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Third Fragment

from Fables For Children, Stories For Children, Natural Science Stori - ON POPULAR EDUCATION





(Variant of the First Chapter)

On the 2d of August, 1817, the sixth department of the Directing Senate
handed down a decision in the debatable land case between the economic
peasants of the village of Izlegoshcha and Chernyshev, which was in
favour of the peasants and against Chernyshev. This decision was an
unexpected and important calamitous event for Chernyshev. The case had
lasted five years. It had been begun by the attorney of the rich village
of Izlegoshcha with its three thousand inhabitants, and was won by the
peasants in the County Court; but when, with the advice of lawyer Ilya
Mitrofanov, a manorial servant bought of Prince Saltykov, Prince
Chernyshev carried the case to the Government, he won it and besides,
the Izlegoshcha peasants were punished by having six of them, who had
insulted the surveyor, put in jail.

After that, Prince Chernyshev, with his good-natured and merry
carelessness, entirely acquiesced, the more so since he knew full well
that he had not "appropriated" any land of the peasants, as was said in
the petition of the peasants. If the land was "appropriated," his father
had done it, and since then more than forty years had passed. He knew
that the peasants of the village of Izlegoshcha were getting along well
without that land, had no need of it, and lived on terms of friendship
with him, and was unable to understand why they had become so infuriated
against him. He knew that he never offended and never wished to offend
any one, that he lived in peace with everybody, and that he never wished
to do otherwise, and so could not believe that any one should think of
offending him. He hated litigations, and so did not defend his case in
the Senate, in spite of the advice and earnest solicitations of his
lawyer, Ilya Mitrofanov; by allowing the time for the appeal to lapse,
he lost the case in the Senate, and lost it in such a way that he was
confronted with complete ruin. By the decree of the Senate he not only
was to be deprived of five thousand desyatinas of land, but also, for
the illegal tenure of that land, was to be mulcted to the amount of
107,000 roubles in favour of the peasants.

Prince Chernyshev had eight thousand souls, but all the estates were
mortgaged and he had large debts, so that this decree of the Senate
ruined him with his whole large family. He had a son and five daughters.
He thought of his case when it was too late to attend to it in the
Senate. According to Ilya Mitrofanov's words there was but one
salvation, and that was, to petition the sovereign and to transfer the
case to the Imperial Council. To obtain this it was necessary in person
to approach one of the ministers or a member of the Council, or, better
still, the emperor himself. Taking all that into consideration, Prince
Grigori Ivanovich in the fall of the year 1817 with his whole family
left his beloved estate of Studenets, where he had lived so long without
leaving it, and went to Moscow. He started for Moscow, and not for St.
Petersburg, because in the fall of that year the emperor with his whole
court, with all the highest dignitaries, and with part of the Guards, in
which the son of Grigori Ivanovich was serving, was to arrive in Moscow
to lay the corner-stone of the Church of the Saviour in commemoration
of the liberation of Russia from the French invasion.

In August, immediately after receiving the terrible news of the decree
of the Senate, Prince Grigori Ivanovich got ready to go to Moscow. At
first the majordomo was sent away to fix the prince's own house on the
Arbat; then was sent out a caravan with furniture, servants, horses,
carriages, and provisions. In September the prince with his whole family
travelled in seven carriages, drawn by his own horses, and, after
arriving in Moscow, settled in his house. Relatives, friends, visitors
from the province and from St. Petersburg began to assemble in Moscow in
the month of September. The Moscow life, with its entertainments, the
arrival of his son, the debuts of his daughters, and the success of his
eldest daughter, Aleksandra, the only blonde among all the brunettes of
the Chernyshevs, so much occupied and diverted the prince's attention
that, in spite of the fact that here in Moscow he was spending
everything which would be left to him after paying all he owed, he
forgot his affair and was annoyed and tired whenever Ilya Mitrofanov
talked of it, and undertook nothing for the success of his case.

Ivan Mironovich Baushkin, the chief attorney of the peasants, who had
conducted the case against the prince with so much zeal in the Senate,
who knew all the approaches to the secretaries and departmental chiefs,
and who had so skilfully distributed the ten thousand roubles, collected
from the peasants, in the shape of presents, now himself brought his
activity to an end and returned to the village, where, with the money
collected for him as a reward and with what was left of the presents, he
bought himself a grove from a neighbouring proprietor and built there a
hut and an office. The case was finished in the court of the highest
instance, and everything would now proceed of its own accord.

