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Yasin Moultrie
Yasin Moultrie

The Tartar Steppe Epub Bud



The Russians, in general, meet death in a marvellous way. Many of thedead come back now to my memory. I recall you, my old friend, who leftthe university with no degree, Avenir Sorokoumov, noblest, best of men!I see once again your sickly, consumptive face, your lank brown tresses,your gentle smile, your ecstatic glance, your long limbs; I can hearyour weak, caressing voice. You lived at a Great Russian landowner's,called Gur Krupyanikov, taught his children, Fofa and Zyozya, Russiangrammar, geography, and history, patiently bore all the ponderous jokesof the said Gur, the coarse familiarities of the steward, the vulgarpranks of the spiteful urchins; with a bitter smile, but withoutrepining, you complied with the caprices of their bored and exactingmother; but to make up for it all, what bliss, what peace was yours inthe evening, after supper, when, free at last of all duties, you sat atthe window pensively smoking a pipe, or greedily turned the pages of agreasy and mutilated number of some solid magazine, brought you from thetown by the land-surveyor--just such another poor, homeless devil asyourself! How delighted you were then with any sort of poem or novel;how readily the tears started into your eyes; with what pleasure youlaughed; what genuine love for others, what generous sympathy foreverything good and noble, filled your pure youthful soul! One must tellthe truth: you were not distinguished by excessive sharpness of wit;Nature had endowed you with neither memory nor industry; at theuniversity you were regarded as one of the least promising students; atlectures you slumbered, at examinations you preserved a solemn silence;but who was beaming with delight and breathless with excitement at afriend's success, a friend's triumphs?... Avenir!... Who had a blindfaith in the lofty destiny of his friends? who extolled them with pride?who championed them with angry vehemence? who was innocent of envy as ofvanity? who was ready for the most disinterested self-sacrifice? whoeagerly gave way to men who were not worthy to untie his latchet?...That was you, all you, our good Avenir! I remember how broken-heartedlyyou parted from your comrades, when you were going away to be a tutor inthe country; you were haunted by presentiment of evil.... And, indeed,your lot was a sad one in the country; you had no one there to listen towith veneration, no one to admire, no one to love.... Theneighbours--rude sons of the steppes, and polished gentlemenalike--treated you as a tutor: some, with rudeness and neglect, otherscarelessly. Besides, you were not pre-possessing in person; you wereshy, given to blushing, getting hot and stammering.... Even your healthwas no better for the country air: you wasted like a candle, poorfellow! It is true your room looked out into the garden; wild cherries,apple-trees, and limes strewed their delicate blossoms on your table,your ink-stand, your books; on the wall hung a blue silk watch-pocket, aparting present from a kind-hearted, sentimental German governess withflaxen curls and little blue eyes; and sometimes an old friend fromMoscow would come out to you and throw you into ecstasies with newpoetry, often even with his own. But, oh, the loneliness, theinsufferable slavery of a tutor's lot! the impossibility of escape, theendless autumns and winters, the ever-advancing disease!... Poor, poorAvenir!




The Tartar Steppe Epub Bud



It was an insufferably hot day in July when, slowly dragging my feetalong, I went up alongside the Kolotovka ravine with my dog towards theWelcome Resort. The sun blazed, as it were, fiercely in the sky, bakingthe parched earth relentlessly; the air was thick with stifling dust.Glossy crows and ravens with gaping beaks looked plaintively at thepassers-by, as though asking for sympathy; only the sparrows did notdroop, but, pluming their feathers, twittered more vigorously than everas they quarrelled among the hedges, or flew up all together from thedusty road, and hovered in grey clouds over the green hempfields. I wastormented by thirst. There was no water near: in Kolotovka, as in manyother villages of the steppes, the peasants, having no spring or well,drink a sort of thin mud out of the pond.... For no one could call thatrepulsive beverage water. I wanted to ask for a glass of beer or kvas atNikolai Ivanitch's.


