Бібліотека ім. Панаса Мирного >>Твори Панаса Мирного >> Do oxen low when mangers are full? >>XVII. Confession and Repentance

XVII. Confession and Repentance

 

Early next morning, Chipka went to Hritsko. The new house, white and dainty, looked quite attractive behind pear trees bared by the fall and a row of branchy willows. The wattle-fenced yard was spacious and clean; several strawstacks stood in the stackyard at the back; to the left of the house there were some vegetable patches, and to the right stood a barn, a pen and a cellar. Close by the gate was a new well frame of freshly squared logs, and a new high crane rose over the street.
Chipka went into the yard. A big, black, shaggy dog flew out at him from behind the pen. He backed to the fence and began to pull a rod out of it. Attracted by the barking, a girlish-looking young woman, short and prettily dressed, ran out of the house and shouted at the dog. Whining, the dog retreated to the kitchen garden. Chipka came up to the woman and greeted her:
"Good morning to you."
"Good morning."
"Can I see Hritsko?"
"No, he is not at home."
"Where is he?"
"Out at the brewery."
"How long has he been working there?"
"Not so long. About a week... No, it was some two weeks ago when the Jew came over to hire him."
"Does he come home often?"
"He always comes to sleep at home on Fridays... But something must have happened there yesterday, because he didn't show up. That means he must be over today. What do you want to see him about?"
"I'd like to talk to him... I want to sell him my rye."
"I'm not sure about that," she said, thinking. "Come back later, toward dinnertime, he might be here."
"All right. Good-bye."
"Good-bye."
Chipka walked home, and the woman went back inside.
Hritsko really was not at home. In the fall, he had finished laying in his grain store, spoken with Khristya and gone to work in the brewery. But now he no longer laid himself flat out as he had done only a year before. He had already achieved his purpose and did not have to work himself to death. But the Jew paid well, so instead of getting moldy from sitting around at home, he could just as well work a week or two, provided he did it without too much sweat or haste.
He came home less than an hour after Chipka had left.
"Why didn't you come yesterday?" Khristya asked him at once.
"Something happened that I don't really know how to begin telling you about."
"Something terrible?"
"No, not exactly terrible, thank God. But it wasn't too good either."
"But what was it, for God's sake? Tell me at last!" Khristya pressed him, frightened.
"Our boss Ovram was robbed. So they kept us down there until today."
"You almost made me fear it was something worse. Who did it?"
"God knows... Some masked men, he says. They tied up everybody before anyone could understand what was going on and cleaned out the house."
"Who could they be?"
"He thinks they were maybe soldiers, because they spoke Russian. Frankly speaking, I'm really sorry for Ovram."
"Oh, come on! He's only a Jew — big deal! He'd gotten all that money by fleecing us all anyway."
"No, Khristya. Jews aren't all the same. Some of them are bad enough, of course, but Ovram is a good man, I should say, even though he's a Jew. I'll say that for him: he was always ready to help a fellow out with a loan when it came to paying taxes or when money was badly needed for something else... Of course, he wanted all of it back — in work if not in cash. Now, too, nearly all his hands in the brewery are those working out what they owe him. But he's a good Jew. All his neighbors down there feel pity for him."
"They are all nice — when they sleep. But as soon as a Jew opens his eyes, he starts trying to cheat you out of something or to spin his web all around you so tight that you'll never break free... He'd lend you a ruble only to make you work out ten... All of them are tarred with the same brush. Wait! I forgot to tell you that Chipka was here to speak to you."
"Chipka?"
"That fellow who's been running about the village like a madman."
"Yes, I know. What did he want?"
"He asked you if you would buy his rye."
"What rye?" Hritsko asked wonderingly.
"I don't know. He only said rye. But I've been wondering what rye he could be selling and why you should buy any more rye if, thank God, we've got enough of our own."
"What did you tell him?"
"I just told him to come back later when you were at home."
"And what did he say?"
"He said he would come — and just went away."
