STORIES BY FOREIGN AUTHORS
STORIES BY FOREIGN AUTHORS
Produced by Nicole Apostola Juliet Sutherland Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
STORIES BY FOREIGN AUTHORS
MUMU.................BY IVAN TURGENEV
THE SHOT.............BY ALEXANDER POUSHKIN
ST. JOHN'S EVE.......BY NIKOLAI VASILIEVITCH GOGOL
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE..BY LYOF N. TOLSTOI
THE SHOT...............Alexander Poushkin
ST. JOHN'S EVE.........Nikolai Vasilievitch Gogol
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE... Lyof N. Tolstoi
From "Torrents of Spring." Translated by Constance Garnett.
In one of the outlying streets of Moscow in a gray house with white
columns and a balcony warped all askew there was once living a lady a
widow surrounded by a numerous household of serfs. Her sons were in the
government service at Petersburg; her daughters were married; she went
out very little and in solitude lived through the last years of her
miserly and dreary old age. Her day a joyless and gloomy day had long
been over; but the evening of her life was blacker than night.
Of all her servants the most remarkable personage was the porter
Gerasim a man full twelve inches over the normal height of heroic
build and deaf and dumb from his birth. The lady his owner had
brought him up from the village where he lived alone in a little hut
apart from his brothers and was reckoned about the most punctual of her
peasants in the payment of the seignorial dues. Endowed with
extraordinary strength he did the work of four men; work flew apace
under his hands and it was a pleasant sight to see him when he was
ploughing while with his huge palms pressing hard upon the plough he
seemed alone unaided by his poor horse to cleave the yielding bosom of
the earth or when about St. Peter's Day he plied his scythe with a
furious energy that might have mown a young birch copse up by the roots
or swiftly and untiringly wielded a flail over two yards long; while the
hard oblong muscles of his shoulders rose and fell like a lever. His
perpetual silence lent a solemn dignity to his unwearying labor. He was
a splendid peasant and except for his affliction any girl would have
been glad to marry him... But now they had taken Gerasim to Moscow
bought him boots had him made a full-skirted coat for summer a
sheepskin for winter put into his hand a broom and a spade and
appointed him porter.
At first he intensely disliked his new mode of life. From his childhood
he had been used to field labor to village life. Shut off by his
affliction from the society of men he had grown up dumb and mighty as
a tree grows on a fruitful soil. When he was transported to the town he
could not understand what was being done with him; he was miserable and
stupefied with the stupefaction of some strong young bull taken
straight from the meadow where the rich grass stood up to his belly
taken and put in the truck of a railway train and there while smoke
and sparks and gusts of steam puff out upon the sturdy beast he is
whirled onwards whirled along with loud roar and whistle whither--God
knows! What Gerasim had to do in his new duties seemed a mere trifle to
him after his hard toil as a peasant; in half an hour all his work was
done and he would once more stand stock-still in the middle of the
courtyard staring open-mouthed at all the passers-by as though trying
to wrest from them the explanation of his perplexing position; or he
would suddenly go off into some corner and flinging a long way off the
broom or the spade throw himself on his face on the ground and lie for
hours together without stirring like a caged beast. But man gets used
to anything and Gerasim got used at last to living in town. He had
little work to do; his whole duty consisted in keeping the courtyard
clean bringing in a barrel of water twice a day splitting and dragging
in wood for the kitchen and the house keeping out strangers and
watching at night. And it must be said he did his duty zealously. In his
courtyard there was never a shaving lying about never a speck of dust;
if sometimes in the muddy season the wretched nag put under his
charge for fetching water got stuck in the road he would simply give
it a shove with his shoulder and set not only the cart but the horse
itself moving. If he set to chopping wood the axe fairly rang like
glass and chips and chunks flew in all directions. And as for
strangers after he had one night caught two thieves and knocked their
heads together--knocked them so that there was not the slightest need to
take them to the police-station afterwards--every one in the
neighborhood began to feel a great respect for him; even those who came
in the daytime by no means robbers but simply unknown persons at the
sight of the terrible porter waved and shouted to him as though he
could hear their shouts. With all the rest of the servants Gerasim was
on terms hardly friendly--they were afraid of him--but familiar; he
regarded them as his fellows. They explained themselves to him by signs
and he understood them and exactly carried out all orders but knew his
own rights too and soon no one dared to take his seat at the table.
