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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cossacks - Chapter 11
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The Cossacks - Chapter 11 Post by :captpaul Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2891

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The Cossacks - Chapter 11

Towards evening the master of the house returned from his fishing,
and having learnt that the cadet would pay for the lodging,
pacified the old woman and satisfied Vanyusha's demands.

Everything was arranged in the new quarters. Their hosts moved
into the winter hut and let their summer hut to the cadet for
three rubles a month. Olenin had something to eat and went to
sleep. Towards evening he woke up, washed and made himself tidy,
dined, and having lit a cigarette sat down by the window that
looked onto the street. It was cooler. The slanting shadow of the
hut with its ornamental gables fell across the dusty road and even
bent upwards at the base of the wall of the house opposite. The
steep reed-thatched roof of that house shone in the rays of the
setting sun. The air grew fresher. Everything was peaceful in the
village. The soldiers had settled down and become quiet. The herds
had not yet been driven home and the people had not returned from
their work.

Olenin's lodging was situated almost at the end of the village. At
rare intervals, from somewhere far beyond the Terek in those parts
whence Olenin had just come (the Chechen or the Kumytsk plain),
came muffled sounds of firing. Olenin was feeling very well
contented after three months of bivouac life. His newly washed
face was fresh and his powerful body clean (an unaccustomed
sensation after the campaign) and in all his rested limbs he was
conscious of a feeling of tranquillity and strength. His mind,
too, felt fresh and clear. He thought of the campaign and of past
dangers. He remembered that he had faced them no worse than other
men, and that he was accepted as a comrade among valiant
Caucasians. His Moscow recollections were left behind Heaven knows
how far! The old life was wiped out and a quite new life had begun
in which there were as yet no mistakes. Here as a new man among
new men he could gain a new and good reputation. He was conscious
of a youthful and unreasoning joy of life. Looking now out of the
window at the boys spinning their tops in the shadow of the house,
now round his neat new lodging, he thought how pleasantly he would
settle down to this new Cossack village life. Now and then he
glanced at the mountains and the blue sky, and an appreciation of
the solemn grandeur of nature mingled with his reminiscences and
dreams. His new life had begun, not as he imagined it would when
he left Moscow, but unexpectedly well. 'The mountains, the
mountains, the mountains!' they permeated all his thoughts and
feelings.

'He's kissed his dog and licked the jug! ... Daddy Eroshka has
kissed his dog!' suddenly the little Cossacks who had been
spinning their tops under the window shouted, looking towards the
side street. 'He's drunk his bitch, and his dagger!' shouted the
boys, crowding together and stepping backwards.

These shouts were addressed to Daddy Eroshka, who with his gun on
his shoulder and some pheasants hanging at his girdle was
returning from his shooting expedition.

'I have done wrong, lads, I have!' he said, vigorously swinging
his arms and looking up at the windows on both sides of the
street. 'I have drunk the bitch; it was wrong,' he repeated,
evidently vexed but pretending not to care.

Olenin was surprised by the boys' behavior towards the old hunter,
but was still more struck by the expressive, intelligent face and
the powerful build of the man whom they called Daddy Eroshka.

'Here Daddy, here Cossack!' he called. 'Come here!'

The old man looked into the window and stopped.

'Good evening, good man,' he said, lifting his little cap off his
cropped head.

'Good evening, good man,' replied Olenin. 'What is it the
youngsters are shouting at you?'

Daddy Eroshka came up to the window. 'Why, they're teasing the old
man. No matter, I like it. Let them joke about their old daddy,'
he said with those firm musical intonations with which old and
venerable people speak. 'Are you an army commander?' he added.

'No, I am a cadet. But where did you kill those pheasants?' asked
Olenin.

'I dispatched these three hens in the forest,' answered the old
man, turning his broad back towards the window to show the hen
pheasants which were hanging with their heads tucked into his belt
and staining his coat with blood. 'Haven't you seen any?' he
asked. 'Take a brace if you like! Here you are,' and he handed two
of the pheasants in at the window. 'Are you a sportsman yourself?'
he asked.

