Бібліотека ім. Панаса Мирного >>Твори Панаса Мирного >> Do oxen low when mangers are full? >>XXVI. At Home

 

XXVI. At Home

 

On Saturday, Chipka sent his matchmakers to Maxim. On Sunday, he received the bride's parents at his place. Maxim did not neglect the time-honored custom; he accepted the invitation and persuaded Yavdokha to accompany him.
Maxim knew to whom he was marrying off his daughter. Chipka's shabby hut and old, poorly dressed mother did not disturb him too much. Yavdokha, however, took it differently, and her haughty vanity experienced a real shock. To be sure, she had nothing against Chipka himself. But his humble, cramped dwelling and his age-bent mother, worn out by grinding poverty and constant worries, bruised Yavdokha's rapacious, greedy, luxury-hungry nature.
As soon as they returned home, she raked her husband over the coals. Well familiar with her fiery shrewishness, Maxim went outside, where he took his time doing some routine work. Then Yavdokha turned on Halya:
"That's some mother-in-law you're going to have... Good God! She doesn't even look human. Hatred has made her face twisted and shriveled like a dried fish."
"Maybe that's just what she looked like to you at first sight, Mother," Halya said.
But it did not help. Bursting into tears, Yavdokha whined:
"If I'd known, my dear child, that it would ever come to this, that I'd see such things at his place, I would've sworn to keep you at home unmarried for the rest of my life rather than see all this happening to you!..."
Motrya did not like Yavdokha either. She thought the other woman too haughty, pompous and unfriendly. "Fine lady — that's what she thinks she is," Motrya muttered to herself. "I wonder why Chipka got mixed with this lot... The daughter must be the same as the mother: aren't they always? He'll ruin his life with them — and mine as well! I can feel it in my heart..."
And as far as the two mothers were concerned, the whole thing should have been called off. But there was no backing out now — not after all that had been said and done in public.
The following Sunday the young couple were wedded.
Maxim was so delighted he threw such a lavish wedding party as the village had never seen and was unlikely to ever see again. For a whole week musicians played away, feet were given no rest, honeyed vodka and spiced brandy flowed like water, and as to plain vodka, one could swim in it... Guests poured in in huge numbers: there were commoners, soldiers with Sidir among them, the village chief with the clerk and the assessor with some distant relatives who tried to pass for gentry... Both the house and the yard were so crammed with people that there was hardly an inch of room left. Maxim was even said to be expecting the district police chief, but the officer failed to turn up for some reason.
Hritsko, acting as second best man, marveled at all that wealth which had so suddenly and unexpectedly fallen into Chipka's hands. He was even seized with envy — but so was everybody else, for that matter. They all wanted to know what had made such a well-to-do girl as Halya marry that pauper. The older villagers kept their suppositions to themselves, while young women did plenty of hard thinking trying to figure it out for themselves and reaching the conclusion that this whole business looked too suspicious for the devil not to have been somehow involved in it. Then they would look at Halya, who was sitting next to Chipka, as pretty as a picture, and they would start whispering to one another, shaking their heads and exchanging meaningful winks... Meanwhile, the men accepted brimming glasses from Maxim, one at a time, downed them and recited: "May the Lord keep the young couple hale and hearty, and may He grant that they be happy in love, swim in wealth and know no troubles for the rest of their lives!" "May they also get rich and grow humps — down in front!" added Yakiv Kabanets, the best man, who had quite a reputation for sayings of this kind. The crowd roared with laughter, and some women drove their fists into the best man's back, saying, with mock severity: "Take that! and that!" Paying no attention to their fists, Kabanets stuffed a dumpling into his mouth, pushed some dancers out of his way, shouted: "Let's hear some real music!" and went into a lively folk dance until the earth groaned under his feet. The musicians scraped and sawed until strings snapped; violins bent; the tambourine pealed like thunder on a summer day; the copper cymbals banged and jingled as if a hundred pairs of Gypsy horses fitted out with little bells were flying right through the village...
After several days of such carousing at the hamlet, the whole crowd moved over to Chipka's place in Piski.
