Opis

A small work describes the whole life, the meaning of all life on this Earth. The point is that people live by God, people love, they have a heart, they live not for their needs, not for their own good. And it simply struck the appearance, the rebuke of the Angel, how he watched everything, how he smiled at the hearty people who have faith. As a person blossoms after doing good, and faith becomes even stronger.

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Liczba stron: 93

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Contents

WHAT MEN LIVE BY

THREE QUESTIONS

THE COFFEE-HOUSE OF SURAT

HOW MUCH LAND DOES A MAN NEED?

WHAT MEN LIVE BY

A shoemaker named Simon, who had neither house nor land of his own, lived with his wife and children in a peasant’s hut, and earned his living by his work. Work was cheap, but bread was dear, and what he earned he spent for food. The man and his wife had but one sheepskin coat between them for winter wear, and even that was torn to tatters, and this was the second year he had been wanting to buy sheep-skins for a new coat. Before winter Simon saved up a little money: a three-rouble note lay hidden in his wife’s box, and five roubles and twenty kopeks were owed him by customers in the village.

So one morning he prepared to go to the village to buy the sheep-skins. He put on over his shirt his wife’s wadded nankeen jacket, and over that he put his own cloth coat. He took the three-rouble note in his pocket, cut himself a stick to serve as a staff, and started off after breakfast. “I’ll collect the five roubles that are due to me,” thought he, “add the three I have got, and that will be enough to buy sheep-skins for the winter coat.”

He came to the village and called at a peasant’s hut, but the man was not at home. The peasant’s wife promised that the money should be paid next week, but she would not pay it herself. Then Simon called on another peasant, but this one swore he had no money, and would only pay twenty kopeks which he owed for a pair of boots Simon had mended. Simon then tried to buy the sheep-skins on credit, but the dealer would not trust him.

“Bring your money,” said he, “then you may have your pick of the skins. We know what debt-collecting is like.” So all the business the shoemaker did was to get the twenty kopeks for boots he had mended, and to take a pair of felt boots a peasant gave him to sole with leather.

Simon felt downhearted. He spent the twenty kopeks on vodka, and started homewards without having bought any skins. In the morning he had felt the frost; but now, after drinking the vodka, he felt warm, even without a sheep-skin coat. He trudged along, striking his stick on the frozen earth with one hand, swinging the felt boots with the other, and talking to himself.

I

“I’m quite warm,” said he, “though I have no sheep-skin coat. I’ve had a drop, and it runs through all my veins. I need no sheep-skins. I go along and don’t worry about anything. That’s the sort of man I am! What do I care? I can live without sheep-skins. I don’t need them. My wife will fret, to be sure. And, true enough, it is a shame; one works all day long, and then does not get paid. Stop a bit! If you don’t bring that money along, sure enough I’ll skin you, blessed if I don’t. How’s that? He pays twenty kopeks at a time! What can I do with twenty kopeks? Drink it-that’s all one can do! Hard up, he says he is! So he may be–but what about me? You have a house, and cattle, and everything; I’ve only what I stand up in! You have corn of your own growing; I have to buy every grain. Do what I will, I must spend three roubles every week for bread alone. I come home and find the bread all used up, and I have to fork out another rouble and a half. So just pay up what you owe, and no nonsense about it!”

By this time he had nearly reached the shrine at the bend of the road. Looking up, he saw something whitish behind the shrine. The daylight was fading, and the shoemaker peered at the thing without being able to make out what it was. “There was no white stone here before. Can it be an ox? It’s not like an ox. It has a head like a man, but it’s too white; and what could a man be doing there?”

He came closer, so that it was clearly visible. To his surprise it really was a man, alive or dead, sitting naked, leaning motionless against the shrine. Terror seized the shoemaker, and he thought, “Some one has killed him, stripped him, and left him there. If I meddle I shall surely get into trouble.”

