A HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE OF GORIUKHINO
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A HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE OF GORIUKHINO

(1830)

 

If God sends me readers they may wish to learn how I came to write this History of the Village of Goriukhino. For this purpose I must recount some preliminary details.
I was born of honest and noble parents in the village of Goriukhino on April 1, 1801, and received my elementary education from our sexton. It is to this estimable man that I owe both my love of reading and the general interest in literary pursuits that I later developed. Although my progress was slow, it was not without promise, for by the age of ten I had already acquired almost all the knowledge that I was going to retain, to this day, in memory - a memory that was weak by constitution, and that my parents did not allow me to overburden with knowledge in view of my equally weak physical health.
The calling of a man of letters has always seemed most enviable to me. My parents, honourable but simple people raised in the old way, never read anything, and the only books in the whole house were a primer they had bought for me, some calendars, and the Latest Handbook of Composition. Reading the latter was my favourite pursuit for a long time. I knew it by heart, yet I could find new, previously unnoticed beauties in it every day. Its author, Kurganov, seemed to me one of the greatest men on earth, second only to General Plemiannikov, under whom my father had at one time served as an adjutant. I asked everybody for information about him, but nobody could satisfy my curiosity, nobody knew him personally, and nobody told me anything about him except that he had authored the Latest Handbook of Composition, which I already knew very well. A mist of obscurity surrounded him as if he were an ancient demiurge; at times I even doubted his very existence. His name seemed to me to have been invented, and the legend about him appeared to be a mere myth, awaiting the investigations of a new Niebuhr. But since he ceaselessly haunted my imagination, I tried to attach some image to his mysterious personality, and finally decided that he must have looked like the assessor of the district court, Koriuchkin - a small old man with a red nose and flashing eyes.
I was taken to Moscow and enrolled in Karl Ivanovich Meyer's boarding school in 1812, but ended up spending no more than three months there because we were dismissed when the enemy approached. I returned to the country. After the armies of a dozen nations had been expelled, there was talk of taking me back to Moscow to see if Karl Ivanovich had by some chance re-established himself on the ashes of his former school, or, in case he had not, to enroll me in a different institution; but I persuaded my dear mother to let me stay in the country, because my state of health did not allow me to get up at seven in the morning, the usual time of rising in boarding schools. Thus I reached my sixteenth birthday without advancing beyond an elementary education and spending my time playing tag ball with playmates from the village — the only science in which I had acquired ample knowledge during my sojourn at the boarding school.
At that age I enrolled as a cadet in the X. Infantry Regiment, in which I remained until last year, 18—. Serving in that regiment left few pleasurable impressions on my memory other than my promotion to the rank of officer and a win of 245 rubles at cards just at a time when I had a mere ruble-sixty left in my pocket. The death of my dear parents forced me to retire and settle on my ancestral estate.
That period of my life is so significant to me that I intend to enter into some detail about it, asking in advance for my gentle reader's indulgence in case he should think I am abusing his patient attention.
It was an overcast autumnal day. Having come to the station at which I had to turn off the main highway for Goriukhino, I hired private horses and set out along a country lane. Although I am generally of a calm disposition, this tune I was seized by such an uncontrollable desire to see again the places where I had spent my best years that I kept urging my driver forward, now promising him a tip, now threatening to beat him. Since it was more expedient for me to poke him in the back than to pull out and untie my purse, I must confess I hit him on some three occasions, which I had never done before, since for some reason I had always had a soft spot for the estate of coach drivers. The man drove his team forth, yet to me it seemed that despite his goading the horses and waving the whip at them, he was actually reining them in - as coach drivers were wont to do. At last I caught sight of the Goriukhino wood, and in another ten minutes we drove into the courtyard of the manor house. My heart pounded; I looked around with indescribable emotion. I had not seen Goriukhino for eight years. The little birches that had been planted along the fence when I was still living there had grown into tall trees with branches spread wide. The yard, which used to be ornamented with three neat flower beds, a broad sanded path running among them, had by now turned into an unmowed pasture, on which a dun-brown cow was grazing. My carriage stopped by the front porch. My servant tried to open the door, but it was boarded up, even though the shutters were open and the house seemed to be inhabited. A woman came out of the servants' quarters and asked me whom I wanted to see. On learning that her master had arrived, she ran back into the servants' quarters, and soon I was surrounded by domestics. Seeing all these faces - some familiar, some new to me - and exchanging friendly kisses with them all touched me to the core of my heart. My former playmates were now grown muzhiks, and the little girls who used to sit around on the floor waiting to be sent on errands were now married women. The men wept. To the women I would say without ceremony, "How you've aged," to which they would reply with emotion, "And how you've lost your looks, Your Honor." They led me around to the back porch, where my old nurse met me -much enduring Odysseus - with cries and sobs. They ran to light the stove in the bathhouse. The cook, who had grown a beard in his idleness, offered to prepare my dinner, or supper to be exact, since it was already getting dark. Soon the living apartments, in which my nurse had been staying with my late mother's maidservants, were cleaned up; I found myself in my humble ancestral abode and went to sleep in the same room in which I had been born twenty-three years before.
