Гоголь Николай Васильевич
Viy

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   Nikolay Gogol. Viy
  
   Translated by Richard Pvear and Larissa Volokhonsky
   OCR: Bazelevs
  
  
   *Viy is i colossal creation of folk imagination. This name is applied
  by people in Utlle Russia to the chief of [he gnomes, whose eyelids teach to
  the ground. The whole story is a popular legend. 1 did not wish to change it
  in any way and tell it almost as simply is 1 heard it. (Author's note)
  
  
   As soon as the booming seminary bell that hung by the gates of the
  Bratsky Monastery in Kiev rang out in the morning, crowds of schoolboys and
  seminarians' came hurrying from all over the city. Grammarians,
  rhetoricians, philosophers, and theologians, notebooks under their arms,
  trudged to class. The grammarians were still very small; as they walked they
  pushed each other and quarreled among themselves in the thinnest trebles;
  their clothes were almost all torn or dirty, and their pockets were
  eternally fall of various sorts of trash, such as knucklebones, whistles
  made from feathers, unfinished pieces of pie, and occasionally even a little
  sparrow that, by chirping suddenly amidst the extraordinary silence of the
  classroom, would procure for its patron a decent beating on both hands, and
  sometimes the cherrywood rod. The rhetoricians walked more sedately: their
  clothes were often perfectly intact, but instead their faces were almost
  always adorned with some rhetorical trope: one eye completely closed, or a
  big bubble instead of a lip, or some other mark; these swore by God and
  talked among themselves in tenors. The philosophers dropped a whole octave
  lower: there was nothing in their pockets except strong, coarse tobacco.
  They kept nothing stashed away and ate whatever came along on the spot; the
  smell of pipes and vodka sometimes spread so far around them that a passing
  artisan would stand for a long time sniffing the air like a hound.
   The marketplace at that time was usually just beginning to stir, and
  women with bagels, rolls, watermelon seeds, and poppyseed cakes tugged those
  who had them by their coattails of thin broadcloth or some sort of cotton.
   "Young sirs! Young sirs! Here! Here!" they said on all sides. "There
  are good bagels, poppyseed cakes, twists, rolls! Fine ones, by God! with
  honey! homemade!"
   Another woman, holding up something long made of twisted dough, cried;
   "Here's an icicle, young sirs! Buy an icicle!"
   "Don't buy anything from that one! Look how foul she is--her nose is
  awful and her hands are dirty . . ."
   But they were afraid to pester the philosophers and theologians,
  because the philosophers and theologians liked to sample things, and always
  by the handful.
   On reaching the seminary, the whole crowd settled by classes in
  low-ceilinged but raiher spacious rooms with small windows, wide doors, and
  dirty desks. The classroom would suddenly be filled with the hum of many
  voices: the monitors listened to their charges, the ringing treble of a
  grammarian would fall in tune with the jingling of the windowpanes in the
  small windows, the glass echoing with almost the same sound; from the corner
  came the low buzz of a rhetorician whose mouth and thick lips ought to have
  belonged to philosophy at the least. He buzzed in 3 bass, and from afar all
  you heard was: boo, boo, boo, boo . . . The monitors, as they heard the
  lessons, looked with one eye under the desk, where a roll or dumpling or
  pumpkin seeds stuck out of their subordinate's pocket.
   If all this learned crowd managed to come a little earlier, or if they
  knew that the professors would be later than usual, then, with universal
  agreement, a battle would be planned, and in this battle everyone had to
  take part, even the censors, whose duty was to look after the order and
  morals of all the student estate. Usually two theologians decided bow the
  battle would go; whether each class should stand separately for itself, or
  they should divide themselves into two halves, the boarders and the
  seminary. In any case, it was the grammarians who would begin it first, but
  as soon as the rhetoricians mixed in, they would flee and stand on higher
  ground to watch the battle. Then philosophy with long black mustaches would
  step forth, and finally theology in terrible ballooning trousers and with
  the thickest necks. The usual end was that theology would beat them all, and
  philosophy, rubbing its sides, would be hustled into class, where it settled
  down to rest at the desks. A professor who had once taken part in such
  battles himself, on entering the classroom, would know at once from his
  students' flushed faces that it had been a fine battle, and while he gave
  the rhetorics a knuckle-rapping, in another class another professor would be
  applying the wooden slats to the hands of philosophy. With the theologians
  it was done in a totally different way: each was allotted, as the professor
  of theology put it, a measure of "big peas," dealt out with a short leather
  whip.
   For feast days and solemnities, the boarders and seminarians went
  around visiting houses with miracle plays. Sometimes they performed a
  comedy, and on such occasions some theologian, nearly as tall as the Kiev
  belfry, would always distinguish himself playing Herodias or the wife of the
  Egyptian courtier Fotiphar.2 As a reward they might get a length
  of linen, or a sack of millet, or half a boiled goose, or the like.
   All these learned folk, both seminary and boarders, while living in
  some sort of hereditary hostility among themselves, had extremely poor means
  of obtaining food and were at the same time extraordinarily voracious; so
  that to count how many dumplings each of them gobbled up at supper would
  have been a quite impossible task; and therefore the voluntary donations of
  wealthy citizens were never enough. Then a senate comprised of philosophers
  and theologians would send out the grammarians and rhetoricians, under the
  leadership of one philosopher--and would sometimes join them itself--sacks
  over their shoulders, to lay waste people's kitchen gardens. And pumpkin
  gruel would appear in the school. The senators ate so much melon and
  watermelon that the monitors would hear two lessons instead of one from them
  the next day: one proceeding from the mouth, the other growling in the
  senatorial stomach. Boarders and seminary wore what looked like some sort of
  long frock coats which reached heretofore, a technical term meaning below
  the heels.
   The most solemn event for the seminary was vacation, beginning with the
  month of June, when the boarders used to be sent home. Then the whole high
  road would be covered with grammarians, philosophers, and theologians.
  Whoever did not have his own refuge would go to one of his friends.
  Philosophers and theologians would go on conditions--that is, they would
  undertake to teach or prepare the children of wealthy people for school, and
  would earn a new pair of boots by it and occasionally enough for a frock
  coat. This whole crowd would string along together like a Gypsy camp, cook
  kasha-1 for themselves, and sleep in the fields. Each dragged a
  sack on his back with a shirt and a pair of foot-rags. The theologians were
  especially thrifty and neat: to avoid wearing out their boots, they would
  take them off, hang them on a stick, and carry them over their shoulder,
  especially when there-was mud. Then, rolling their trousers to the knee,
  they would go splashing fearlessly through the puddles. As soon as they
  caught sight of a farmstead, they would turn off the high road and,
  approaching a cottage that looked better kept than the others, would line up
  in front of the windows and begin a full-throated hymn. The cottager, some
  old Cossack peasant, would listen to them for a long time, leaning on both
  arms, then weep very bitterly and say, turning to his wife: "Wife! what
  these students are singing must be something very intelligent; bring out
  some lard for them and whatever else we've got!" And a whole bowi of
  dumplings would be poured into a sack. A decent hunk of lard, a few white
  loaves, and sometimes even a trussed-up chicken would go in as well.
  Fortified with these supplies, the grammarians, rhetoricians, philosophers,
  and theologians would continue on their way. However, the further they went,
  the smaller the crowd became. Almost all of them would have reached home,
  leaving only those whose parental nests were further away than the others.
   Once during such a journey three students turned off the high road in
  order to provide themselves with victuals at the first farmstead they
  happened upon, because their sack had long been empty. These were: the
  theologian Khalyava, the philosopher Khoma Brut, and the rhetorician Tiberiy
  Gorobets.
   The theologian was a tall, broad-shouldered man, and of an extremely
  strange character: whatever lay near him he was sure to steal. On other
  occasions his character was extremely glum, and when he got drunk he would
  hide in the weeds, and it would cost the seminary enormous efforts to find
  him there.
   The philosopher Khoma Brut was of a merry disposition. He liked very
  much to lie about and smoke his pipe. When he drank, he was sure to hire
  musicians and dance the trepak. He often got a taste of the "big peas," but
  with perfectly philosophical indifference, saying what will be, will be.
   The rhetorician Tiberiy Gorobets did not yet have the right to grow a
  mustache, drink vodka, and smoke a pipe. All he had was his topknot, and
  therefore his character was not much developed at that time; but judging by
  the big bumps on the forehead with which he often came to class, one could
  suppose he would make a fine warrior. The theologian Khalyava and the
  philosopher Khoma often pulled him by the topknot as a sign of their
  patronage and employed him as their deputy.
   It was already evening when they turned off the high road. The sun had
  just gone down and the warmth of the day was still in the air. The
  theologian and the philosopher walked along silently smoking their pipes;
  the rhetorician Tiberiy Gorobets knocked the heads off burdocks growing on
  the roadside with a stick. The road went among stands of oak and hazel
  bushes that dotted the meadows. The plain was occasionally disrupted by
  slopes and small hills, green and round as cupolas. A field of ripening
  grain showed in two places, making it known that some village must soon
  appear. But it was more than an hour since they had passed the strips of
  grain and no dwelling had come along yet. Twilight was already darkening the
  sky, and only in the west was there a pale remnant of vermilion radiance,
   "What the devil!" said the philosopher Khoma Brut. "It certainly looked
  as if there'd be a farmstead."