The only ones of those concerned in the case who could not forget it
were the six peasants who were passing their seventh month in jail, and
their families that were left without their heads. But nothing could be
done in the matter. They were imprisoned in Krasnoslobodsk, and their
families tried to get along as well as they could. Nobody could be
invoked in the case. Ivan Mironovich himself said that he could not take
it up, because it was not a communal, nor a civil, but a criminal case.
The peasants were in prison, and nobody paid any attention to them; but
one family, that of Mikhail Gerasimovich, particularly his wife
Tikhonovna, could not get used to the idea that the precious old man,
Gerasimovich, was sitting in prison with a shaven head. Tikhonovna could
not rest quiet. She begged Mironovich to take the case, but he declined
it. Then she decided to go herself to pray to God for the old man. She
had made a vow the year before that she would go on a pilgrimage to a
saint, and had delayed it for another year only because she had had no
time and did not wish to leave the house to the young daughters-in-law.
Now that the misfortune had happened and Gerasimovich was put into jail,
she recalled her vow; she turned her back on her house and, together
with the deacon's wife of the same village, got ready to go on the
pilgrimage.

First they went to the county seat to see her old man in the prison and
to take him some shirts; from there they went through the capital of the
Government to Moscow. On her way Tikhonovna told the deacon's wife of
her sorrow, and the latter advised her to petition the emperor who, it
was said, was to be in Penza, telling her of various cases of pardon
granted by him.

When the pilgrims arrived in Penza, they heard that there was there, not
the emperor, but his brother Grand Duke Nikolay Pavlovich. When he came
out of the cathedral, Tikhonovna pushed herself forward, dropped down on
her knees, and began to beg for her husband. The grand duke was
surprised, the governor was angry, and the old woman was taken to the
lockup. The next day she was let out and she proceeded to Troitsa. In
Troitsa she went to communion and confessed to Father Paisi. At the
confession she told him of her sorrow, and repented having petitioned
the brother of the Tsar. Father Paisi told her that there was no sin in
that and that there was no sin in petitioning the Tsar even in a just
case, and dismissed her. In Khotkov she called on the blessed abbess,
and she ordered her to petition the Tsar himself.

On their way back, Tikhonovna and the deacon's wife stopped in Moscow to
see the saints. Here she heard that the Tsar was there, and she thought
that it was evidently God's command that she should petition the Tsar.
All that had to be done was to write the petition.

In Moscow the pilgrims stopped in a hostelry. They begged permission to
stay there overnight; they were allowed to do so. After supper the
deacon's wife lay down on the oven, and Tikhonovna, placing her wallet
under her head, lay down on a bench and fell asleep. In the morning,
before daybreak, Tikhonovna got up, woke the deacon's wife, and went
out. The innkeeper spoke to her just as she walked into the yard.

"You are up early, granny," he said.

"Before we get there, it will be time for matins," Tikhonovna replied.

"God be with you, granny!"

"Christ save you!" said Tikhonovna, and the pilgrims went to the
Kremlin.

* * * * *

After standing through the matins and the mass, and having kissed the
relics, the old women, with difficulty making their way, arrived at the
house of the Chernyshevs. The deacon's wife said that the old lady had
given her an urgent invitation to stop at her house, and had ordered
that all pilgrims should be received.

"There we shall find a man who will write the petition," said the
deacon's wife, and the pilgrims started to blunder through the streets
and ask their way. The deacon's wife had been there before, but had
forgotten where it was. Two or three times they were almost crushed, and
people shouted at them and scolded them. Once a policeman took the
deacon's wife by the shoulder and, giving her a push, forbade her to
walk through the street on which they were, and directed them through a
forest of lanes. Tikhonovna did not know that they were driven off the
Vozdvizhenka for the very reason that through that street was to drive
the Tsar, of whom she was thinking all the time, and to whom she
intended to give the petition.

The deacon's wife walked, as always, heavily and complainingly, while
Tikhonovna, as usual, walked lightly and briskly, with the gait of a
young woman. At the gate the pilgrims stopped. The deacon's wife did not
recognize the house: there was there a new hut which she had not seen
before; but on scanning the well with the pumps in the corner of the
yard, she recognized it all. The dogs began to bark and made for the
women with the staffs.

"Don't mind them, aunties, they will not touch you. Away there, accursed
ones!" the janitor shouted to the dogs, raising the broom on them. "They
are themselves from the country, and just see them bark at country
people! Come this way! You will stick in the mud,--God has not given any
frost yet."

But the deacon's wife, frightened by the dogs, and muttering in a
whining tone, sat down on a bench near the gate and asked the janitor to
take her by. Tikhonovna made her customary bow to the janitor and,
leaning on her crutch and spreading her feet, which were tightly
covered with leg-rags, stopped near her, looking as always calmly in
front of her and waiting for the janitor to come up to them.