This was when Motrya saw her daughter-in-law for the first time. Together with her son, she bowed low to her, holding out some rich gifts. Then she looked at the bride — and the shadows of dark thoughts melted away from her face. Sparks of relief flickered in Motrya's aged, lusterless eyes and flared up, spreading joy all over her shriveled face — much in the same way as a ray of sunshine, piercing through dense foliage, lights up the thicket down below, dispelling the gloom. Motrya embraced the girl as affectionately as if she were her own daughter and wept, kissing her. Halya, too, pressed the older woman close to her, as she would her mother, and kissed her coarse, shriveled cheeks and hands... Then Motrya hugged her son, still crying. After this she kissed Halya's parents and nearly all of those who had driven or walked into her yard. The old woman seemed drunk with joy. Never before had she been the object of so much public respect, and now she was at a loss, not quite knowing how she was supposed to thank and greet all those people. Then the band began to play, the women in charge of the ceremony struck up a song, the newlyweds bowed — and went inside... The merrymaking started again. Maxim and Yavdokha danced together, twisting and turning, and after them Motrya, too, shuffled her old feet...
Like a terrible storm that leaves everything smashed and shattered in its wake, the wedding feast swept through Chipka's household causing considerable damage. The fences, broken in many places, lay on the ground; the gate, unhinged and quite battered, was down in the middle of the yard; the windows, like black holes, gaped at the street, their panes gone... But just as the sun seems brighter than usual when, after a gale, a downpour or a hailstorm, its light and warmth pour down upon the element-battered earth, so shone Halya now in that household, warming it with her ruddy face and cheerful eyes.
Chipka began to repair the damage right away. Now he went and mended the fence, now he made a new gate, now he fixed something else. Then he called a glass cutter and had the windows glazed. A week later, one could hardly recognize the once-devastated household; all things were back in their proper places, and everything seemed to look even better than before.
Halya had brought along plenty of things and livestock: it had taken eight wagons, each drawn by a pair of oxen, to haul over her dowry to Piski. Motrya was even frightened when she saw it all. She had never dared to dream of such wealth — and now it suddenly appeared before her, as if conjured up by magic. She did not know where to put it or what to do with it. The most necessary things were taken into the room, some were stored in the passage, but a great deal was left over. Halya asked Yavdokha to keep it for her at the hamlet. Maxim gave Chipka three fine horses as a wedding gift. Chipka asked his father-in-law that those, too, be left at the hamlet until the spring. Seeing how cramped the newlyweds were, Maxim and Yavdokha advised them to move to the hamlet for the winter — something neither Chipka nor Halya agreed to do. So Halya's parents went back, and the young couple were now on their own. Destiny sheltered them under its broad wing.

* * *


Their home looked nice and cheerful. The house seemed to have become larger and lighter. Halya covered the walls with wall paper and hung them with embroidered towels. In the icon case, the faces painted in expensive icons seemed to smile through a forest of cornflowers, mint, hare's-ears and carnations. Before the icons hung toy pigeons. Those birds had blue-gray wings, red chests, black tails, pinkish, flesh-colored beaks and eyes of red beads that shone brightly whenever a ray of sunshine or a shaft of light fell on them. The pigeons caused general admiration. Their wings outspread, their feet pulled up, they swung lightly all the time, looking almost like live birds under some spell. Halya painted blue flowers over the whitewash on the stove and scrubbed the benches and the wooden bed until they became white and spotless. Everything touched by her hand or even catching her eyes, changed from gloomy gray to white and brightened until it seemed to smile.
Halya took loving care of Chipka's mother, doing all kinds of things to please her. She made several caps for her and gave quite a few kerchiefs and blouses as gifts. Motrya's old body was no longer covered with her usual threadbare things; these were now used as rags, while Motrya walked around wearing only new clothes. She now had good, black-vamped boots, skirts of the kind favored by older women but quite expensive nonetheless, a snow-white dress and a cloth-lined sheepskin coat for the winter. She was well protected from cold and did not suffer from either hunger or overwork. Halya had taken over all the chores, tending the cow and the sheep and doing all the cooking; she would not let Motrya do any work at all.
"You've certainly done enough hard work in your lifetime," Halya said. "Now it's time you took some rest. I'm young, so let me do all the work from now on. You just rest."