   The theologian said nothing; he looked around, then put his pipe back
  in his mouth, and they all went on their way.
   "By God!" the philosopher said, stopping again. "It's as dark as the
  devil's fist."
   "Maybe there'll be some farm further on," said the theologian, without
  releasing his pipe.
   Meanwhile, however, it was already night, and a rather dark night at
  that, Clouds made it gloomier still, and by all tokens neither stars nor
  moon were to be expected. The students noticed that they had lost their way
  and for a long while had not been walking on the road.
   The philosopher, after feeling in all directions with his feet, at last
  said abruptly:
   "But where's the road?"
   The theologian pondered silendy and observed:
   "Yes, it's a dark night."
   The rhetorician stepped to one side and tried to feel for the road on
  all fours, but his hands kept ending up in fox holes. Everywhere there was
  nothing but steppe where it seemed no one passed. The travelers made another
  effort to move forward a bit, but everywhere was the same wilderness. The
  philosopher tried shouting, but his voice was completely muffled on all
  sides and met no response. Only a little later came a faint wailing that
  resembled the howling of a wolf.
   "Well, what do we do now?" said the philosopher.
   "Why, we stay and spend the night in the fields!" said the theologian,
  and he went to his pocket to get his tinderbox and light up his pipe again.
  But the philosopher could not agree to that. He had always been in the habit
  of packing away a ten-pound hunk of bread and some four pounds of lard
  before going to bed and this time felt a sort of unbearable solitude in his
  stomach. Besides, for all his merry disposition, the philosopher was
  somewhat afraid of wolves.
   "No, Khalyava, we can't," he said. "What, lie down and stretch out like
  some dog without fortifying ourselves? Let's try again, maybe we'll happen
  onto some dwelling and manage to get at least a glass of vodka for the
  night."
   At the word vodka the theologian spat to one side and observed:
   "Sure, there's no point staying in the fields."
   The students went on and, to their greatest joy, fancied they heard a
  distant barking. Figuring out the direction, they listened, set off more
  cheerfully and, after going a little further, saw a light.
   "A farmstead! By God, a farmstead!" said the philosopher.
   His anticipation did not disappoint him; in a short while they indeed
  saw a small farmstead that consisted of just two cottages sharing the same
  yard. There was light in the windows. A dozen plum trees stuck up by the
  paling. Peeking through cracks in the boards of the gates, the students saw
  a yard filled with ox carts. Just then stars appeared here and there in the
  sky.
   "Watch out, brothers, don't hang back! We must get a night's lodging at
  all costs!"
   The three learned men knocked at the gate with one accord and shouted:
   "Open up!"
   The door of one cottage creaked, and a minute later the students saw
  before them an old woman in a sheepskin coat.
   "Who's there?" she cried with a muffled cough.
   "Let us in for the night, granny. We've lost our way. It's as bad out
  in the fields as it is in a hungry belly."
   "And what sort of folk are you?"
   "We're harmless folk: the theologian Khalyava, the philosopher Brut,
  and the rhetorician Gorobets."
   "Can't do it," the old woman grumbled. "I've got a yard full of people,
  and every corner of the cottage is taken. Where will I put you? And such big
  and hefty folk at that! My cottage will fall apart if I take in the likes of
  you. I know these philosophers and theologians. Once you start taking in
  those drunkards, there soon won't be any house. Away! Away with you! There's
  no room for you here!"
   "Have mercy, granny! Can it be chat Christian souls must perish for no
  reason at all? Put us up wherever you like. And if we somehow do something
  or other--let our arms wither, and whatever else God only knows. There!"
   The old woman seemed to soften a little.
   "Very well," she said, as if considering, "I'll let you in. Only I'll
  make you all sleep in different places, for my heart won't be at peace if
  you lie together."
   "That's as you will, we won't object," replied the students.
   The gates creaked and they went into the yard.
   "Well, granny," said the philosopher, following the old woman, "and
  what if, as they say ... by God, it's as if wheels are turning in my
  stomach. We haven't had a sliver in our mouths since morning"
   "See what he's after!" the old woman said. "I've got nothing,
   nothing like that, and I didn't start the stove all day."
   "And tomorrow," the philosopher went on, "we'll pay for it all, well
  and good, in cash. Yes," he went on softly, "the devil of a cent you'll
  get!"
   "Go on, go on! and be content with what you've got. Such tender young
  sirs the devil's brought us!"
   The philosopher Khoma became utterly despondent at these words. But
  suddenly his nose caught the scent of dried fish. He glanced at the trousers
  of the theologian walking beside him and saw an enormous fish tail sticking
  out of his pocket: the theologian had already managed to snatch a whole carp
  off a wagon. And since he had done it not for any profit but simply from
  habit, and, having forgotten his carp completely, was looking around for
  something else to filch, not intending to overlook even a broken wheel, the
  philosopher Khoma put his hand into his pocket as if it were his very own
  and pulled out the carp.
   The old woman got the students installed: the rhetorician was put in
  the cottage, the theologian was shut up in an empty closet, the philosopher
  was assigned to the sheep pen, also empty.
   The philosopher, left alone, ate the carp in one minute, examined the
  wattled sides of the pen, shoved his foot into the curious snout that a pig
  had poked through from the next pen, and rolled over on his other side in
  order to fall into a dead sleep. Suddenly the low door opened and the old
  woman, stooping down, came into the pen.
   "Well, granny, what do you want?" said the philosopher.
   But the old woman came toward him with outspread arms.
   "Oh-ho!" thought the philosopher. "Only no, dearie, you're obsolete!"
  He moved slightly further off, but again the old woman unceremoniously came
  toward him.
   "Listen, granny," said the philosopher, "it's a fast period, and I'm
  the sort of man who won't break his fast even for a thousand gold roubles."
   But the old woman kept spreading her arms and grasping for him without
  saying a word.
   The philosopher became frightened, especially when he noticed that her
  eyes flashed with some extraordinary light.
   "Granny! What is it? Go, go with God!" he cried.
   But the old woman did not say a word and kept grabbing for him with her
  arms.
   He jumped to his feet, intending to flee, but the old woman stood in
  the doorway, fixing her flashing eyes on him, and again began to come toward
  him.
   The philosopher wanted to push her away with his hands, but noticed to
  his astonishment that his arms would not rise, nor would his legs move; with
  horror he discovered that the sound of his voice would not even come from
  his mouth: the words stirred soundlessly on his lips. He heard only how his
  own heart was beating; he saw how the old woman came up to him, folded his
  arms, bent his neck, jumped with catlike quickness onto his back, struck him
  on the side with a broom, and he, leaping like a saddle horse, carried her
  on his back. All this happened so quickly that the philosopher barely
  managed to recover his senses and seize both his knees with his hands in an
  effort to stop his legs; but, to his great amazement, they kept moving
  against his will and performed leaps quicker than a Circassian racer. When
  they passed the farmstead, and a smooth hollow opened out before them, and
  the coal-black forest spread out to one side, only then did he say to
  himself: "Oh-oh, this is a witch!"
   A reverse crescent moon shone in the sky. The timid midnight radiance
  lay lightly as a transparent blanket and steamed over the earth. Forest,
  meadows, sky, valleys--all seemed to be sleeping with open eyes. Not a
  flutter of wind anywhere. There was something damply warm in the night's
  freshness. The shadows of trees and bushes, like comets, fell in sharp
  wedges over the sloping plain. Such was the night when the philosopher Khoma
  Brut galloped with an incomprehensible rider on his back. He felt some
  languid, unpleasant, and at the same time sweet feeling coming into his
  heart. He lowered his head and saw that the grass, which was almost under
  his feet, seemed to be growing deep and distant and that over it was water
  as transparent as a mountain spring, and the grass seemed to be at the deep
  bottom of some bright, transparent sea; at least he clearly saw his own
  reflection in it, together with the old woman sitting on his back. He saw
  some sun shining there instead of the moon; he heard bluebells tinkle,
  bending their heads. He saw a water nymph swim from behind the sedge; her
  back and leg flashed, round, lithe, made all of a shining and quivering. She
  turned toward him, and her face, with its light, sharp, shining eyes, with
  its soul-invading song, now approached him, was already at the surface,
  then, shaking with sparkling laughter, withdrew--and then she turned over on
  her back, and the sun shone through her nebulous breasts, matte as unglazed
  porcelain, at the edges of their white, tenderly elastic roundness. Water
  covered them in tiny bubbles like beads. She trembles all over and laughs m
  the water . . .
   Is he seeing it, or is he not? Is he awake or asleep? But what now?
  Wind or music: ringing, ringing, and whirling, and approaching, and piercing
  the soul with some unbearable trill . . .
   "What is it?" thought the philosopher Khoma Brut, looking down, as he
  raced on at top speed. Sweat streamed from him. He felt a demonically sweet
  feeling, he felt some piercing, some languidly terrible pleasure. It often
  seemed to him as if his heart were no longer there at all, and in fear he
  would clutch at it with his hand. Exhausted, bewildered, he began to recall
  all the prayers he ever knew. He ran through all the exorcisms against
  spirits--and suddenly felt some relief; he felt his step beginning to become
  lazier, the witch held somehow more weakly to liis back. Thick grass touched
  him, and he no longer saw anything extraordinary in it. The bright crescent
  shone in the sky.