So the shoemaker went on. He passed in front of the shrine so that he could not see the man. When he had gone some way, he looked back, and saw that the man was no longer leaning against the shrine, but was moving as if looking towards him. The shoemaker felt more frightened than before, and thought, “Shall I go back to him, or shall I go on? If I go near him something dreadful may happen. Who knows who the fellow is? He has not come here for any good. If I go near him he may jump up and throttle me, and there will be no getting away. Or if not, he’d still be a burden on one’s hands. What could I do with a naked man? I couldn’t give him my last clothes. Heaven only help me to get away!”

So the shoemaker hurried on, leaving the shrine behind him-when suddenly his conscience smote him, and he stopped in the road.

“What are you doing, Simon?” said he to himself. “The man may be dying of want, and you slip past afraid. Have you grown so rich as to be afraid of robbers? Ah, Simon, shame on you!”

So he turned back and went up to the man.

II

Simon approached the stranger, looked at him, and saw that he was a young man, fit, with no bruises on his body, only evidently freezing and frightened, and he sat there leaning back without looking up at Simon, as if too faint to lift his eyes. Simon went close to him, and then the man seemed to wake up. Turning his head, he opened his eyes and looked into Simon’s face. That one look was enough to make Simon fond of the man. He threw the felt boots on the ground, undid his sash, laid it on the boots, and took off his cloth coat.

“It’s not a time for talking,” said he. “Come, put this coat on at once!” And Simon took the man by the elbows and helped him to rise. As he stood there, Simon saw that his body was clean and in good condition, his hands and feet shapely, and his face good and kind. He threw his coat over the man’s shoulders, but the latter could not find the sleeves. Simon guided his arms into them, and drawing the coat well on, wrapped it closely about him, tying the sash round the man’s waist.

Simon even took off his torn cap to put it on the man’s head, but then his own head felt cold, and he thought: “I’m quite bald, while he has long curly hair.” So he put his cap on his own head again. “It will be better to give him something for his feet,” thought he; and he made the man sit down, and helped him to put on the felt boots, saying, “There, friend, now move about and warm yourself. Other matters can be settled later on. Can you walk?”

The man stood up and looked kindly at Simon, but could not say a word.

“Why don’t you speak?” said Simon. “It’s too cold to stay here, we must be getting home. There now, take my stick, and if you’re feeling weak, lean on that. Now step out!”

The man started walking, and moved easily, not lagging behind.

As they went along, Simon asked him, “And where do you belong to?” “I’m not from these parts.”

“I thought as much. I know the folks hereabouts. But, how did you come to be there by the shrine?”

“I cannot tell.”

“Has some one been ill-treating you?”

“No one has ill-treated me. God has punished me.”

“Of course God rules all. Still, you’ll have to find food and shelter somewhere. Where do you want to go to?”

“It is all the same to me.”

Simon was amazed. The man did not look like a rogue, and he spoke gently, but yet he gave no account of himself. Still Simon thought, “Who knows what may have happened?” And he said to the stranger: “Well then, come home with me, and at least warm yourself awhile.”

So Simon walked towards his home, and the stranger kept up with him, walking at his side. The wind had risen and Simon felt it cold under his shirt. He was getting over his tipsiness by now, and began to feel the frost. He went along sniffling and wrapping his wife’s coat round him, and he thought to himself: “There now–talk about sheep-skins! I went out for sheep-skins and come home without even a coat to my back, and what is more, I’m bringing a naked man along with me. Matryona won’t be pleased!” And when he thought of his wife he felt sad; but when he looked at the stranger and remembered how he had looked up at him at the shrine, his heart was glad.

III

Simon’s wife had everything ready early that day. She had cut wood, brought water, fed the children, eaten her own meal, and now she sat thinking. She wondered when she ought to make bread: now or tomorrow? There was still a large piece left.

“If Simon has had some dinner in town,” thought she, “and does not eat much for supper, the bread will last out another day.”