"Whom do you want?" the janitor asked.

"Do you not recognize us, dear man? Is not your name Egor?" asked the
deacon's wife. "We are coming back from the saints, and so are calling
on her Serenity."

"You are from Izlegoshcha," said the janitor. "You are the wife of the
old deacon,--of course. All right, all right. Go to the house! Everybody
is received here,--nobody is refused. And who is this one?"

He pointed to Tikhonovna.

"From Izlegoshcha, Gerasimovich's wife,--used to be Fadyeev's,--I
suppose you know her?" said Tikhonovna. "I myself am from Izlegoshcha."

"Of course! They say your husband has been put into jail."

Tikhonovna made no reply; she only sighed and with a strong motion threw
her wallet and fur coat over her shoulder.

The deacon's wife asked whether the old lady was at home and, hearing
that she was, asked him to announce them to her. Then she asked about
her son, who was an official and, thanks to the prince's influence, was
serving in St. Petersburg. The janitor could not give her any
information about him and directed them over a walk, which crossed the
yard, to the servants' house. The old women went into the house, which
was full of people,--women, children, both old and young,--all of them
manorial servants, and prayed turning to the front corner. The deacon's
wife was at once recognized by the laundress and the old lady's maid,
and she was at once surrounded and overwhelmed with questions: they took
off her wallet, placed her at the table, and offered her something to
eat. In the meantime Tikhonovna, having made the sign of the cross to
the images and saluted everybody, was standing at the door, waiting to
be invited in. At the very door, in front of the first window, sat an
old man, making boots.

"Sit down, granny! Don't stand up. Sit down here, and take off your
wallet," he said.

"There is not enough room to turn around as it is. Take her to the
'black' room," said a woman.

"This comes straight from Madame Chalme," said a young lackey, pointing
to the iris design on Tikhonovna's peasant coat, "and the pretty
stockings and shoes."

He pointed to her leg-rags and bast shoes, which were new, as she had
specially put them on for Moscow.

"Parasha, you ought to have such."

"If you are to go to the 'black' room, all right; I will take you
there." And the old man stuck in his awl and got up; but, on seeing a
little girl, he called her to take the old woman to the black room.

Tikhonovna not only paid no attention to what was being said in her
presence and of her, but did not even look or listen. From the time that
she entered the house, she was permeated with the feeling of the
necessity of working for God and with the other feeling, which had
entered her soul, she did not know when, of the necessity of handing the
petition. Leaving the clean servant room, she walked over to the
deacon's wife and, bowing, said to her:

"Mother Paramonovna, for Christ's sake do not forget about my affair!
See whether you can't find a man."

"What does that woman need?"

"She has suffered insult, and people have advised her to hand a petition
to the Tsar."

"Take her straight to the Tsar!" said the jesting lackey.

"Oh, you fool, you rough fool," said the old shoemaker. "I will teach
you a lesson with this last, then you will know how to grin at old
people."

The lackey began to scold, but the old man, paying no attention to him,
took Tikhonovna to the black room.

Tikhonovna was glad that she was sent out of the baking-room, and was
taken to the black, the coachmen's room. In the baking-room everything
looked clean, and the people were all clean, and Tikhonovna did not feel
at ease there. The black coachmen's room was more like the inside of a
peasant house, and Tikhonovna was more at home there. The black hut was
a dark pine building, twenty by twenty feet, with a large oven, bed
places, and hanging-beds, and a newly paved, dirt-covered floor. When
Tikhonovna entered the room, there were there the cook, a white,
ruddy-faced, fat, manorial woman, with the sleeves of her chintz dress
rolled up, who with difficulty was moving a pot in the oven with an
oven-fork; then a young, small coachman, who was learning to play the
balalayka; an old man with an unshaven, soft white beard, who was
sitting on a bed place with his bare feet and, holding a skein of silk
between his lips, was sewing on some fine, good material, and a
shaggy-haired, swarthy young man, in a shirt and blue trousers, with a
coarse face, who, chewing bread, was sitting on a bench at the oven and
leaning his head on both his arms, which were steadied against his
knees.

Barefoot Nastka with sparkling eyes ran into the room with her lithe,
bare feet, in front of the old woman, jerking open the door, which stuck
fast from the steam within, and squeaking in her thin voice:

"Aunty Marina, Simonych sends this old woman, and says that she should
be fed. She is from our parts: she has been with Paramonovna to worship
the saints. Paramonovna is having tea.--Vlasevna has sent for her--"

The garrulous little girl would have gone on talking for quite awhile
yet; the words just poured forth from her and, apparently, it gave her
pleasure to hear her own voice. But Marina, who was in a perspiration,
and who had not yet succeeded in pushing away the pot with the beet
soup, which had caught in the hearth, shouted angrily at her:

"Stop your babbling! What old woman am I to feed now? I have enough to
do to feed our own people. Shoot you!" she shouted to the pot, which
came very near falling down, as she removed it from the spot where it
was caught.