   "All right, then!" thought the philosopher Khoma, and he began saying
  exorcisms almost aloud. Finally, quick as lightning, he jumped from under
  the old woman and in his turn leaped on her back. With her small, quick step
  the old woman ran so fast that the rider could hardly catch his breath. The
  earth just flashed beneath him. Everything was clear in the moonlight,
  though the moon was not full. The valleys were smooth, but owing to the
  speed everything flashed vaguely and confusedly in his eyes. He snatched up
  a billet lying in the road and started beating the old woman as hard as he
  could with it. She let out wild screams; first they were angry and
  threatening, then they turned weaker, more pleasant, pure, and then soft,
  barely ringing, like fine silver bells, penetrating his soul. A thought
  flashed inadvertently in his head: Is this really an old woman? "Oh, I can't
  take any more!" she said in exhaustion and fell to the ground.
   He got to his feet and looked into her eyes: dawn was breaking and the
  golden domes of the Kievan churches shone in the distance. Before him lay a
  beauty with a disheveled, luxurious braid and long, pointy eyelashes.
  Insensibly, she spread her bare white arms and moaned, looking up with
  tear-fdled eyes.
   Khoma trembled like a leaf on a tree: pity and some strange excitement
  and timidity, incomprehensible to himself, came over him; he broke into a
  headlong run. His heart beat uneasily on the way, and he was quite unable to
  explain to himself this strange new feeling that had come over him. He no
  longer wanted to go around to the farmsteads and hastened back to Kiev,
  pondering this incomprehensible incident as he went.
   There were almost no students in the city: they had all gone to the
  farmsteads, either on conditions, or simply without any conditions, because
  on Little Russian farmsteads one can eat dumplings, cheese, sour cream,
  fritters as big as a hat, without paying a penny. The big, sprawling house
  where the boarders lodged was decidedly empty, and thoroughly as the
  philosopher searched in all the corners, even feeling in all the holes and
  crannies under the roof, nowhere did he find a piece of bacon or at least an
  old knish-- things usually stashed away by the boarders.
   However, the philosopher soon found a solution to his troubles: he
  strolled, whistling, through the marketplace three times or so, exchanged
  winks at the very end with some young widow in a yellow cap who sold
  ribbons, lead shot, and wheels--and that same day was fed wheat dumplings,
  chicken ... in a word, there was no counting what lay before him on the
  table, set in a small clay house amid cherry trees. That same evening the
  philosopher was seen in the tavern: he was lying on a bench smoking his
  pipe, as was his custom, and in front of everybody tossed a gold piece to
  the Jew tavern keeper. Before him stood a mug. He looked at people coming
  and going with coolly contented eyes and no longer gave any thought to his
  extraordinary incident.
   meanwhile, the rumor spread everywhere that the daughter of one of the
  richest Cossack chiefs, whose farmstead was some thirty-five miles from
  Kiev, had come home from a walk one day all beaten up, had barely managed to
  reach her father's house, was now lying near death, and before her dying
  hour had expressed the wish that the prayers at her deathbed and for three
  days after her death be read by one of the Kievan seminarians: Khoma Brut.
  The philosopher learned it from the rector himself, who summoned him
  specially to his room and announced that he must hasten on his way without
  delay, that the eminent chief had specially sent people and a cart for him.
   The philosopher gave a start from some unaccountable feeling which he
  could not explain to himself. A dark foreboding told him that something bad
  lay in store for him. Not knowing why himself, he announced directly that he
  would not go.
   "Listen, domine Khoma!"6 said the rector (on certain
  occasions he spoke very courteously with his subordinates), "the devil if
  anyone's asking you whether you want to go or not. I'm telling you only
  this, that if you keep standing on your mettle and being clever, I'll order
  you whipped with young birch rods on the back and other parts--so well that
  you won't need to go to the steam-baths."
   The philosopher, scratching lightly behind his ear, walked out without
  saying a word, intending to trust to his legs at the first opportunity. Deep
  in thought, he was going down the steep steps to the poplar-ringed courtyard
  when he stopped for a minute, hearing quite clearly the voice of the rector
  giving orders to his housekeeper and someone else, probably one of those the
  chief had sent to fetch him.
   "Thank your master for the grain and eggs," the rector was saying, "and
  tell him that as soon as the books he wrote about are ready, I'll send them
  at once. I've already given them to the scribe for copying. And don't
  forget, dear heart, to tell the master that I know there are good fish to be
  had on his farmstead, especially sturgeon, which he can send whenever
  there's a chance: at the markets here it's expensive and no good. And you,
  Yavtukh, give the lads a glass of vodka. And tie up the philosopher,
  otherwise he'll take off."
   "Why, that devil's son!" the philosopher thought to himself, "he's got
  wind of it, the long-legged slicker!"
   He went down the steps and saw a kibitka, which at first he took for a
  granary on wheels. Indeed, it was as deep as a brick kiln. This was an
  ordinary Krakow vehicle such as Jews hire, fifty of them squeezing in along
  with their goods, to carry them to every town where their noses smell a
  fair. He was awaited by some six stalwart and sturdy Cossacks, no longer
  young men. Jackets of fine flannel with fringe showed that they belonged to
  a considerable and wealthy owner. Small scars bespoke their having once been
  to war, not without glory.
   "No help for it! What will be, will be!" the philosopher thought to
  himself and, addressing the Cossacks, said loudly:
   "Greetings, friends and comrades!"
   "Greetings to you, master philosopher!" some of the Cossacks replied.
   "So I'm supposed to get in there with you? A fine wagon!" he went on,
  climbing in. "Just hire some musicians and you could dance in it!"
   "Yes, a commensurate vehicle!" said one of the Cossacks, getting up on
  the box along with the coachman, who had a rag wrapped around his head
  instead of his hat, which he had already left in the tavern. The other five,
  together with the philosopher, climbed deep inside and settled on sacks
  filled with various purchases made in town.
   "I'd be curious to know," said the philosopher, "if this wagon were to
  be loaded, for example, with certain goods--salt, say, or iron wedges--how
  many horses would it need?"
   "Yes," the Cossack on the box said after some silence, "it would need a
  sufficient number of horses."
   After which satisfactory answer, the Cossack considered he had the
  right to keep silent the rest of the way.
   The philosopher had a great desire to find out in more detail who this
  chief was, what sort of character he had, what this rumor was about his
  daughter, who had come home in such an extraordinary fashion and was now
  dying, and whose story was now connected with his own, how it was with them
  and what went on in the house? He addressed them with questions; but the
  Cossacks must also have been philosophers, because they said nothing in
  reply, lay on the sacks and smoked their pipes. Only orie of them addressed
  the coachman sitting on the box with a brief order; "Keep an eye out,
  Overko, you old gawk. When you get near the tavern, the one on the
  Chukhrailovsky road, don't forget to stop, and wake me and the other lads up
  if we happen to fall asleep." After that he fell rather loudly asleep.
  However, these admonitions were quite superfluous, because as soon as the
  gigantic wagon approached the tavern on the Chukhrailovsky road, everybody
  shouted with one voice: "Stop!" Besides, Overko's horses were already so
  used to it that they themselves stopped in front of every tavern. Despite
  the hot July day, everybody got out of the wagon and went into the low,
  dingy room where the Jew tavern keeper rushed with signs of joy to welcome
  his old acquaintances. Under his coat skirts the Jew brought several pork
  sausages and, having placed them on the table, immediately turned away from
  this Talmud-forbidden fruit. They all settled around the table. A clay mug
  appeared in front of each guest. The philosopher Khoma had to take part in
  the general feasting. And since people in Little Russia, once they get a bit
  merry, are sure to start kissing each other or weeping, the whole place was
  soon filled with kissing: "Well, now, Spirid, give us a smack!" "Come here,
  Dorosh, till I embrace you!"
   One Cossack who was a bit older than the others, with a gray mustache,
  rested his cheek on his hand and began sobbing his heart out over his having
  no father or mother and being left all alone in the world. Another was a
  great reasoner and kept comforting him, saying: "Don't cry, by God, don't
  cry! What's this now. . . God, He knows how and what it is." The one named
  Dorosh became extremely inquisitive and, addressing himself to the
  philosopher Khoma, kept asking him:
   "I'd like to know what they teach you at the seminary--the same as what
  the deacon reads in church, or something else?"
   "Don't ask!" drawled the reasoner. "Let it all be as it has been. God,
  He knows how it should be; God knows everything."
   "No," Dorosh went on, "I want to know what's written in those books.
  Maybe something completely different from the deacon's."
   "Oh, my God, my God!" the esteemed mentor said to that. "What on earth
  are you talking about? God's will decided it so. It's all as God gave it,
  they can't go changing it."
   "I want to know all what's written there. I'll go to the seminary, by
  God, I will! What do you think, that I can't learn? I'll learn all of it,
  all of it!"
   "Oh, my God, my goddy God! . . ." the comforter said and lowered his
  head to the table, because he was quite unable to hold it up on his
  shoulders any longer.