Gerasim was altogether of a strict and serious temper he liked order in
everything; even the cocks did not dare to fight in his presence or woe
betide them! Directly he caught sight of them he would seize them by
the legs swing them ten times round in the air like a wheel and throw
them in different directions. There were geese too kept in the yard;
but the goose as is well known is a dignified and reasonable bird:
Gerasim felt a respect for them looked after them and fed them; he was
himself not unlike a gander of the steppes. He was assigned a little
garret over the kitchen; he arranged it himself to his own liking made
a bedstead in it of oak boards on four stumps of wood for legs--a truly
Titanic bedstead; one might have put a ton or two on it--it would not
have bent under the load; under the bed was a solid chest; in a corner
stood a little table of the same strong kind and near the table a
three-legged stool so solid and squat that Gerasim himself would
sometimes pick it up and drop it again with a smile of delight. The
garret was locked up by means of a padlock that looked like a kalatch or
basket-shaped loaf only black; the key of this padlock Gerasim always
carried about him in his girdle. He did not like people to come to his
So passed a year at the end of which a little incident befell Gerasim.
The old lady in whose service he lived as porter adhered in everything
to the ancient ways and kept a large number of servants. In her house
were not only laundresses sempstresses carpenters tailors and
tailoresses there was even a harness-maker--he was reckoned as a
veterinary surgeon too--and a doctor for the servants; there was a
household doctor for the mistress; there was lastly a shoemaker by
name Kapiton Klimov a sad drunkard. Klimov regarded himself as an
injured creature whose merits were unappreciated a cultivated man from
Petersburg who ought not to be living in Moscow without occupation--in
the wilds so to speak; and if he drank as he himself expressed it
emphatically with a blow on his chest it was sorrow drove him to it.
So one day his mistress had a conversation about him with her head
steward Gavrila a man whom judging solely from his little yellow eyes
and nose like a duck's beak fate itself it seemed had marked out as a
person in authority. The lady expressed her regret at the corruption of
the morals of Kapiton who had only the evening before been picked up
somewhere in the street.
"Now Gavrila" she observed all of a sudden "now if we were to marry
him what do you think perhaps he would be steadier?"
"Why not marry him indeed 'm? He could be married 'm" answered
Gavrila "and it would be a very good thing to be sure 'm."
"Yes; only who is to marry him?"
"Ay 'm. But that's at your pleasure 'm. He may any way so to say be
wanted for something; he can't be turned adrift altogether."
"I fancy he likes Tatiana."
Gavrila was on the point of making some reply but he shut his lips
"Yes!...let him marry Tatiana" the lady decided taking a pinch of
snuff complacently "Do you hear?"
"Yes 'm" Gavrila articulated and he withdrew.
Returning to his own room (it was in a little lodge and was almost
filled up with metal-bound trunks) Gavrila first sent his wife away
and then sat down at the window and pondered. His mistress's unexpected
arrangement had clearly put him in a difficulty. At last he got up and
sent to call Kapiton. Kapiton made his appearance... But before
reporting their conversation to the reader we consider it not out of
place to relate in few words who was this Tatiana whom it was to be
Kapiton's lot to marry and why the great lady's order had disturbed the
Tatiana one of the laundresses referred to above (as a trained and
skilful laundress she was in charge of the fine linen only) was a woman
of twenty-eight thin fair-haired with moles on her left cheek. Moles
on the left cheek are regarded as of evil omen in Russia--a token of
unhappy life... Tatiana could not boast of her good luck. From her
earliest youth she had been badly treated; she had done the work of two
and had never known affection; she had been poorly clothed and had
received the smallest wages. Relations she had practically none; an
uncle she had once had a butler left behind in the country as useless
and other uncles of hers were peasants--that was all. At one time she
had passed for a beauty but her good looks were very soon over. In
disposition she was very meek or rather scared; towards herself she
felt perfect indifference; of others she stood in mortal dread; she
thought of nothing but how to get her work done in good time never
talked to any one and trembled at the very name of her mistress though
the latter scarcely knew her by sight. When Gerasim was brought from the
country she was ready to die with fear on seeing his huge figure tried
all she could to avoid meeting him even dropped her eyelids when
sometimes she chanced to run past him hurrying from the house to the
laundry. Gerasim at first paid no special attention to her then he used
to smile when she came his way then he began even to stare admiringly
at her and at last he never took his eyes off her. She took his fancy
whether by the mild expression of her face or the timidity of her
movements who can tell? So one day she was stealing across the yard
with a starched dressing-jacket of her mistress's carefully poised on
her outspread fingers... some one suddenly grasped her vigorously by the
elbow; she turned round and fairly screamed; behind her stood Gerasim.
With a foolish smile making inarticulate caressing grunts he held out
to her a gingerbread cock with gold tinsel on his tail and wings. She
was about to refuse it but he thrust it forcibly into her hand shook
his head walked away and turning round once more grunted something
very affectionately to her.