Some three weeks passed in toil and trouble: I had to fuss with assessors, marshals of the nobility, and all manner of provincial civil servants. At last I received my inheritance and was installed as proprietor of my ancestral estate; I felt reassured, but the boredom of inactivity soon began to torment me. At that time I was not yet acquainted with my good-hearted and honourable neighbour N. Managing an estate was an occupation entirely alien to me. The conversation of my nurse, whom I had promoted to housekeeper and estate manager, consisted, in total, of fifteen domestic anecdotes, which held great interest for me but were told by her always in exactly the same manner, so much so that she soon became in my eyes just like the Latest Handbook of Composition, in which I knew what line I would find on which page. As for the actual time-honored Handbook, I found it in the store room, among other rubbish, in a pitiful condition. I brought it out into the daylight and set to reading it; but Kurganov had lost his previous charm for me; I read through it once more and never opened it again.
In this extremity the question occurred to me whether I myself should try to write something. My gentle reader already knows that I had been educated on a shoestring budget and subsequently had no opportunity to acquire by myself what had been omitted, for until age sixteen I had played around with the village boys and afterwards marched from one province to another, moving from lodging to lodging, spending my time with Jews and sutlers, playing on dilapidated billiard tables, and trudging in the mud.
Moreover, being an author seemed so very difficult to me, so unattainable for us amateurs, that at first the mere thought of taking up pen frightened me. Could I dare hope ever to join the ranks of writers, when even my fervent wish to meet with just one of them had never been fulfilled? But this reminds me of an incident, which I intend to relate as proof of my ever-burning passion for our native literature.
In 1820, when I was still a cadet, official duty took me to Petersburg. I stayed for a week, and despite the fact that I did not know a single soul there, I had an exceedingly good time, for I stole off to the theater, to the fourth-tier gallery, every day. I learned the names of all the actors and fell passionately in love with Y., who one Sunday played with great art the role of Amalia in the drama Misanthropy and Repentance. In the morning, as I returned from General Headquarters, I usually went to a low-ceilinged confectionary shop and read the literary magazines over a cup of hot chocolate. On one occasion I was sitting engrossed in a critical review in The Steadfast when someone in a pea-colored coat came up to my table and gently pulled the Hamburg Gazette from under my journal. I was so preoccupied that I did not even raise my eyes. The stranger ordered a beefsteak and sat down in front of me. I continued reading, paying no attention to him. Meanwhile he finished his lunch, angrily scolded the boy for poor service, drank half a bottle of wine, and left. Two young people were also having lunch there.
"Do you know who that was?" one of them said to the other. "It was В., the author."
"Author!" I cried out involuntarily; leaving my journal half-read and my cup half-drained, I dashed to pay my check and, not waiting for the change, ran out on the street. I looked in all directions, spotted the pea-colored coat at a distance, and hurried after it, almost running, along Nevskii Avenue. But I had only taken a few steps when I suddenly felt somebody stopping me: turning around, I found myself face to face with an officer of the Guards, who pointed out to me that instead of pushing him off the sidewalk, I should have halted and stood to attention. After this reprimand I grew more cautious; to my misfortune, I met more officers and had to halt every moment, while the author went forward, leaving me farther and farther behind. My soldier's uniform had never been so burdensome to me, and the epaulets of an officer had never seemed more enviable. We were already at Anichkin Bridge when I caught up with the pea-colored coat at last.
"Allow me to ask," I said saluting, "whether you are Mr. В., whose excellent articles I have had the pleasure of reading in the Votary of Enlightenment?"
"Umph - no, sir," he answered. "I am not an author but a solicitor. I do, however, know the author Z.; I met him at the Politseiskii Bridge just fifteen minutes ago."
Thus my zeal for Russian literature had cost me thirty kopecks of forfeited change, a reprimand by a superior, almost an arrest - and all of it in vain.
Against my better judgment, the bold idea of becoming a writer kept recurring to me. At last, no longer able to resist my natural inclination, I sewed sheets of paper together into a thick notebook with the firm resolve to fill it with anything whatever. All the genres of poetry (for I had not yet contemplated humble prose) were analyzed and evaluated by me, and I resolutely settled on an epic poem, its subject to be drawn from our national history. It did not take a long time to search for a hero. I chose Riurik — and set to work.