"Hm," mused Hritsko. "The fellow must've been raving mad. The drink must've gotten him."
The conversation about Chipka broke off. Hritsko started asking the usual questions: if everything at home was all right, what Khristya had been doing and if she felt well. Khristya answered his questions and asked her own: what they had been told, what the brewery hands had been questioned about and why they had not let him go home the day before. Then she asked her husband:
"Isn't it time for dinner? Driving here all the way you must have gotten tired and hungry. Let's eat, and then you may rest a little."
"I really got quite hungry... And I'd run out of bread, so I borrowed a chunk from a fellow and had a bite. Now I don't even seem to be —"
They were interrupted by barking. Khristya looked out the window.
"There he comes again."
Hritsko also looked outside.
"Oh, Lord, how ragged and shabby he is!"
"Shall I tell him you aren't in, so that we might eat first?" asked Khristya, looking at her husband.
"No, let him come in. It wouldn't be proper to make him walk here for a third time. We were friends with him, you know, back at the time we were herdsboys with him together. A bit strange he was, but a good pal all the same. And now look what's become of him!"
The door creaked as Chipka entered the passage. The dog barked furiously, almost biting the door posts in its rage. Khristya rose to open the room door.
"You've got some dog there!" Chipka called to her. "Next time I'd better bring something heavy along. Hello!"
"Hello. You go right in, and I'll turn the latch, because it's so tight that only we know how to go about it."
She darted to the other door, opened it, shouted at the dog, shut it again and turned the latch.
"Has Hritsko already come back?" Chipka asked, waiting for her in the passage.
"He's in there. Why don't you go in?"
Timidly, Chipka stepped into the room and paused by the threshold. He felt shy and somewhat scared. Hritsko was the first to speak.
"Hello, Chipka!"
"Hello, Hritsko. Am I glad to see you, brother! You've changed rather a lot, I'd say. It's been hard to recognize you since you got married."
"What's so different about me?"
"Everything... You've grown that stubble and seem a bit old, too."
"You can't really mean it," Khristya chirped. "He's not all that old — not yet. That's only because he hasn't shaved."
"It could be... But still, Hritsko, you used to look a lot younger."
"That's what a young wife does to a fellow," Hritsko laughed.
"I wish we could all of us remain so old forever," said Chipka with a smile.
"You, too, Chipka, have changed... You don't look like yourself anymore. Why are you so grim?"
"I'm in trouble, brother," replied Chipka with a sigh, taking a seat at the table by Hritsko's side. "Trouble has never made anyone feel better."
"What's your trouble?"
"It's a long story, Hritsko," Chipka said, sighing again, and cast a glance about the room.
The large room, neatly whitewashed, light, cozy and cheerful, radiated a pleasant warmth which he felt all over him. Suddenly, he was at his ease, as though those walls were understanding and sympathetic. His heart turned light, and his thoughts took him back to the steppes of his boyhood, painting old Ulas crippled by age, and swift Hritsko riding a ram and himself climbing trees to get at the sparrows' nests. "Still alive! Still alive!" His ears rang with the chirping of those birds. He smiled painfully and looked up at Khristya, and his thoughts carried him to the fields of green rye where he had first met Halya. He felt nostalgia for his past which had kept his hopes alive, and he had a sudden urge to confide them to somebody, to bare his soul... Tears welled up in his eyes and made him afraid he would burst out crying, so he let his eyes rove between Hritsko and Khristya... And they looked so happy, kind and friendly that his self-consciousness and his whole shame for his errant ways suddenly evaporated. He felt a strong desire to talk to them frankly and openheartedly, as friend to friend. With his head low on his chest and his eyes downcast, he began steering the conversation toward himself.
"It's a long story, like I said," he started. "A whole day would not be enough to tell you everything... As they say, it's pretty hard to get trouble off your back once it's clung to you..."
"Who's to blame for your troubles?" asked Khristya, staring at him. "Aren't you yourself to blame more than anyone else?"