From that day forward he gave her no peace; wherever she went he was on
the spot at once coming to meet her smiling grunting waving his
hands; all at once he would pull a ribbon out of the bosom of his smock
and put it in her hand or would sweep the dust out of her way. The poor
girl simply did not know how to behave or what to do. Soon the whole
household knew of the dumb porter's wiles; jeers jokes sly hints were
showered upon Tatiana. At Gerasim however it was not every one who
would dare to scoff; he did not like jokes; indeed in his presence
she too was left in peace. Whether she liked it or not the girl found
herself to be under his protection. Like all deaf-mutes he was very
suspicious and very readily perceived when they were laughing at him or
at her. One day at dinner the wardrobe-keeper Tatiana's superior
fell to nagging as it is called at her and brought the poor thing to
such a state that she did not know where to look and was almost crying
with vexation. Gerasim got up all of a sudden stretched out his
gigantic hand laid it on the wardrobe-maid's head and looked into her
face with such grim ferocity that her head positively flopped upon the
table. Every one was still. Gerasim took up his spoon again and went on
with his cabbage-soup. "Look at him the dumb devil the wood-demon!"
they all muttered in undertones while the wardrobe-maid got up and went
out into the maid's room. Another time noticing that Kapiton--the same
Kapiton who was the subject of the conversation reported above--was
gossiping somewhat too attentively with Tatiana Gerasim beckoned him to
him led him into the cartshed and taking up a shaft that was standing
in a corner by one end lightly but most significantly menaced him
with it. Since then no one addressed a word to Tatiana. And all this
cost him nothing. It is true the wardrobe-maid as soon as she reached
the maids' room promptly fell into a fainting fit and behaved
altogether so skilfully that Gerasim's rough action reached his
mistress's knowledge the same day. But the capricious old lady only
laughed and several times to the great offence of the wardrobe-maid
forced her to repeat "how he bent your head down with his heavy hand"
and next day she sent Gerasim a rouble. She looked on him with favor as
a strong and faithful watchman. Gerasim stood in considerable awe of
her but all the same he had hopes of her favor and was preparing to
go to her with a petition for leave to marry Tatiana. He was only
waiting for a new coat promised him by the steward to present a proper
appearance before his mistress when this same mistress suddenly took it
into her head to marry Tatiana to Kapiton.
The reader will now readily understand the perturbation of mind that
overtook the steward Gavrila after his conversation with his mistress.
"My lady" he thought as he sat at the window "favors Gerasim to be
sure"--(Gavrila was well aware of this and that was why he himself
looked on him with an indulgent eye)--"still he is a speechless
creature. I could not indeed put it before the mistress that Gerasim's
courting Tatiana. But after all it's true enough; he's a queer sort of
husband. But on the other hand that devil God forgive me has only got
to find out they're marrying Tatiana to Kapiton he'll smash up
everything in the house 'pon my soul! There's no reasoning with him;
why he's such a devil God forgive my sins there's no getting over him
nohow...'pon my soul!"
Kapiton's entrance broke the thread of Gavrila's reflections. The
dissipated shoemaker came in his hands behind him and lounging
carelessly against a projecting angle of the wall near the door
crossed his right foot in front of his left and tossed his head as
much as to say "What do you want?"
Gavrila looked at Kapiton and drummed with his fingers on the window-
frame. Kapiton merely screwed up his leaden eyes a little but he did
not look down; he even grinned slightly and passed his hand over his
whitish locks which were sticking up in all directions. "Well here I
am. What is it?"
"You're a pretty fellow" said Gavrila and paused. "A pretty fellow you
are there's no denying!"
Kapiton only twitched his little shoulders. "Are you any better pray?"
he thought to himself.
"Just look at yourself now look at yourself" Gavrila went on
reproachfully; "now whatever do you look like?"
Kapiton serenely surveyed his shabby tattered coat and his patched
trousers and with special attention stared at his burst boots
especially the one on the tiptoe of which his right foot so gracefully
poised and he fixed his eyes again on the steward.
"Well?" repeated Gavrila. "Well? And then you say well? You look like
Old Nick himself God forgive my saying so that's what you look like."
Kapiton blinked rapidly.
"Go on abusing me go on if you like Gavrila Andreitch" he thought to
"Here you've been drunk again" Gavrila began "drunk again haven't
you? Eh? Come answer me!"
"Owing to the weakness of my health I have exposed myself to spirituous
beverages certainly" replied Kapiton.
"Owing to the weakness of your health!... They let you off too easy
that's what it is; and you've been apprenticed in Petersburg... Much you
learned in your apprenticeship! You simply eat your bread in idleness."