'I am. During the campaign I killed four myself.'

'Four? What a lot!' said the old man sarcastically. 'And are you a
drinker? Do you drink CHIKHIR?'

'Why not? I like a drink.'

'Ah, I see you are a trump! We shall be KUNAKS, you and I,' said
Daddy Eroshka.

'Step in,' said Olenin. 'We'll have a drop of CHIKHIR.'

'I might as well,' said the old man, 'but take the pheasants.' The
old man's face showed that he liked the cadet. He had seen at once
that he could get free drinks from him, and that therefore it
would be all right to give him a brace of pheasants.

Soon Daddy Eroshka's figure appeared in the doorway of the hut,
and it was only then that Olenin became fully conscious of the
enormous size and sturdy build of this man, whose red-brown face
with its perfectly white broad beard was all furrowed by deep
lines produced by age and toil. For an old man, the muscles of his
legs, arms, and shoulders were quite exceptionally large and
prominent. There were deep scars on his head under the short-
cropped hair. His thick sinewy neck was covered with deep
intersecting folds like a bull's. His horny hands were bruised and
scratched. He stepped lightly and easily over the threshold,
unslung his gun and placed it in a corner, and casting a rapid
glance round the room noted the value of the goods and chattels
deposited in the hut, and with out-turned toes stepped softly, in
his sandals of raw hide, into the middle of the room. He brought
with him a penetrating but not unpleasant smell of CHIKHIR wine,
vodka, gunpowder, and congealed blood.

Daddy Eroshka bowed down before the icons, smoothed his beard, and
approaching Olenin held out his thick brown hand. 'Koshkildy,'
said he; That is Tartar for "Good-day"--"Peace be unto you," it
means in their tongue.'

'Koshkildy, I know,' answered Olenin, shaking hands.

'Eh, but you don't, you won't know the right order! Fool!' said
Daddy Eroshka, shaking his head reproachfully. 'If anyone says
"Koshkildy" to you, you must say "Allah rasi bo sun," that is,
"God save you." That's the way, my dear fellow, and not
"Koshkildy." But I'll teach you all about it. We had a fellow
here, Elias Mosevich, one of your Russians, he and I were kunaks.
He was a trump, a drunkard, a thief, a sportsman--and what a
sportsman! I taught him everything.'

'And what will you teach me?' asked Olenin, who was becoming more
and more interested in the old man.

'I'll take you hunting and teach you to fish. I'll show you
Chechens and find a girl for you, if you like--even that! That's
the sort I am! I'm a wag!'--and the old man laughed. 'I'll sit
down. I'm tired. Karga?' he added inquiringly.

'And what does "Karga" mean?' asked Olenin.

'Why, that means "All right" in Georgian. But I say it just so. It
is a way I have, it's my favourite word. Karga, Karga. I say it
just so; in fun I mean. Well, lad, won't you order the chikhir?
You've got an orderly, haven't you? Hey, Ivan!' shouted the old
man. 'All your soldiers are Ivans. Is yours Ivan?'

'True enough, his name is Ivan--Vanyusha. Here Vanyusha! Please
get some chikhir from our landlady and bring it here.'

'Ivan or Vanyusha, that's all one. Why are all your soldiers
Ivans? Ivan, old fellow,' said the old man, 'you tell them to give
you some from the barrel they have begun. They have the best
chikhir in the village. But don't give more than thirty kopeks for
the quart, mind, because that witch would be only too glad.... Our
people are anathema people; stupid people,' Daddy Eroshka
continued in a confidential tone after Vanyusha had gone out.
'They do not look upon you as on men, you are worse than a Tartar
in their eyes. "Worldly Russians" they say. But as for me, though
you are a soldier you are still a man, and have a soul in you.
Isn't that right? Elias Mosevich was a soldier, yet what a
treasure of a man he was! Isn't that so, my dear fellow? That's
why our people don't like me; but I don't care! I'm a merry
fellow, and I like everybody. I'm Eroshka; yes, my dear fellow.'

And the old Cossack patted the young man affectionately on the
shoulder.

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