   The other Cossacks talked about landowners and why the moon shines in
  the sky.
   The philosopher Khoma, seeing such a disposition of minds, decided to
  take advantage of it and slip away. First he addressed the gray-haired
  Cossack who was grieving over his father and mother:
   "What's there to cry about, uncle," he said, "I'm an orphan myself! Let
  me go free, lads! What do you need me for?"
   "Let's set him free!" some replied. "He's an orphan. Let him go where
  he likes."
   "Oh, my God, my goddy God!" the comforter said, raising his head. "Free
  him! Let him go!"
   And the Cossacks were going to take him to the open fields themselves,
  but the one who showed his curiosity stopped them, saying:
   "Hands off! I want to talk to him about the seminary. I'm going to the
  seminary myself. . ."
   Anyhow, this escape could hardly have been accomplished, because when
  the philosopher decided to get up from the table, his legs turned as if to
  wood, and he began to see so many doors in the room that it was unlikely he
  could have found the real one.
   Only in the evening did this company all remember that they had to be
  on their way. Scrambling into the wagon, they drove off, urging their horses
  on and singing a song, the words and meaning of which could hardly be made
  out. After spending the better half of the night rambling about, constantly
  losing the way, which they knew by heart, they finally descended a steep
  hill into a valley, and the philosopher noticed a palisade or wattle fence
  stretching along the sides, low trees and roofs peeking from behind them.
  This was the big settlement belonging to the chief. It was long past
  midnight; the sky was dark and small stars flashed here and there. There was
  no light in any of the huts. Accompanied by the barking of a dog, they drove
  into the yard. On both sides thatch-roofed sheds and cottages could be seen.
  One of them, in the middle, direcdy facing the gates, was bigger than the
  rest and seemed to be the owner's dwelling. The wagon stopped before
  something like a small shed, and our travelers went to sleep. The
  philosopher, however, wanted to look the master's mansion over a little; but
  however wide he opened his eyes, he could see nothing clearly: instead of
  the house, he saw a bear; the chimney turned into a rector. The philosopher
  waved his hand and went to sleep.
   When the philosopher woke up, the whole house was astir: during the
  night the master's daughter had died. Servants ran to and fro in a flurry.
  Some old woman cried. A crowd of the curious looked through the fence into
  the master's yard, as if there was anything to be seen there.
   The philosopher began leisurely to examine the places he had been
  unable to make out at night. The masters house was a small, low building
  such as was commonly built in Little Russia in the old days. It had a
  thatched roof. The sharp and high little pediment, with a small window
  resembling an upturned eye, was painted ail over with blue and yellow
  flowers and red crescents. It was held up by oak posts, the upper half
  rounded and the lower hexagonal, with fancy turning at the tops. Under this
  pediment was a small porch with benches on both sides. At the ends of the
  house were shed roofs on the same sort of posts, some of them twisted. A
  tall pear tree with a pyramidal top and trembling leaves greened in front of
  the house. Several barns stood in two rows in the yard, forming a sort of
  wide street leading to the house. Beyond the barns, toward the gates, the
  triangles of two cellars stood facing each other, also roofed with thatch.
  The triangular wall of each was furnished with a door and painted over with
  various images. On one of them a Cossack was portrayed sitting on a barrel,
  holding a mug over his head with the inscription: "I'll Drink It All." On
  the other, a flask, bottles, and around them, for the beauty of it, an
  upside-down horse, a pipe, tambourines, and the inscription: "Drink--the
  Cossack's Delight." From the loft of one of the barns, through an enormous
  dormer window, peeked a drum and some brass trumpets. By the gates stood two
  cannon. Everything showed that the master of the house liked to make merry
  and that the yard often resounded with the noise of feasting. Outside the
  gates were two windmills. Behind the house ran the gardens; and through the
  treetops one could see only the dark caps of chimneys hiding in the green
  mass of cottages. The entire settlement was situated on a wide and level
  mountain ledge. To the north everything was screened off by a steep
  mountain, the foot of which came right down to the yard. Looked at from
  below, it seemed steeper still, and on its high top the irregular stems of
  skimpy weeds stuck out here and there, black against the bright sky. Its
  bare and clayey appearance evoked a certain despondency. It was all furrowed
  with gullies and grooves left by rain. In two places, cottages were stuck to
  its steep slope; over one of them an apple tree, propped by small stakes and
  a mound of dirt at its roots, spread its branches broadly. Windfallen apples
  rolled right down into the master's yard. From the top a road wound down all
  over the mountain and in its descent went past the yard into the settlement.
  When the philosopher measured its terrible steepness and remembered the
  previous day's journey, he decided that either the master's horses were very
  smart or the Cossacks' heads were very strong to have managed, even in
  drunken fumes, not to tumble down head first along with the boundless wagon
  and the baggage. The philosopher stood on the highest point of the yard, and
  when he turned and looked in the opposite direction, he was presented with a
  totally different sight. The settlement, together with the slope, rolled
  down onto a plain. Vast meadows opened out beyond the reach of sight; their
  bright greenery became darker in the distance, and whole rows of villages
  blued far off, though they were more than a dozen miles away. To the right
  of these meadows, mountains stretched and the distant, barely noticeable
  strip of the Dnieper burned and darkled.
   "Ah, a fine spot!" said the philosopher. "To live here, to fish in the
  Dnieper and the ponds, to take a net or a gun and go hunting for snipe and
  curlew! Though I suppose there's also no lack of bustards in these meadows.
  Quantities of fruit can be dried and sold in town or, even better, distilled
  into vodka--because no liquor can touch vodka made from fruit. And it also
  wouldn't hurt to consider how to slip away from here."
   He noticed a small path beyond the wattle fence, completely overgrown
  with weeds. He mechanically stepped onto it, thinking at first only of
  taking a stroll, and then of quietly blowing out between the cottages into
  the meadows, when he felt a rather strong hand on his shoulder.
   Behind him stood the same old Cossack who had grieved so bitterly
  yesterday over the death of his mother and father and his own loneliness.
   "You oughtn't to be thinking, master philosopher, about skipping from
  the farmstead!" he said. "It's not set up here so as you can run away; and
  the roads are bad for walking. Better go to the master: he's been waiting
  for you a long time in his room."
   "Let's go! Why not? . . . It's my pleasure," said the philosopher, and
  he followed after the Cossack.
   The chief, an elderly man with a gray mustache and an expression of
  gloomy sorrow, was sitting at a table in his room, his head propped in both
  hands. He was about fifty years old; but the deep despondency on his face
  and a sort of wasted pallor showed that his soul had been crushed and
  destroyed all of a sudden, in a single moment, and all the old gaiety and
  noisy life had disappeared forever. When Khoma came in together with the old
  Cossack, he took away one of his hands and nodded slighdy to their low bow.
   Khoma and the Cossack stopped respectfully by the door.
   "Who are you, and where from, and of what estate, good man?" the chief
  said, neither kindly nor sternly.
   "I'm the philosopher Khoma Brut, a student."
   "And who was your father?"
   "I don't know, noble sir."
   "And your mother?"
   "I don't know my mother, either. Reasonably considering, of course,
  chere was a mother; but who she was, and where from, and when she lived--by
  God, your honor, I don't know."
   The chiet paused and seemed to sit pondering for a moment.
   "And how did you become acquainted with my daughter?"
   "I didn't become acquainted, noble sir, by God, I didn't. I've never
  had any dealings with young ladies in all my born days. Deuce take them, not
  to say something improper."
   "Then why was it none other than you, precisely, that she appointed to
  read?"
   The philosopher shrugged his shoulders:
   "God knows how to explain that. It's a known fact that masters
  sometimes want something that even the most literate man can't figure out.
  And as the saying goes: 'Hop faster, mind the master!'"
   "And you wouldn't happen to be lying, mister philosopher?"
   "May lightning strike me right here if I'm lying."
   "If you'd lived only one litde minute longer," the chief said sadly,
  "I'd surely have learned everything. 'Don't let anybody read over me, daddy,
  but send to the Kiev seminary at once and bring the student Khoma Brut. Let
  him pray three nights for my sinful soul. He knows . . .' But what he knows,
  I didn't hear. She, dear soul, could only say that, and then she died.
  Surely, good man, you
   must be known for your holy life and God-pleasing deeds, and maybe she
  heard about you."
   "Who, me?" the student said, stepping back in amazement, "Me, a holy
  life?" he said, looking the chief straight in the eye, "God help you, sir!
  Indecent though it is to say, I went calling on the baker's wife on Holy
  Thursday itself."
   "Well. . . surely you were appointed for some reason. You'll have to
  start the business this same day."
   "To that, your honor, I'd reply ... of course, anybody versed in Holy
  Scripture could commensurably . . . only here it would call for a deacon, or
  at least a subdeacon. They're smart folk and know how it's done, while I ...
  And I haven't got die voice for it, and myself I'm--devi! knows what.
  Nothing to look at."
   "That's all very well, only I'll do everything my little dove told me
  to do, I won't leave anything out. And once you've prayed over her properly
  for three nights, starting today, I'll reward you. Otherwise--I wouldn't
  advise even (he devil himself to make me angry."
   The chief uttered these last words with such force that the philosopher
  fully understood their meaning.
