:'-- i tl ohibi .6u '.A d
iZ R, ,,.-
e Baldwin Libary
-i~ 49iy' I.a J ~~ L~p
SASHA THE SERF:
OTHER STORIES OF RUSSIAN LIFE.
BLACKIE & SON, 49 OLD BAILEY, E.C.;
GLASGOW, EDINBURGH, AND DUBLIN.
SASHA THE SER, . . 5
THE COOLEST MAN IN RUSSIA, ... .. .. 53
KATINKA, THE PEASANT IMAI . ... .65
THREE KOPECKS, . . 91
THE DEVIL IN THE MINE, . .. 95
A BEAR-HUNT IN RUSSIA, . . .105
A STORY OF PETER THa GREAT . 113
SASHA THE SERF.
Twas towards the close of a September day.
- Old Gregor and his grandson Sasha were
returning home through the forest with their
bundles of wood, the old man stooping low under
the weight of the heavier pieces he carried, while
the boy dragged his great bunch of twigs and
splints by a rope drawn over his shoulder.
Where the trees grew thick the air was already
quite gloomy, but in the open spaces they could
see the sky and tell how near it was to sunset.
Both were silent, for they were tired, and it is
not easy to talk and carry a heavy load at the
same time. But presently something gray ap-
peared through the trees at the foot of a low hill;
6 SASHA THE SERF.
it was the rock where they always rested on
their way home. Old Gregor laid down his
bundle there, and wiped his face on the sleeve of
his brown jacket, but Sasha sprang upon the
rock and began to balance himself upon one foot,
as, was his habit whenever he tried to think
"Grandfather," he said at last, "why should all
this forest belong to the baron, and none of it to
Gregor looked at him sharply for a moment
before he answered.
"It was his father's and his grandfather's: it
has been the property of the family for many a
hundred years, and we never had any."
"I know that, grandfather," said Sasha. "But
why did it come so atfirst?"
Gregor shook his head. "You might as well
ask how the world was made." Then, seeing
that the boy looked troubled, he added in a
kinder tone, "Sasha, what put such a thought
into your head?"
"Why, the forest itself replied the boy. "The
SASHA THE SERF. 7
baron lots us have the top branches and little
twigs, but he takes all the great logs and
trunks, and sells them for money. I know all
the trees, and he does not; I can find my way
in the woods anywhere, and there's many a tree
that would say to me, if it could talk, 'I'd rather
belong to you, Sasha, than to the baron, because
I know you, and I don't know him.'"
"Ay, and the moon would say the same to
you, boy, and the sun and the stars, maybe.
You might as well want to own them-and you
don't even belong to yourself!"
Gregor's words seemed harsh and fierce, but
his voice was very sad. The boy looked at him
and knew not what to say, but his heart beat
violently. All at once he heard a rustle among
the dead leaves, and a sound as if of footsteps
approaching. The old man took hold of his
grandson's arm, and made a sign for him to be
silent. The sound came nearer and nearer, and
presently they could distinguish some dusky
object moving towards them through the trees.
"Is it a robber?" whispered the boy.
8 SASHA THE SERF.
"It is not a man, unless he uses his knees for
hind feet. I see his head; it is a bear. Keep
quiet, boy! make no noise: take this stick, but
hold it at your side as I do mine. If he comes
close, look him firmly in the face; and if I tell
you to strike, hit him on the end of the nose."
It was indeed a full-grown bear, marching
slowly on his great flat feet. He was not more
than thirty yards distant when he saw them, and
stopped. Both kept their eyes fixed upon his
head, but did not move. Then he came a few
paces nearer, and Sasha tried hard not to show
that he was trembling inwardly, more, however,
from excitement than fear. The bear gazed
steadily at them for what seemed a long time,
and there was an expression of anger, but also of
stupid bewilderment, in his eyes. Finally he
gave a sniff and a grunt, tossed up his nose, and
walked slowly on, stopping once or twice to turn
and look back before he disappeared from view.
Sasha lifted his stick and shook it at him. He
felt that he should never again be much afraid of
SASHA THE SERF. 9
"Now, boy," said his grandfather, "you have
learned. how to face danger. I have been as
near to.a loaded cannon as to that bear, and the
wind of the ball threw me upon my face: but I
was up the next moment, and then the gunner
went down! Our colonel saw it, and I remem-
ber what he said-ay, every word! He would
have kept his promise, but we carried him from
the field next day, and that was the end of the
matter. It was in France that it happened."
"Grandfather," asked the boy suddenly, "are
there forests in France, and do they belong to
"Pick up your faggot, boy, and come along!"
said Gregor. "It will be dark before we get to
the village, and the potatoes are cooked by this
The mention of the potatoes revived all Sasha's
forgotten hunger, and he obeyed in silence.
After walking for a mile as rapidly as their
loads would permit them, they issued from the
forest, and saw the wooden houses of the village
on a green knoll, in the last gleams of sunset.
10 SASHA THE SERF.
The church, with its three little copper-covered
domes, stood on the highest point. Next to it
the priest's house and garden, and then began the
broad street, lined with square log-cabins and
adjoining stables, sloping down to a large
pond, at the foot of which was a mill. Beyond
the water there was -a great stretch of grazing
meadow, then long rolling fields of rye and
barley, extending to the woods which bounded
the view in every direction. The village was
situated within a few miles of the great main
highway running from Warsaw to Moscow, and
the waters of the lake fed the stream which
flowed into one of the branches of the river
The whole region, including the village and
nearly all the people in it, belonged to the estate
of Baron Popoff, the roofs of whose residence
were just visible to the southward, on a hill
overlooking the road to Moscow. The former
castle had been entirely destroyed during the
retreat of Bonaparte's army; and the baron's
grandfather suffered so many losses at the time,
SASHA THE SERF. 11
that he was only able to build a large and very
plain modern house; but the people continued to
call it the "Castle" or "Palace," just as before.
Although the baron sold every year great
quantities of timber, grain, hemp and wool from
his estates, he always seemed to be in want of
money. The servants who went with him every
year to St. Petersburg were very discreet, and
said little about their master's habits of life; but
the people understood, somehow, that he often
lost large sums by gambling. This gave them
a good deal of uneasiness, for if he should be
obliged to part with the estate, they would all be
transferred with it to a new owner-and this
might be one who had other estates in a different
part of the country, to which he could send them
if he was so minded.
At the time of which we are writing twenty-
two millions of the ]Russian people were serfs.
Their labour, even their property, belonged to the
owner of the land upon which they lived. The
latter had not the power to sell them to another,
as was formerly the case in the Southern States
12 SASHA THE SERF.
of America, but he could remove them from one
estate to another if he had several. Baron Popoff
was a haughty and indifferent master, but not a
cruel one; the people of the village had belonged
to his family for several generations, and were
accustomed to their condition. At least, they
saw no way of changing it, except by a change of
masters, which was more likely to be a misfortune
than a benefit.
It was nearly dark when old Gregor and his
grandson threw down their loads and entered the
house. The supper was already waiting, for
Sasha's sister, little Minka, had been up to the
church door to see whether they were coming.
In one corner of the room a tiny lamp was burn-
ing before a picture of the Virgin Mary and
Child Jesus, all covered with gilded brass except
the hands and faces, which were nearly black,
partly from the smoke, and partly because the
common Russian people imagine that the Hebrews
were a very dark-skinned race. Sasha's father,
Ivan, had also lighted a long pine-splint, and the
room looked very cheerful. The boiled potatoes
SASHA THE SERF. 13
were smoking in a great wooden bowl, beside
which stood a dish of salt, another of melted fat,
and a loaf of black bread. They had neither
plates, knives nor forks, only some coarse wooden
spoons, and all ate out of the bowl, after the salt
had been sprinkled and the fat poured over the
potatoes. For drink there was an earthen pitcher
of quass, a kind of thin and rather sour beer.
Old Gregor sat on one side of the table, and
his son Ivan with Anna, his wife, opposite.
There were five children, the eldest- being Alex-
ander (whom we know by his nickname "Saha,
which is the Russian for "Aleck" or "Sandy"),
then Minka, Peter, Waska, and Sergius. Sasha
was about thirteen years old, rather small for his
age, and hardly to be called a handsome boy.
Only there was something very pleasant in his
large gray eyes, and his long, thick flaxen hair
shone almost like silver when the sun fell upon
it. However, he never thought about his looks.
When he went to the village bath-house, on a
Saturday evening, to take his steam-bath with
the rest, the men would sometimes say, after ex-
14 SASHA THE SERF.
mining his joints and muscles, "You are going
to be strong, Sasha!"-and that was as much as
he cared to know about himself.
The boy was burning with desire to tell the
adventure with the bear, but he did not like to
speak before his grandfather, and there was
something in the latter's eye which made him
feel that he was watching him. Gregor first
lighted his pipe, and then, in the coolest manner
possible-as if it were something that happened
every day-related the story.
"Pity I hadn't your gun with me, Ivan," he
said at the close; "what with the meat, the fat,
and the skin, we should have had thirty roubles."
The children were quite noisy with excitement.