"Come now, my dear!" Motrya replied. "They say you don't have to pity your father just because he has to work, and that's also true for me. No one pitied me much when I was young, so it's too late to start now. A dog that's gotten used to following the wagon will also run after a sled. I've been working since my childhood, and it would be hard for me to lie around all the time, even though my bones sometimes ache as if they were broken and I do get those chills in the chest."
And Motrya took some wool, sat down before the hatchel and slowly began to spin.
Halya made even greater efforts taking care of Chipka and went out of her way to please him. She embroidered the fronts of all his shirts with pretty floral patterns and trimmed all his coats with cord. As soon as she was through doing her cooking or tending the livestock, she would get busy doing needlework or designing new embroidery patterns.
"Do you think this will look nice?" she would ask her mother-in-law showing her a piece of her embroidery.
"That's a pretty one, my dear," Motrya would praise her. "I think it would look even better if I added some blue here and some green here..."
"You don't really have to rack your brains and spoil your eyes doing that. You could've done it just any which way, and that would have been fine! It hasn't been long since he wore plain shirts with no embroidery that were sometimes mended and patched up all over, too. Well, he didn't seem to care."
"But what kind of wife would I be if I didn't embroider my husband's shirts? I would've done the finest patterns, but I just don't know all of them."
"Thank you, my dear, for being so kind to both of us! When you came down to live with us, it was like suddenly having our home full of sunshine. You seemed to open our eyes — and everything began to look rosy... You can't imagine how hard it was at the beginning. There was no bread and nothing to put on, and I had to go to work every day to make things worse. Then he was still a baby, so I sometimes had to take him along... But when I left him at home, even with his grandmother, fear drove me crazy... I'd be wondering if he was all right and fearing he might have done something wrong. The day seemed to drag on for ages, but as soon as it was evening at last, I couldn't get off the job fast enough... Then I'd fly home only to see him playing in the yard. And I'd thank the Lord as soon as I made sure nothing had happened to him. In winter it was even worse, what with all those biting frosts and snowstorms, and no warm clothes and nothing to wear on my feet!... Then the room got so cold we almost had to run up and down it to keep warm, and there was no fuel to speak of. Oh! I certainly drained a brimming cup of bitterness in my time!... Now, in my old age, I'm quite well off, thank God. Perhaps the Lord will let it last until I die. When I'm gone, I'll be praying for you two up there, asking God to make you happy and to let you raise your children in a proper way."
Such tales of want and bitterness horrified Halya who had not experienced anything of the kind and had never even thought about such things. Her heart was heavy with pity for her mother-in-law. Now she was beginning to understand why Motrya looked so old, feeble and wornout.
"I want you to know I love you just as I do my mother!" she told her warmly. "It's amazing how much you suffered! Did Chipka also go through all that?"
"Of course, dear! I nursed and fed him with my own hands, so he, too, got his share."
"This must be why he's now so grim and gloomy most of the time... With me it's been different: I was raised in a wealthy home, with not a care in the world, always gay and cheerful, often singing..."
"May God always make you want to sing — that's a lot better than crying!" Motrya said affectionately. The girl certainly brought her much comfort and joy.
But there were other moments when, in the dead of night, the wind howled outside and hooted in the chimney like an owl and wailed and wined, knocking on windows like a tardy traveler; when gusts of wind lulled everybody to sleep — everybody, that is, except old people, who tossed and turned and groaned because of their aching bones, overworked through the years, while dark thoughts, like so many black crows, swarmed in their old heads. Then sorrow would creep into Motrya's time-worn heart and wring it hard.