In versification I had acquired some facility while copying the notebooks that had been passed around among us officers, such as "The Dangerous Neighbor," "A Critique on the Moscow Boulevard," "A Critique on the Presnia Ponds," and the like. In spite of this, my poem progressed slowly, and I abandoned it on the third verse. I concluded that the epic was not my genre, and commenced the tragedy of Riurik. The tragedy did not work out. I tried to turn it into a ballad, but that did not seem to suit my talent either. At last inspiration came to me: I began, and successfully completed, an inscription for the portrait of Riurik.
Even though my inscription was not altogether unworthy of note, especially as the first work of a young versifier, I nevertheless felt that I had not been born a poet, and contented myself with this first effort. But through these creative experiments I grew so attached to literary work that I could no longer part with the notebook and the inkwell. I wanted to descend to prose. At first, not wishing to engage in preliminary study, plot structure, the linking of component parts, and the like, I proposed to write down separate thoughts, with no connection or order, just as they presented themselves to me. Unfortunately, no thoughts came to my head, and all I could devise in two full days was the following dictum:
He who does not obey the dictates of reason
and is accustomed to following the
inducements of passion will often err and subject
himself to later repentance.
The thought was, of course, correct, but not quite new. Leaving aside thoughts, I began writing tales, but because of my lack of experience I did not know how to string fictitious events together, and therefore chose some remarkable anecdotes I had heard in the past from various people. I tried to embellish the truth by lively narration and sometimes even by the flowering of my own imagination. Composing these tales, I gradually formed my style, until I had learned to express myself correctly, pleasantly, and fluently. My stock was soon exhausted, however, and once more I began to seek a subject for my pen.
The idea of relinquishing trivial and dubious anecdotes in favour of relating true and great events had long been stirring my imagination. To be the judge, observer, and prophet of centuries and peoples seemed to me the highest achievement attainable to a writer. But given my pitiable education, what kind of history could I write that would not already have been surpassed by learned and conscientious men of science? Which branch of history had not already been explored by them? Suppose I were to start writing a universal history; but does not the immortal work of the Abbe Millot already exist? Suppose I turned to the history of my own fatherland; but what could I add to Tatishchev, Boltin, and Golikov? And was it for me to delve into chronicles, trying to divine the arcane meaning of an ancient tongue, when I was not even able to master the Old Slavic numerals? I thought of a history of a lesser scope, such as that of the capital of our guberniia; but how many insurmountable obstacles would I meet even in that undertaking! A trip to the city, visits to the governor and to the archbishop, applying for admission to the archives and to the repositories of monasteries, etc. A history of our county seat would have been more manageable for me, but it could have had no interest either for the philosopher or for the pragmatist; nor could it have provided food for eloquence: Y. was not chartered as a town until 17—, and the only significant event recorded in its annals was a terrible conflagration that destroyed its marketplace and courthouse ten years ago.
An unexpected occurrence settled the issue for me. A serving woman, as she was hanging up linen in the attic, found an old basket full of wood shavings, trash, and books. Everybody in the house knew about my fondness for reading. Just as I sat chewing my pen over my notebook, attempting to compose a sermon to my villagers, my housekeeper triumphantly dragged the basket into my room and shouted with joy: "Books! books!" "Books!" I repeated in raptures and threw myself on the basket. Indeed I beheld a whole heap of books in green and blue paper covers. It was a collection of old calendars. This latter discovery cooled my enthusiasm somewhat, but I was still pleased with the unexpected find, since these were after all books of sorts. The washerwoman was generously rewarded for her zeal with a silver half-ruble piece. Once left alone, I set to examining my calendars, and soon my interest was greatly aroused. They comprised an unbroken chain of years from 1744 to 1799, that is, a total of fifty-five. The sheets of blue paper - the kind usually bound into calendars - were all covered with writing in an old-fashioned hand. Glancing at these lines, I discovered with astonishment that they contained not only observations about the weather and financial accounts, but also brief items of historical information about the village of Goriukhino. I set to deciphering these precious notations without delay and soon ascertained that they represented a full history of my ancestral estate for almost a whole century, given in the strictest chronological order. In addition, they contained an inexhaustible store of economical, statistical, meteorological, and other scholarly observations. From that time on, I devoted myself exclusively to the study of these notations, for I detected the possibility of extracting from them a well-proportioned, interesting, and instructive narrative. Having sufficiently acquainted myself with these precious memorabilia, I set about searching for new sources for this history of the village of Goriukhino. And soon the abundance of such materials astounded me. Having devoted a full six months to a preliminary study, at last I set to work on my long-desired opus and with God's help completed it on this third day of November, 1827.
And now, having finished my difficult task, I shall put my pen down and - like a certain historian similar to me whose name I forget — sadly proceed to my garden in order to contemplate what I have accomplished. To me, too, it seems that having written the History of Goriukhino I am no longer necessary to the world, my duty has been done, and it is time for me to betake myself to my final rest!