Little Peter said, "What for did you let him go,
Sasha? I'd have killed him, and carried him
home!" Then all laughed so heartily that Peter
began to cry, and was soon packed into a box in
the corner, where he was soon as fast asleep as
ever was the proverbial door-nail.
"Take the gun with you to-morrow, father,"
SASHA THE SERF. 15
"It's too much with my load of wood,"
answered the old man. "The old hunting-knife
is all I want. Sasha will stand by me with a
club: I don't think he'll be afraid next time."
Sasha was about to exclaim, "I was not afraid
the first time!" but before he spoke it flashed
across his mind that he. did tremble a little;
but he consoled himself a little that it was not
By this time it was dark outside. Two pine-
splints had burned out, one after the other, and
only the little lamp before the shrine enabled
those present to see each other. The old people
went to bed in their narrow rooms, which were
hardly better than closets; and Sasha, spreading
a coarse sack of straw on the floor, lay down,
covering himself with his sheepskin coat, and in
five minutes was so sound asleep that he might
have been dragged about by the heels without
EXT day in the forest old Gregor worked
More rapidly than usual. He spoke very
little, in spite of Sasha's eagerness to talk,
an kept the boy so busy that all the wood was
gathered up and made into bundles two or three
hours before the usual time.
They were in a partially cleared spot, near the
top of some rising ground. The old man looked
at the sky, nodded his head, and said with a
satisfied air, "We have plenty of time left for
ourselves, Sasha; come with me, and I'll show
Gregor then set out in a direction opposite
from home, and the boy, who expected nothing
less than the finding of another bear, seized a
tough straight club, and followed him. They
SASHA THE SERF. 17
went for nearly a mile over rolling ground
through the forest, and then descended into a
narrow glen, at the foot of which ran a rapid
stream. Very soon rocks began to appear on
both sides, and the glen became a chasm where
there was barely room to walk. It was a cold,
gloomy, strange place; Sasha had never seen
anything like it. He felt a singular creeping of
the flesh, but not for the world would he have
The path ceased, and there was a waterfall in
front filling up the whole chasm. Gregor pulled
off his boots and stepped into the stream, which
reached nearly to his knees; he gave his hand to
Sasha, who could hardly have walked alone
against the force of the current. They reached
the foot of the fall, the spray of which was
whirled into their faces. Then Gregor turned
suddenly to the left, passed through the thin
edge of the falling water, and Sasha, pulled after
him, found himself in a low arched vault of rock,
into which the light shone down from another
opening. They crawled upwards on hands and
18 SASHA THE SERF.
knees, and came out into a great circular hole, like
a kettle, through the middle of which ran the
stream. There was no other way of getting
into it, for the rocks leaned inward as they rose,
making the bottom considerably wider than the
On one side, under the middle of the rocky
arch, stood a square black stone about five feet
high, with a circle of seven smaller stones resem-
bling seats around it. Sasha was dumb with
surprise at finding himself in such a wonderful
But old Gregor made the sign of the cross, and
muttered something which seemed to be like a
prayer. Then he went to the black stone, and
put his hand upon it.
"Sasha," he said, "this is one of the places
where the old Russian people came many thou-
sand years ago, before ever the name of Christ
was heard of. They were dreadful heathens
in those days, and this place was what served
them for a church. A black stone had to be the
altar, because they had a black god, who was
SASHA THE SERF. 19
never satisfied unless they fed him with human
"Where is the black god now?" asked Sasha.
"They say he has turned into an evil spirit,
and is hiding somewhere in the wilderness; but
I cannot say for the truth of it. His name was
Perun. Most men do not care to say it, but I
have the courage, because I've been a soldier and
have an honest conscience; Are you afraid to
stand here?" asked Gregor inquiringly.
"Not if you are not, grandfather," answered
*Sasha, bravely but respectfully.
"If your heart were bad and false, Sasha, you
would have reason to be afraid;'but as I know
it is not, you can come here without fear of
Sasha obeyed. The old man opened the boy's
coarse shirt and laid his hand upon his heart';
then he made him do the same to himself, so that
the heart of each beat directly against the hand
of the other.
"Now, boy," said Gregor, after a pause, "I am
going to trust you, and if you say a word you do
20 SASHA THE SERF.
not mean, or think otherwise than you speak, I
shall feel it in the motion of your heart. Do you
know the difference between a serf and a free-
man? Would you rather live like your father,
having nothing that he can call his own, or would
you live like the Baron Popoff, with wealth,
and houses, and lands, and forests, and people,
that no one could take from you, except, perhaps,
Sasha's heart gave a great thump before he
could open his mouth. The old man smiled, and
he said to himself, "I was right." Then he
continued: "I should be a free man now, if our
colonel had lived. Your father had not wit and
courage enough to try, but you can do it, Sasha,
if you think of nothing else and work for nothing
else. I will help you all I can; but you must
begin at once. Will you?"
"Yes, grandfather, yes!" exclaimed Sasha
"Promise me that you will say nothing to
any living person; that you will obey me and
remember all I say to you while I live, and be
SASHA THE SERF. 21
none the less faithful to the purpose when I am
Sasha promised everything at once. After a
moment's silence Gregor took his hand from the
boy's breast, and said:
"Yes, you truly mean it. The people of old
used to say that if any one broke a promise made
before this stone, the black heathen god would
have power over him."
"Perhaps the bear was the black god," sug-
"Perhaps he was. Look him in the face, as
you did yesterday, remember your promise, and
he can't harm you."
As they walked back slowly through the
forest Gregor began to talk, and' the boy kept
close beside him, listening eagerly to every word.
"The first thing, Sasha," said he, "is to get
knowledge. You must learn, somehow, to read
and write, and count figures. I must tell you all
I know, about everything in the world, but that's
very little; and it is so mixed up in my head that
I don't rightly know where to begin. It's a
22 SASHA THE SERF.
blessing I have not forgotten much; what I
picked up I held on to, and now I see the reason
why. There's nothing you can't use, if you wait
"Tell me about France!" cried Sasha.
"France and Germany too! I was two or
three years, off and on, in those foreign parts,
and I could talk smartly in the speech of both-
Allez!'Sortez! Donnez noi diu vi!"
Gregor stopped and straightened his bent back;
his eyes flashed, and he laughed long and heartily.
"Allez! Sortez! Donnez moi du vin!" re-
Gregor caught up the boy in his arms and
"The very thing, Sasha!" he cried. "I'll teach
you both tongues,-and all about the strange
habits of the people, their houses, and churches,
and which way the battle went, and what queer
harness they have on their horses, and a talking
bird I once saw, and a man that kept a bottle
full of lightning in his room, and-"
So his tongue ran on. It was a great delight
SASHA THE SERF. 23
to him to recall his memories of more than thirty
years, and he was constantly surprised to find
how many little things that seemed forgotten
came back to his mind. Sasha's breath came
quick as he listened; his whole body felt warm
and nimble, and it suddenly seemed to him
possible -to learn anything and everything.
Before reaching home he had fixed twenty or
thirty French words in his memory. There they
were, hard and tight; he knew he should never
From that day began a new life for both. Old
Gregor's method of instruction would simply
have confused a pupil less ignorant and eager to
be taught; but Sasha was so sure that knowledge
would in some way help him to become a free
man, that he seized upon everything he heard.
In a few months he knew as much German and
French as his grandfather, and when they were
alone they always spoke, as much as possible, in
one or the other language. But the boy's greatest
desire was to learn how to read. During the
following winter he made himself useful to the
24 SASHA THE SERF.
priest in various ways, and finally succeeded in
getting from him the letters of the alphabet and
learning how to put them together. Of course
he could not keep secret all that he did; it
was enough that no one guessed his object in
One day in the spring, just after the baron
had returned with his wife from St. Petersburg,
Sasha was sent on an errand to the castle. He
was bare-headed and bare-footed; his shirt and
wide trousers were very coarse, but clean, and
his hair floated over his shoulders like a mass of
shining silk. When he reached the castle the
baron and baroness, with a strange lady, were
sitting in the balcony. The latter said, in French,
"There's a nice-looking boy!"
Sasha was so glad to find that he understood,
and so delighted with the remark, that he looked
up suddenly and blushed.
I really believe he understands what I said,"
exclaimed the lady.
The baron laughed. "Do you suppose my
young serfs are educated like princes?" he asked.
SASIIA TIE SERF. 25
"If he were so intelligent as that, how long could
I keep him?"
Sasha bent down his head, and kicked the
loose pebbles with his feet to hide his excitement.
The blood was humming in his ears: the baron
had said the same thing as his grandfather had
said-to get knowledge was the only way to get
q(HE summer passed away, and the second
autumn came. Gregor had told all he
knew; told it twice, three times; and
Sasha, more eager than ever, began to grow
impatient for something more. He had secured
a little reading-book, such as is used for children,
and studied it until he knew the exact place of
every letter in it, but there was no one to give
the poor boy another volume, or to teach him any
One afternoon, as he was returning alone from
a neighboring village by a country road which
branched off from the main highway, he saw
three men sitting on the bank under the edge of
a thicket. They were strangers, and they seemed
to him to be .foreigners. Two were of middle
age, with harsh, evil faces; the third was young,
SASHA THE SERF. 27
and had an anxious frightened look. They were
talking earnestly, but before he could distinguish
the words, one of them saw him, made a sign to
the others, and then he was very sure that they
suddenly changed their language; for it was
German he now heard.