This was just too good to be true, she thought. Why had such a rich, beautiful girl fallen in love with a penniless fellow like Chipka? Well, she may have — a young girl like her, hot-blooded and warm-hearted, would set her eye on a lad and then fall for him all the way before she knew where she was heading... But there were usually parents... Well, Halya's father and mother had not seemed to mind. Had they just let her have her way because they had not wanted her to suffer because of that love? Still, plenty of girls were made to marry men they did not love. Once a wealthy girl became involved with a lad much beneath her, her family always put an end to it... Halya's family had not. To be sure, Chipka was smart and handsome, clever with his hands and had a head that was better than most... All the same, he was hardly a match for such a girl! Didn't they say that a first love was a foolish thing? Maybe it would soon wear off, and then there would be reproaches and recriminations without end with her calling him a pauper and a beggar!... Or maybe she was different? She seemed good, she did. She treated Motrya with genuine respect, although she could not care for her half as much as she did for Chipka. Oh, Lord, make them happy! She, Motrya, was already old, so her only desire was never to see them cursing their fate... She would die before long, and they would live on... She wanted to die in peace.
Such thoughts drifted across the old woman's mind like light clouds on a clear day. But when the sun was out, shining brightly, clouds floated upward until the hot sunshine melted them into tiny wisps to be dispersed by a warm breeze. Here it was the same: as long as their fate smiled upon them and warmed them, it did not let any sad thought cast a dark shadow upon their happiness. Motrya was more often glad than gloomy, watching the young couple build their nest.
Indeed, they were as inseparable as a pair of doves. Whenever he was busy doing something while she was free, she would be by his side holding something for him or helping him in some other way, or just standing there watching him work. And when he saw her working, he would rush to her and do it himself to make things easier for her.
"Hire a servant girl, Halya," he told her, seeing how she strained herself at the stove, heaving big iron cauldrons. "Must you do everything with your own hands? You've been working in the cowshed and doing the cooking and all your needlework, too — all by yourself, alone."
"A servant girl?" she asked in a surprised tone. "What for? To let her cook for you with her unclean hands? No, never!"
"Think of yourself, Halya, of your health..."
"What's wrong with my health? Didn't I grow strong enough sitting idle back at home? I surely don't mind using my hands a little for you, honey. You had it tough in your childhood and youth, so you deserve to be taken care of now that you're married. Just what kind of happiness would it be, if I didn't see about everything myself doing all that there is to be done? No, thank you. I want no servants here!"
As he heard his wife saying such nice things, his heart filled with happiness and joy.
"My love! my happiness!" he whispered to her at night, pressing her close to him. "You brought real joy into my home, you took off the scales which had covered my eyes my whole life! Lies and injustice surrounded me on all sides and weighed heavy on my shoulders and squeezed my chest; and my strong hands felt powerless, and my eyes closed... I didn't know and didn't see any way out of that torture and thought there was no getting away from it... Then you rose, like a beautiful little star, over my worried head and lighted up the way for me!"
"Halya!" he began again after a while, slowly, as if voicing his inner thoughts. "If all the people had been as happy as us, our life would've been even happier!"
"This would've been wonderful, darling! But that's impossible, because fate has already sorted them out, giving plenty to some and nothing to others..."
"Fate? Are you sure it's been fate? Aren't the people to blame, too?"
"Well, they may be — a little... If I could, Chipka, I'd let them have part of my own wealth and happiness. You know, when your mother was telling me about your poverty and hardships back during your childhood, I went hot and cold all over. If I'd known about it, I would've given you all I had..."
"You're a generous kind, Halya... You're sensitive, too," said Chipka embracing her, while his grim face twitched and his voice shook as he remembered what it had been like. "But then my mother isn't the only one who's suffered a lot. There're plenty of such people around besides us. Hundreds, thousands, thousands upon thousands of them have been dragging out their miserable lives. And nobody minds or cares or gives a damn; nobody pays any attention to that, nobody even seems to see it... That's just none of anybody's business, that's always somebody else's troubles... If anybody really cares, it's only those defenseless people who've been starving to death... No wonder we have to use force to get back our lawful share."
"Don't bring it up now, for Christ's sake!" Halya begged him, snuggling up against him. "When I think of it, my head swims and I see red spots before my eyes. Couldn't you have done without all that? Couldn't you try to get it by work — hard, back-breaking but honest?"
"By work? Hm... You can't expect to get too far just working, Halya. Work makes one fellow — and breaks ten others!"
"But there's Hritsko! He started poor and he's gotten on in the world. Now he's quiet and happy — all because of his work!"