   "Follow me!" said the chief.
   They stepped out to the front hall. The chief opened the door to
  another room opposite the first. The philosopher stopped in the hall for a
  moment to blow his nose and then with some unaccountable fear crossed the
  threshold. The whole floor was covered with red cotton cloth. In the corner,
  under the icons, on a high table, lay the body of the dead girl, on a cover
  of blue velvet adorned with gold fringe and tassels. Tall wax candles twined
  with guelder rose stood at her head and feet, shedding their dim light, lost
  in the brightness of day. The face of the dead girl was screened from him by
  the disconsolate father, who sat before her, his back to the door. The
  philosopher was struck by the words he heard:
   "I'm not sorry, my darling daughter, that you, to my sorrow and grief,
  have left the earth in the flower of your youth, without living out your
  allotted term. I'm sorry, my little dove, that I do not know who it was,
  what wicked enemy of mine, that caused your death. And if I knew of anyone
  who might only think of insulting you or just of saying something unpleasant
  about you, I swear to God he would never see his children again, if he
  happened to be as old as I am, or his father and mother, if he was still a
  young man; and his body would be thrown to the birds and beasts of the
  steppe. But woe is me, my wild marigold, my little quail, my bright star,
  that I must live out the rest of my life with no delight, wiping the tears
  with my coattails as they flow from my aged eyes, while my enemy rejoices
  and laughs secretly at the feeble old man . . ."
   He stopped, and the reason for it was the rending grief that resolved
  itself in a whole Hood of tears.
   The philosopher was moved by such inconsolable sorrow. He coughed and
  gave a muffled grunt, wishing thereby to clear his voice a little.
   The chief turned and pointed to the place at the dead girl's head,
  before a small lectern on which some books lay.
   "I can do the three nights' work somehow," thought the philosopher,
  "and the master will fill both my pockets with gold coins for it."
   He approached and, clearing his throat once more, began to read, paying
  no attention to anything around him and not daring to look into the dead
  girl's face. A deep silence settled in. He noticed that the chief had left.
  Slowly he turned his head to look at the dead girl, and . . .
   A shudder ran through his veins: before him lay a beauty such as there
  had never been on earth. It seemed that facial features had never before
  been assembled into such sharp yet harmonious beauty. She lay as if alive.
  Her brow, beautiful, tender, like snow, like silver, seemed thoughtful; her
  eyebrows--night amid a sunny day, thin, regular--rose proudly over her
  closed eyes, and her eyelashes, falling pointy on her cheeks, burned with
  the heat of hidden desires; her mouth--rubies about to smile . . . Yet in
  them, in these same features, he saw something terribly piercing. He felt
  his soul begin to ache somehow painfully, as if, in the whirl of merriment
  and giddiness of a crowd, someone suddenly struck up a song about oppressed
  people. The rubies of her mouth seemed to make the blood scald his heart.
  Suddenly something terribly familiar showed in her face.
   "The witch!" he cried out in a voice not his own, looked away, turned
  pale, and began reading his prayers.
   It was the very witch he had killed.
   When the sun began to set, the dead girl was taken to the church. The
  philosopher supported the black-draped coffin with one shoulder, and on that
  shoulder he felt something cold as ice. The chief himself walked in front,
  bearing the right side of the dead girl's cramped house. The blackened
  wooden church, adorned with green moss and topped by three conical cupolas,
  stood desolate almost at the edge of die village. One could see it was long
  since any service had been celebrated in it. Candles burned before almost
  every icon. The coffin was placed in the middle, right in front of the
  altar. The old chief kissed the dead girl once more, made a prostration, and
  walked out together with the bearers, ordering the philosopher to be given a
  good meal and taken to the church after supper. Going into the kitcheu, all
  those who had carried the coffin started touching the stove, something
  people in Little Russia have the custom of doing after they see a dead body.
   The hunger that the philosopher began to feel just then made him forget
  all about the deceased for a few moments. Soon all the household servants
  began gradually to gather in the kitchen. The kitchen of the chief's house
  was something like a club, to which everything that inhabited the yard
  flowed, including the dogs, who came right up to the door wagging their
  tails for bones and scraps. Wherever anyone might be sent, on whatever
  errand, he would always stop at the kitchen first, to rest on a bench for a
  moment and smoke a pipe. The bachelors who lived in the house and paraded
  around in Cossack blouses all lay about here for almost the whole day, on
  the benches, under the benches, on the stove--in short, wherever they could
  find a comfortable place to he. Besides, everybody was forever forgetting
  something in the kitchen--a hat, a knout for stray dogs, or the like. But
  the most numerous gathering was at suppertime, when the horseherd came after
  rounding up all his horses, and the cowherd after bringing the cows home for
  milking, and all the rest who were not to be seen in the course of the day.
  During supper, loquacity would come to the most taciturn tongues. Here
  everything was usually talked about: someone who was having new trousers
  made for himself. . . and what was inside the earth. . . and someone who had
  seen a wolf. . . There were numerous bonmotists7 here, of whom
  there is no lack among the people of Little Russia.
   The philosopher sat down with the others in a wide circle under the
  open sky in front of the kitchen porch. Soon a woman in a red cap stuck
  herself out the door holding a hot pot of dumplings with both hands, and
  placed it in the midst of those ready to eat. Each of them took a wooden
  spoon from his pocket, or some, lacking a spoon, a splinter of wood. As soon
  as the mouths began to move a bit more slowly and the wolfish appetite of
  the whole gathering subsided a little, many began to talk. The talk
  naturally had to turn to the dead girl.
   "Is it true," said one young shepherd, who had stuck so many buttons
  and brass badges on his leather pipe strap that he looked like a mercer's
  shop, "is it true that the young miss, not to speak ill of her, kept company
  with the unclean one?"
   "Who? The young miss?" said Dorosh, already known to our philosopher.
  "But she was a downright witch! I'll swear she was a witch!"
   "Enough, enough, Dorosh!" said another, the one who had shown such
  readiness to give comfort during the trip. "God help them, it's none of our
  business. No point in talking about it."
   But Dorosh was not at all disposed to be silent. He had only just gone
  to the cellar with the steward on some necessary business and, after bending
  a couple of times to two or three barrels, had come out extremely cheerful
  and talking nonstop.
   "What do you want? For me to keep quiet?" he said. "But she rode on me,
  on me myself! By God, she did!"
   "And what, uncle," said the young shepherd with the buttons, "are there
  some tokens you can tell a witch by?"
   "No," answered Dorosh. "There's no way to tell. Read through all the
  psalters, you still won't be able to tell."
   "You can, too, Dorosh. Don't say that," said the same comforter. "Not
  for nothing did God give everybody a special trait. People who've got some
  learning say witches have little tails."
   "When a woman's old, she's a witch," the gray-haired Cossack said
  coolly.
   "Ah, you're a good lot, too!" picked up the woman, who was just then
  pouring fresh dumplings into the emptied pot. "Real fat boars!"
   The old Cossack, whose name was Yavtukh but who was nicknamed Kovtun,
  showed a smile of pleasure on his lips, seeing that his words had struck the
  old woman to the quick; and the cowherd let out such dense laughter as if
  two bulls, facing each other, had bellowed at once.
   The beginning conversation awakened an irrepressible desire and
  curiosity in the philosopher to learn more in detail about the chief's
  deceased daughter. And therefore, wishing to bring him back to the former
  matter, he addressed his neighbor with these words:
   "I wanted to ask, why is it that all the folk sitting here over supper
  consider the young miss a witch? What, did she cause some evil or put a hex
  on somebody or other?"
   "There were all kinds of things," replied one of the seated men, with a
  smooth face extremely like a shovei.
   "And who doesn't remember the huntsman Mikita, or that. . ."
   "And what about the huntsman Mikita?" said the philosopher.
   "Wait! I'll tell about the huntsman Mikita," said Dorosh.
   "I'll tell about Mikita," said the herdsman, "because he was my chum."
   "I'll tell about Mikita," said Spirid.
   "Let him! Let Spirid tell it!" shouted the crowd.
   Spirid began:
   "You, mister philosopher Khoma, didn't know Mikita, Ah, what a rare man
  he was! He knew every dog like his own father, so he did. The present
  huntsman Mikola, who's sitting third down from me, can't hold a candle to
  him. He also knows his business, but next to Mikita he's trash, slops."
   "You're telling it good, really good!" said Dorosh, nodding
  approvingly.
   Spirid went on:
   "He'd spot a rabbit quicker than you could take a pinch of snuff.
   He'd whistle: 'Here, Robber! Here, Racer!' and be off at full speed on
  his horse, and there'd be no telling whether he was ahead of the dog or the
  dog ahead of him. He'd toss off a pint of rotgut as if it had never been
  there. A fine huntsman he was! Only in more recent days he started staring
  at the young miss all the time. Either he was really smitten, or she'd put a
  spell on him, only it was the end of the man, he went all soft, turned into
  devil knows what-- pah! it's even indecent to say it."
   "Good," said Dorosh.