He felt proud of his own knowledge, and his
first thought was to say "Good-day!" in Ger-
man. Then he remembered his grandfather's
counsel, "Never display your knowledge until
there is a good reason for it," and gave his
greeting in Russian. The young man nodded
his head in return; the others took no notice
of him. But in passing he understood these
He will carry a great deal of money. .
There's no danger-he will be alone. .
Grain and hemp both sold to-day. It
will be already dark."
Just beyond the thicket the road made a sharp
turn and entered the woods. Sasha never after-
wards could quite explain the impulse which led
him to dart under the trees as soon as he
28 SASHA THE SERF.
was out of sight, to get in the rear of the
thicket, crawl silently nearer on his hands and
knees, and then lie down flat within hearing of
the men's voices. For a moment he was overcome
with a horrible fear. They were silent, and his
heart beat so loudly that he thought they could
no more help noticing it than the sound of a
Presently one of them spoke, this time in
"There is a hill from which you can see both
roads," he said, "but he'll hardly take the high-
Are you sure his groom was not in the town
along with him?" asked another.
"It's all as I say-rely upon that!" was the
answer. "For all his titles he's no more than
another man, and we are three!"
In talking further they mentioned the name
of the town; it was the place only a few miles
distant where the grain, hemp, and other products
of the estate were sold to traders-and this was
the day of the sale! The plot of the robbers
SASHA THE SERF. 29
flashed into Sasha's mind; and if he had had any
remaining doubts, they were soon removed by
his hearing the name of Baron Popoff mentioned.
The latter was to be waylaid, plundered, killed
if he resisted. Then the eldest of the three men
said, as he got up from the bank where they had
"We must be on the way. Better be too early
than too late."
"But it's a terrible thing," remarked the
"You can't turn back now!" said the other
Sasha waited until he could no longer hear their
footsteps. Then he started up, and, keeping
away from the road they had taken, ran through
the woods and thickets in the direction of the
town. His only thought was, to reach the hill
the robbers had mentioned, from which both
roads could be seen. He knew it well; there was
a bridle-path, shorter than the main highway,
and the baron would probably take it, as he was
on horseback. The hill divided the two roads;
30 SASHA THE SERF.
it was covered with young birch-trees, which
grew very thickly on the summit and almost
choked up the path. But there was a long spur
of thicket, he remembered, running out on the
ridge, and whoever stood at the end of it could
almost look into the town.
Sasha was so excited that he took a track
almost as short as a bird flies. He tore through
bushes and brambles without thinking of the
scratches they gave him; he leaped across gullies,
and ran at full speed over open fields; he was
faint, and bruised, and breathless, but he never
paused until the farthest point of the thicket on
the hill was reached. It was then about an hour
before sunset, and only one or two travellers on
foot were to be seen upon the highway. The
town was half a mile off, but he could plainly see
where the bridle-track issued from a little lane
between the houses. Carefully concealing himself
under a thick alder-bush, he kept his eyes fixed
upon that point.
He was obliged to wait for what seemed a
long, long time. The sun was just setting when,
SASHA THE SERF. 31
finally, a horseman made his appearance, and
Sasha knew by the large white horse that it must
be the baron. The rider looked at his watch,
and then began to canter along the level towards
the hill. There was no time to lose; so, without
pausing a moment to think, Sasha sprang from
his hiding-place, and darted down the grassy
slope at full speed, crying:
"Lord Baron! Lord Baron!"
The rider, at first, did not seem to heed. He
cantered on, and it required all Sasha's remaining
strength to reach the path in advance of him.
Then he dropped upon his knees, lifted up his
hands, and cried once more:
"Stop, Lord Baron!"
The baron reined up his horse just in time to
avoid trampling on the boy. Sasha sprang to
his feet, seized the bridle, and gasped, "The
robbers! the robbers!"
"Who are you?-and what does this mean?"
asked the baron in a stern voice.
But Sasha was too much in earnest to feel
afraid of the great lord. "I am Sasha, the son
32 SASHA THE SERF.
of Ivan, the son of Gregor," he replied; and then
related as rapidly as he could all that he had
seen and heard.
The baron looked at his pistols.
"Ha!" he cried, the caps have been taken off!
You may have done me good service, boy. Wait
here: it is not enough to escape the rascals; we
must capture them!"
He turned his horse, and galloped-back at full
speed towards the town. Sasha watched him,
thinking only that he was saved at last. It was
growing dark when the boy's quick ear caught
the sound of footsteps in the opposite direction.
He turned and saw the three men approaching
rapidly. With a deadly sense of terror he
started and ran towards the town.
"Kill the little spy!" shouted behind him a
voice which he well knew.
Sasha cried aloud for help as he ran, but no
help came. He was already weak and exhausted
from the exertion he had made, and he heard the
robbers coming nearer and nearer. All at once
it seemed to him that his cries were answered;
SASHA THE SERF. 33
but at the same moment a heavy blow came
down upon his head and shoulder. He fell to
the ground, and knew no more.
HEN Sash a came to his senses it seemed
to him that he must have been dead for
a long time. First of all, he had to
think who he was; and this was not so easy as
you may suppose, for he found. himself lying in
bed in a room he had never seen before. It was
broad daylight, and the sun shone upon one of
his hands, which was so white and thin that it
did not seem to belong to him. Then he lifted
it, and was amazed to find how little strength
there was in his arm. But he brought it to his
head at last-and there was another surprise.
All his long silken hair was gone! He was so
weak and bewildered that he groaned aloud, and
the tears ran down his checks.
There was a noise in the room, and presently
SASHA THE SERF. 35
old Gregor, his grandfather, bent over him as he
lay in bed.
Grandfather," said the boy-and how feeble
his voice sounded-"am I your Sasha still?"
The old man, crying for joy, dropped on his
knees and uttered a short prayer. "Now you
will get well!" he cried; "but you mustn't talk;
the doctor said you were not to talk."
"But where am I, grandfather?" asked Sasha.
"In the palace! And the baron's own doctor
comes every day to see you; and they allow me
to stay here and nurse you-it will be a week
"What's the matter-what has happened?"
"Don't talk, for the love of heaven!" said
Gregor; "you saved the baron from being robbed
and killed; and the principal robber struck your
head and broke your arm; and the baron and
the people came just at the right time; and one
of them was shot, and the other two are in
prison. 0, my boy, remember the altar of the
black god Perun; be obedient to me; shut your
eyes and keep quiet!"
36 SASHA THE SERF.
But Sasha could not shut his eyes. Little by
little his memory came back, and a sense of what
he had done filled his mind and made him happy.
He felt a dull ache in his left arm, and found
that it was so tightly bandaged he could not
move it, as he lay quite still, while his grand-
father sat and watched him with sparkling eyes.
After a time the door opened and a strange
gentleman came in; it was the doctor. The old
man rose and conversed with him in whispers.
Then Sasha found that a spoon was held to his
lips; he mechanically swallowed something that
had a strange, pleasant taste, and almost imme-
diately fell asleep.
In a day or two he was strong enough to
sit up in bed, and was allowed to talk. Then
the baron and the baroness came with the
lady who was their guest, to see him. They
were all eager to learn the particulars of the
occurrence, especially how Sasha had discovered
the plot of the robbers. He began at the
beginning, and had got as far as the latter's
change of language on seeing him, when he
SASHA THE SERF. 37
stopped in great confusion, and looked at his
Gregor neither spoke nor moved, but his eyes
seemed to say plainly, "Tell everything."
Sasha then related the whole story to the
end. The baroness came to the bedside, stooped
down, kissed him, and said, "You have saved
But the other lady, who had been watching
him very closely and curiously, suddenly ex-
"Why, it's the same nice-looking young serf
that I saw before; and when I spoke of him
in French he blushed. I was sure he understood
me! Don't you understand me now, my boy?"
She asked the question in French, and Sasha
answered in the same language, "Yes, madam."
The lady clapped her hands with delight; but
the baron asked very sternly:
"Where did you learn so many languages?"
"From me!" answered Gregor, instantly. "The
boy likes to know things, and I've always
thought-saving your opinion, my lord-that
38 SASHA THE SERF
when God gives anyone a strong wish for know-
ledge he means it to be answered. So I opened
to him all there is in this foolish old head of
mine while we were together in the forest; and
it was such a pleasure for him to take that it
came to be a pleasure for me to give. You
understand, my lady?"
"Yes," said the baroness, "I understand that
without Sasha's knowledge of German my hus-
oand would probably have been murdered."
"That's not so certain," replied the baron.
"But some celebrated man has said, 'All's well
that ends well.' The boy did his duty like a full-
grown man, and I'll take care of him."
Therewith they went out of the room, and
Sasha immediately asked iff some anxiety,
"Grandfather, you meant that I should tell?"
"Yes, my boy," said Gregor readily, "for the
youngest robber has already confessed that they
spoke in German, and thought themselves safe
while you were passing. They are vagabonds
from the borders of Poland, and knew a little of
three or four tongues. It is all right, Sasha; the
SASHA THE SERF. 39
baron is satisfied, and means to help you. Your
chance has come sooner than I expected. I must
have a little time to think about it; my head is
like a stiff joint, hard to bend when I want to
use it. It's a piece of good luck to me that you
can't get out of bed for a week to come!"