Although at first Chipka felt piqued by her rebuke, he did not let it show either in his eyes or in his face. He even liked that question which sounded so straightforward as it escaped the woman's lips.
"Sure, it's also been my fault, in a way," he answered, thinking. "Then there've been other people, too..."
"Why do you blame people?" Khristya continued to draw him out.
Chipka stirred uneasily. He had not expected to be asked to make a full confession. He paused, looking at his feet, as if trying to decide whether he should go ahead with it. At last he spoke with difficulty, as if the words had stuck to his tongue and it gave him pain to get them out:
"It's because of their injustice..."
Hritsko saw with what bitterness and anguish Chipka had uttered these words and shot a glance to Khristya.
"Enough of your chattering!" he said to her. "Better get the dinner ready so that we might eat together. Have you had your dinner yet, Chipka?"
"I don't even remember when I last saw a real meal," Chipka admitted ruefully.
Hritsko and Khristya were moved to pity by his tone, and his whole appearance was so dismal that one could not help feeling sorry for him. Hritsko quickly moved to the head of the table, motioning to Chipka to sit next to him. Khristya hurried to fetch the bread and the pots and then went to the stove. She promptly filled a big bowl with borshch, placed it in the middle of the table, got some spoons out of the cupboard, put one before each of them and was about to take her seat when Hritsko spoke to her:
"I guess we shouldn't sit down to eat without anything to drink. Don't we have some vodka in the pantry? Chipka and I haven't seen each other for such a long time that his visit calls for a drink. Let's have a glass each. And then, to tell you the truth, my bones have been aching a bit, so a drink is probably what I need."
Khristya went out to the pantry, brought a bottle of vodka, put it between them and sat down.
"Pour us some, Khristya," Hritsko told her.
She filled the single glass for him. Hritsko took it, turned to Chipka and said:
"May the Lord give us all that we desire!"
"May He grant us that!" Chipka echoed.
Then Khristya refilled the glass, and Hritsko put it before Chipka who drank in his turn.
Finally, Hritsko himself poured the glass half full and moved it over to Khristya, saying:
"Here's some for you, too."
Khristya took a sip, shook her head and started to eat the borshch.
The men followed suit. It seemed to Chipka that he had never tasted better vodka or more delicious borshch. After the borshch, Khristya served noodles boiled in milk. Chipka ate with such relish as though no food had passed his lips for at least three days. Everything tasted so good and the hosts looked so sincere and cordial that he even cheered up a little. This dissolved the gloom on his face and smoothed down the wrinkles on his forehead, which had been coming and receding like waves. His intelligent dark eyes brightened up and shone almost merrily as he began his confession.
"So you wanted to know why the people are also to blame for my running wild like this," he said to Khristya. "But they are to blame for everything — from little, petty things down to the biggest, really important matters... Just look how they live together! Do they live like human beings, brothers, like God ordered them to live? Not at all! Give them half a chance — and they'll jump at one another's throats and will wipe one another off the face of the Earth!..."
Hritsko grinned.
"Why should it worry you, Chipka, for God's sake? It's no skin off your nose, one way or another..."
"And why shouldn't it worry me?" Chipka cried heatedly. "Where's justice then? What's happened to that justice which is supposed to be our law of life? Who has stolen it from us? Why did it run away, tell me?"
"If there's no justice," said Hritsko, "you'd better live the way everybody does."
"But what if they don't let me? What am I to do then?"
"It only seems to you!"
"No, Hritsko! No, brother. Don't you say such things, because it really hurts me to hear them..."
"You're just inventing things, Chipka, and worrying your head over nothing! We just happen to live in a different age, and the people have now changed, too."
"But what am I to do if I can't get along with them? Is it all my fault? And I'm even patient, too... Just listen what kind of justice they have. You know my land, don't you?"
"Sure."
