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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Forged Coupon - PART FIRST - Chapter XIV
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The Forged Coupon - PART FIRST - Chapter XIV Post by :dzinecity Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :May 2011 Read :2575

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The Forged Coupon - PART FIRST - Chapter XIV

XIV

IVAN MIRONOV had become a very clever, fearless and successful
horse-thief. Afimia, his wife, who at first used to abuse him
for his evil ways, as she called it, was now quite content and
felt proud of her husband, who possessed a new sheepskin coat,
while she also had a warm jacket and a new fur cloak.

In the village and throughout the whole district every one knew quite
well that Ivan Mironov was at the bottom of all the horse-stealing;
but nobody would give him away, being afraid of the consequences.
Whenever suspicion fell on him, he managed to clear his character.
Once during the night he stole horses from the pasture ground
in the village Kolotovka. He generally preferred to steal horses
from landowners or tradespeople. But this was a harder job, and when
he had no chance of success he did not mind robbing peasants too.
In Kolotovka he drove off the horses without making sure whose they were.
He did not go himself to the spot, but sent a young and clever fellow,
Gerassim, to do the stealing for him. The peasants only got to know of
the theft at dawn; they rushed in all directions to hunt for the robbers.
The horses, meanwhile, were hidden in a ravine in the forest lands
belonging to the state.

Ivan Mironov intended to leave them there till the following night,
and then to transport them with the utmost haste a hundred miles away
to a man he knew. He visited Gerassim in the forest, to see how he was
getting on, brought him a pie and some vodka, and was returning
home by a side track in the forest where he hoped to meet nobody.
But by ill-luck, he chanced on the keeper of the forest,
a retired soldier.

"I say! Have you been looking for mushrooms?" asked the soldier.

"There were none to be found," answered Ivan Mironov, showing the basket
of lime bark he had taken with him in case he might want it.

"Yes, mushrooms are scarce this summer," said the soldier.
He stood still for a moment, pondered, and then went his way.
He clearly saw that something was wrong. Ivan Mironov had no
business whatever to take early morning walks in that forest.
The soldier went back after a while and looked round.
Suddenly he heard the snorting of horses in the ravine.
He made his way cautiously to the place whence the sounds came.
The grass in the ravine was trodden down, and the marks of horses'
hoofs were clearly to be seen. A little further he saw Gerassim,
who was sitting and eating his meal, and the horses tied
to a tree.

The soldier ran to the village and brought back the bailiff,
a police officer, and two witnesses. They surrounded on three
sides the spot where Gerassim was sitting and seized the man.
He did not deny anything; but, being drunk, told them at once
how Ivan Mironov had given him plenty of drink, and induced
him to steal the horses; he also said that Ivan Mironov had
promised to come that night in order to take the horses away.
The peasants left the horses and Gerassim in the ravine, and hiding
behind the trees prepared to lie in ambush for Ivan Mironov.
When it grew dark, they heard a whistle. Gerassim answered it
with a similar sound. The moment Ivan Mironov descended the slope,
the peasants surrounded him and brought him back to the village.
The next morning a crowd assembled in front of the bailiff's cottage.
Ivan Mironov was brought out and subjected to a close examination.
Stepan Pelageushkine, a tall, stooping man with long arms,
an aquiline nose, and a gloomy face was the first to put questions to him.
Stepan had terminated his military service, and was of a solitary
turn of mind. When he had separated from his father, and started
his own home, he had his first experience of losing a horse.
After that he worked for two years in the mines, and made money enough
to buy two horses. These two had been stolen by Ivan Mironov.

"Tell me where my horses are!" shouted Stepan, pale with fury,
alternately looking at the ground and at Ivan Mironov's face.

Ivan Mironov denied his guilt. Then Stepan aimed so violent a blow
at his face that he smashed his nose and the blood spurted out.

"Tell the truth, I say, or I'll kill you!"

Ivan Mironov kept silent, trying to avoid the blows by stooping.
Stepan hit him twice more with his long arm. Ivan Mironov remained silent,
turning his head backwards and forwards.

"Beat him, all of you!" cried the bailiff, and the whole crowd rushed
upon Ivan Mironov. He fell without a word to the ground, and then
shouted,--"Devils, wild beasts, kill me if that's what you want!
I am not afraid of you!"

Stepan seized a stone out of those that had been collected for the purpose,
and with a heavy blow smashed Ivan Mironov's head.

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XVIVAN MIRONOV'S murderers were brought to trial, Stepan Pelageushkineamong them. He had a heavier charge to answer than the others,all the witnesses having stated that it was he who had smashed IvanMironov's head with a stone. Stepan concealed nothing when in court.He contented himself with explaining that, having beenrobbed of his two last horses, he had informed the police.Now it was comparatively easy at that time to trace the horseswith the help of professional thieves among the gipsies.But the police officer would not even permit him, and no searchhad been ordered."Nothing else could be done with such a man.
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XIIIMEANWHILE the yard-porter Vassily was marching on the open roaddown to the south.He walked in daytime, and when night came some policeman would gethim shelter in a peasant's cottage. He was given bread everywhere,and sometimes he was asked to sit down to the evening meal.In a village in the Orel district he had stayed for the night,he heard that a merchant who had hired the landowner's orchardfor the season, was looking out for strong and able men to serveas watchmen for the fruit-crops. Vassily was tired of tramping,and as he had also no desire whatever to go back to
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