   "The young miss would no sooner glance at him than he'd drop the
  bridle, call Robber Grouchy, stumble all over, and do God knows what. Once
  the young miss tame to the stable where he was grooming a horse. 'Mikitka,'
  she says, 'let me lay my little leg on you.' And he, the tomfool, gets all
  happy 'Not only your little leg,' he says, 'you can sit right on me.' The
  young miss lifted up her leg, and when he saw her bare leg, white and plump,
  the charm, he says, just stunned him. He bent his back, the tomfool, grabbed
  her bare legs with both hands, and went galloping like a horse all over the
  fields. And he couldn't tell anything about where they rode, only he came
  back barely alive, and after that he got all wasted, like a chip of wood.
  And once, when they came to the stable, instead of him there was just a heap
  of ashes and an empty bucket lying there: he burned up, burned up of his own
  self. And what a huntsman he was, you won't find another like him in the
  whole world."
   When Spirid finished his story, talk came from all sides about the
  merits of the former huntsman.
   "And have you heard about Shepchikha?" said Dorosh, addressing Khoma.
   No.
   "Oh-ho! Then it's clear they don't teach you much sense there in your
  seminary. Well, listen! In our settlement there's a Cossack named Sheptun. A
  good Cossack! He likes to stea! or tell a he sometimes without any need,
  but... a good Cossack! His place isn't far from here. At this same time as
  we're now having supper, Sheptun and his wife finished eating and went to
  bed, and since the weather was fine, Shepchikha slept outside and Sheptun
  inside
   on a bench; or, no, it was Shepchikha inside on a bench and Shep-Cun
  outside . . ."
   "And not on a bench, Shepchikha lay on the floor," the woman picked up,
  standing in the doorway, her cheek propped on her hand.
   Dorosh looked at her, then at the floor, then at her again, and after a
  pause said:
   "When 1 pull your underwear off in front of everybody, it won't be so
  nice."
   This warning had its effect. The old woman fell silent and did not
  interrupt anymore.
   Dorosh went on.
   "And in a cradle that hung in the middle of the hut lay their
  one-year-old baby--1 don't know whether of male or female sex. Shepchikha
  lay there, and then she heard a dog scratching outside the door and howling
  so loud you just wanted to flee the house. She got frightened--for women are
  such foolish folk that you could stick your tongue out at her behind the
  door at night and she'd have her heart in her mouth. 'Anyhow,' she thinks,
  'why don't I go and hit the cursed dog in the snout, maybe it'll stop
  howling.' And taking her poker, she went to open the door. As soon as it was
  slightly open, the dog darted between her legs and went straight for the
  baby's cradle. Shepchikha saw that it was no longer a dog but the young
  miss. And if it had been the young miss looking the way she knew her, it
  would have been nothing; but there was this one thing and circumstance: that
  she was all blue and her eyes were burning like coals. She grabbed the baby,
  bit its throat, and began drinking its blood. Shepchikha only cried out,
  'Ah, evil thing!' and fled. But she saw that the front doors were locked.
  She ran to the attic. The foolish woman sat there trembling, and then she
  saw that the young miss was coming to the attic. She fell on the foolish
  woman and started biting her. It was morning before Sheptun got his wife out
  of there, blue and bitten all over. And the next day the foolish woman died.
  That's what arrangements and temptations can happen! Though she's the
  master's progeny, all the same a witch is a witch,"
   After this story, Dorosli looked around smugly and poked his forefinger
  into his pipe, preparing to fill it with tobacco. The material about the
  witch became inexhaustible. Each in turn hastened to tell something. The
  witch drove right up to the door of one man's house in the form of a
  haystack; she stole another's hat or pipe; cut off" the braids of many
  village girls; drank several buckets of blood from others.
   At last the whole company came to their senses and saw that they had
  been talking too much, because it was already quite dark outside. They all
  began trudging off to sleep, putting themselves either in the kitchen, or in
  the sheds, or in the middle of the yard.
   "Well, now, Mr. Khoma, it's time we went to the deceased," said the
  gray-haired Cossack, turning to the philosopher, and the four of them,
  Spirid and Dorosh included, went to the church, swinging their knouts at the
  dogs, of which there were a great many and which angrily bit at their
  sticks.
   The philosopher, though he had fortified himself with a good mug of
  vodka, secretly felt timorousness creeping over him as they drew near the
  lighted church. The talcs and strange stories he had heard helped to affect
  his imagination still more. The darkness under the paling and trees began to
  thin; the place was becoming more bare. They finally stepped past the
  decrepit church fence into the small yard, beyond which there were no trees
  and nothing opened out but empty fields and meadows swallowed by the
  darkness of night. Together with Khoma, the three Cossacks climbed the steep
  steps of the porch and went into the church. Here they left the philosopher,
  having wished him a successful performance of his duty, and locked the door
  on him as the master had ordered.
   The philosopher remained alone. First he yawned, then stretched
  himself, then blew on both hands, and finally looked around. In the middle
  stood the black coffin. Candles flickered before dark icons. Their light
  illumined only the iconostasisa and, faintly, the middle of the
  church. The far corners of the vestibule were shrouded in darkness. The
  tall, ancient iconostasis showed a profound decrepitude; its openwork,
  covered in gold, now gleamed only in sparks. The gilding had fallen off in
  some places, and was
   quite blackened in others; the faces of the saints, completely
  darkened, looked somehow gloomy. The philosopher glanced around once more.
   "Why," he said, "what's frightening about it? No man can get in here,
  and against the dead and visitors from the other world I've got such prayers
  that, once I've read them, they'll never lay a finger on me. Nothing to it,"
  he said with a wave of the hand, "let's read!"
   Going up to the choir, he saw several bundles of candles.
   "That's good," thought the philosopher, "I must light up the whole
  church so that it's bright as day. Ah, too bad I can't smoke my pipe in
  God's church!"
   And he began sticking wax candles to all the ledges, lecterns, and
  icons, not stinting in the least, and soon the whole church was filled with
  light. Only the darkness above seemed to become deeper, and the dark, images
  looked more gloomily from the old carved frames on which gold gleamed here
  and there. He went up to the coffin, timidly looked into the dead girl's
  face, and could not help shutting bis eyes with a slight start.
   Such terrible, dazzling beauty!
   He turned and wanted to step away; but with strange curiosity, with the
  strange, self-contradictory feeling that will not leave a man especially in
  a time of fear, he could not refrain from glancing at her as he went, and
  then, with the same feeling of trepidation, glancing once more. Indeed, the
  deceased girl's sharp beauty seemed frightful. Perhaps she even would not
  have struck him with such panic terror if she had been slightly ugly. But
  there was in her features nothing dull, lusterless, dead. The face was
  alive, and it seemed to the philosopher that she was looking at him through
  closed eyes. It even seemed to him that a tear rolled from under her right
  eyelash, and when it stopped on her cheek, he made out clearly that it was a
  drop of blood.
   He hastily went over to the choir, opened the book and, to cheer
  himself up, began reading in his loudest voice. His voice struck the wooden
  walls of the church, long silent and deaf. Solitary, without echo, it poured
  in a low bass into the utterly dead silence and seemed a little wild even to
  the reader himself.
   "What's there to be afraid of?" he thought to himself meanwhile. "She
  won't get up from her coffin, because she'll be afraid of God's word. Let
  her lie there! And what kind of Cossack am I if I'm scared? So I drank a
  bit--that's why it seems so frightening. If I could take some snuff---ah,
  fine tobacco! Nice tobacco! Good tobacco!"
   And yet, as he turned each page, he kept glancing sidelong at the
  coffin, and an involuntary feeling seemed to whisper to him: "Look, look,
  she's going to get up, she's going to rise, she's going to peek out of the
  coffin!"
   But there was a deathly silence. The coffin stood motionless. The
  candles poured out a whole flood of light. Terrible is a lit-up church at
  night, with a dead body and not a living soul!
   Raising his voice, he began singing in various voices, trying to stifle
  the remnants of his fear. Yet he turned his eyes to the coffin every other
  moment, as if asking the inadvertent question: "What if she rises, what if
  she gets up?"
   But the coffin did not stir. If only there was a sound, some living
  being, even the chirp of a cricket in the corner! There was just the slight
  sizzle of some remote candle and the faint spatter of wax dripping on the
  floor.
   "Well, what if she gets up? . . ."
   She raised her head . . .
   He gazed wildly and rubbed his eyes. But she was indeed no longer lying
  but sitting up in the coffin. He turned his eyes away, then again looked
  with horror at the coffin. She's standing up ... she's walking through the
  church with her eyes closed, constantly spreading her arms as if wishing to
  catch someone.
   She was walking straight toward him. In fear he drew a circle around
  himself. With an effort he began reading prayers and reciting the
  incantations that had been taught him by one monk who had seen witches and
  unclean spirits ail his life.
   She stood almost on the line itself; but it was clearly beyond her
  power to cross it, and she turned all blue, like someone dead for several
  days. Khoma did not have the courage to look at her. She was frightful. She
  clacked her teeth and opened her dead eyes. But, seeing nothing, she turned
  in the other direction with a fury that
   showed in her twitching face and, spreading her arms, clutched with
  them at every pillar and corner, trying to catch Khoma. Finally she stopped,
  shook her finger, and lay down in her coffin.