He laughed as he left the bedside and took
his seat on the broad stone bench beside the fire-
place. Sasha kept silent, for he knew that the
old man's brain was hard at-work. He tried to
do a little thinking himself, but it made him feel
weak and giddy; in fact, the blow upon his
head would have killed a more delicate boy.
His strength came back so rapidly, however,
that in a week he was able to walk about with
his arm in a sling. He was still pale, and looked
so strange in his short hair that on his first visit
home his mother burst into tears on seeing him.
Then Minka, Peter, Sergius, and Waska lifted up
their voices and cried; and Ivan, who was at first
angry with them, finally cried also, without
knowing why he did it. All this made Sasha
feel very uncomfortable, and he was on the point
40 SASHA THE SERF.
of saying, "I won't do it again!" when Old
Gregor made silence in the house. He had
looked through the window and seen some of the
neighbours coming; so the whole family became
cheerful again as rapidly as they could.
By this time Gregor had made up his mind.
Sasha knew that he could not change it if he
would, and he was therefore very glad to find
how well his grandfather's notions agreed with
his own. While he was waiting for the baron
to speak again he was not losing time; for the
strange lady who was visiting at the castle took
quite a friendly interest in teaching him French
and German, and giving him Russian books
which were not too difficult to read. He was so
eager to satisfy her that he really made astonish-
When the robbers were tried before the judge
he was called upon to give testimony against
them. One of the three having been killed, the
youngest one was not afraid to confess, and his
story and Sasha's agreed perfectly. The boy
described the unwillingness of the former to
SASHA THE SERF. 41
undertake the crime; even the baron said a word
in his favour, and the judge at last sentenced
him to be banished to Siberia for only ten years,
while the older robber was sent there for life.
That evening the baron asked Sasha, "Would
you like to be one of my house-servants, boy?"
Just as his grandfather had advised him, Sasha
answered, "It is not for me to choose, my lord;
but I think I can serve you much more to your
profit if you will let me try to become a mer-
"A merchant!" exclaimed the baron.
"Not all at once," said Sasha. "I could be of
use now as a boy to help carry and sell things,
because I can count, and speak a little in other
tongues. I could make myself so useful to some
merchant that he would give me a chance to
learn the whole business in time. Then I should
earn much money, and could pay you for the
The baron had often envied noblemen of his
acquaintance, some of whose serfs were rich
manufacturers or merchants, and paid them large
42 SASHA THE SERF.
annual sums for the privilege of living for them-
selves. Here seemed to be a chance for him
to gain something in the same way. The boy
spoke so confidently, and looked in his face
with such straightforward eyes, that he felt
obliged to consider the proposition seriously.
"How will you get to St. Petersburg?" he
"When you go, my lord," said Sasha, "I could
sit on the box at the coachman's feet. I will
help him with the horses, and it shall cost you
nothing. When I get there I know I shall find
The baron then said, "You may go."
: ERE, as a boy not yet fifteen, Sasha begins
his career as a man. The task he has
Undertaken demands the industry, the pa-
tience, and the devotion of his life; but he has
been prepared for it by a sound if a somewhat
hard experience. I hope the boys who read this
feel satisfied already that he is going to succeed;
yet I know also that they like to be certain, and
to have some little information as to how it came
about. So I will allow fifteen years to pass, and
we will now look upon Sasha as a man of about
thirty years of age.
He has an office and warehouse on the great
main street of St. Petersburg, which is called the
Nevslcy Pros2pelct, that is, the Perspective of the
Neva, because when you look down it you see
the blue waters of the river Neva at the end.
44 SASHA THE SERF.
Over the door there is a large sign-board with
the name "Alexander Ivanovitch."1 He employs
a number of clerks and salesmen, and has a
servant who would go through fire and water to
help or serve him. I must relate how he found
this man, and why the latter is so faithful.
On one of his journeys of business, five years
before, Sasha visited the town of Perm, on the
western side of the Ural Mountains. It is on
the main highway to Siberia, and criminals are
continually passing either on the way thither
in chains, or returning in rags when their time of
banishment has expired. One evening Sasha
found by the roadside, in the outskirts of the
town, a miserable looking wretch who seemed to
be at the point of death. He felt the man's
pulse, lifted up his head and looked in his face,
and was startled at recognizing the younger of
the three robbers who had attacked Baron Popoff.
1 Ivanovitch means "the son of Ivan." Russian family names
are formed in this manner, and therefore the son has a different
name from the father, unless their baptismal names are the
SASHA THE SERF. 45
He had him taken to the inn, tended, and re-
stored, and after being convinced of his earnest
desire to lead a better life gave him employment.
The robber was not naturally a bad man, but
very ignorant and superstitious. It seemed to
him both a miracle and a warning that he should
have been saved by Sasha, and he fully believed
that his soul would be lost if he should ever act
dishonestly towards him.
Keeping his heart steadily upon the great pur-
pose of his life, Sasha rose from one step to an-
other until he became an independent and
wealthy merchant, far wealthier, indeed, than
the baron supposed. He paid the latter a hand-
some sum for his time, and sent only small
presents of money to his parents, for he knew
how few and simple their wants were. He felt
a thousand times more keenly than old Gregor
what it was to be a serf. The old man was still
living, but very feeble and helpless, and Sasha
often grew wild at the thought that he might die
before knowing freedom.
His plan of action had been long fixed, and now
46 SASHA THE SERF.
the hour had come when he determined to try it.
He had for years kept a strict watch over the
baron's life in St. Petersburg, knew the amount
of his increasing debts and the embarrassment
they occasioned him, and could very nearly cal-
culate the hour when ruin would overtake him.
He was not disappointed, therefore, one morning
at receiving an urgent summons to wait upon his
"Sasha," said the latter, laying his hand upon,
the shoulder of his serf with a familiarity he had
never displayed before, "you are an honest,
faithful fellow. I need a few thousand roubles
for a month or two; can you get the money for
"I have heard, my lord," answered Sasha, "that
you are in difficulty. I knew why you sent for
me, and I come to offer you a way out of all your
troubles. Your debts amount to more than a
hundred thousand roubles: would you like to be
relieved of them?"
"Would I not!-but how?" exclaimed the
SASHA THE SERF. 47
"I will pay them, my lord; but you will do
one thing for me in return."
I," Sasha quietly answered, "I will free you,
and you will free me!"
"Ha!" the baron cried, springing to his feet.
His pride was touched. He was fond of boasting
that he also had a serf who was a rich merchant,
and the fact had many a time helped his credit
when he wanted to borrow money. Uncon-
sciously he shook his head.
"You have not the money," he said.
Sasha, who understood what was passing
through the mind of the baron, suffered so much
from his cruel uncertainty that he turned deadly
"I am well known," he answered, "and-can
procure the money in an hour. How much is
my serfdom worth to you? My annual payment
is hardly one-tenth of the usurious interest which
your debt wrings from you: I offer to release
you from all trouble, and thus add not less than
eight thousand roubles year to your income.
48 SASHA THE SERF.
And my freedom, which you can now sell back
to me at such a price, may be mine without buy-
ing in a few years more!"
The emperor, Alexander II. (who was assassin-
ated in 1881), had at that time just succeeded to
the throne, and his intention to emancipate the
serfs was already suspected by the people. Sasha
knew that he was running a great risk in what
he said; but his clasped hands, his trembling
voice, his eyes filled with tears, affected the
baron more powerfully than his words.
There was a long silence. The master turned
away to the window, and weighed the offer
rapidly in his mind; the serf waited in breathless
anxiety in the centre of the room.
Suddenly the baron turned and struck his
clenched fist on the table. Then he stretched
out his hand and said:
"Alexander Ivanovitch, I am glad to make
your acquaintance as a friend; I am no longer
Sasha took the hand of the baron and kissed
it, and his tears fell thick and fast:
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
D7 ATINKA was tired, and lonely too. All
g day long, and for many days together, she
had plied her distaff busily, drawing out
the thread finer and finer from the great bunches
of flax, which she herself had gathered and dried,
till the birch-bark basket at her feet was almost
filled with firm, well-shaped "twists," and the
sticks in the great earthen pipkin, upon which
the thread must be wound, grew fewer and fewer.
The tips of her fingers were sore, and it was
dull work with no one to speak to except her
faithful cat, Dimitri, who was never content
when he saw his mistress working, unless he had
a ball of thread for himself; and as she looked
about her cheerless little room, so lonely now, she
thought of the days when a kind mother had
66 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
been near to lighten every duty; and joyous,
merry children had been her companions in all
childish sports. She hated the tiresome flax
now, but then the happiest days were spent in
the great flax-fields, playing at "hide-and-seek"
up and down the paths the reapers made. And
when the summer showers came pelting down,
how she would catch her little sister Lisa, and
run home with her on her back, while neighbour
Voscovitch's children laughed and shouted after
her as she ran. Ah, those were happy days!