Herewith I attach a list of the sources I have used in compiling the History of Goriukhino:
1. A collection of old calendars, in fifty-four issues. The first twenty issues bear writing in an old-fashioned hand, with Old Church Slavic abbreviations. This chronicle was composed by my great-grandfather Andrei Stepanovich Belkin. It is distinguished by its clarity and laconic style. For example:

May 4. Snow. Trishka thrashed for rudeness.
6. The dun cow has died. Senka thrashed for drunkenness.
8. Clear skies.
9. Rain and snow. Trishka thrashed on account of the weather.
11. Clear skies. Fresh snow on the ground. Killed three rabbits.

And some more in this vein, with no reflection on the events... The remaining thirty-five issues, bearing different kinds of handwriting, mostly the so-called tradesman's script with or without Old Church Slavic abbreviations, tend to be wordy, disconnected, and full of misspellings. A woman's hand is noticeable here and there. With this group belong notes written by my grandfather, Ivan Andreevich Belkin, and by my grandmother, that is, his wife, Evpraksia Alekseevna, as well as by the steward Garbovitskii.
2. A chronicle written by the Goriukhino sexton. I unearthed this fascinating manuscript at the house of my priest, who is married to the chronicler's daughter. Its first pages had been torn out and used by the priest's children for so-called kites. One of these kites fell down in the middle of my yard. I picked it up and was about to return it to the children when I noticed that it had been written all over. I could see from the first lines that the kite had been made of a chronicle; fortunately, I was able to save the remainder. This chronicle, which I subsequently obtained for a quarter-measure of oats, is distinguished by its profundity of thought and extraordinary magniloquence.
3. Oral traditions. I did not scorn any kind of information. But I am especially indebted to Agrafena Trifonova, mother of the elder Avdei, who was rumored to have been the mistress of the steward Garbovitskii at one time.
4. Census registers (and accounting and housekeeping books), with notes by former village elders on the mores and living conditions of the peasants.

The country that is named Goriukhino after its capital occupies more than two hundred and forty desiatinas on the terrestrial globe. The number of male serfs living in it reaches sixty-three. To the north it borders on the territory of the villages of Deriukhovo and Perkukhovo, whose inhabitants are poor, thin, and small of stature, and whose proud owners are devoted to the martial exercise of rabbit hunting. On the south side, the Sivka River separates it from the lands of the Karachevo freeholders — restless neighbors who are famous for the savage cruelty of their ways. On the western side, it is embraced by the flourishing fields of Zakharino, which prosper under the rule of wise and enlightened landowners. On the east, it adjoins a wild uninhabited region, an impassable swamp, where only cranberries grow and frogs monotonously croak, and where, according to superstitious tradition, a certain demon is supposed to dwell.
N.B. This swamp is in fact called Demon's Swamp. They say that a half-witted girl used to tend a herd of swine not far from this forlorn region. She became pregnant and could give no satisfactory explanation for this occurrence. By popular belief, the demon of the swamp was to blame; but this tale is not worthy of the attention of a historian, and after Niebuhr it would be inexcusable to give it any credit.