But when she was satisfied in regard to the pot, she looked around and,
seeing trim Tikhonovna with her wallet and correct peasant attire,
making the sign of the cross and bowing low toward the front corner,
felt ashamed of her words and, as though regaining her consciousness
after the cares which had worn her out, she put her hand to her breast,
where beneath the collar-bone buttons clasped her dress, and examined it
to see whether it was buttoned, and then put her hands to her head to
fasten the knot of the kerchief, which covered her greasy hair, and took
up an attitude, leaning against the oven-fork and waiting for the salute
of the trim old woman. Tikhonovna made her last low obeisance to God,
and turned around and saluted in three directions.

"God aid you, good day!" she said.

"You are welcome, aunty!" said the tailor.

"Thank you, granny, take off your wallet! Sit down here," said the cook,
pointing to a bench where sat the shaggy-haired man. "Move a little,
can't you? Are you stuck fast?"

The shaggy man, scowling more angrily still, rose, moved away, and,
continuing to chew, riveted his eyes on the old woman. The young
coachman made a bow and, stopping his playing, began to tighten the
strings of his balalayka, looking now at the old woman, and now at the
tailor, not knowing how to treat the old woman,--whether respectfully,
as he thought she ought to be treated, because the old woman wore the
same kind of attire that his grandmother and mother wore at home (he
had been taken from the village to be an outrider), or making fun of
her, as he wished to do and as seemed to him to accord with his present
condition, his blue coat and his boots. The tailor winked with one eye
and seemed to smile, drawing the silk to one side of his mouth, and
looked on. Marina started to put in another pot, but, even though she
was busy working, she kept looking at the old woman, while she briskly
and nimbly took off her wallet and, trying not to disturb any one, put
it under the bench. Nastka ran up to her and helped her, by taking away
the boots, which were lying in her way under the bench.

"Uncle Pankrat," she turned to the gloomy man, "I will put the boots
here. Is it all right?"

"The devil take them! Throw them into the oven, if you wish," said the
gloomy man, throwing them into another corner.

"Nastka, you are a clever girl," said the tailor. "A pilgrim has to be
made comfortable."

"Christ save you, girl! That is nice," said Tikhonovna. "I am afraid I
have put you out, dear man," she said, turning to Pankrat.

"All right," said Pankrat.

Tikhonovna sat down on the bench, having taken off her coat and
carefully folded it, and began to take off her footgear. At first she
untied the laces, which she had taken special care in twisting smooth
for her pilgrimage; then she carefully unwrapped the white lambskin
leg-rags and, carefully rubbing them soft, placed them on her wallet.
Just as she was working on her other foot, another of awkward Marina's
pots got caught and spilled over, and she again started to scold
somebody, catching the pot with the fork.

"The hearth is evidently burned out, grandfather. It ought to be
plastered," said Tikhonovna.

"When are you going to plaster it? The chimney never cools off: twice a
day you have to bake bread; one set is taken out, and the other is
started."

In response to Marina's complaint about the bread-baking and the
burnt-out hearth, the tailor defended the ways of the Chernyshev house
and said that they had suddenly arrived in Moscow, that the hut was
built and the oven put up in three weeks, and that there were nearly one
hundred servants who had to be fed.

"Of course, lots of cares. A large establishment," Tikhonovna confirmed
him.

"Whence does God bring you?" the tailor turned to her.

And Tikhonovna, continuing to take off her foot-gear, at once told him
where she came from, whither she had gone, and how she was going home.
She did not say anything about the petition. The conversation never
broke off. The tailor found out everything about the old woman, and the
old woman heard all about awkward, pretty Marina. She learned that
Marina's husband was a soldier, and she was made a cook; that the tailor
was making caftans for the driving coachmen; that the stewardess's
errand girl was an orphan, and that shaggy-haired, gloomy Pankrat was a
servant of the clerk, Ivan Vasilevich.

Pankrat left the room, slamming the door. The tailor told her that he
was a gruff peasant, but that on that day he was particularly rude
because the day before he had smashed the clerk's knickknacks on the
window, and that he was going to be flogged to-day in the stable. As
soon as Ivan Vasilevich should come, he would be flogged. The little
coachman was a peasant lad, who had been made an outrider, and now that
he was grown he had nothing to do but attend to the horses, and strum
the balalayka. But he was not much of a hand at it.





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