But now mother and sister were gone! Only
she and her father were left in the little home,
and she had to work so hard! She did wish
that her life was different; that she was not poor
lonely Katinka the peasant maid any more. Oh!
why could she not be like the rich Lady Feodor-
ovna instead, whose father, Count Vassilivitch,
owned nearly all the houses and lands from Tver
to Torjok, and had more than three hundred serfs
on his estate.
Now Katinka's father, Ivan Rassaloff, was
only an istvostchick (a drosky or cab driver), and
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 67
owned nothing but a rickety old drosky,' and
Todcloff, a sturdy little Cossack pony, and drove
travellers here and there for a few kopecks a
trip. But he saved money, and Katinka helped
him to earn more; and one of these days, when
they could sell the beautiful lace flounce on
which she had been working during all her odd
moments for three years, and which was nearly
finished, they would be rich indeed. Besides, the
isba (cottage) was not really so bad, and it was
all their own; and then there was always Dimitri
to talk to, who surely seemed to understand
everything she said. So a smile chased away the
gathering frown, and this time she looked round
the room quite contentedly.
Shall I tell you what the isba was like, that
you may know how the poor people live in
Russia? It was built of balks (great beams or
rafters), laid horizontally one above the other,
the ends crossing at each corner of the building;
and it had a pointed roof, somewhat like that of
a Swiss chdlet. Inside the chinks were filled
1 Or droitzechka, a four-wheeled pleasure carriage.
G8 KATINKA, TIIE PEASANT MAID.
with moss and lime, to keep out the cold. It
contained only one room; but a great canvas
curtain hung from the roof, which by night
divided the room in two, but by day was drawn
There was a deal table, holding some earthen-
ware pipkins, jars, and a samorar, or tea-urn-for
even the poorest peasants have an urn, and drink
tea at least three times a day; a deal settee, on
which lay the winter store of flax; Katinka's
distaff, and the curious candlestick which the
Russian peasants use. This is a tall wooden
upright fastened into a sort of trough, or hol-
lowed log of birchwood, to keep it erect. To
the top an iron cross-bar is attached (which
can be raised or lowered at will), having at the
end a small bowl containing oil and a floating
wick, which burns brightly for several hours,
and is easily lowered and refilled; while the
wooden trough below catches the oil which
But the most curious thing in the room was
the stove. It was made of sheet-iron, and very
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 69
large, with a door at one end, into which whole
logs of wood could be put at once. It was oblong,
and flat on the top, like a great black trunk; and
on this flat top, with the fire smouldering away
beneath him, Ivan always slept at night in
the winter; and sometimes, when it was very
cold, Katinka would bring her sheep-skin blanket
and sleep there too! Not one Russian isba in
fifty contains a bed; when there is a large family,
father, mother, and little children all crowd upon
the top of the stove in winter, and in summer
they roll themselves up in their blankets and
sleep outside by the door!
The lamp was lighted and shone brightly on
Katinka, who made quite a pretty picture as she
rested a while from her work to speak to Dimitri.
She wore a white chemise with very full, long
sleeves, and over it a sarafcne of red linen with
a short boddice and shoulder-straps of dark blue.
On her head she had tied a gay-coloured kerchief,
to keep the dust of the flax from her glossy black
hair, which hung in a single heavy braid far
down her back. One of these days, if she should
70 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
marry, she would have to divide it in two braids,
and wear a kerchief always.
Her shoes were braided, in a kind of basket-
work, of strips of birch-bark, very pliant and
comfortable, though rather clumsy in appearance.
All the day Katinka had been thinking of
something which her father had told her in the
morning about their neighbour, Nicholas Paloff-
sky, and his poor, motherless little ones. The
mother had been very ill, for a long, long time,
and Nicholas had spent all he could earn in
buying medicines and good food for her, but
they could not save her life. Then, when she
died Nicholas was both father and mother to the
little ones for months; but at last he too fell ill,
and now there was no one to assist him.
Besides, he did not own his isba, and if the
rent were not paid the very next day the star-
osta, or landlord, would turn him and his little
ones out-of-doors, bitter winter though it was!
That was fearful! What could she do to help
him? Suddenly there flashed across her mind a
thought of her beautiful lace flounce, on which
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 71
she had worked till she loved every thread of it,
and in whose meshes she had woven many a
bright fancy about the spending of the silver
roubles that would be hers when she sold it.
She had intended to buy a scarlet cusackcau, or
jacket, with gold embroidery, and a new drosky
for her father, so that his passengers might give
him a few more kopecks for a ride. But other
plans came to her mind now.
Just then Ivan came home hungry; and as
she hastened to prepare his supper of tea and
black bread and raw carrots, and a kind of
mushroom stewed in oil, she almost forgot of her
neighbour Nicholas while waiting on her father,
who was always so glad to come home to her
and his snug, warm room.
But to-night, for a wonder, he was cross. All
day he had waited in the cold, bleak public-
square of Torjok, beating his arms and feet to
keep himself warm; and occasionally, I fear,
beating his patient little pony for the same
reason. Not a fare had come near him, except
a fat priest, in a purple silk gown and broad-
72 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
brimmed hat, with long, flowing hair and beard,
a gold-mounted staff in his hand, and a silver
crucifix hanging from his girdle, who on reaching
the church to which he bade Ivan drive quickly,
gave him his blessing-and nothing more! So
Ivan's pockets were empty, and the pony must
go without his supper, unless Katinka had some
dried fish for him.
Katinka, who had a tender heart for all
animals, carried a great bowlful of fish out to
Todeloff, who nibbled it eagerly; for ponies in
Russia, especially those that are brought from
Iceland, consider dried fish a great delicacy, and
in winter often live on it for weeks together. Then
she gave him a "good-night" kiss on the little
white spot on his nose, and he seemed to whisper,
"Now I don't mind the beatings I had to-day!"
When she returned to the house her father
was already wrapped up in a sheepskin blanket
on top of the stove, and snoring lustily; so she
lowered the curtain and crept softly into her
little corner behind it. But she could not sleep,
for her mind was disturbed by thoughts of
KATI`NKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 73
neighbour Nicholas, whose little ones perhaps
were hungry; and at last she arose, filled and
lighted the tall lamp, then unrolled her precious
flounce, and worked steadily at it till, when
morning came, only one little sprig remained to
be done, and her doubts as to what she should
do were dispelled in the bright sunlight.
After breakfast, which she made ready as
briskly as though she had slept soundly all
night, she said:
"Father, let me be your first fare to-day, and
perhaps I may bring you good luck. Will you
drive me to the Lady Feodorovna's?"
What in the world are you going to do there,
Katinka?" said her father, wonderingly.
To-ask if she will buy my lace," said Katinka.
"She has so many beautiful lace dresses, surely
she will find a place on one for my flounce."
"Ha!" said Ivan; "then we will have a feast.
You shall make a cake of white flour and honey,
and we will not eat "black-brod" for a month!
But what will we do with so much money, my
74 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
SKatinka hesitated for a moment; then said,
"Pay Nicholas Paloffsky's rent, and send the
Torjok doctor to cure him. May I, father?" she
added, entreatingly, forgetting that the money
would be her own.
"Hum-m-m!" said Ivan; "we shall see. But
go now and prepare for your drive, for Todeloff
does not like to be kept waiting."
Katinka was soon ready. With her sheepskin
jacket, hat and boots, she did not fear the cold;
and mounting the drosky, they drove rapidly
towards Count Vassilivitch's beautiful home, not
fearing to leave their little isba unattended, for
the neighbours were all honest, and besides, there
was nothing to steal! A drive of four versts
(about three miles) brought them to their
journey's end, and Katinka's heart beat anxiously
as the old drosky rattled up through the court-
yard to the grand hall door; but she went bravely
up to the fine porter, and asked to see Lady
Bosja moia!" (bless me); what do you want
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 75
with my lady?" asked the gorgeous Russ who, in
crimson and gold livery, serf though he was,
looked scornfully down on free Katinka in her
poor little sheepskin jacket.
I think Katinka would scarcely have found
courage to answer him; but luckily the lady
crossed the hall just then, and seeing Katinka,
kindly beckoned her to enter, leading the way
to her own private apartment.
"What do you wish with me?" she asked
kindly. But Katinka was too bewildered by the
splendour on every side to answer as she should.
S Truly it appeared like fairyland to the young
peasant maid. The room was long and very
lofty; the ceiling, one great beautiful picture;
the floor had no carpet, but was inlaid with
.different kinds of wood in many curious patterns;
the walls were covered with blue flowered silk,
on which mirrors and lovely pictures were hung
alternately; while beautiful statues and luxuri-
ous couches covered with blue damask added to
the elegance and comfort of the room.
There was no big, clumsy stove to be seen-
7(3 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
for in the houses of the rich, in a recess in each
room, is a kind of oven, in which a great wood
fire is allowed to smoulder all day-but a delicious
feeling of warmth prevailed, and a soft, sweet
perfume floated on the air.
At last Katinka's eyes rested on the fair lady
in her soft, fleecy gown of white (for even in
winter Russian ladies wear the thinnest summer
dresses in the house), and she said softly:
"I think this heaven, and surely you are like
"Not an angel," said Lady Feodorovna, smiling,
"but perhaps a good fairy. Have you a wish,
"Indeed, yes," replied Katinka. "I wish, wish,
wish (for you must always make a wish to a
fairy three times) you would buy my lace flounce.
