scattered grass-tufts
of the track. Yet even the monotonous din of
our carriage-wheels and collar-bells could not drown
the joyous song of soaring larks, nor the combined
odour of moth-eaten cloth, dust, and sourness peculiar
to our britchka overpower the fresh scents of the
morning. I felt in my heart that delightful impulse
to be up and doing which is a sign of sincere enjoyment.
As I had not been able to say my prayers
in the courtyard of the inn, but had nevertheless
been assured once that on the very first day when
I omitted to perform that ceremony some misfortune
would overtake me, I now hastened to rectify the omission.
Taking off my cap, and stooping down in a corner of
the britchka, I duly recited my orisons, and unobtrusively
signed the sign of the cross beneath my coat.
Yet all the while a thousand different objects were
distracting my attention, and more than once I inadvertently
repeated a prayer twice over.
Soon on the little footpath beside
the road became visible some slowly moving figures.
They were pilgrims. On their heads they had dirty
handkerchiefs, on their backs wallets of birch-bark,
and on their feet bundles of soiled rags and heavy
bast shoes. Moving their staffs in regular rhythm,
and scarcely throwing us a glance, they pressed onwards
with heavy tread and in single file.
“Where have they come from?”
I wondered to myself, “and whither are they
bound? Is it a long pilgrimage they are making?”
But soon the shadows they cast on the road became
indistinguishable from the shadows of the bushes which
Next a carriage-and-four could be
seen approaching us. In two seconds the faces
which looked out at us from it with smiling curiosity
had vanished. How strange it seemed that those
faces should have nothing in common with me, and that
in all probability they would never meet my eyes again!
Next came a pair of post-horses, with
the traces looped up to their collars. On one
of them a young postillion-his lamb’s wool cap
cocked to one side-was negligently kicking his booted
legs against the flanks of his steed as he sang a
melancholy ditty. Yet his face and attitude seemed
to me to express such perfect carelessness and indolent
ease that I imagined it to be the height of happiness
to be a postillion and to sing melancholy songs.
Far off, through a cutting in the
road, there soon stood out against the light-blue
sky, the green roof of a village church. Presently
the village itself became visible, together with the
roof of the manor-house and the garden attached to
it. Who lived in that house? Children, parents,
teachers? Why should we not call there and make
the acquaintance of its inmates?
Next we overtook a file of loaded
waggons a procession to which our vehicles
had to yield the road.
“What have you got in there?”
asked Vassili of one waggoner who was dangling his
legs lazily over the splashboard of his conveyance
and flicking his whip about as he gazed at us with
a stolid, vacant look; but he only made answer when
we were too far off to catch what he said.
“And what have you got?”
asked Vassili of a second waggoner who was lying at
full length under a new rug on the driving-seat of
his vehicle. The red poll and red face beneath
it lifted themselves up for a second from the folds
of the rug, measured our britchka with a cold, contemptuous
look, and lay down again; whereupon I concluded that
the driver was wondering to himself who we were, whence
we had come, and whither we were going.
These various objects of interest
had absorbed so much of my time that, as yet, I had
paid no attention to the crooked figures on the verst
posts as we passed them in rapid succession; but in
time the sun began to burn my head and back, the road
to become increasingly dusty, the impedimenta in the
carriage to grow more and more uncomfortable, and
myself to feel more and more cramped. Consequently,
I relapsed into devoting my whole faculties to the
distance-posts and their numerals, and to solving
difficult mathematical problems for reckoning the time
when we should arrive at the next posting-house.
“Twelve versts are a third of
thirty-six, and in all there are forty-one to Lipetz.
We have done a third and how much, then?”, and
so forth, and so forth.
“Vassili,” was my next
remark, on observing that he was beginning to nod
on the box-seat, “suppose we change seats?
Will you?” Vassili agreed, and had no sooner
stretched himself out in the body of the vehicle than
he began to snore. To me on my new perch, however,
a most interesting spectacle now became visible namely,
our horses, all of which were familiar to me down
to the smallest detail.
“Why is Diashak on the right
today, Philip, not on the left?” I asked knowingly.
“And Nerusinka is not doing her proper share
of the pulling.”
“One could not put Diashak on
the left,” replied Philip, altogether ignoring
my last remark. “He is not the kind of horse
to put there at all. A horse like the one on
the left now is the right kind of one for the job.”
After this fragment of eloquence,
Philip turned towards Diashak and began to do his
best to worry the poor animal by jogging at the reins,
in spite of the fact that Diashak was doing well and
dragging the vehicle almost unaided. This Philip
continued to do until he found it convenient to breathe
and rest himself awhile and to settle his cap askew,
though it had looked well enough before.
I profited by the opportunity to ask
him to let me have the reins to hold, until, the whole
six in my hand, as well as the whip, I had attained
complete happiness. Several times I asked whether
I was doing things right, but, as usual, Philip was
never satisfied, and soon destroyed my felicity.
The heat increased until a hand showed
itself at the carriage window, and waved a bottle
and a parcel of eatables; whereupon Vassili leapt
briskly from the britchka, and ran forward to get us
something to eat and drink.
When we arrived at a steep descent,
we all got out and ran down it to a little bridge,
while Vassili and Jakoff followed, supporting the
carriage on either side, as though to hold it up in
the event of its threatening to upset.
After that, Mimi gave permission for
a change of seats, and sometimes Woloda or myself
would ride in the carriage, and Lubotshka or Katenka
in the britchka. This arrangement greatly pleased
the girls, since much more fun went on in the britchka.
Just when the day was at its hottest, we got out at
a wood, and, breaking off a quantity of branches,
transformed our vehicle into a bower. This travelling
arbour then bustled on to catch the carriage up, and
had the effect of exciting Lubotshka to one of those
piercing shrieks of delight which she was in the habit
of occasionally emitting.
At last we drew near the village where
we were to halt and dine. Already we could perceive
the smell of the place the smell of smoke
and tar and sheep-and distinguish the sound of voices,
footsteps, and carts. The bells on our horses
began to ring less clearly than they had done in the
open country, and on both sides the road became lined
with huts dwellings with straw roofs, carved
porches, and small red or green painted shutters to
the windows, through which, here and there, was a
woman’s face looking inquisitively out.
Peasant children clad in smocks only stood staring
open-eyed or, stretching out their arms to us, ran
barefooted through the dust to climb on to the luggage
behind, despite Philip’s menacing gestures.
Likewise, red-haired waiters came darting around the
carriages to invite us, with words and signs, to select
their several hostelries as our halting-place.
Presently a gate creaked, and we entered
a courtyard. Four hours of rest and liberty now