"Did you hear that I've lost it? Do you know about it? It's the same land that the commune said was my own, my property. But now I've come across some smart fellows who've turned the commune's will around. They've just taken my land away from me and given it to God knows whom, God knows for what... most likely for him to sell it and clear out and go back to wherever he came from... You may ask me how he managed it. He just sweetened the court people and they fixed a decision: it's not your land, Chipka! It was yours but no more!"
"Why didn't you go to the court to talk to Chizhik?" Hritsko asked. "They say he helps sometimes."
"I went to him. A lot of good it did me, too. He offered to help — for fifty rubles."
"What did you tell him?"
"But where could I get that kind of money? That's the justice we've got in this world! A fellow comes out of nowhere and some money changes hands and he gets the right court decision, and if I want that decision to be in my favor, I must simply outbid him. But if there had been some justice, nothing of this would have happened and the land would still belong to me... And if I had still owned that land, I wouldn't have turned into what I am now... Don't I hear what people are saying behind my back? Don't I know what they think about me? I sure do. But let them say and think what they want, because everybody's free to do so... Only not everybody can see what's going on in another fellow's soul, his heart... But take a good look and strain your eyes a little — and you'll see what's going on in there, what terrible suffering sometimes torments that soul and tears it apart... But they just don't have the guts to take a close look — and they aren't made to see such things. So I'm a loafer, a drunkard and a tramp... But maybe I'm better than they are, only my fate is miserable... It's a long story, like I said, although a simple one... All right, I'm a loafer, because I can't get my hands to do any work, and I'm also a drunk, because only vodka helps me to forget... What else can help me, tell me?"
As these words gushed forth from Chipka's mouth, Hritsko and Khristya listened in silence, exchanging glances. Only Khristya sighed deeply every now and then.
The dinner was over. Chipka thanked God and his hosts.
"There's one other thing, Hritsko," he said.
"What's that?"
"Do you know why I've come to see you in the first place?"
"Tell me."
"I wanted to ask you if you'd be willing to buy that rye that I still have in my stackyard. I've no desire to thresh it myself and don't want to sell it to a Jew... Buy it from me, brother."
"But I don't need it, Chipka. I've finished working on my own and I can tell that it'll be enough."
"Maybe Chipka's rye is better, and we might keep it to be sown," Khristya put in softly.
"Besides, we are short on cash right now," Hritsko complained.
"You may pay me when you can," Chipka reassured him. "I'd hate to see my work get into the hands of a Jew. That damned lot would have no respect for good grain. Most likely, they'd make vodka out of it. But I'm sure that you'll make better use of it, like the good farmer that you are."
"No, Chipka, I won't buy it, thank you."
Chipka fell to thinking; his eyes dimmed and drooped... But some thought then flitted across his mind, and his eyes sparkled again, and he said, firmly and almost merrily:
"If you aren't buying it, take it free!"
"How can I do such a thing? Just think: you've only got that rye left, and I'm still not exactly poor, thank God!..."
"But it'll rot, Hritsko, or I'll just sell it for a song to get drunk... Take it, brother, for the sake of all my work that's gone into it! You're a good man, I've known you since my childhood. Do you remember those sparrows? And old Ulas? Take it! I really like you, and your wife, too... I went into your house, and that was like stepping into a paradise... You've greeted me like your brother and warmed my heart and soul... Take it, Hritsko, please."
"As far as I'm concerned, I can take your rye if you really want me to," Hritsko said, as if reluctantly. "Only there's something I want to tell you. You have an old mother whom you've treated in a really bad way, and she's earning her bread by working for strangers, poor thing..."
"Mother... mother," Chipka muttered, knitting his brows. "Don't speak about her. It's hard to tell which of us is more to blame..."
Hritsko's reproach stung Chipka to the quick. He grew silent and lowered his gaze, as if he did not dare to look Hritsko in the eye. He thought a little, then said good-bye and left in a hurry.
"You can come and take it tomorrow while you rest from work," he called from the passage.
"All right. I might still drive over today, if the wagon is in order."