"In that matter Gavrila Andreitch there is One to judge me the Lord
God Himself and no one else. He also knows what manner of man I be in
this world and whether I eat my bread in idleness. And as concerning
your contention regarding drunkenness in that matter too I am not to
blame but rather a friend; he led me into temptation but was
diplomatic and got away while I..."
"While you were left like a goose in the street. Ah you're a dissolute
fellow! But that's not the point" the steward went on "I've something
to tell you. Our lady..." here he paused a minute "it's our lady's
pleasure that you should be married. Do you hear? She imagines you may
be steadier when you're married. Do you understand?"
"To be sure I do."
"Well then. For my part I think it would be better to give you a good
hiding. But there--it's her business. Well? are you agreeable?"
"Matrimony is an excellent thing for any one Gavrila Andreitch; and as
far as I am concerned I shall be quite agreeable."
"Very well then" replied Gavrila while he reflected to himself:
"There's no denying the man expresses himself very properly. Only
there's one thing" he pursued aloud: "the wife our lady's picked out
for you is an unlucky choice."
"Why who is she permit me to inquire?"
And Kapiton opened his eyes and moved a little away from the wall.
"Well what are you in such a taking for?... Isn't she to your taste
"Not to my taste do you say Gavrila Andreitch? She's right enough a
hard-working steady girl... But you know very well yourself Gavrila
Andreitch why that fellow that wild man of the woods that monster of
the steppes he's after her you know..."
"I know mate I know all about it" the butler cut him short in a tone
of annoyance: "but there you see..."
"But upon my soul Gavrila Andreitch! why he'll kill me by God he
will he'll crush me like some fly; why he's got a fist--why you
kindly look yourself what a fist he's got; why he's simply got a fist
like Minin Pozharsky's. You see he's deaf he beats and does not hear
how he's beating! He swings his great fists as if he's asleep. And
there's no possibility of pacifying him; and for why? Why because as
you know yourself Gavrila Andreitch he's deaf and what's more has no
more wit than the heel of my foot. Why he's a sort of beast a heathen
idol Gavrila Andreitch and worse...a block of wood; what have I done
that I should have to suffer from him now? Sure it is it's all over me
now; I've knocked about I've had enough to put up with I've been
battered like an earthenware pot but still I'm a man after all and
not a worthless pot."
"I know I know don't go talking away..."
"Lord my God!" the shoemaker continued warmly "when is the end? when
O Lord! A poor wretch I am a poor wretch whose sufferings are endless!
What a life what a life mine's been come to think of it! In my young
days I was beaten by a German I was 'prentice to; in the prime of life
beaten by my own countrymen and last of all in ripe years see what I
have been brought to..."
"Ugh you flabby soul!" said Gavrila Andreitch. "Why do you make so many
words about it?"
"Why do you say Gavrila Andreitch? It's not a beating I'm afraid of
Gavrila Andreitch. A gentleman may chastise me in private but give me a
civil word before folks and I'm a man still; but see now whom I've to
"Come get along" Gavrila interposed impatiently. Kapiton turned away
and staggered off.
"But if it were not for him" the steward shouted after him "you would
consent for your part?"
"I signify my acquiescence" retorted Kapiton as he disappeared.
His fine language did not desert him even in the most trying positions.
The steward walked several times up and down the room.
"Well call Tatiana now" he said at last.
A few instants later Tatiana had come up almost noiselessly and was
standing in the doorway.
"What are your orders Gavrila Andreitch?" she said in a soft voice.
The steward looked at her intently.
"Well Taniusha" he said "would you like to be married? Our lady has
chosen a husband for you?"
"Yes Gavrila Andreitch. And whom has she deigned to name as a husband
for me?" she added falteringly.
"Kapiton the shoemaker."
"He's a feather-brained fellow that's certain. But it's just for that
the mistress reckons upon you."
"There's one difficulty...you know the deaf man Gerasim he's courting
you you see. How did you come to bewitch such a bear? But you see
he'll kill you very like he's such a bear..."
"He'll kill me Gavrila Andreitch he'll kill me and no mistake."
"Kill you... Well we shall see about that. What do you mean by saying
he'll kill you? Has he any right to kill you? tell me yourself."
"I don't know Gavrila Andreitch about his having any right or not."
"What a woman! why you've made him no promise I suppose..."
"What are you pleased to ask of me?"
The steward was silent for a little thinking "You're a meek soul!
Well that's right" he said aloud; "we'll have another talk with you
later now you can go Taniusha; I see you're not unruly certainly."
Tatiana turned steadied herself a little against the doorpost and went
"And perhaps our lady will forget all about this wedding by to-
morrow" thought the steward; "and here am I worrying myself for
nothing! As for that insolent fellow we must tie him down if it comes
to that we must let the police know... Ustinya Fyedorovna!" he shouted