See!"-and she unrolled it hurriedly from out
the clean linen cloth in which it was wrapped.
"It is fair and white,.though I have worked on
it for three years, and it is all finished but one
little sprig. I could not wait for that; I want the
money so much. Will you buy it?"
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 77
"What is the price?" asked the lady, who
saw that it was indeed a beautiful piece of work.
"Ninety roubles" (about fifteen pounds), said
Katinka almost in a whisper, as if she feared to
name so great a sum aloud, though she knew the
lace was worth it.
"Why, what will you do with so many
roubles?" asked the lady, not curiously, but in
such a good fairy way that Katinka said:
"Surely I need not fear to tell you. But it is
a long story. Will you kindly listen to it all?"
"Yes, gladly; sit here," and the Lady Feodor-
ovna pointed to one of the beautiful blue
couches, on the extreme edge of which Katinka
sat down timidly, making a very funny picture
in her gray sheepskin jacket and scarlet gown.
"Now tell me, first, your name."
"Katinka Rassaloff, barishnca (lady), daughter
of Ivan, peasants from beyond Torjok. Beside
us lives a good man, Nicholas Paloffsky, who is
ill, and so poor. He has four little children, and
many a day I have divided my supper with
them, and yet I fear they are often hungry. The
78 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
baby cries all day, for there is no mother to take
care of it, and the cries trouble the poor father,
who can do nothing to help. Besides, unless the
rent is paid to-morrow they must leave their
isba. Think of that, lady; no home in this
bitter winter weather! no shelter for the baby!
Ah! buy my lace, that I may help them!" replied
Without speaking, Lady Feodorovna rose and
went to a beautiful cabinet, unlocked the door
with a tiny gold key which was suspended by a
chain to her girdle, took out a roll of silver
roubles, and laid them in Katinka's lap.
"There," said she, "are one hundred roubles.
Are you content?"
Katinka took the soft white hand in hers and
kissed it, while such a happy smile lighted up
her face that the "good fairy" needed no other
"Hasten home, Katinka," she said; "perhaps
you may see me soon again."
Katinka curtsied deeply, then almost flew out
of the great hall-door, so startling the grand
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 79
porter, who had his mouth wide open ready to
scold her, that he could not get it shut in time to
say a word, but opened his eyes instead to keep
it company, and stood looking after her till she
was seated in the drosky. Then Ivan "flicked"
Todeloff, who kicked up his heels and rattled out
of the courtyard in fine style. When they were
out of sight the porter found he could say "bosja
moia" again, so he said it; and feeling much
relieved, was gradually getting back to his usual
dignified manner, when his lady came tripping
down the stairs, wrapped in a beautiful long
sable mantle, bidding him order her sledge, and
one for her maid, to be brought to the door at
When the sledges were brought Lady Feodor-
ovna entered hers, and drew the soft white bear-
skin robe around her, while her maid threw over
her fur hood a fine, fleecy scarf of white wool.
Then the maid put numberless packages, small
and great, into the foot of the other sledge,
leaving only just room to put herself in after-
80 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
While they are waiting there I must tell you
what Lady Feodorovna's sledge was like. It was
built something like an open brougham, except
that the back was higher, with a carved wooden
ornament on the top; there was no "dash-board,"
but the runners came far up in a curve at the
front, and where they joined was another splen-
did ornament of wood, gilded and surmounted by
a gilt eagle with outspread wings.
The body of the sledge was of rose-wood, and
in the front was a beautiful painting of Cupid,
the "love-god," and his mother. The other
sledge, which had a silver swan at the front,
was not quite so fine, although the shape was the
There were no horses to draw these sledges, but
behind each stood a servant in fur jacket, cap
and boots, with a pair of skates hung over his
"I wish to go to the isba of Paloffsky, the
peasant, beyond Torjok; we will go the shorter
way, by the river," said Lady Feodorovna.
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 81
Then the servants each gave a great push, affd
the sledges started off so quickly and lightly
down the slope to the river that they could
scarcely keep up with them. When they reached
the banks of the Blankow, which flowed past the
count's grounds and was frozen over for miles,
the servants, stooped and put on their skates,
Binding them by long straps over their feet, and
round and round their ankles. Then they started
down thWe river, and oh, how they flew! while
the sledges, with their gorgeous birds, fairly
sparkled in the sunlight.
Sooner almost than I can tell it they had
reached their journey's end; the skates were un-
strapped, and the sledges drawn up the bank to
the door of the little isba, which Lady Feodorovna
entered, followed by the maid with the parcels.
A sad picture met their eyes. Poor Nicholas
sat on a bench by the stove, wrapped in his
sheepskin blanket, looking so pale and thin that
he scarcely seemed alive; on his ,knees lay the
hungry 'baby, biting his little fist because he had
nothing else to bite; while on the floor beside
82 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
him sat a little three-year-old fellow crying
bitterly, whom a sad little sister was vainly try-
ing to comfort.
Nicholas looked up as the door opened, but did
not speak as the strange lady advanced, and bade
her maid open the packages and put their con-
tents on the table. How the children stared!
The little one stopped crying, and crept up to the
table, followed shyly by his sister. Then the
maid put a dainty white bread-roll in each little
hand. Then she took the baby gently from off
the poor, tired father's knee, and gave it spoonful
after spoonful of sweet, pure milk, till its little
pinched cheeks seemed fairly to grow full and
rosy, and it gave a satisfied little "coo-o," that
would have done your hearts good to hear.
Meanwhile Lady Feodorovna went up to Nich-
olas, and said softly:
"Look at your little ones! they are happy
now! Can you not rouse up and drink this good
bowl of soup ?' It is warm yet, and will do you
good. Drink, and then I will tell you some good
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 83
Nicholas took the bowl which she held towards
him, but his hand trembled so that it would have
fallen if she had not herself held it to his lips.
As he tasted the warm nourishing soup new life
seemed to come to him, and he grasped the bowl
eagerly, drinking till the last drop was gone; then,
looking up with a grateful smile he said simply,
"Ah! we were so hungry, my little ones and I!
"Now for my good news," said the lady.
"Here is the money for your rent; and here are
ten roubles more, for clothes for your little ones.
The food there is sufficient for to-day; to-morrow
I will send you more. Do not thank me," she
'added, as Nicholas tried to speak; "you must
thank Katinka Rassaloff for it all."
Just then a great noise was heard outside, and
little Todeloff came prancing merrily up to the
door, shaking his head and rattling the little bells
on his douga (the great wooden arch that all
Russian horses have attached to their collars) as
proudly as if he had the finest drosky in all St.
Petersburg behind him.
84 -KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
Katinka jumped quickly down, and entering
the little isba stood fairly speechless at seeing
Lady Feodorovna, whom she had left so shortly
before in her own beautiful home.
"Ah, Katinka! I have stolen a march on you,"
said the good fairy. "There is nothing you can
"Is there not?" said Katinka. "See! here is the
starosta's receipt for a year's rent, and there,"
turning towards the door as a venerable old man
entered, "is the Torjok doctor, who has come to
make neighbour Nicholas well."
I must tell you what the doctor was like. He
wore a long fur coat with wide sleeves, fur boots,
and a great pair of fur gloves, so that he looked
almost like a bear standing up. He wore queer
blue spectacles, and from under a little black
velvet cap long, silky, white hair fell over his
shoulders, and his white beard nearly reached to
The doctor walked up to Nicholas, put his hands
on his knees, stooped, and looked gravely at him;
then rising, turned sharply to Katinka and said:
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 85
"There is no sick one here! Why did you
bring me so far for nothing? But it is two roubles
all the same."
"Here are the roubles," said Katinka, "and I
am very glad we do not want you;" which was
not at all polite of her.
Then, too, Ivan had driven off in search of
passengers, so the poor doctor had to walk nearly
a verst (three quarters of a mile) through the
snow, back to Torjok, which made him growl like
a real bear all the way.
Katinka went shyly up to Nicholas, who was
frowning crossly at her, and said:
"Are you angry with me? Do not frown so, I
beg. Well, frown if you will! the children do
not, and I did it all for them; I love them!" and
she caught up baby Demetrius and buried her
face in his curly hair to hide a tear that would
come; for she felt grieved that Nicholas did not
thank her, even with a smile, for what she had
When she looked up Lady Feodorovna and
her maid were gone, and Nicholas stood before
86 KATINKA, THE PEASANT VMAD.
her holding little Noviska by one hand, while
two-year-old Todleben clung to his knee.
"Katinka," said Nicholas gently, "now I can
thank you with all my heart, though I cannot
find words to speak my thanks. Let the children
kiss you for it all; that is best."
Katinka kissed the children heartily, then she
put down the baby and opened the door, but
Nicholas's face was sober then, though his eyes
still smiled as he said:
"Come back to tea, Katinka, and bring your
father with you, and our young neighbour Alexis,
who often is hungry, and we will have a feast of
all these good things."
Horro sha" (very well), said Katinka, then
she quickly run home.
Dimitri met her at the door, crying piteously.
"Poor Pussy!"' said Katinka; "you have had
nothing to eat all day! What a shame!"