From ancient times Goriukhino has been renowned for the fecundity of its land and for its healthful climate. Rye, oats, barley, and buckwheat grow on its fertile fields. A birch wood and a fir forest supply its inhabitants with timber and firewood for the construction and heating of their dwellings. There is no shortage of nuts, cranberries, cowberries, and bilberries. Mushrooms grow in unusual quantities; broiled with sour cream they make a tasty, albeit unhealthy, dish. The pond is full of carp, and the Sivka River teams with pike and burbot.

The male inhabitants of Goriukhino are mostly of medium height, strongly built and virile, with grey eyes and either blond or red hair. The distinguishing features of the women are somewhat turned-up noses, prominent cheekbones, and corpulence. N.B. The expression strapping wench often occurs in the village elder's notes to the census registers. The men are well-behaved, industrious (especially in their own fields), brave, and combative: many of them will set on a bear singlehanded and many are famous throughout the district as fist-fighters. They are, by and large, all inclined to the sensual delights of drunkenness. The women, in addition to their household duties, take a share in most of the men's work; they do not lag behind the men in courage; you will rarely find one afraid of the village elder. Nicknamed battle-axes (a combination of the words battle and ax), they constitute a mighty civil guard that untiringly watches over the courtyard of the manor. The battle-axes' chief duty is to beat an iron plate with a stone as often as possible, in order to ward off evil-doing. They are as chaste as they are beautiful; they have a stern and expressive response to the advances of the daring.
The inhabitants of Goriukhino have since ancient times carried on an abundant trade in phloem fiber, baskets, and bast shoes. This is facilitated by the Sivka River, which they cross in boats in the spring, like the ancient Scandinavians, and ford in other seasons of the year, with their trousers rolled up to their knees.
The Goriukhino language has definitely branched out of common Slavic, but is as far from it as Russian. It abounds in abbreviations and ellipses; some letters have been either entirely eliminated from it or replaced by others. A Great Russian can, however, easily understand a Goriukhinian, and vice versa.
The men used to marry twenty-year-old women at age fourteen. The wives beat their husbands for four or five years, after which it was the husbands who beat the wives; thus each sex had its period of domination, and a certain balance was achieved.
Funeral rites took place in the following fashion. The deceased was carried off to the cemetery on the very day of his death so that he would not unnecessarily occupy space in the cottage. For this reason it has happened that the deceased would sneeze or yawn, to his relatives' indescribable joy, just as he was being carried in his coffin past the edge of the village. Wives would bemoan the death of their husbands by wailing and chanting: "My precious brave one, why didst thou leave me? To whom hast thou forsaken me? How shall I mourn thee?" After the mourners returned from the cemetery, a funeral feast would begin, and the dead man's relatives and friends would be drunk for two or three days, or even for a whole week, depending on their zeal and on how much they cherished the dead man's memory. These ancient rites have been preserved to this day.
The Goriukhinian men's attire consisted of a shirt worn over the trousers, a distinctive feature that revealed their Slavic origin. In the winter they wore sheepskin coats, but more for adornment than out of real need, since they would fling the coat over one shoulder only and would throw it off altogether for the slightest job that required physical exertion.
The sciences, arts, and poetry have from ancient times found themselves in quite a flourishing state in Goriukhino. In addition to the priest and church readers, it has always counted some literate people among its population. The chronicles mention a certain village notary called Terentii, who lived around 1767 and could write not only with his right hand but also with his left. This unusual person acquired fame in the district by fashioning letters of all kinds, petitions, homemade passports, and the like. Having more than once suffered for his art, for his readiness to oblige, and for his participation in various remarkable incidents, he died in ripe old age, just when he was learning to write with his right foot in consideration of the fact that the writing produced by both of his hands had become too well known. He plays, as the reader will see below, an important part in the history of Goriukhino.
Music has always been a favourite art among the educated in Goriukhino: even today the balalaika and the bagpipe resound, delighting sensitive hearts, throughout the village, especially in the ancient public building adorned with a fir tree and with the image of a double-headed eagle.
At one time poetry, too, flourished in ancient Goriukhino. The poems of Arkhip the Bald have been preserved in the memory of posterity to this day.
In tenderness of feeling they do not yield to the Eclogues of the well-known Virgil; in beauty of imagery they are far superior to the idylls of Mr. Sumarokov. And though they fall behind the latest productions of our muses in stylistic affectation, they equal them in inventiveness and wit.
Let us quote the following satirical poem as an example:

