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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cossacks - Chapter 28
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The Cossacks - Chapter 28 Post by :Ann_C. Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2164

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The Cossacks - Chapter 28

The bethrothal was taking place in the cornet's hut. Lukashka had
returned to the village, but had not been to see Olenin, and
Olenin had not gone to the betrothal though he had been invited.
He was sad as he had never been since he settled in this Cossack
village. He had seen Lukashka earlier in the evening and was
worried by the question why Lukashka was so cold towards him.
Olenin shut himself up in his hut and began writing in his diary
as follows:

'Many things have I pondered over lately and much have I changed,'
wrote he, 'and I have come back to the copybook maxim: The one way
to be happy is to love, to love self-denyingly, to love everybody
and everything; to spread a web of love on all sides and to take
all who come into it. In this way I caught Vanyusha, Daddy
Eroshka, Lukashka, and Maryanka.'

As Olenin was finishing this sentence Daddy Eroshka entered the

Eroshka was in the happiest frame of mind. A few evenings before
this, Olenin had gone to see him and had found him with a proud
and happy face deftly skinning the carcass of a boar with a small
knife in the yard. The dogs (Lyam his pet among them) were lying
close by watching what he was doing and gently wagging their
tails. The little boys were respectfully looking at him through
the fence and not even teasing him as was their wont. His women
neighbours, who were as a rule not too gracious towards him,
greeted him and brought him, one a jug of chikhir, another some
clotted cream, and a third a little flour. The next day Eroshka
sat in his store-room all covered with blood, and distributed
pounds of boar-flesh, taking in payment money from some and wine
from others. His face clearly expressed, 'God has sent me luck. I
have killed a boar, so now I am wanted.' Consequently, he
naturally began to drink, and had gone on for four days never
leaving the village. Besides which he had had something to drink
at the betrothal.

He came to Olenin quite drunk: his face red, his beard tangled,
but wearing a new beshmet trimmed with gold braid; and he brought
with him a balalayka which he had obtained beyond the river. He
had long promised Olenin this treat, and felt in the mood for it,
so that he was sorry to find Olenin writing.

'Write on, write on, my lad,' he whispered, as if he thought that
a spirit sat between him and the paper and must not be frightened
away, and he softly and silently sat down on the floor. When Daddy
Eroshka was drunk his favourite position was on the floor. Olenin
looked round, ordered some wine to be brought, and continued to
write. Eroshka found it dull to drink by himself and he wished to

'I've been to the betrothal at the cornet's. But there! They're
shwine!--Don't want them!--Have come to you.'

'And where did you get your balalayka asked Olenin, still writing.

'I've been beyond the river and got it there, brother mine,' he
answered, also very quietly. 'I'm a master at it. Tartar or
Cossack, squire or soldiers' songs, any kind you please.'

Olenin looked at him again, smiled, and went on writing.

That smile emboldened the old man.

'Come, leave off, my lad, leave off!' he said with sudden

'Well, perhaps I will.'

'Come, people have injured you but leave them alone, spit at them!
Come, what's the use of writing and writing, what's the good?'

And he tried to mimic Olenin by tapping the floor with his thick
fingers, and then twisted his big face to express contempt.

'What's the good of writing quibbles. Better have a spree and show
you're a man!'

No other conception of writing found place in his head except that
of legal chicanery.

Olenin burst out laughing and so did Eroshka. Then, jumping up
from the floor, the latter began to show off his skill on the
balalayka and to sing Tartar songs.

'Why write, my good fellow! You'd better listen to what I'll sing
to you. When you're dead you won't hear any more songs. Make merry

First he sang a song of his own composing accompanied by a dance:

'Ah, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dim, Say where did they last see
him? In a booth, at the fair, He was selling pins, there.'

Then he sang a song he had learnt from his former sergeant-major:

'Deep I fell in love on Monday, Tuesday nothing did but sigh,
Wednesday I popped the question, Thursday waited her reply.
Friday, late, it came at last, Then all hope for me was past!
Saturday my life to take I determined like a man, But for my
salvation's sake Sunday morning changed my plan!'

Then he sang again:

'Oh dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dim, Say where did they last see

And after that, winking, twitching his shoulders, and footing it
to the tune, he sang:

'I will kiss you and embrace, Ribbons red twine round you; And
I'll call you little Grace. Oh, you little Grace now do Tell me,
do you love me true?'

