At the entrance
to the street the wind still
raged and the road was thickly
covered with snow, but well within
the village it was calm, warm, and cheerful. At one house a dog was barking,
at another a woman, covering her head with her coat, came running from somewhere
and entered the door of a hut, stopping on the threshold to have a look at
the passing sledge. In the middle of the village girls could be heard singing.
Here in the village there seemed
to be less wind and snow, and
the frost was less keen.
'Why, this is Grishkino,' said
'So it is,' responded Nikita.
It really was Grishkino, which
meant that they had gone too
far to the left and had travelled
some six miles, not quite in
the direction they aimed at,
but towards their destination
for all that.
From Grishkino to Goryachkin
was about another four miles.
In the middle of the village
they almost ran into a tall man
walking down the middle of the
'Who are you?' shouted the man,
stopping the horse, and recognizing
Vasili Anereevich he immediately
took hold of the shaft, went
along it hand over hand till
he reached the sledge, and placed
himself on the driver's seat.
He was Isay, a peasant of Vasili
Andreevich's acquaintance, and
well known as the principal horse-thief
in the district.
'Ah, Vasili Andreevich! Where
are you off to?' said Isay, enveloping
Nikita in the odour of the vodka
he had drunk.
'We were going to Goryachkin.'
'And look where you've got to!
You should have gone through
'Should have, but didn't manage
it,' said Vasili Andreevich,
holding in the horse.
'That's a good horse,' said
Isay, with a shrewd glance at
Mukhorty, and with a practised
hand he tightened the loosened
knot high in the horse's bushy
'Are you going to stay the night?'
'No, friend. I must get on.'
'Your business must be pressing.
And who is this? Ah, Nikita Stepanych!'
'Who else?' replied Nikita.
'But I say, good friend, how
are we to avoid going astray
'Where can you go astray here?
Turn back straight down the street
and then when you come out keep
straight on. Don't take to the
left. You will come out onto
the high road, and then turn
to the right.'
'And where do we turn off the
high road? As in summer, or the
winter way?' asked Nikita.
'The winter way. As soon as
you turn off you'll see some
bushes, and opposite them there
is a way-mark--a large oak, one
with branches--and that's the
Vasili Andreevich turned the
horse back and drove through
the outskirts of the village.
'Why not stay the night?' Isay
shouted after them.
But Vasili Andreevich did not
answer and touched up the horse.
Four miles of good road, two
of which lay through the forest,
seemed easy to manage, especially
as the wind was apparently quieter
and the snow had stopped.
Having driven along the trodden
village street, darkened here
and there by fresh manure, past
the yard where the clothes hung
out and where the white shirt
had broken loose and was now
attached only by one frozen sleeve,
they again came within sound
of the weird moan of the willows,
and again emerged on the open
fields. The storm, far from ceasing,
seemed to have grown yet stronger.
The road was completely covered
with drifting snow, and only
the stakes showed that they had
not lost their way. But even
the stakes ahead of them were
not easy to see, since the wind
blew in their faces.
Vasili Andreevich screwed up
his eyes, bent down his head,
and looked out for the way-marks,
but trusted mainly to the horse's
sagacity, letting it take its
own way. And the horse really
did not lose the road but followed
its windings, turning now to
the right and now to the left
and sensing it under his feet,
so that though the snow fell
thicker and the wind strengthened
they still continued to see way-marks
now to the left and now to the
right of them.
So they travelled on for about
ten minutes, when suddenly, through
the slanting screen of wind-driven
snow, something black showed
up which moved in front of the
This was another sledge with
fellow-travellers. Mukhorty overtook
them, and struck his hoofs against
the back of the sledge in front
'Pass on . . . hey there . .
. get in front!' cried voices
from the sledge.
Vasili Andreevich swerved aside
to pass the other sledge.
In it sat three men and a woman,
evidently visitors returning
from a feast. One peasant was
whacking the snow-covered croup
of their little horse with a
long switch, and the other two
sitting in front waved their
arms and shouted something. The
woman, completely wrapped up
and covered with snow, sat drowsing
and bumping at the back.
'Who are you?' shouted Vasili
'From A-a-a . . .' was all that
could be heard.
'I say, where are you from?'
'From A-a-a-a!' one of the peasants
shouted with all his might, but
still it was impossible to make
out who they were.
'Get along! Keep up!' shouted
another, ceaselessly beating
his horse with the switch.
'So you're from a feast, it
'Go on, go on! Faster, Simon!
Get in front! Faster!'
The wings of the sledges bumped
against one another, almost got
jammed but managed to separate,
and the peasants' sledge began
to fall behind.
Their shaggy, big-bellied horse,
all covered with snow, breathed
heavily under the low shaft-bow
and, evidently using the last
of its strength, vainly endeavoured
to escape from the switch, hobbling
with its short legs through the
deep snow which it threw up under
Its muzzle, young-looking, with
the nether lip drawn up like
that of a fish, nostrils distended
and ears pressed back from fear,
kept up for a few seconds near
Nikita's shoulder and then began
to fall behind.
'Just see what liquor does!'
said Nikita. 'They've tired that
little horse to death. What pagans!'
For a few minutes they heard
the panting of the tired little
horse and the drunken shouting
of the peasants. Then the panting
and the shouts died away, and
around them nothing could be
heard but the whistling of the
wind in their ears and now and
then the squeak of their sledge-runners
over a windswept part of the
This encounter cheered and enlivened
Vasili Andreevich, and he drove
on more boldly without examining
the way-marks, urging on the
horse and trusting to him.
Nikita had nothing to do, and
as usual in such circumstances
he drowsed, making up for much
sleepless time. Suddenly the
horse stopped and Nikita nearly
fell forward onto his nose.