Anton, village elder,
To the manor goes,
And a bunch of tallies
To the master shows.
Master takes a look at them,
Can't make head or tail of them.
Anton doesn't mind,
Steals the gentry blind,
Squanders all the manor grows,
Buys his woman fancy clothes.

Having thus acquainted my reader with the ethnographical and statistical state of affairs in Goriukhino and with the mores and customs of its inhabitants, I will now begin the narrative proper.

Fabulous Times
The Village Elder Trifon

The form of government in Goriukhino has changed several times. It has in turns been under the rule of elders chosen by the village commune, under that of stewards appointed by the landowner, and finally under the immediate power of the landowners themselves. The advantages and disadvantages of these different forms of government will be expatiated on in the course of our narrative.
The founding of Goriukhino and its original settlement are shrouded in a mist of uncertainty. Legends from the dim past claim that at one time Goriukhino was a large prosperous village, that all its inhabitants were wealthy, and that the quitrent was collected once a year and sent off to some unknown person in a few carts. At that time everything was bought cheaply and sold at high prices. Stewards did not exist, the elders did not mistreat anybody, the inhabitants worked little yet lived in clover, and even shepherds wore boots while tending their herds. We must not be deluded by this enchanting picture. The idea of a golden age is inherent in the tradition of every people, which proves nothing except that people are never satisfied with the present, and since their experience gives them little hope for the future, they adorn the irrevocable past with all the flowers of their imagination. What can be ascertained is as follows.
The village of Goriukhino has belonged to the illustrious family of Belkin since ancient times. But my ancestors, possessing many other estates, did not pay attention to this remote land. Goriukhino was lightly taxed, and governed by elders elected by the people at meetings called village assemblies.
With the passage of time, however, the Belkins' ancestral possessions became fragmented and fell into decline. The impoverished grandsons of a rich grandfather were unable to give up their habits of luxury, and they demanded the former full income from an estate that had shrunk to one-tenth of its original size. Threatening commands followed one after the other. The elder read them to the assembly; the aldermen waxed eloquent, and the commune grew agitated; yet the landlords, instead of a double amount of quitrent, received only sly excuses and humble complaints written on wax-spattered paper and sealed with a half-kopeck piece.
A dark cloud hung over Goriukhino, but nobody gave it a thought. In the last year of the reign of Trifon - the last elder elected by the people — on the very day of the village's patron saint, when the whole populace either noisily crowded around the recreational building (called pothouse in the vernacular) or roamed the streets arm in arm loudly singing the songs of Arkhip the Bald, a wicker-covered carriage, drawn by a pair of nags just barely alive, drove into the village; a Jew in tatters sat on the box; a head in a visored cap appeared from inside and looked at the festive crowd with, it seemed, some interest. The citizens met the carriage with laughter and rude jokes. (N.B. The imbeciles teased the Jewish driver by rolling up the hems of their garments into tubes and exclaiming gleefully, "Yid, Yid, eat a pig's ear!" -from The Chronicle of the Goriukhino Sexton.) But how great was their surprise when the carriage stopped in the middle of the village, and the newcomer, jumping out, demanded in a stentorian voice to see the elder Trifon! That dignitary was at the time in the recreational building, whence two aldermen escorted him out respectfully, supporting him by the arm. The stranger looked at him menacingly, handed him a letter, and commanded him to read it without delay. The Goriukhino elders had the habit of never reading anything themselves. Indeed the elder was illiterate. They sent for the notary Avdei. He was discovered not too far away, asleep under a fence in a side street, and was brought into the stranger's presence. But on his arrival, he thought - either from sudden fright or from a woeful presentiment - that the characters in the letter, though clearly traced, were somehow blurred, and was unable to decipher them. With horrendous curses the stranger sent both the elder Trifon and the notary Avdei off to sleep, postponed the reading of the letter till the next day, and went to the estate office, where the Jew carried his small suitcase after him.
The Goriukhinians watched these unusual proceedings in silent wonderment, but soon the carriage, the Jew, and the stranger were all forgotten. The day ended with much noise and merriment, and Goriukhino fell asleep not suspecting what was awaiting it.
When the sun rose, the inhabitants were awakened by a knock on their windows and a summons to a village assembly. The citizens came one after the other to the courtyard of the estate office, which served as a communal meeting place. Their eyes were bleary and red, their cheeks puffy; yawning and scratching themselves, they looked at the man in the visored cap and worn blue caftan who stood on the porch of the estate office with an air of importance, and tried to recall if they had seen his features before. The elder Trifon and the notary Avdei stood by him with their hats off, and with a look of servility and deep sorrow.
"Is everybody here?" asked the stranger.
"Everybody here?" repeated the elder.
"We are," answered the citizens.
Then the elder announced that a letter had been received from the landlord, and he ordered the notary to read it aloud to the commune. Avdei stepped forward and read in a thunderous voice what follows below. (N.B. "I copied this document of ill omen at the house of the elder Trifon where it was being kept in the icon-case together with other memorabilia of his reign over Goriukhino" - from The Chronicle of the Goriukhino Sexton. I myself have been unable to unearth the original of this curious letter.)