And the Wild Master looked down expectant. Yakov was silent for aminute; he glanced round, and covered his face with his hand. All hadtheir eyes simply fastened upon him, especially the booth-keeper, onwhose face a faint, involuntary uneasiness could be seen through hishabitual expression of self-confidence and the triumph of his success.He leant back against the wall, and again put both hands under him, butdid not swing his legs as before. When at last Yakov uncovered his faceit was pale as a dead man's; his eyes gleamed faintly under theirdrooping lashes. He gave a deep sigh, and began to sing.... The firstsound of his voice was faint and unequal, and seemed not to come fromhis chest, but to be wafted from somewhere afar off, as though it hadfloated by chance into the room. A strange effect was produced on all ofus by this trembling, resonant note; we glanced at one another, andNikolai Ivanitch's wife seemed to draw herself up. This first note wasfollowed by another, bolder and prolonged, but still obviouslyquivering, like a harpstring when suddenly struck by a stray finger itthrobs in a last, swiftly-dying tremble; the second was followed by athird, and, gradually gaining fire and breadth, the strains swelled intoa pathetic melody. 'Not one little path ran into the field,' he sang,and sweet and mournful it was in our ears. I have seldom, I mustconfess, heard a voice like it; it was slightly hoarse, and notperfectly true; there was even something morbid about it at first; butit had genuine depth of passion, and youth and sweetness and a sort offascinating, careless, pathetic melancholy. A spirit of truth and fire,a Russian spirit, was sounding and breathing in that voice, and itseemed to go straight to your heart, to go straight to all that wasRussian in it. The song swelled and flowed. Yakov was clearly carriedaway by enthusiasm; he was not timid now; he surrendered himself whollyto the rapture of his art; his voice no longer trembled; it quivered,but with the scarce perceptible inward quiver of passion, which pierceslike an arrow to the very soul of the listeners; and he steadily gainedstrength and firmness and breadth. I remember I once saw at sunset on aflat sandy shore, when the tide was low and the sea's roar came weightyand menacing from the distance, a great white sea-gull; it satmotionless, its silky bosom facing the crimson glow of the setting sun,and only now and then opening wide its great wings to greet thewell-known sea, to greet the sinking lurid sun: I recalled it, as Iheard Yakov. He sang, utterly forgetful of his rival and all of us; heseemed supported, as a bold swimmer by the waves, by our silent,passionate sympathy. He sang, and in every sound of his voice one seemedto feel something dear and akin to us, something of breadth and space,as though the familiar steppes were unfolding before our eyes andstretching away into endless distance. I felt the tears gathering in mybosom and rising to my eyes; suddenly I was struck by dull, smotheredsobs.... I looked round--the innkeeper's wife was weeping, her bosompressed close to the window. Yakov threw a quick glance at her, and hesang more sweetly, more melodiously than ever; Nikolai Ivanitch lookeddown; the Blinkard turned away; the Gabbler, quite touched, stood, hisgaping mouth stupidly open; the humble peasant was sobbing softly in thecorner, and shaking his head with a plaintive murmur; and on the ironvisage of the Wild Master, from under his overhanging brows there slowlyrolled a heavy tear; the booth-keeper raised his clenched fist to hisbrow, and did not stir.... I don't know how the general emotion wouldhave ended, if Yakov had not suddenly come to a full stop on a high,exceptionally shrill note--as though his voice had broken. No one calledout, or even stirred; every one seemed to be waiting to see whether hewas not going to sing more; but he opened his eyes as though wonderingat our silence, looked round at all of us with a face of inquiry, andsaw that the victory was his....


'The old hag positively hissed at me. "A surprising idea you'veconcocted there; as though we needed your money!... I'll teach her, I'llshow her!... I'll beat the folly out of her!" The old lady choked withspitefulness. "Wasn't she well off with us, pray?... Ah, she's a littledevil! God forgive my transgressions!" I fired up, I'll confess. "Whatare you threatening the poor girl for? How is she to blame?" The oldlady crossed herself. "Ah, Lord have mercy on me, do you suppose I'd...""But she's not yours, you know!" "Well, Marya Ilyinishna knows bestabout that; it's not your business, my good sir; but I'll show that chitof a Matrona whose serf she is." I'll confess, I almost fell on thedamned old woman, but I thought of Matrona, and my hands dropped. I wasmore frightened than I can tell you; I began entreating the old lady."Take what you like," I said. "But what use is she to you?" "I like her,good ma'am; put yourself in my position.... Allow me to kiss your littlehand." And I positively kissed the wretch's hand! "Well," mumbled theold witch, "I'll tell Marya Ilyinishna--it's for her to decide; you comeback in a couple of days." I went home in great uneasiness. I began tosuspect that I'd managed the thing badly; that I'd been wrong inletting her notice my state of mind, but I thought of that too late. Twodays after, I went to see the mistress. I was shown into a boudoir.There were heaps of flowers and splendid furniture; the lady herself wassitting in a wonderful easy-chair, with her head lolling back on acushion; and the same relation was sitting there too, and some younglady, with white eyebrows and a mouth all awry, in a green gown--acompanion, most likely. The old lady said through her nose, "Please beseated." I sat down. She began questioning me as to how old I was, andwhere I'd been in the service, and what I meant to do, and all that verycondescendingly and solemnly. I answered minutely. The old lady took ahandkerchief off the table, flourished it, fanning herself.... "KaterinaKarpovna informed me," says she, "of your scheme; she informed me of it;but I make it my rule," says she, "not to allow my people to leave myservice. It is improper, and quite unsuitable in a well-ordered house;it is not good order. I have already given my orders," says she. "Therewill be no need for you to trouble yourself further," says she. "Oh, notrouble, really.... But can it be, Matrona Fedorovna is so necessary toyou?" "No," says she, "she is not necessary." "Then why won't you partwith her to me?" "Because I don't choose to; I don't choose--and that'sall about it. I've already," says she, "given my orders: she is beingsent to a village in the steppes." I was thunderstruck. The old ladysaid a couple of words in French to the young lady in green; she wentout. "I am," says she, "a woman of strict principles, and my health isdelicate; I can't stand being worried. You are still young, and I'm anold woman, and entitled to give you advice. Wouldn't it be better foryou to settle down, get married; to look out a good match; wealthybrides are few, but a poor girl, of the highest moral character, couldbe found." I stared, do you know, at the old lady, and didn't understandwhat she was driving at; I could hear she was talking about marriage,but the village in the steppes was ringing in my ears all the while. Getmarried!... what the devil!...'


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