   The philosopher still could not come to his senses and kept glancing
  fearfully at the witch's cramped dwelling. Finally the coffin suddenly tore
  from its place and with a whistle began flying all through the church,
  crossing the air in every direction. The philosopher saw it almost over his
  head, buc at the same time he saw that it could not enter the circle he had
  drawn, so he stepped up his incantations. The coffin crashed down in the
  middle of the church and remained motionless. The corpse again rose up from
  it, blue, turning green. But just then came the distant crowing of a cock.
  The corpse sank back into the coffin and the coffin lid slammed shut.
   The philosopher's heart was pounding and sweat streamed from him; but,
  encouraged by the crowing of the cock, he quickly finished reading the pages
  he ought to have read earlier. At daybreak he was relieved by the beadle and
  gray-haired Yavtukh, who on this occasion performed the duties of a church
  warden.
   Having gone to lie down, the philosopher was unable to fall asleep for
  a long time, but fatigue overcame him and he slept till dinner. When he woke
  up, all the events of the night seemed to have happened in a dream. To
  bolster his strength, he was given a pint of vodka. At dinner he quickly
  relaxed, contributed observations on this and that, and ate a rather mature
  pig almost by himself. However, he did not venture to speak of his
  experiences in the church, from some feeling unaccountable to himself, and,
  to the questions of the curious, replied: "Yes, there were all sorts of
  wonders." The philosopher was one of those people in whom, once they have
  been fed, an extraordinary philanthropy awakens. Pipe in his teeth, he lay
  looking at them all with extraordinarily sweet eyes and kept spitting to the
  side.
   After dinner the philosopher was in the highest spirits. He managed to
  walk about the whole village and make the acquaintance of nearly everybody;
  he was even chased out of two cottages; one comely young wench gave him a
  decent whack on the back with a shovel when he decided to feel and find out
  what kind of material
   her blouse and kirtle were made of. But the closer it came to evening,
  the more pensive the philosopher grew. An hour before supper, almost all the
  household people would gather to play kasha or kragli--a variety of skittles
  in which long sticks are used instead of balls and the winner has the right
  to ride on his partner's back. Then the game would become very interesting
  for the spectator: often the cowherd, broad as a pancake, got astride the
  swineherd, puny, short, consisting of nothing but wrinkles. Another time the
  cowherd would bend his back and Dorosh would jump onto it, always saying:
  "Hey, what a hefty bull!" Those who were more sober-minded sat by the
  kitchen porch. They had an extremely serious air as they smoked their pipes,
  even when the young people laughed heartily over some witticism of the
  cowherd or Spirid. In vain did Khoma try to take part in this fun: some dark
  thought, like a nail, was lodged in his head. Over supper, hard though he
  tried to cheer himself up, fear kindled in him as darkness spread over the
  sky.
   "Well, our time has come, mister student!" the familiar gray-haired
  Cossack said to him, getting up from his place together with Dorosh. "Let's
  go to work."
   Khoma was again taken to the church in the same way; again he was left
  alone, and the door was locked on him. No sooner was he left alone than
  timorousness began once more to creep into his breast. Again he saw the dark
  icons, the gleaming frames, and the familiar black coffin standing in
  menacing silence and immobility in the middle of the church.
   "Well," he said, "this marvel doesn't make me marvel now. It's only
  frightening the first time. Yes! it's only a little frightening the first
  time, and then it's not frightening anymore, not frightening at all."
   He hastened to the choir, drew a circle around himself, spoke several
  incantations, and began reading loudly, resolved not to raise his eyes from
  the book or pay attention to anything. He had been reading for about an hour
  already, and had begun to weary and to cough a litde. He took a snuff bottle
  from his pocket and, before taking a pinch, timorously turned his gaze to
  the coffin. His heart went cold.
   The corpse was already standing before him, right on the line, fixing
  her dead green eyes on him. The student shuddered and felt a chill run
  through all his veins. Dropping his eyes to the book, he began reading his
  prayers and exorcisms louder and heard the corpse clack her teeth again and
  wave her arm, wishing to seize him. But, looking out of the corner of one
  eye, he saw that the corpse was trying to catch him in the wrong place and
  evidently could not see him. She was growling hollowly, and began to utter
  dreadful words with her dead lips; they spluttered hoarsely, like the
  gurgling of boiling pitch. He could not have said what they meant, but
  something dreadful was contained in them. The philosopher fearfully realized
  that she was reciting incantations.
   Wind swept through the church at these words, and there was a noise as
  of a multitude of fluttering wings. He heard wings beating against the glass
  of the church windows and their iron frames, heard claws scratching iron
  with a rasping noise and countless powers banging on the doors, trying to
  break in. His heart pounded heavily all the while; shutting his eyes, he
  kept reading incantations and prayers. At last something suddenly whistled
  far away. It was the distant crowing of a cock. The exhausted philosopher
  stopped and rested his soul.
   Those who came to relieve the philosopher found him barely alive. He
  was leaning back against the wall, goggle-eyed, and stared fixedly at the
  Cossacks who where shaking him. They practically carried him out and had to
  support him all the way. Coming to the master's yard, he roused himself and
  asked to be given a pint of vodka. After drinking it, he smoothed the hair
  on his head and said:
   "There's all sorts of trash in this world! And such horrors happen
  as--oh, well. . ." At that the philosopher waved his hand.
   The circle that had gathered around him hung their heads on hearing
  such words. Even the young boy whom all the servants considered their
  rightful representative when it came to such matters as cleaning the stables
  or toting water, even this poor boy also stood gaping.
   Just then a not entirely old wench passed by in a tight-fitting apron
  that displayed her round and firm shape, the old cook's assis-
   tant, a terrible flirt, who always found something to pin to her cap--a
  bit of ribbon, or a carnation, or even a scrap of paper if there was nothing
  else.
   "Greetings, Khoma!" she said, seeing the philosopher. "Ai-yai-yai!
  what's happened to you?" she cried out, clasping her hands.
   "What do you mean, foolish woman?"
   "Ah, my God! But you've gone all gray!"
   "Oh-oh! And it's the truth she's telling!" said Spirid, studying him
  intently. "You've really gone all gray like our old Yavtukh."
   On hearing this, the philosopher rushed headlong to the kitchen, where
  he had noticed a triangular piece of mirror glued to the wall and stained by
  flies, in front of which forget-me-nots, periwinkles, and even a garland of
  marigolds were stuck, showing that it was intended for the stylish flirt's
  toilette. He saw with horror the truth of their words: half of his hair had
  indeed turned white.
   Khoma Brut hung his head and gave himself over to reflection.
   "I'll go to the master," he said finally, "tell him everything, and
  explain that 1 don't want to read anymore. Let him send me back to Kiev
  right now."
   In such thoughts, he directed his steps toward the porch of the
  master's house.
   The chief was sitting almost motionless in his room; the same hopeless
  sorrow that the philosopher had met on his face earlier remained there
  still. Only his cheeks were much more sunken than before. It was clear that
  he had taken very little food, or perhaps not touched anything at all. His
  extraordinary pallor gave him a sort of stony immobility.
   "Greetings, poor lad," he said, seeing Khoma, who stood hat in hand in
  the doorway. "Well, how is it with you? Everything fine?"
   "Fine, fine indeed. Such devilish goings-on, I'd like to just grab my
  hat and flee wherever my legs will take me."
   "How's that?"
   "It's your daughter, sir ... Reasonably considering, of course, she's
  of noble birth; nobody will maintain the contrary; only, not to anger you by
  saying so, God rest her soul. . ."
   "What about my daughter?"
  
   "She's had some dealings with Satan. Giving me such horrors [hat I
  can't read any scriptures."
   "Read, read! It was not for nothing that she called you. She was
  worried about her soul, my little dove, and wished to drive away all wicked
  thoughts by prayer."
   "Have it your way, sir--by God, it's too much for me!"
   "Read, read!" the chief went on in the same admonitory voice. "You've
  got one night left now. You'll do a Christian deed, and I'll reward you."
   "Rewards or no rewards... As you like, sir, only I won't read!" Khoma
  said resolutely.
   "Listen, philosopher!" said the chief, and his voice grew strong and
  menacing, "I don't like these notions. You can do that in your seminary, but
  not with me: I'll give you such a thrashing as your rector never gave. Do
  you know what a good leather whip is?"
   "How could I not!" said the philosopher, lowering his voice. "Everybody
  knows what a leather whip is: an insufferable thing in large quantities."
   "Yes. Only you still don't know what a scotching my boys can deliver!"
  the chief said menacingly, getting to his feet, and his face acquired an
  imperious and ferocious expression that revealed all his unbridled
  character, only temporarily lulled by sorrow. "First they'll scotch you for
  me, then douse you with vodka, then start over. Go, go! do your business! If
  you don't, you won't get up; if you do--a thousand pieces of gold!"
   "Oh-ho-ho! Some customer!" the philosopher thought, going out. "No
  joking with this one. Just you wait, brother: I'll cut and run so fast your
  dogs will never catch me."
   And Khoma resolved to escape without fail. He only waited till the time
  after dinner, when the household people all had the habit of getting into
  the hay under the sheds and producing, open-mouthed, such a snoring and
  piping that the yard came to resemble a factory. This time finally came.