Trifon Ivanov,
The bearer of this letter, my representative P., is being sent to my ancestral estate, the village of Goriukhino, in order to take over its management. Immediately after his arrival all the peasants are to be called together and their master's will is to be announced to them, namely: that they, the peasants, are to obey the commands of my representative P. like my very own. And they are to carry out unquestioningly everything he demands, or else he is to treat them with all necessary severity. I have been forced to take this step by their unconscionable disobedience and by your, Trifon Ivanov's, knavish connivance with them.
Signed NN
After the reading of this, P., spreading his legs like the letter X and placing his arms akimbo to form the letter ф, uttered the following brief but expressive speech:
"Look you here: don't try any of your smart tricks on me; I know you're a spoiled lot, but I'll beat the nonsense out of your heads I dare say faster than last night's drunkenness."
There was no drunkenness left in a single head. As if thunderstruck, the Goriukhinians hung their heads low and dispersed in horror.

The Rule of the Steward P.

P. took up the reins of government and set about putting into practice his political theory — a theory that deserves special analysis.
Its chief foundation was the following axiom: the richer the peasant, the more recalcitrant, and, conversely, the poorer the humbler. Consequently, P. encouraged humility in the community as the cardinal peasant virtue. He demanded an inventory of the peasant households and divided them into the rich and the poor. 1. Arrears of rent from the village were apportioned among the rich peasants and exacted from them with utmost severity. 2. Paupers and idlers were immediately put behind plows, and if according to his reckoning their work did not prove satisfactory, he hired them out as farmhands to other peasants, for which the latter paid him voluntary tribute. Those given over into bondage had every right to ransom themselves by paying twice the amount of their annual rent in addition to their arrears. All communal obligations fell on the shoulders of the rich peasants. The recruitment of soldiers was a veritable triumph for the greedy steward, for all the well-to-do peasants, one after the other, bought themselves off, until at the last the choice fell on some rascal or poor devil*. The meetings of the village assembly were abolished. The steward collected the quitrent little by little, all the year around. In addition, he introduced supplemental collections. The peasants, it seems, were not paying all that much more than they had before, but they could never earn or save sufficient money. Within three years Goriukhino was completely impoverished.
The village lost its liveliness, the marketplace grew deserted, the songs of Arkhip the Bald could no longer be heard. The lads and lasses went a-begging. Half of the peasants worked on the landlord's fields, the other half served as farmhands; and the day of the village's patron saint became, as the chronicler says, not a day of joy and jubilation, but an anniversary of sorrow and a commemoration of mournful events.




* "The accursed steward put Anton Timofeev in fetters until old Timofei ransomed his son for 100 rubles; then the steward clapped Petrushka Eremeev in irons until he was bought off by his father for 68 rubles; next the accursed one wanted to shackle Lekha Tarasov, but the latter ran away into the forests, which distressed the steward so utterly that he ranted and raved; the person who was finally taken to the city and inducted into the army was Vanka the drunkard." — From a complaint lodged by the Goriukhino peasants.


 

Оригінал твору

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