After Chipka had gone away, Hritsko lay down on the bench to rest, putting a rolled coat under his head. Khristya washed the earthenware and the spoons, tidied the room up and sat on the bed of boards by the stove to spin yarn. The room became completely, almost oppressively, silent, except for the whirr of the spindle and Khristya's occasional sighs... She was still under the impression of their conversation with Chipka. Thoughts assailed her and enveloped her like a blue mist, and she abandoned herself to them and let them do what they wanted with her and carry her wherever they wished... Now Chipka no longer seemed to be such a loafer and a good-for-nothing as everybody had been saying he was and as she herself had considered him to be until that day. Wronged from her early childhood, her orphan's heart felt that Chipka was none of those things. It also told her that he was neither a loafer, nor an evil person but a victim of evil and injustice. He had a kind heart, and his soul was pure... He had been drinking, of course, but it was his suffering that made him drunk — and he had said that himself. And then how could anyone stay away from drink living amidst such people every one of whom was constantly trying to rob or cheat somebody else? There was that bitter hostility among them rather than brotherly love...
"Chipka was right," she said aloud, awaking Hritsko from his nap.
"Right about what?" he asked, yawning.
"When he said that there is no justice and that people don't live after God's laws."
"Aw, come on! He's just a drunken fool who doesn't know what he blabbers about. You must be silly to pay attention to all that nonsense."
"Why shouldn't I listen to him it that's really so?"
"What do you mean?"
"Everything... Take me, for example. If everybody had been just and fair, would I have had to suffer from all that misery and poverty when I was left an orphan? Would I have been robbed of what my parents left me? If they had been honest, they would've taken good care of my property instead of letting a poor orphan knock about in strange homes where I might well have spent the rest of my life if you hadn't come along..."
"Self comes first, you know..."
"That's just it! They only care for their own good and don't even think about orphans and unlucky ones!... Orphans can go and jump in the lake..."
"How can you expect anyone to look after somebody else's property for nothing?" Hritsko asked.
Khristya started, as if pricked with a needle. She looked at him with frightened eyes; it had never occurred to her before that he could say such a thing...
"Does that mean you would have done the same?" she asked him directly.
Somewhat embarrassed, Hritsko thought for a while and said:
"Well, if I hadn't done it, plenty of others would... And then what exactly are you trying to pin on me?" he asked in a harsher tone, giving her a sharp look.
Khristya sat there with a painful expression on her pale, sad face, her stare fixed on his eyes. Her head was tilted a little to one side, a thread froze in one hand and a clew of yarn in the other. It could be seen by her expression that although she was looking Hritsko right in the eye, she did not really see him, for her thoughts had taken her somewhere far, far away...
Hritsko understood this, and his heart throbbed painfully.
"Khristya!" he shouted.
She started, dropping the clew. Hurriedly, she jumped to her feet to pick it up.
"What's the matter with you? Is it because you've fallen in love with Chipka's bare feet?"
Khristya's hitherto pale face suddenly began to glow — either because she was stooping, or because Hritsko's well-aimed question sent blood rushing into her head.
"Did you scare me, my goodness!" she chirped merrily, taking breath and smiling to Hritsko to cover up her recent gloom.
Hritsko looked at her intently. The color had already drained from her face; and only her slightly quickened breathing and a shy timid expression of her shining eyes told him that his question may have been not too wide off the mark. Yet he did not say anything. Letting his feet down from the bench, he patted his pockets looking for his pipe. Having found it, he cleaned it unhurriedly, stretching himself and yawning, and then started to knock out the ashes against the bench.
"I'll go have a smoke and take a look at the wagon to see if the axles are still good enough," he said, holding the pipe in his teeth and working up some tobacco with his fingers. "Tomorrow after lunch I'll probably go to bring that rye..."
He went out, leaving her alone in the room. She shrugged.
"Really, what's the matter with me today?" she asked herself aloud. A while later, she started singing a melancholy song. In her voice sounded tearful sadness that filled the room and enveloped her as she poured out her sorrow and her hand wound the thread.

