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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cossacks - Chapter 17
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The Cossacks - Chapter 17 Post by :imbc2002 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2560

Click below to download : The Cossacks - Chapter 17 (Format : PDF)

The Cossacks - Chapter 17

From Eroshka's hut Lukashka went home. As he returned, the dewy
mists were rising from the ground and enveloped the village. In
various places the cattle, though out of sight, could be heard
beginning to stir. The cocks called to one another with increasing
frequency and insistence. The air was becoming more transparent,
and the villagers were getting up. Not till he was close to it
could Lukishka discern the fence of his yard, all wet with dew,
the porch of the hut, and the open shed. From the misty yard he
heard the sound of an axe chopping wood. Lukashka entered the hut.
His mother was up, and stood at the oven throwing wood into it.
His little sister was still lying in bed asleep.

'Well, Lukashka, had enough holiday-making?' asked his mother
softly. 'Where did you spend the night?'

'I was in the village,' replied her son reluctantly, reaching for
his musket, which he drew from its cover and examined carefully.

His mother swayed her head.

Lukashka poured a little gunpowder onto the pan, took out a little
bag from which he drew some empty cartridge cases which he began
filling, carefully plugging each one with a ball wrapped in a rag.
Then, having tested the loaded cartridges with his teeth and
examined them, he put down the bag.

'I say, Mother, I told you the bags wanted mending; have they been
done?' he asked.

'Oh yes, our dumb girl was mending something last night. Why, is
it time for you to be going back to the cordon? I haven't seen
anything of you!'

'Yes, as soon as I have got ready I shall have to go,' answered
Lukashka, tying up the gunpowder. 'And where is our dumb one?
Outside?'

'Chopping wood, I expect. She kept fretting for you. "I shall not
see him at all!" she said. She puts her hand to her face like
this, and clicks her tongue and presses her hands to her heart as
much as to say--"sorry." Shall I call her in? She understood all
about the abrek.'

'Call her,' said Lukashka. 'And I had some tallow there; bring it:
I must grease my sword.'

The old woman went out, and a few minutes later Lukashka's dumb
sister came up the creaking steps and entered the hut. She was six
years older than her brother and would have been extremely like
him had it not been for the dull and coarsely changeable
expression (common to all deaf and dumb people) of her face. She
wore a coarse smock all patched; her feet were bare and muddy, and
on her head she had an old blue kerchief. Her neck, arms, and face
were sinewy like a peasant's. Her clothing and her whole
appearance indicated that she always did the hard work of a man.
She brought in a heap of logs which she threw down by the oven.
Then she went up to her brother, and with a joyful smile which
made her whole face pucker up, touched him on the shoulder and
began making rapid signs to him with her hands, her face, and
whole body.

'That's right, that's right, Stepka is a trump!' answered the
brother, nodding. 'She's fetched everything and mended everything,
she's a trump! Here, take this for it!' He brought out two pieces
of gingerbread from his pocket and gave them to her.

The dumb woman's face flushed with pleasure, and she began making
a weird noise for joy. Having seized the gingerbread she began to
gesticulate still more rapidly, frequently pointing in one
direction and passing her thick finger over her eyebrows and her
face. Lukashka understood her and kept nodding, while he smiled
slightly. She was telling him to give the girls dainties, and that
the girls liked him, and that one girl, Maryanka--the best of them
all--loved him. She indicated Maryanka by rapidly pointing in the
direction of Maryanka's home and to her own eyebrows and face, and
by smacking her lips and swaying her head. 'Loves' she expressed
by pressing her hands to her breast, kissing her hand, and
pretending to embrace someone. Their mother returned to the hut,
and seeing what her dumb daughter was saying, smiled and shook her
head. Her daughter showed her the gingerbread and again made the
noise which expressed joy.

'I told Ulitka the other day that I'd send a matchmaker to them,'
said the mother. 'She took my words well.'

Lukashka looked silently at his mother.

'But how about selling the wine, mother? I need a horse.'

'I'll cart it when I have time. I must get the barrels ready,'
said the mother, evidently not wishing her son to meddle in
domestic matters. 'When you go out you'll find a bag in the
passage. I borrowed from the neighbours and got something for you
to take back to the cordon; or shall I put it in your saddle-bag?'

'All right,' answered Lukashka. 'And if Girey Khan should come
across the river send him to me at the cordon, for I shan't get
leave again for a long time now; I have some business with him.'

He began to get ready to start.

'I will send him on,' said the old women. 'It seems you have been
spreeing at Yamka's all the time. I went out in the night to see
the cattle, and I think it was your voice I heard singing songs.'

Lukashka did not reply, but went out into the passage, threw the
bags over his shoulder, tucked up the skirts of his coat, took his
musket, and then stopped for a moment on the threshold.

'Good-bye, mother!' he said as he closed the gate behind him.
'Send me a small barrel with Nazarka. I promised it to the lads,
and he'll call for it.'

'May Christ keep you, Lukashka. God be with you! I'll send you
some, some from the new barrel,' said the old woman, going to the
fence: 'But listen,' she added, leaning over the fence.

The Cossack stopped.

'You've been making merry here; well, that's all right. Why should
not a young man amuse himself? God has sent you luck and that's
good. But now look out and mind, my son. Don't you go and get into
mischief. Above all, satisfy your superiors: one has to! And I
will sell the wine and find money for a horse and will arrange a
match with the girl for you.'

'All right, all right!' answered her son, frowning.

His deaf sister shouted to attract his attention. She pointed to
her head and the palm of her hand, to indicate the shaved head of
a Chechen. Then she frowned, and pretending to aim with a gun, she
shrieked and began rapidly humming and shaking her head. This
meant that Lukashka should kill another Chechen.

Lukashka understood. He smiled, and shifting the gun at his back
under his cloak stepped lightly and rapidly, and soon disappeared
in the thick mist.

The old woman, having stood a little while at the gate, returned
silently to the hut and immediately began working.

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Daddy Eroshka was a superannuated and solitary Cossack: twentyyears ago his wife had gone over to the Orthodox Church and runaway from him and married a Russian sergeant-major, and he had nochildren. He was not bragging when he spoke of himself as havingbeen the boldest dare-devil in the village when he was young.Everybody in the regiment knew of his old-time prowess. The deathof more than one Russian, as well as Chechen, lay on hisconscience. He used to go plundering in the mountains, and robbedthe Russians too; and he had twice been in prison. The greaterpart of his life was spent in
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