"To begin with, a fellow needs a job, something to work on. But everything already belongs to somebody else, and nobody needs his work! He just can't get started. Everything's wrong and unfair..."
"Are you sure, Chipka, that everybody thinks like you do? No, by God! Lushnya is the kind of fellow that would sell you out any time; Patsyuk only cares for merrymaking and singing and kicking up a brawl; and Matnya has just got drinking on his mind. I bet they haven't been thinking about work at all! They grab everything and don't care to whom it belongs and why... Or take those soldiers. They spend their lives being taught to have no respect for other people's right to live, let alone their property... They surely don't see things the way you do — they just rob and loot and never give it another thought... That's the way things have always been in the army, and the soldiers have gotten used to it — and nothing will make them try honest work instead!..."
"It may be so... Maybe you're right there... Maybe..."
"No, Chipka, it's so much better to live quiet, to earn our living in an honest way and to enjoy life... And if God sends us children, we'll bring them up to be decent people and send them to school. Let them study while they're young... Maybe they'll read in those books how to live better than we have."
Her calm, wise reasoning lulled Chipka into blissful tranquility. His dear wife's candid words quieted his heart and softened his tough nature hardened by long years of privations; he was now ashamed of his former dissolute ways and of that twisted path he had thought would lead him to happiness... He also felt sorry for his luckless pals and regretted that their brotherhood was now a thing of the past. He lacked determination and courage to tell them the truth — Halya's truth. So he had to avoid and shun his former friends.

* * *


"It's a shame!" said Lushnya. "We can't expect much good from our chieftain now. The man's as good as lost!... He's been clinging to his wife's skirt."
"They say a honeymoon is the sweetest thing there is," Patsyuk explained.
"Vodka's even sweeter!" Matnya added. "The son-of-a-bitch ought to have let us visit him at least! Think of all that wealth his wife's brought him!"
"That's an idea... What about going to see him?" Lushnya threw in.
"Sure! Let's go!" they shouted all at once and went straight away.
"Too bad, brothers! My wife is sick, and my mother can barely shuffle her feet along... You know there's just one room, and I've got no other place to receive you..."
"At least give us a ruble," Lushnya cadged. "Things have been so tough we haven't got a single copeck left... Then we could drink to your wife's health, asking the Lord to let her get well."
Chipka was only too glad to get rid of them at such a low price. Thrusting a ruble into their hands, he turned to go back inside. The three "brothers" set off for the tavern.
Chipka had lately taken quite a liking to Hritsko and his good Khristya and was as glad to see them as he was loath to meet his former cronies.
Hritsko was a tireless farmer. Everything he owned he had acquired through honest work done by his toil-hardened hands. Prosperity had not turned him into a lazy-bones; he had remained an early riser and still went to bed late. Unlike so many others who turned bossy and put on airs, he kept on farming himself with the help of his hard-working wife, having every intention to bring up his children in the same spirit. Hritsko became fond of Chipka and started to visit him quite frequently. There was certainly nothing improper now about keeping company with Chipka, and this was all the more reason why Hritsko wanted to see his childhood friend more and more often. Their wives also came to like each other.
When the four of them met, the hosts would seat the guests at a table that would be laden with foods and drinks. Chipka and Hritsko would then start a conversation about farming and their gains and losses — the usual everyday cares.
"How's your wheat been doing, Hritsko?" Chipka would ask.
"Well, it's not so good. It's tall enough, but there won't be too much grain. Must be those rains when it was in flower... I tell you: the grains are as small as poppy seeds. I hope I'll break even getting back what I sowed."
Hritsko always complained to Chipka. With him, all that was good was called bad, and sometimes not-so-good was made out to be awful. Hritsko was holding out on Chipka. He saw that despite his wealth Chipka had remained what he had always been — compassionate and sensitive to others' troubles. Realizing that, Hritsko deliberately exaggerated his losses and bad luck, hoping that Chipka, as a good friend, would take his complaints to heart and help him out if and when it became necessary.