And he became so excited that with a sudden dashing movement he
started dancing around the room accompanying himself the while.

Songs like 'Dee, dee, dee'--'gentlemen's songs'--he sang for
Olenin's benefit, but after drinking three more tumblers of
chikhir he remembered old times and began singing real Cossack and
Tartar songs. In the midst of one of his favourite songs his voice
suddenly trembled and he ceased singing, and only continued
strumming on the balalayka.

'Oh, my dear friend!' he said.

The peculiar sound of his voice made Olenin look round.

The old man was weeping. Tears stood in his eyes and one tear was
running down his cheek.

'You are gone, my young days, and will never come back!' he said,
blubbering and halting. 'Drink, why don't you drink!' he suddenly
shouted with a deafening roar, without wiping away his tears.

There was one Tartar song that specially moved him. It had few
words, but its charm lay in the sad refrain. 'Ay day, dalalay!'
Eroshka translated the words of the song: 'A youth drove his sheep
from the aoul to the mountains: the Russians came and burnt the
aoul, they killed all the men and took all the women into bondage.
The youth returned from the mountains. Where the aoul had stood
was an empty space; his mother not there, nor his brothers, nor
his house; one tree alone was left standing. The youth sat beneath
the tree and wept. "Alone like thee, alone am I left,'" and
Eroshka began singing: 'Ay day, dalalay!' and the old man repeated
several times this wailing, heart-rending refrain.

When he had finished the refrain Eroshka suddenly seized a gun
that hung on the wall, rushed hurriedly out into the yard and
fired off both barrels into the air. Then again he began, more
dolefully, his 'Ay day, dalalay--ah, ah,' and ceased.

Olenin followed him into the porch and looked up into the starry
sky in the direction where the shots had flashed. In the cornet's
house there were lights and the sound of voices. In the yard girls
were crowding round the porch and the windows, and running
backwards and forwards between the hut and the outhouse. Some
Cossacks rushed out of the hut and could not refrain from
shouting, re-echoing the refrain of Daddy Eroshka's song and his

'Why are you not at the betrothal?' asked Olenin.

'Never mind them! Never mind them!' muttered the old man, who had
evidently been offended by something there. 'Don't like them, I
don't. Oh, those people! Come back into the hut! Let them make
merry by themselves and we'll make merry by ourselves.'

Olenin went in.

'And Lukashka, is he happy? Won't he come to see me?' he asked.

'What, Lukashka? They've lied to him and said I am getting his
girl for you,' whispered the old man. 'But what's the girl? She
will be ours if we want her. Give enough money--and she's ours.
I'll fix it up for you. Really!'

'No, Daddy, money can do nothing if she does not love me. You'd
better not talk like that!'

'We are not loved, you and I. We are forlorn,' said Daddy Eroshka
suddenly, and again he began to cry.

Listening to the old man's talk Olenin had drunk more than usual.
'So now my Lukashka is happy,' thought he; yet he felt sad. The
old man had drunk so much that evening that he fell down on the
floor and Vanyusha had to call soldiers in to help, and spat as
they dragged the old man out. He was so angry with the old man for
his bad behaviour that he did not even say a single French word.

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The Cossacks - Chapter 29 The Cossacks - Chapter 29

The Cossacks - Chapter 29
It was August. For days the sky had been cloudless, the sunscorched unbearably and from early morning the warm wind raised awhirl of hot sand from the sand-drifts and from the road, and boreit in the air through the reeds, the trees, and the village. Thegrass and the leaves on the trees were covered with dust, theroads and dried-up salt marshes were baked so hard that they rangwhen trodden on. The water had long since subsided in the Terekand rapidly vanished and dried up in the ditches. The slimy banksof the pond near the village were trodden bare by the cattle

The Cossacks - Chapter 27 The Cossacks - Chapter 27

The Cossacks - Chapter 27
Just before the vintage Lukashka came on horseback to see Olenin.He looked more dashing than ever. 'Well? Are you getting married?'asked Olenin, greeting him merrily.Lukashka gave no direct reply.'There, I've exchanged your horse across the river. This is ahorse! A Kabarda horse from the Lov stud. I know horses.'They examined the new horse and made him caracole about the yard.The horse really was an exceptionally fine one, a broad and longgelding, with glossy coat, thick silky tail, and the soft finemane and crest of a thoroughbred. He was so well fed that 'youmight go to sleep on his back' as Lukashka