  Even Yavtukh stretched out in the sun, his eyes closed. In fear and
  trembling, the philosopher quietly went to the garden, from where it seemed
  to him it would be easier and less conspicuous to escape into the fields.
  This garden, as commonly happens, was terribly overgrown and thus highly
   conducive to any secret undertaking. Except for one path beaten down on
  household necessity, the rest was hidden by thickly spreading cherry trees,
  elders, burdock that stuck its tall stalks with clingy pink knobs way up.
  Hops covered the top of this whole motley collection of trees and bushes
  like a net, forming a roof above them that spread over to the wattle fence
  and hung down it in twining snakes along with wild field bluebells. Beyond
  the wattle fence that served as a boundary to the garden, there spread a
  whole forest of weeds which no one seemed to be interested in, and a scythe
  would have broken to pieces if it had decided to put its blade to their
  thick, woody stems.
   As the philosopher went to step over the wattle fence, his teeth
  chattered and his heart pounded so hard that it frightened him. The skirt of
  his long chlamys seemed stuck to the ground, as if someone had nailed it
  down. As he was stepping over, it seemed to him that some voice rattled in
  his ears with a deafening whistle: "Where to, where to?" The philosopher
  flitted into the weeds and broke into a run, constantly stumbling over old
  roots and crushing moles underfoot. He could see that once he got through
  the weeds, all he had to do was run across a field, beyond which darkled a
  thicket of blackthorn, where he reckoned he would be safe, and passing
  through which he supposed he would come to the road straight to Kiev. He ran
  across the field at once and wound up amid the dense blackthorns. He got
  through the blackthorns, leaving pieces of his frock coat on every sharp
  thorn in lieu of a toll, and found himself in a small hollow. A pussy willow
  spread its hanging branches almost to the ground. A small spring shone pure
  as silver. The philosopher's first business was to he down and drink his
  fill, hecause he felt unbearably thirsty.
   "Good water!" he said, wiping his mouth. "I could rest here." "No,
  better keep running. You might have somebody after you." These words came
  from above his ears. He turned: before him stood Yavtukh.
   "Yavtukh, you devil!" the philosopher thought to himself. "I could just
  take you by the legs and . . . and beat your vile mug in, and whatever else
  you've got, with an oak log."
   "You oughtn't to have made such a detour," Yavtukh went on.
   "Much better to take the path I did: straight past the stables. And
  it's too bad about the frock coat. Good broadcloth. How much did you pay per
  yard? Anyhow, we've had a nice walk, it's time for home,"
   The philosopher, scratching himself, trudged after Yavtukh. "The
  accursed witch will give me a hot time now," he thought. "Though what's with
  me, really? What am 1 afraid of? Am I not a Cossack? I did read for two
  nights, God will help with the third. The accursed witch must have done a
  good deal of sinning for the unclean powers to stand by her like that."
   These reflections occupied him as he entered the master's yard. Having
  encouraged himself with such observations, he persuaded liorosh, who,
  through his connection with the steward, occasionally had access to the
  master's cellar, to fetch a jug of rotgut, and the two friends, sitting
  under the shed, supped not much less than half a bucket, so that the
  philosopher, suddenly getting to his feet, shouted: "Musicians! We must have
  musicians!"--and, without waiting for the musicians, broke into a trepak in
  the cleared spot in the middle of the yard. He danced until it came time for
  the afternoon snack, when the household people, standing in a circle around
  him, as is usual in such cases, finally spat and went away, saying, "Look
  how long the mans been dancing!" Finally the philosopher went right to
  sleep, and only a good dousing with cold water could wake him up for supper.
  Over supper he talked about what a Cossack is and how he should not be
  afraid of anything in the world.
   "It's time," said Yavtukh, "let's go."
   "Bite on a nail, you accursed hog!" thought the philosopher, and
  getting to his feet, said:
   "Let's go."
   On the way, the philosopher constantly glanced to right and left and
  tried to talk a little with his guides. But Yavtukh kept mum; Dorosh himself
  was untalkative. The night was infernal. Far off a whole pack of wolves
  howled. And even the dogs' barking was somehow frightening.
   "Seems like it's something else howling--that's not a wolf," said
  Dorosh.
   Yavtukh kept mum. The philosopher found nothing to say.
   They approached the church and stepped in under its decrepit vaults,
  which showed how little the owner of the estate cared about God and his own
  soul. Yavtukh and Dorosh withdrew as before, and the philosopher remained
  alone. Everything was the same. Everything had the same menacingly familiar
  look. He paused for a minute. In the middle, as ever, stood the motionless
  coffin of the terrible witch. "I won't be afraid, by God, I won't be
  afraid!" he said, and, again drawing a circle around himself, he began
  recalling all his incantations. The silence was dreadful; the candles
  flickered, pouring light all over the church. The philosopher turned one
  page, then another, and noticed that he was not reading what was in the book
  at all. In fear he crossed himself and began to sing. This cheered him
  somewhat: the reading went ahead, and pages flashed by one after another.
  Suddenly . . . amidst the silence . . . the iron lid of the coffin burst
  with a crack and the dead body rose. It was still more horrible than the
  first time. Its teeth clacked horribly, row against row; its lips twitched
  convulsively and, with wild shrieks, incantations came rushing out. Wind
  whirled through the church, icons fell to the floor, broken glass dropped
  from the windows. The doors tore from their hinges, and a numberless host of
  monsters flew into God's church. A terrible noise of wings and scratching
  claws filled the whole church. Everything flew and rushed about, seeking the
  philosopher everywhere.
   Khoma's head cleared of the last trace of drunkenness. He just kept
  crossing himself and reading prayers at random. And at the same time he
  heard the unclean powers flitting about him, all but brushing him with the
  tips of their wings and repulsive tails. He did not have the courage to look
  at them closely; he only saw the whole wall occupied by a huge monster
  standing amidst its own tangled hair as in a forest; through the web of hair
  two eyes stared horribly, the eyebrows raised slightly. Above it in the air
  there was something like an immense bubble, with a thousand tongs and
  scorpion stings reaching from its middle. Black earth hung on them in lumps.
  They all looked at him, searching, unable to see him, surrounded by the
  mysterious circle.
   "Bring Viy! Go get Viy!" the words of the dead body rang out.
   And suddenly there was silence in the church; the wolves' howling could
  be heard far away, and soon heavy footsteps rang out in the church; with a
  sidelong glance he saw them leading in some squat, hefty, splay-footed man.
  He was black earth all over. His earth-covered legs and arms snick out like
  strong, sinewy roots. Heavily he trod, stumbling all the time. His long
  eyelids were lowered to the ground. With horror Khoma noticed that the face
  on him was made of iron. He was brought in under the arms and put right by
  the place where Khoma stood.
   "Lift my eyelids, I can't see!" Viy said in a subterranean voice-- and
  the entire host rushed to lift his eyelids.
   "Don't look!" some inner voice whispered to the philosopher. He could
  not help himself and looked.
   "There he is!" Viy cried and fixed an iron finger on him. And all that
  were there fell upon the philosopher. Breathless, he crashed to the ground
  and straightaway the spirit flew out of him in terror.
   A cockcrow rang out. This was already the second cockcrow; the gnomes
  had mjssed the first. The frightened spirits rushed pell-mell for the
  windows and doors in order to fly out quickly, but nothing doing: and so
  they stayed there, stuck in the doors and windows. When the priest came in,
  he stopped at the sight of such disgrace in God's sanctuary and did not dare
  serve a panikhida9 in such a place. So the church remained
  forever with monsters stuck in its doors and windows, overgrown with forest,
  roots, weeds, wild blackthorn; and no one now can find the path to it.
   when rumors of this reached Kiev and the theologian Khalyava heard,
  finally, that such had been the lot of the philosopher Khoma, he fell to
  thinking for a whole hour. In the meantime great changes had happened with
  him. Fortune had smiled on him: upon completing his studies, he had been
  made bell-ringer of the tallest belfry, and he almost always went about with
  a bloody nose, because the wooden stairs of the belfry had been put together
  every which way.
   "Have you heard what happened with Khonia?" Tiberiy Goro-
   bets, by then a philosopher and sporting a fresh mustache, said, coming
  up to him.
   "It's what God granted him," said the ringer Khalyava. "Let's go to the
  tavern and commemorate his soul!"
   The young philosopher, who had come into his rights with the passion of
  an enthusiast, so that his trousers and frock coat and even his hat gave off
  a whiff of spirits and coarse tobacco, instantly expressed his readiness.
   "Khoma was a nice man!" said the ringer, as the lame tavern keeper set
  the third mug down in front of him. "A fine man! And he perished for
  nothing!"
   "No, I know why he perished: because he got scared. If he hadn't been
  scared, the witch couldn't have done anything to him. You just have to cross
  yourself and spit right on her tail, and nothing will happen. I know all
  about it. Here in Kiev, the women sitting in the marketplace are all
  witches."
   To this the ringer nodded as a sign of agreement. But, noticing that
  his tongue was unable to articulate a single word, he carefully got up from
  the table and, swaying from side to side, went off to hide himself in the
  remotest part of the weeds. Withal not forgetting, out of long habit, to
  steal an old boot sole that was lying on a bench.
  
  




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