Chipka's affluence sometimes made Hritsko envious. Having done plenty of whining at Chipka's, Hritsko would return home and say to Khristya:
"Chipka's surely well fixed now! That's all sheer luck, of course... There's a fellow who really rolls in wealth! Who'd expect to see him like this when he ran crazily about the village in those rags, drunk most of the time, or soaked himself in the taverns?! But there he is now, living like a lord! Suddenly he's rich — just because fortune has smiled on him! And they say that he who is rich is also happy!"
"That's just his destiny, I guess," his wife would reply. "He's also found himself a wife that suits him perfectly. She's not just rich and beautiful but also kind and polite with everybody. And she dotes on him, of course. Like they say, she'd let him have part of her own heart, if only she could."
"I wonder why," Hritsko would say with bitterness.
"Don't you see? Chipka's a good man, that's why."
"What's so good about him?"
"Everything. Of course, for some other woman he might be the wrong kind of husband, but he and Halya seem to be made for each other... They're very much alike... Both are kind and generous... They're a good match — that's for sure."
Khristya always defended Chipka. There was indeed much good in Chipka, which Hritsko's mercenary mind failed to perceive. But Khristya, with her woman's intuition and sensitive heart, saw it well.
"You must've been charmed or something, Chipka, because all the women are just crazy about you," Hritsko joked while in his cups.
"What do you mean?"
"I know what I mean... When my Khristya hasn't seen you for some time, she always starts talking about you, wondering why you haven't been coming."
"I'm surely grateful to her for remembering me," Chipka said warmly.
"Doesn't that make you jealous?" Halya broke in.
"It sure does! That's impossible! I've as good as lost my wife to him."
"We'll yet take her away from you!" Halya laughed.
"Why? What do you need her for? Or maybe you two haven't been getting along too well?"
"That's what it'll probably come to," Khristya smiled. "I'll just leave you and the children and go to live with Halya and Aunt Motrya..."
"I don't care... Take her any time, only give me Chipka instead," said Hritsko.
"Oh no, thank you!" Halya protested. "We won't let you have Chipka. He's staying with us."
Listening to their funny conversation, Motrya also put in a word or two. This was followed by more jokes and general hilarity.
"That surely calls for a drink," announced Chipka, having joked to his heart's content. "Let's have some of your honeyed vodka, Halya."
Quickly, Halya rose from the table. In the twinkling of an eye she was back with the vodka which was fragrant, pure and delicious. She went round the table pouring a full glass for each of them. They drank, smacked their lips, praised Halya, praised the vodka even more and cracked more jokes.
Such visits usually took place on Sundays and other holidays. But hardly a weekday passed without Khristya going to see Halya or the other way around.
They had now come to like each other so much as if they were sisters. Although, as was usual with women, neither of them bared her soul to the end and let the other see all that was going on at the bottom of her heart, they sensed they were united by a certain affinity and mutual affection. Halya had a clearer perception of things; her mind, cultivated amid wealth and plenty, reached farther and wider. Isolated from people, sheltered from life, knowing no hardships or troubles, she had grown used to living in the realm of her thoughts and to use her brains. Khristya's childhood and youth had been different. An orphan from a very early age, her powers of reasoning were blunted by the drudgery of servitude. Penury and privations had left too profound an imprint on her for her to be indifferent to material things. In fact, these were not the last of her concerns. But no matter how different the two women were, both could distinguish equally well between good and evil — something that made their views very much alike. Khristya was only instinctively drawn to good, whereas Halya not only loved it with all her heart but also named it and spoke about and for it. Their was a union of kindred hearts and souls. They built up as strong a friendship as had ever been developed by two women brought together by life.
Because of this deep mutual affection, each of them swore to herself to make the other her future children's godmother. Khristya was looking forward to it. She was again with child, and shortly after Christmas God sent her a second son. Halya took part in the baptism as the baby's official godmother. Hritsko had no objections; in fact, he had been delighted to hear that it would be Halya. He had every reason to expect that such a godmother would be a considerable asset in the child's life. As to Khristya, she regarded this as an additional tie that would seal her everlasting friendship with Halya.
Indeed, they became even closer after this. They began exchanging confidences, revealing their innermost thoughts, fears and hopes to each other. Neither could spend a single day without seeing the other.