She weighed the piece of bread in her hand again and again, and thought: “I won’t make any more today. We have only enough flour left to bake one batch; We can manage to make this last out till Friday.”

So Matryona put away the bread, and sat down at the table to patch her husband’s shirt. While she worked she thought how her husband was buying skins for a winter coat.

“If only the dealer does not cheat him. My good man is much too simple; he cheats nobody, but any child can take him in. Eight roubles is a lot of money–he should get a good coat at that price. Not tanned skins, but still a proper winter coat. How difficult it was last winter to get on without a warm coat. I could neither get down to the river, nor go out anywhere. When he went out he put on all we had, and there was nothing left for me. He did not start very early today, but still it’s time he was back. I only hope he has not gone on the spree!”

Hardly had Matryona thought this, when steps were heard on the threshold, and some one entered. Matryona stuck her needle into her work and went out into the passage. There she saw two men: Simon, and with him a man without a hat, and wearing felt boots.

Matryona noticed at once that her husband smelt of spirits. “There now, he has been drinking,” thought she. And when she saw that he was coatless, had only her jacket on, brought no parcel, stood there silent, and seemed ashamed, her heart was ready to break with disappointment. “He has drunk the money,” thought she, “and has been on the spree with some good-for-nothing fellow whom he has brought home with him.”

Matryona let them pass into the hut, followed them in, and saw that the stranger was a young, slight man, wearing her husband’s coat. There was no shirt to be seen under it, and he had no hat. Having entered, he stood, neither moving, nor raising his eyes, and Matryona thought: “He must be a bad man–he’s afraid.”

Matryona frowned, and stood beside the oven looking to see what they would do.

Simon took off his cap and sat down on the bench as if things were all right.

“Come, Matryona; if supper is ready, let us have some.”

Matryona muttered something to herself and did not move, but stayed where she was, by the oven. She looked first at the one and then at the other of them, and only shook her head. Simon saw that his wife was annoyed, but tried to pass it off. Pretending not to notice anything, he took the stranger by the arm.

“Sit down, friend,” said he, “and let us have some supper.”

The stranger sat down on the bench.

“Haven’t you cooked anything for us?” said Simon.

Matryona’s anger boiled over. “I’ve cooked, but not for you. It seems to me you have drunk your wits away. You went to buy a sheep-skin coat, but come home without so much as the coat you had on, and bring a naked vagabond home with you. I have no supper for drunkards like you.”

“That’s enough, Matryona. Don’t wag your tongue without reason. You had better ask what sort of man–”

“And you tell me what you’ve done with the money?”

Simon found the pocket of the jacket, drew out the three-rouble note, and unfolded it.

“Here is the money. Trifonof did not pay, but promises to pay soon.”

Matryona got still more angry; he had bought no sheep-skins, but had put his only coat on some naked fellow and had even brought him to their house.

She snatched up the note from the table, took it to put away in safety, and said: “I have no supper for you. We can’t feed all the naked drunkards in the world.”

“There now, Matryona, hold your tongue a bit. First hear what a man has to say-”

“Much wisdom I shall hear from a drunken fool. I was right in not wanting to marry you-a drunkard. The linen my mother gave me you drank; and now you’ve been to buy a coat-and have drunk it, too!”

Simon tried to explain to his wife that he had only spent twenty kopeks; tried to tell how he had found the man–but Matryona would not let him get a word in. She talked nineteen to the dozen, and dragged in things that had happened ten years before.

Matryona talked and talked, and at last she flew at Simon and seized him by the sleeve.

“Give me my jacket. It is the only one I have, and you must needs take it from me and wear it yourself. Give it here, you mangy dog, and may the devil take you.”

Simon began to pull off the jacket, and turned a sleeve of it inside out; Matryona seized the jacket and it burst its seams, She snatched it up, threw it over her head and went to the door. She meant to go out, but stopped undecided–she wanted to work off her anger, but she also wanted to learn what sort of a man the stranger was.

IV

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.