* * *


As soon as Hritsko had finished his lunch after the Sunday church service, he harnessed his pair of oxen, borrowed another pair from a neighbor and drove to Chipka's place.
Chipka's untended kitchen garden, threadbare fence, crooked gate and peeling house with broken windows struck him very unpleasantly and insulted his proprietary nature. He viewed all that poverty with reproach and pity.
"My God! How low has the fellow fallen!" he said aloud. "I hope he knows what he's doing..."
Hritsko pulled in by the house. The door was shut and latched from inside. He went to look behind the house and glanced at the stackyard but saw only the dark shapes of the rye stacks. Coming up to a window, he peered through the broken pane. Three men lay asleep on the plank bed; Chipka was sleeping on a bench.
"Chipka!" Hritsko called.
"Who's there?" asked Lushnya, jerking awake.
"Would you please wake up Chipka?"
"What do you need him for?" asked Lushnya, stretching himself.
"I've come to take the rye."
Lushnya gave Chipka a kick.
"Chipka!"
"What's the matter?"
"A fellow has come for the rye."
"Oh, yes," Chipka muttered and quickly jumped to his feet. "Hello, Hritsko."
"Hello... So that's how you camp here?!"
"As you see."
"Why don't you at least replace the panes? Cold weather is coming."
"A fine lad like him has got his hot blood to keep him warm," Lushnya answered for Chipka.
Chipka went into the passage to unlatch the door. Lushnya shook the other two men.
"Get up, brothers, to count the money!"
"What money?"
"Chipka has sold the rye."
"To whom?"
"To Hritsko Chuprunenko."
"For how much?"
"I don't know."
Patsyuk and Matnya sat up, rubbing their eyes and yawning.
"I must've gotten too little sleep, because my head is splitting," Matnya muttered and lay down again.
"Is that because your mug has swollen like a barrel?" Lushnya taunted him.
At that moment Chipka came in.
"Come on, brothers, let's go and help Hritsko to load the rye," he said to them.
"Of course!" Lushnya cried out. "Do you hear, Yakim? Get up and come with us. And then we can have some real fun at night!"
Patsyuk did not need to be told twice, and Matnya sat up again. After some more eye-rubbing and stretching, he reluctantly got to his feet, and the four of them made for the stacks.
Two of them carried sheaves of rye, and the other two stacked them on the wagons. They loaded both wagons, pressed the sheaves with long poles and tied them up in the proper way. Hritsko drove away.
"For how much have you sold it, Chipka?" asked Lushnya.
"For nothing."
"What?!" they shouted in chorus.
"I just... gave it to him."
Chipka's pals drooped their heads and remained silent. Lushnya was the first to find his voice.
"Aw, damn it!" he cursed grimly.
"And the Jew was willing to buy it — but he wouldn't sell it to him," Patsyuk said glumly through clenched teeth.
"Because he's a Jew!" Chipka retorted sharply.
"Well, I never!" Matnya bleated, scratching the back of his head. "Who said we'll have real fun tonight? Like hell we will! You shouldn't have waked me up. Why did you have to interrupt my sleep anyway?"
"The Jew was offering a good price," Lushnya started again, "but this fellow is one of our own peasants who like so much getting something for nothing... How lovely!"
"It sure is nice!" Patsyuk threw in, bitingly.
"Aw!" Matnya yawned, stretching himself. "Just what did you wake me up for?"
Chipka glowered at his buddies, his face growing pale.
"I see you are angry with me, brothers," he spoke to them, restraining himself. "I had to do it. That's all! I wouldn't have sold it to the Jew for any price but I've given it to a good friend free."
"Just what are we to you?" Lushnya demanded, giving free rein to his irritation. "Aren't we your good friends anymore? Then why haven't you given it to us? We would've sold it ourselves."
"To the Jew?"
"We would've found somebody..."
"A friend," Chipka went on, "will use my grain in an honest way and will remember me with a kind word. A Jew wouldn't."
"A lot of good that kind word will do you, too," Patsyuk sneered.