Halya came to love her godson as if he were her own child. She made embroidered shirts and caps for him. She would take him in her arms and carry him around, full of admiration. Sometimes her eyes would meet the child's nice gaze, and she would spend a long time staring at his face and peering into his eyes, as if she wanted to devour him with her eyes. Suddenly, her eyes would glitter with something that was neither tears nor plain joy — and she would press the boy close to her heart and cover him with kisses.
Watching them, Khristya would sigh. She understood only too well what it was that Halya needed and that God would not give her.
"I just wonder what you'll do when you have a child," she would start carefully. "I see you really enjoy looking after the boy, even though it's not yours..."
"If I ever have a baby, Khristya, I'll probably eat it up or kiss it to death. I won't let a speck of dust fall on it and won't even allow anyone to look at it... If I could, I'd nurse it in my heart! It's a real wonder, this tiny little thing that can't even speak and just looks at you with its little shiny eyes! When I speak to him, he moves those little eyes around and mews and reaches out to me with his tiny hands, as if he wanted to hug me... It must be wonderful to look at such a baby and realize it's your own flesh and blood... You're such a sweet thing, dear!..." She turned to her godson and covered him with hot kisses.
Those stormy waves were still caused by the emotions of maidenhood, but motherly sentiments were already clearly visible in them. In the fervent outburst of girlish passions the first stirrings of motherhood could be discerned. Halya's thoughts and feelings were those of a young married woman who had not yet gone through the torment and torture of childbirth, had spent no sleepless nights looking after a child and was still unaware of the other, difficult side of motherhood. But the motherly instinct awakens in every woman's heart when she first cuddles a doll, and it is still there when, years later, she pets a kitten as if it were a baby. And when she, already as a grown girl, snuggles against her sweetheart, she also cherishes the great hope of motherhood...

* * *


The winter was almost over. The sun shone brighter and got warmer, melting the snow; fast rivulets ran down hillsides into valleys; early chumaks *(* Chumak (Ukr.) — a carter in the Ukrainian steppe) got busy rigging their wagons, and before long farmers also stirred to life... Presently the spring arrived, and everything revived and rejoiced. The Easter holidays came and went, the fields turned green, the orchards went in blossom, and nightingales warbled... After the long hibernation everything awoke, opened sleepy eyes and, casting a look around, admired the earth basking in the golden rays of a smiling sun...
As soon as warm weather set in, Chipka bought a considerable amount of lumber, hired some carpenters and, choosing a site close to the street, started building not a peasant hut but a real house. Before the villagers were through gathering in the crops, the old, shabby hut in his yard gave way to a merry-looking building proudly gazing into the street with its large, green-framed window panes. Chipka's old dream had come true; instead of a single cramped room and a passage, he now had three separate rooms: one for his mother, another for Halya and himself, and a third, across a passage, for receiving guests. A new log barn was built not far from the house. Soon after it was ready, work began on a shed and a stable. Finally, a new wattle fence with a narrow roof on top of it was put up round the lot. The old gate was torn down. Instead, Chipka made a new one — a folding plank affair that was quite rich-looking. Right in the middle over the new gate there was a round wooden shield on which a human face was carved. Its mouth was like that of a sheatfish, its eyes were owlish, its nose resembled that of a cat, and its hair, parted in the middle, was long like a woman's. Crowds of children from all over the village gathered to admire that marvel.
In the course of just one summer that lot, which had once enjoyed a somewhat uncertain reputation and which all the villagers had seen deserted only a short time ago, changed beyond recognition. Once awe-inspiring and accursed, it now caused general admiration, tantalizing the people's envious eyes and still more envious thoughts.
Motrya herself was often amazed as she looked at her yard. Instead of a humble hut she saw a big new house; the kitchen garden, once overgrown with weeds, had turned into beds of flowers; the once-filthy backyard was now green and clean, flanked by barns, sheds and pens and surrounded by a new fence. The sight made her so happy that it brought tears of joy to her eyes.
"To think how we used to live... And now!... The Lord be thanked!"
Chipka left farming and started driving out to fairs and buying up linen homespun to resell at a profit. Many others in Piski have since gone into this business known here as homespunning, although nobody had tried doing this for a living before Chipka hit upon the idea.



 

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