'You know we're off the track
again!' said Vasili Andreevich.
'Why, there are no way-marks
to be seen. We must have got
off the road again.'
'Well, if we've lost the road
we must find it,' said Nikita
curtly, and getting out and stepping
lightly on his pigeon-toed feet
he started once more going about
on the snow.
He walked about for a long time,
now disappearing and now reappearing,
and finally he came back.
'There is no road here. There
may be farther on,' he said,
getting into the sledge.
It was already growing dark.
The snow-storm had not increased
but had also not subsided.
'If we could only hear those
peasants!' said Vasili Andreevich.
'Well they haven't caught us
up. We must have gone far astray.
Or maybe they have lost their
'Where are we to go then?' asked
'Why, we must let the horse
take its own way,' said Nikita.
'He will take us right. Let me
have the reins.'
Vasili Andreevich gave him the
reins, the more willingly because
his hands were beginning to feel
frozen in his thick gloves.
Nikita took the reins, but only
held them, trying not to shake
them and rejoicing at his favourite's
sagacity. And indeed the clever
horse, turning first one ear
and then the other now to one
side and then to the other, began
to wheel round.
'The one thing he can't do is
to talk,' Nikita kept saying.
'See what he is doing! Go on,
go on! You know best. That's
it, that's it!'
The wind was now blowing from
behind and it felt warmer.
'Yes, he's clever,' Nikita continued,
admiring the horse. 'A Kirgiz
horse is strong but stupid. But
this one--just see what he's
doing with his ears! He doesn't
need any telegraph. He can scent
a mile off.'
Before another half-hour had
passed they saw something dark
ahead of them--a wood or a village--and
stakes again appeared to the
right. They had evidently come
out onto the road.
'Why, that's Grishkino again!'
Nikita suddenly exclaimed.
And indeed, there on their left
was that same barn with the snow
flying from it, and farther on
the same line with the frozen
washing, shirts and trousers,
which still fluttered desperately
in the wind.
Again they drove into the street
and again it grew quiet, warm,
and cheerful, and again they
could see the manure-stained
street and hear voices and songs
and the barking of a dog. It
was already so dark that there
were lights in some of the windows.
Half-way through the village
Vasili Andreevich turned the
horse towards a large double-fronted
brick house and stopped at the
Nikita went to the lighted snow-covered
window, in the rays of which
flying snow-flakes glittered,
and knocked at it with his whip.
'Who is there?' a voice replied
to his knock.
'From Kresty, the Brekhunovs,
dear fellow,' answered Nikita.
'Just come out for a minute.'
Someone moved from the window,
and a minute or two later there
was the sound of the passage
door as it came unstuck, then
the latch of the outside door
clicked and a tall white-bearded
peasant, with a sheepskin coat
thrown over his white holiday
shirt, pushed his way out holding
the door firmly against the wind,
followed by a lad in a red shirt
and high leather boots.
'Is that you, Andreevich?' asked
the old man.
'Yes, friend, we've gone astray,'
said Vasili Andreevich. 'We wanted
to get to Goryachkin but found
ourselves here. We went a second
time but lost our way again.'
'Just see how you have gone
astray!' said the old man. 'Petrushka,
go and open the gate!' he added,
turning to the lad in the red
'All right,' said the lad in
a cheerful voice, and ran back
into the passage.
'But we're not staying the night,'
said Vasili Andreevich.
'Where will you go in the night?
You'd better stay!'
'I'd be glad to, but I must
go on. It's business, and it
can't be helped.'
'Well, warm yourself at least.
The samovar is just ready.'
'Warm myself? Yes, I'll do that,'
said Vasili Andreevich. 'It won't
get darker. The moon will rise
and it will be lighter. Let's
go in and warm ourselves, Nikita.'
'Well, why not? Let us warm
ourselves,' replied Nikita, who
was stiff with cold and anxious
to warm his frozen limbs.
Vasili Andreevich went into
the room with the old man, and
Nikita drove through the gate
opened for him by Petrushka,
by whose advice he backed the
horse under the penthouse. The
ground was covered with manure
and the tall bow over the horse's
head caught against the beam.
The hens and the cock had already
settled to roost there, and clucked
peevishly, clinging to the beam
with their claws. The disturbed
sheep shied and rushed aside
trampling the frozen manure with
their hooves. The dog yelped
desperately with fright and anger
and then burst out barking like
a puppy at the stranger.
Nikita talked to them all, excused
himself to the fowls and assured
them that he would not disturb
them again, rebuked the sheep
for being frightened without
knowing why, and kept soothing
the dog, while he tied up the
'Now that will be all right,'
he said, knocking the snow off
his clothes. 'Just hear how he
barks!' he added, turning to
the dog. 'Be quiet, stupid! Be
quiet. You are only troubling
yourself for nothing. We're not
thieves, we're friends. . . .'
'And these are, it's said, the
three domestic counsellors,'
remarked the lad, and with his
strong arms he pushed under the
pent-roof the sledge that had
'Why counsellors?' asked Nikita.
'That's what is printed in Paulson.
A thief creeps to a house--the
dog barks, that means "Be
on your guard!" The cock
crows, that means, "Get
up!" The cat licks herself--that
means, "A welcome guest
is coming. Get ready to receive
him!"' said the lad with
Petrushka could read and write
and knew Paulson's primer, his
only book, almost by heart, and
he was fond of quoting sayings
from it that he thought suited
the occasion, especially when
he had had something to drink,
'That's so,' said Nikita.
'You must be chilled through
and through,' said Petrushka.
'Yes, I am rather,' said Nikita,
and they went across the yard
and the passage into the house.