"[Mi-;.. i;" said Dimitri to that.
"Never mind, Pussy; you shall have all my
upper, and father's too, for we are invited out
to tea, so must not eat anything now."
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 87
"iauw, miauw!" said pussy again to that, and
scampered away to his bowl to be all ready for
his fish, and milk, and sour cabbage soup, that he
knew was coming.
Then Katinka hastened to brush her pretty
hair, and put on her best .sarafane (dress), with
the scarlet embroidered boddice and straps, and
was all ready when her father came in, to tell
him of their invitation, and help him to make
"I must have my hair cut," said Ivan, seating
himself on a bench, while Katinka tied a band
round his head, fastening it over his forehead,
then got a great pair of shears and cut his hair
straight round by the band. Then like a good
little Russian daughter as she was, Katinka took
a little bit of tallow candle and rubbed it on her
father's head to keep it smooth, belted down his
gray flannel blouse, and handed him his sheepskin
jacket, with a hint that it was high time for
them to be off.
When the guests entered his isba Nicholas
kissed Ivan-for that is always the custom
88 KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID.
between Russian men who are friends-then he
called to Alexis:
"Heads up, my boy, and help me with the
Alexis, who was turning somersaults in his
joy, came right side up with a spring, and soon
the feast was on the table, and the four wooden
benches drawn up around it.
Ivan and Nicholas had each a bench for
himself, Alexis sat beside Katinka, while Noviska
and Todleben were placed on the remaining
Katinka had wrapped baby Demetrius up in
his little lambskin blanket, and laid him on the
top of the stove, where he fell fast asleep while
she was patting his soft cheek.
What appetites they all had! and how quickly
the good things disappeared! wine-soup and
grouse; cheese-cakes and honey; white rolls and
sweet cream-cakes vanished almost as if by magic,
till at last there was only a bowl of cream left.
Alexis-who had acted as waiter, removing all
the empty dishes in turn-placed this in the
KATINKA, THE PEASANT MAID. 89
middle of the table, giving to each one a birch-
wood spoon and refilling the glasses with tea;
then he sat down by Katinka again at the plain
Let me tell you that tea is prepared in Russia
in a very different manner to what it is in this
country. It is made very strong, and is drunk
always from glasses instead of from cups, and so
hot that it would bring tears from the eyes of any
one but a Russian. Milk is not used; a slice of
lemon instead floats on the top. Sugar is never
put in the glass, but tea-drinkers hold a lump
between their teeth, and then drink the tea
through the sugar! Even very little children
are given strong tea to drink as soon as they
have teeth to hold the sugar, and they seem to
thrive on it.
There was much to talk about. Nicholas had
a very busy time of it in persuading Katinka to
take the rent money which the grand lady had
left, and which he protested he no longer required,
since the landlord was paid, and he already felt
well enough to work. Katinka in her turn, had
90 KATINKA, THE -PEASANT MAID.
to laugh at the jokes of Alexis, who was really a
funny boy when he was not hungry; Todleben
had to sing a droll little child's song; and Ivan
had to tell Nicholas all about the queer and
wonderful ways of his pony Todeloff.
And here we must leave the party-a happy,
grateful company, though Nicholas still looked
pale and feeble, and the "company boy," Alexis,
had eaten so tremendously that Ivan did nothing
but stare at him in astonishment.
"^ "., ^*:* t"*
ROUCHED low in a sordid chamber,
With a cupboard of empty shelves,-
A ,Half-starved, and, alas unable
To comfort or help themselves,-
Two children were left forsaken,
All orphaned of mortal care;
But with spirits too close to heaven
To be tainted by earth's despair,-
Alone in that mighty city,
Which shines like an Arctic star,
By the banks of the frozen Neva,
In the realm of the mighty Czar.
1 The "kopeck" is a Russian coin of about the value of an
92 THREE KOPECKS.
Now, Max was an urchin of seven;
But his delicate sister, Leeze,
With the crown of her rippling ringlets,
Could scarcely have reached your knees!
As he looked at his sister, weeping,
And tortured by hunger's smart,
A thought like an angel entered
At the door of his opened heart.
He wrote on a fragment of paper,-
With quivering hand and soul,-
"Please send to me, Christ! three kopecks,
To purchase for Leeze c roll!"
Then, rushed to a church, his missive
To drop ere the vesper psalms,-
As the surest post bound Christward,-
In the unlocked Box for Alms!
While he stood upon tip-toe to reach it,
One passed from the priestly band,
And with smile like a benediction
Took the note from his eager hand.
THREE KOPECKS. 93
Having read it, the good man's bosom
Grew warm with a holy joy:
"Ah! Christ may have heard you already,-
Will you come to my house, my boy?"
"But not without Leeze?" "No, surely,
We'll have a rare party of three;
Go, tell her that somebody's waiting
To welcome her home to tea." .
And the next Lord's-day, in his pulpit,
The preacher so spake of these
Stray lambs from the fold, which Jesus
Had blessed by the sacred seas;-
So recounted their guileless story,
As he held each child by the hand
That the hardest there could feel it,
And the dullest could understand.
O'er the eyes of the listening fathers
There floated a gracious mist;
And oh, how the tender mothers
Those desolate darlings kissed!
94 THREE KOPECKS.
"You have given your tears," said the preacher,
"Heart-alms we should none despise;-
But the open palm, my children,
Is more than the weeping eyes!"
Then followed a swift collection,
From the altar steps to the door,
Till the sum of two thousand roubles
The vergers had counted o'er.
So you see that the unposted letter
Had somehow gone to its goal,
And more than three kopecks gathered
To purchase for Leeze a roll!
PAUL H. HAYNE.
;" L- o .Ef -'
^**-AA <-**, S --A
THE DEVIL IN THE MINE.
I' R, several years I was compelled to live in
the interior of Russia, the establishment
with which I was connected being one of
those centres of industrial enterprise which, for
their vastness in extent and in the number of
persons employed, are perhaps unequalled in the
The labourers and work people-upwards of
forty thousand-under my charge, were, if any-
thing, slightly above the average of their compeers
in intelligence; it need not, therefore, be supposed
that this story, or rather incident, conveys any
exaggerated idea of the Russian moujik, or
While engaged in my office one afternoon in
September, the youth in attendance announced
96 THE DEVIL IN THE MINE.
that one of the miners from the works wished to
see me most particularly. Now for a peasant to
demand an interview with his native master,
especially when the latter had just dined, was
a proceeding of very rare occurrence, and showed
that something very extraordinary must have
taken place, as the relative positions of master
and moujik in the social scale are very widely
I had, however, frequently found, that by
occasionally listening to what the men had to
say, and allowing myself apparently to sympa-
thize with their little weaknesses, I gained the
way to their hearts; discovering at the same
time the fact that the moujik was not seldom
a much better man than his master at the period
I write of, which was before the emancipation of
the serfs in Russia.
"Allow him to come in, Ivan," I said to the
lad, and presently the miner entered. He first
looked carefully round him, and then, equally
cautiously, he peered underneath the tables and
seats in the room-all the time nervously clutch-
THE DEVIL IN THE MINE. 97
ing the greasy cap which he held in his hand.
He literally shook in his coarse bark shoes; his
face was naturally pale, but it was all the paler
by contrast with his dark eyes staring from
under their heavy eyelids.
"Barrin" (master, in a superior sense), said he,
whispering hoarsely from chattering lips, I have
seen the devil!"
"Indeed!" said I, greatly surprised, but of
course pretending not to bealarmed in the slightest
degree ; "where have you been fortunate enough
to meet with such good luck?"
"Oh, barrin," answered the man eagerly, "we
have got him all right: he is safe at the bottom
of an ore-pit in our village; and," he added,
confidently, "he can't get out, because the whole
of the villagers have surrounded the pit-head."
"That is all right, Ivan," I said; "wait for
a few minutes and I will go with you, and we
will see if we can catch him."
Ordering three fast horses to be harnessed to
my tarantass, and refreshing Ivan with a good
glass of vodka (spirits) to shake his benumbed
98 THE DEVIL IN THE MINE.
faculties together, away we soon went at the
rate of twenty versts an hour to the village
from whence Ivan had come.
It would have been perfectly useless for me to
have attempted to persuade this man that the
person or "party," whoever he or whatever it
was they had got in the pit, was not Satan
himself. No; the only way to convince a
Russian is to prove the matter; and even absolute
proof is not always convincing.
On my arrival at the village I at once observed
that something very unusual was exciting the
attention of the inhabitants, as instead of the
usual number of lazy men and women who are
generally to be seen standing idling about in the
streets of every hamlet, I found the place abso-
lutely deserted; but on an adjacent hill stood the
cause of the commotion.
A crowd of people-men, women, and children
-were standing round the mouth of an ore-pit,
some ten fathoms deep, and about as much like
an ordinary English draw-well without the brick-
lining as could possibly be conceived. All were
THE DEVIL IN THE MINE. 99
talking at once, and all agreed that they had
caught no less a personage than the very devil
himself, as they felt quite sure that the miner
who had last come out of the pit could not pos-
sibly be mistaken.
