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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cossacks - Chapter 12
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The Cossacks - Chapter 12 Post by :ianhollander Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2556

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The Cossacks - Chapter 12

Vanyusha, who meanwhile had finished his housekeeping arrangements
and had even been shaved by the company's barber and had pulled
his trousers out of his high boots as a sign that the company was
stationed in comfortable quarters, was in excellent spirits. He
looked attentively but not benevolently at Eroshka, as at a wild
beast he had never seen before, shook his head at the floor which
the old man had dirtied and, having taken two bottles from under a
bench, went to the landlady.

'Good evening, kind people,' he said, having made up his mind to
be very gentle. 'My master has sent me to get some chikhir. Will
you draw some for me, good folk?'

The old woman gave no answer. The girl, who was arranging the
kerchief on her head before a little Tartar mirror, looked round
at Vanyusha in silence.

'I'll pay money for it, honoured people,' said Vanyusha, jingling
the coppers in his pocket. 'Be kind to us and we, too will be kind
to you,' he added.

'How much?' asked the old woman abruptly. 'A quart.'

'Go, my own, draw some for them,' said Granny Ulitka to her
daughter. 'Take it from the cask that's begun, my precious.'

The girl took the keys and a decanter and went out of the hut with
Vanyusha.

'Tell me, who is that young woman?' asked Olenin, pointing to
Maryanka, who was passing the window. The old man winked and
nudged the young man with his elbow.

'Wait a bit,' said he and reached out of the window. 'Khm,' he
coughed, and bellowed, 'Maryanka dear. Hallo, Maryanka, my girlie,
won't you love me, darling? I'm a wag,' he added in a whisper to
Olenin. The girl, not turning her head and swinging her arms
regularly and vigorously, passed the window with the peculiarly
smart and bold gait of a Cossack woman and only turned her dark
shaded eyes slowly towards the old man.

'Love me and you'll be happy,' shouted Eroshka, winking, and he
looked questioningly at the cadet.

'I'm a fine fellow, I'm a wag!' he added. 'She's a regular queen,
that girl. Eh?'

'She is lovely,' said Olenin. 'Call her here!'

'No, no,' said the old man. 'For that one a match is being
arranged with Lukashka, Luke, a fine Cossack, a brave, who killed
an abrek the other day. I'll find you a better one. I'll find you
one that will be all dressed up in silk and silver. Once I've said
it I'll do it. I'll get you a regular beauty!'

'You, an old man--and say such things,' replied Olenin. 'Why, it's
a sin!'

'A sin? Where's the sin?' said the old man emphatically. 'A sin to
look at a nice girl? A sin to have some fun with her? Or is it a
sin to love her? Is that so in your parts? ... No, my dear fellow,
it's not a sin, it's salvation! God made you and God made the girl
too. He made it all; so it is no sin to look at a nice girl.
That's what she was made for; to be loved and to give joy. That's
how I judge it, my good fellow.'

Having crossed the yard and entered a cool dark storeroom filled
with barrels, Maryanka went up to one of them and repeating the
usual prayer plunged a dipper into it. Vanyusha standing in the
doorway smiled as he looked at her. He thought it very funny that
she had only a smock on, close-fitting behind and tucked up in
front, and still funnier that she wore a necklace of silver coins.
He thought this quite un-Russian and that they would all laugh in
the serfs' quarters at home if they saw a girl like that. 'La
fille comme c'est tres bien, for a change,' he thought. 'I'll tell
that to my master.'

'What are you standing in the light for, you devil!' the girl
suddenly shouted. 'Why don't you pass me the decanter!'

Having filled the decanter with cool red wine, Maryanka handed it
to Vanyusha.

'Give the money to Mother,' she said, pushing away the hand in
which he held the money.

Vanyusha laughed.

'Why are you so cross, little dear?' he said good-naturedly,
irresolutely shuffling with his feet while the girl was covering
the barrel.

She began to laugh.

'And you! Are you kind?'

'We, my master and I, are very kind,' Vanyusha answered decidedly.
'We are so kind that wherever we have stayed our hosts were always
very grateful. It's because he's generous.'

The girl stood listening.

'And is your master married?' she asked.

'No. The master is young and unmarried, because noble gentlemen
can never marry young,' said Vanyusha didactically.

'A likely thing! See what a fed-up buffalo he is--and too young to
marry! Is he the chief of you all?' she asked.

'My master is a cadet; that means he's not yet an officer, but
he's more important than a general--he's an important man! Because
not only our colonel, but the Tsar himself, knows him,' proudly
explained Vanyusha. 'We are not like those other beggars in the
line regiment, and our papa himself was a Senator. He had more
than a thousand serfs, all his own, and they send us a thousand
rubles at a time. That's why everyone likes us. Another may be a
captain but have no money. What's the use of that?'

'Go away. I'll lock up,' said the girl, interrupting him.

Vanyusha brought Olenin the wine and announced that 'La fille
c'est tres joulie,' and, laughing stupidly, at once went out.

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Meanwhile the tattoo had sounded in the village square. The peoplehad returned from their work. The herd lowed as in clouds ofgolden dust it crowded at the village gate. The girls and thewomen hurried through the streets and yards, turning in theircattle. The sun had quite hidden itself behind the distant snowypeaks. One pale bluish shadow spread over land and sky. Above thedarkened gardens stars just discernible were kindling, and thesounds were gradually hushed in the village. The cattle havingbeen attended to and left for the night, the women came out andgathered at the corners of the streets and, cracking sunflowerseeds
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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 movedinto the winter hut and let their summer hut to the cadet forthree rubles a month. Olenin had something to eat and went tosleep. Towards evening he woke up, washed and made himself tidy,dined, and having lit a cigarette sat down by the window thatlooked onto the street. It was cooler. The slanting shadow of thehut with its ornamental gables fell across the dusty road
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