"Yes, it will," Chipka snapped sternly. Then, lowering his voice, he added, "At least I can be sure that my work will not be wasted and that a decent man will put it to good use."
"To hell with it all!... Isn't it wonderful? Real fun indeed!..." muttered Matnya, squatting, his puffy cheeks between his hands.
"We never expected such a thing from you, Chipka," Lushnya complained.
"What thing?"
"Such a thing as you've done with this rye... There it goes down the drain!"
Three of them now squatted down in the stackyard, their eyes glaring wolfishly. Only Chipka was standing with his back against the remainder of a stack, casting grim glances now at his pals, now at the unloaded stacks, now at the street — to see if Hritsko was coming back.
Before long, Hritsko drove up for a second time.
"You've surely fooled us, Uncle," Lushnya said to him.
"How?"
"You should've told us you were getting all this rye for free."
"Should I? Hm... Never look a gift horse in the mouth, they say..."
"You ought to hire us to thresh it — at a ruble a stack," Patsyuk joked.
Everybody, including Hritsko, laughed, only Chipka remained impassive.
"Enough of this palaver, brothers," he spoke to his buddies. "Let's help Hritsko to finish loading the rye, because time doesn't wait."
"He's bought it cheap enough to load it himself," Lushnya said with bitterness.
"Timish!" Chipka shouted, glowering at him. "It's either get to work or get out of my place! I won't ask you twice."
Lushnya sighed but nevertheless stood up and clambered onto a stack. The other two followed his example and also began to work. Yet their heart was no longer in it. Somehow, they loaded the wagons and fastened the sheaves securely in place. Hritsko again drove home. Lushnya walked after him.
"Uncle!"
"Yes?"
"You might at least pay us something for the loading... We've been slaving for you till our backs ache. Don't we deserve a little something?"
"Just what do you have in mind?"
"Five rubles would be fine."
"D'you think I can find that money on a garbage heap?"
"Haven't you just gotten a lot of rye for nothing? There've been more than thirty stacks."
Hritsko did not speak.
"Well, at least three rubles for the three of us! The rye, is a gift, of course — it's all up to Chipka..."
"All right... I'll bring it when I come back for a third load. Only I'll be asking you to help me thresh it."
"Thresh it?" Lushnya cried merrily. "Done! That'll be easy enough. If only the Lord sends us good weather, the four of us can do it in a day."
"Then I'll also treat you to a couple of drinks," Hritsko added.
"Fine, Uncle! Fine!"
Hritsko drove on, and Lushnya went back to the rest of the bunch in much higher spirits. In his joy, he jostled Matnya, who had made himself a bed of sheaves on the ground, with another sheaf as a blanket, and was dozing off.
"Don't push!" Matnya glowled. "My side already hurts badly enough from all that work."
"Never fear," said Patsyuk. "It'll be all right — unless it rots through from drink."
"Do you mean that vodka we'll get for the rye?"
"Maybe..." Lushnya put in.
Chipka was not listening. He was walking among the remaining stacks, raking in stalks scattered during the loading.
Lushnya gave his buddies a broad wink, as if telling them to cheer up.
"Will we play around?" they asked in low voices.
Lushnya nodded.
"How much?" Matnya asked.
"Three rubles."
"Too little," said Patsyuk.
"Beggars can't be choosers," Lushnya reminded him.
Hritsko came for a third time, brought the money and loaded the rest of the rye.
When the wagons were ready, Lushnya said:
"We're ready for those drinks you promised, Uncle."
"Let's drop in on Halka then and have a round."
Hritsko called Chipka, and they all went to the tavern. There Hritsko bought a gill of vodka for each of them, including himself. Then he carried the rye home, flushed not so much by the drink as by the gift.
The bunch stayed in the tavern with every intention of making a night of it.






 

Бібліотека ім. О. С. Пушкіна (м. Київ).
А.С. Пушкин. Полное собрание сочинений в десяти томах