Now came the knotty questions: How shall
we get his Satanic majesty out of his retreat?
and who among the spectators would be bold
enough to undertake the risk of tackling such
an awkward customer?"
The only manner of being hoisted up and
down these antiquated examples of mining is by
sitting astride a small piece of wood fastened to
the end of a not too thick piece of rope, which in
its turn is wound up and down by a wooden
windlass-not a very desirable mode of descend-
ing, even when the men are not sure the "old
gentleman" himself is in their neighbourhood,
but decidedly dangerous when they think he is.
I therefore, although strongly solicited, declined
the honour of descending, and looked about for a
substitute. My eye caught sight of one of those
rough-and-ready "ne'er-do-weels who are to be
100 THE DEVIL IN THE MINE.
found in Russia as well as in every other country
-men who come to the surface of society when
some particular daring deed has to be done, and
sink out of sight again when the rewards oi
success have been distributed.
A few glasses of vodka in advance, and three
silver roubles in prospective, assisted by friendly
pats on the back from his companions, who were
afraid to go themselves, were sufficient encourage-
ments to animate this man of valour to the heroic
The villagers set him astride the piece of wood,
and began to lower away; indeed they were in
such a hurry to send him down to the presence
of the Evil One that I began to fear he would be
However, he arrived at the bottom in safety;
and now was the opportunity for observing, more
clearly and closely, how the diabolic idea had
seized on the popular mind.
All were in a rampant state of excitement and
expectation. The mayor was wondering where
he could lock up the infernal prisoner; in fact,
THE DEVIL IN THE MINE. 101
doubting whether or not he should send to the
nearest town for the assistance of the military.
Two or three suggested that I had made a
mistake in not ordering the fire-engines to come,
and many more were speculating upon the pro-
bability of their envoy having been already
devoured by the devil as a return for his
Presently the rope was shaken, which is the
signal to draw up. Very gently and very
nervously this operation commences; a good
many of the crowd show signs of running away;
and the men at the windlass maintain that it
turns very heavily. A few peaceable citizens
suggest that, after all, perhaps the better way
would be not to bring the prisoner up, but to
leave him where he is, with a strong guard
always on the watch to see that he did not pop
up suddenly and set fire to the village; but
seeing that this means only letting go the wind-
lass, and the poor fellow that is attached to it,
I insist on their proceeding with the winding-up.
In time the man's head appeared coming out
102 THE DEVIL IN THE MINE.
of the darkness, and he called out, "I have got
him all right."
The peasants then began to think that, after
all, his diabolic majesty was not so awful as
they supposed-the captive brought to light
proving to be no more than an immense specimen
of the Horned Owl of the Ural Mountains, whose
enormous eyes shone from his ruffled plumage
like two balls of fire.
The disappointment was thoroughly real, as, by
the time the affair had finished, the news having
spread, people were arriving from the neighbour-
ing villages to see the wonderful sight; and as
there was no devil after all, the moujiks did not
think it advisable to ask me to treat them to
vodka all round, which in Russia is a natural
adjunct to the occurrence of anything extraordi-
nary in a village.
But perhaps the greatest disappointment was
felt by the poor fellow who made the adventur-
ous descent. He, of course, received his three
silver roubles, but he lost the "kudos" for his act
THE DEVIL IN THE MINE. 103
In answer to the question, "Well, Ivan, how
did you manage it all?" he replied:
"Well, Barrin, you see, when I got to the
bottom I saw something blazing; so I shut my
eyes, made a rush at it, and brought it up in my
arms in the best way I could, and here it is."
This, same owl-a splendid specimen-I had
stuffed, and kept facing my writing-table for a
long time afterwards, as a memento of the
Russian peasants' belief in the "Devil and all his
A BEAR-HUNT IN RUSSIA.
HE Russians are not a sporting people, and
it is cnly the bear that gives them any-
thing like a desire for the hunt.
If a moujik can only find bruin in his winter
quarters he is happy, as it gives him that which
he loves so much-a "pot" shot.
There are always several peasants in every
neighbourhood who spend the winter in search-
ing for bear-holes, primarily with the idea of
selling the "find to some local gentleman, or, if
that fails, of making a few roubles out of the
animal's skin and fat.
The operation of searching is difficult, and even
dangerous; the snow is so extremely fine and soft
that walking on it without snow-shoes is impos-
sible, and these long narrow slips of wood turned
106 A BEAR-HUNT IN RUSSIA.
up at the ends, with a piece of leather nailed across
the midde into which to place the feet, are diffi-
cult things to manage. Going on level ground
is easy enough, but up or down hill the wearer
of them is very apt to tumble; and then with
some three feet of shoe sticking into the snow,
and head and arms deeply plunged by the force
of the fall, extrication is a work of time and
partial suffocation a close probability.
"When, therefore," says Mr. Barry in his Ivan
at Home, "we have discovered a bear, we let him
alone until the snow is on the eve of disappear-
ing, and he can be comfortably approached. By
that time, also, he will be waking up from his
hibernation, and a little more lively than he
would be if we roused him in the midst of his
My greatest adventure in bear-hunting came
about in the following manner. I was accus-
tomed to pay a reward of twenty-five roubles to
the man who found me a bear, and this reward
kept my peasants on the look-out. The first
moujik who, towards the end of a long winter,
A BEAR-HUNT IN RUSSIA. 107
came to claim it one fine morning, lived at a
distance of some hours' drive from my house.
We drove over to his village to arrive towards
evening, and sat down to supper in his house,
where the head forester met me. After supper
we cleared out the moujik and his family, and
settled down, my head forester and I, to sleep.
"Hours before daylight we were on our way
to the forest, the snow had begun to melt, and
the road was rough for sledging, especially here
and there when we came to bare places, where
the snow was destroyed by tepid springs, which
are very common in some parts of Russia.
".The jolting of the sledge was unpleasant, and
so far the journey was a disagreeable one. But
the coral magnificence of the ancient forest com-
pensated for bodily discomfort. No person of
observation can pass these primeval forests with-
out discovering wonders at every turn. The
monster trees-whose thick trunks and arms are
twisted into fantastic distortions, darken the
road with the thick caverns they form where the
wind has uprooted them by dozens, and they
108 A BEAR-HUNT IN RUSSIA.
lean supported by their branches across the way
-seen in the gray morning as we glide along
our silent path of snow have a solemn and im-
posing influence on the mind, like that produced
by the ruins of some grand old temple, whose
foundation, like that of our Russian forest, is
hidden in remote antiquity.
"When we left our sledge and took to strug-
ling through the wood we sank deep in the
snow at every step, and were thoroughly glad to
arrive at last before the winter residence of our
bear. The air-holes left for breathing purposes
were freshly discoloured, and showed that bruin
was at home, so we got to business without delay.
Shooting a bear as he emerges from his winter
quarters is not unattended with danger, because,
if the shots do not happen to be mortal, the
animal charges, and the men near the hole are
sometimes knocked over and severely injured.
It is very necessary, therefore, that the shooter
should be supported by a man with a spear, who
stands close behind him and receives the bear in
case of need on the point of his weapon. This
A BEAR-HUNT IN RUSSIA. 109
duty can only be intrusted to an old hand, and
one who never flinches.
"Besides the gun which the shooter carries in
hand, he must have a second in reserve behind
him, as bears sometimes "take a great deal of
killing." The battery being supposed to be
arranged, the moujiks begin to call and talk to
the bear. If this does not move him they insert
a small tree, and literally' stir him up with a long
pole.' The animal then (generally in a drowsy
state) puts his head through the opening, and
upon presenting a fair mark is killed. But if he
is already awake in his hole before the stirring
up process commences he will bolt out with a
rush which is far from agreeable.
"On the occasion I am referring to we had
made a mistake in our calculations, for after all
the bear had given us the slip; but we knew
that he could not be far off, as he must only have
left his hole a few minutes before. We accor-
dingly separated to hunt him up. I was walking
among the brushwood with a man behind me
carrying a spare double-barrelled rifle, when I
110 A BEAR-HUNT IN RUSSIA.
heard the bear growl, but could not see him;
presently I made him out about thirty or forty
paces off, and looking round to see that my other
gun was near, beheld the fellow carrying it in
the act of making off as fast as he could. I
caught him up and made him stand, and in the
meantime the bear was slowly advancing towards
us. There was so much underwood that I could
not see to make a sure shot, but at last was
obliged to fire. The rifle I had in my hand was
an English Enfield. I missed the shoulder and
struck the brute in the side. I found afterwards
that the bullet had gone through him, literally
riddling him. He took no notice of this beyond
giving a growl. He then came towards me, when
I took my second gun and fired point-blank at his
forehead; the gun was a smooth-bore and the
bullet round; this also had no effect on him beyond
causing just a shake of his head and another
growl. I had only one barrel left, and did not
like the situation, as my spearman was hunting
on his own account and had not yet come up;
but I for the first time in my life learned by
A BEAR-HUNT IN RUSSIA. 111
experience the full value of a breech-loader, for
I had just time to put a cartridge into the empty
barrel, giving me two more chances, when the
animal was almost close to me. Stepping aside,
I fired into his heart, and he fell dead at my feet.
"This was a lesson to me in the future not to
depend upon myself alone in attempting to kill