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"mission to which he was baptised," and told
how " the regeneration of art and the world
was to come by him."


THE little village of Kolotofka was
formerly the property of a lady whose local
surname was Stryganikha, or The Female
Shaver, on account of hasty and positive
temper. The village is situated on the eastern
slope of an arid hill that is cleft from top
to bottom by a frightful ravine. The ravine
itself, yawning like the abyss, torn and swept
to the very bottom by the fury of the spring
and autumnal floods, meanders through the
middle of the principal street, where, more
effectually than a river could—(over a river,
at least, a bridge might be thrown)—it
divides the poor little hamlet into two portions,
which stand face to face to each other without
being always neighbours. Quite at the upper
extremity of the ravine, a few paces from the
spot where it commences as a narrow crevice,
there rises a little square cottage, totally
distinct and separate from the rest. It is
covered with thatch, and overtopped exactly
in the middle of the roof by its only chimney.
It has no more than a single window behind.
This one window, which resembles the eye of
a Cyclops, overlooks the ravine; and, on
winter evenings when lighted from the
interior, it is seen to a very considerable distance
through the thick mists and hoar-frosts, and
fulfils the office of a guiding star to many a
benighted peasant. Over the door is nailed
a blue board; and as this cabin is the kabac,
or public-house, it bears the inscription,—
Prytynni Kabatchok. It is probable that in
this euphoniously titled pothouse, corn-
brandy is sold at exactly the same price
as elsewhere; but it is more frequented
than any other similar establishment in the
whole district, because Nicolaï Ivanytch,
the landlord, is possessed of the art of attracting
and keeping his customers.

One July afternoon, when the heat was
overwhelming, I was toiling up a path which
runs along the brink of the ravine of
Kolotofka, in the direction of the Prytyuni
Kabatchok. The sun reigned tyrannically over
open space; he was terrible, inflexible,
inevitable. The atmosphere was impregnated
with suffocating dust. The rooks and
carrion-crows, whose black plumage absorbed
at once every colouring and luminous solar
ray, stood with wide-open bills, gazing dimly
at the passers-by with looks that begged
the dole of a little extra pity and
sympathy in the midst of the sufferings that
were common to all. I was tortured by
thirst; there being neither a spring nor
a brook at hand. At Kolotofka, as in
most of the steppian villages, the peasants, for
want of springs and wells, have accustomed
their stomachs to absorb the liquid mud of
the first pond or pool they meet with. But it
is impossible to dignify so disgusting a beverage
with the name of water. I determined
to go and ask Nicolaï Ivauytch for a glass of
beer or kvass. As I approached, suddenly
there appeared on the threshold a man of
tall stature, bare-headed, dressed in a
carrick of coarse shaggy cloth, and wearing
above his hips a girdle of some kind of
blue stuff. His thick grey hair bristled in
disorder over his dry and wrinkled visage.
He was calling to some one; and, for that
purpose, aided his voice with telegraphic
movements of his arms, which he threw about
in all directions much further than he really
meant to do. It was clear that this fellow-
was a little in liquor. He was known in the
neighbourhood as Obaldouï, or The Prater, a
drunken, unmarried, vagabond domestic,
whom his masters had long left to shift for
himself as well as he could.

"Come! Come, then! " he stammered.
"Come, Morgatch; you creep, instead of
walking. They are waiting for you within

"l am coming, as fast as I can," replied a
weak, goat-like voice; and, from behind the
cottage, there appeared a short stout cripple,
who was known as Morgatch, or The Winker.
How he came by the soubriquet, nobody
knows; because, in truth, he did not wink
more than other folks. " I am coming, my
dear man," he continued, as he weathered
the outside of the public-house. " But Avhy
do you call me in such a hurry? And who
is waiting for me within?"

"You are called to come into the kabatchok,
and you ask the reason why! You
are a droll animal. Your friends, who are
waiting there, are capital fellows. There
is Turc-Jachka, and Dlkï Barine, and The
Speculator, you know, of Jizdra. Jachka
has made a bet, a great measure of beer,
that he is a better singer than The Speculator.
You understand."

The dialogue excited my curiosity. It was
not the first time that I had heard speak of
Turc-Jachka; so called because his mother
was a Turkish prisoner who was brought
captive into Russia. He was renowned as
the best singer for many versts round; and
now, by good luck, a chance offered of hearing
him contend for superiority with some
rival in glory. The conjuncture struck me
as eminently fortunate. I entered the house
with a firm and rapid step, resolved, without
disturbing any one, to witness all and listen
to all.

A village-inn interior, in our provinces,
ordinarily presents a small dark entrance-room
and a large chamber named in Russian béelaïa
izba, or the white chamber, divided into two
by a partition, behind which there is no
admittance except for members of the family.
In this partition, just above a large oak table
which serves as a counter, there is cut an opening
of greater breadth than height. On the
table are placed, sometimes in double or