The Horse-Thieves


One evening, in the middle of July, two men were lying in the rushes on the shore of the small Polyesse river Zulnia. One of them was a beggar from the village of Kazimirovka, named Onisim Kozel, while the other one was his grandson, Vasil, a boy of thirteen. The old man was half asleep, his face covered by his torn, sheep-fur cap for protection against the flies, while Vasil lay with his chin resting on the palms of his hands and his screwed-up eyes gazing vacantly at the river, at the warm, cloudless, sky, and at the faraway pine-trees that stood black against the fiery light of the sunset.

The wide river, as still as a swamp, was hidden almost entirely by the firm leaves of pond-lilies, with their beautiful, gentle, white flowers standing out languidly. Only on the other side, near the opposite shore, there was a clear, smooth band of water uncovered by the leaves, and the boy saw reflected in it, with remarkable distinctness, the rushes, the black, broken line of the forest, and the light behind it. On this shore of the river, very close to the water, stood old, hollow, white willows, placed at almost equal distances from one another. Their short, straight branches were rising upward, and the trees themselves, short, large, and crooked, looked like so many old men raising their thin arms toward the sky.

The river birds were whistling sadly. At times a large fish would splash in the water. The thrips flew above the water in a transparent, thin, trembling column. Suddenly Kozel raised his head from the ground and looked at Vasil with a vacant, meaningless glance.

“What did you say?” asked he in a scarcely audible voice.

The boy did not answer. He did not even turn around to look at the old man, only slowly, and with a stubborn, tired expression, lowered and raised again his long eyelashes.

“I guess they will come soon,” continued the old man, as though addressing himself. “Guess I’ll take a smoke.”

Drowsily rolling from side to side, he finally landed in a squatting position. The fingers of both his hands were cut off, with the exception of the thumb of the left hand. And with the use of this finger, he quickly filled his pipe, holding it against his knee with the stump of his right hand, took a box of matches from his cap, and lit the pipe. A sweetish smoke of cheap tobacco, with a faint odor of mignonettes, floated in the air in bluish curls.

“Did you see Buzyga yourself?” asked Vasil, apparently with reluctance, without taking his eyes away from the opposite bank of the river.

Kozel took the pipe out of his mouth, and, bending over to one side, spat on the ground.

“Sure, I did. My, but he is a desperate man. Just the way I was, when I was younger. He gets drunk as the night and then goes out into the village⁠ ⁠… and hires a band of Jewish musicians to walk in front of him and play. Carries a handkerchief in his right hand and has new rubbers on his boots, and wears a nice silver chain. And then he comes to Gripa Kovaleva and demands some whiskey. He throws a silver rouble into the glass, drinks the whiskey, and then gives the money to his musicians. The boys all run after him. Of course, everybody looks at him as though they were dogs and he was a wolf, but they can’t do anything. Just snap their teeth.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the boy with adoration, though almost incredulously.

“Why, sure.⁠ ⁠… What does he care? He just spits on them all. Just tells them to let him alone, because he never stole their horses. Of course, if he had stolen their horses and they had caught him, then they would have the upper hand, then they’d have the right to beat him.⁠ ⁠… But that way, it won’t go.⁠ ⁠…”

The boy gazed at the river in silence. The resounding cries of the frogs were now heard from the nearby bank, at first coming slowly and infrequently. The evening fog was like smoke in the rushes and hung over the water like light steam. The sky grew darker and greenish, and on it was now distinctly visible the hitherto concealed disk of the young moon.

“Kozel, and is it true that Buzyga has double ribs?” asked Vasil meditatively. “Is it true that you can’t kill him?”

“Of course, it’s true. What do you expect? All his ribs are grown together. You can beat a man like Buzyga as much as you want, but you will never hurt his liver. Oh, no! Because his liver is attached to his ribs. And the liver is the first thing in a man’s body. A man can’t live, once you hurt his liver. He’ll get weak, start spitting blood, won’t be able to eat or drink, and then it’s all over.⁠ ⁠…”

The boy touched his narrow chest, his sides, and heaved a long sigh.

“And then they say that people have double backs like horses,” said he sadly. “Is it true, too, Kozel?”

“Yes, that’s true. Happens sometimes.”

“And Buzyga, too?”

“What about Buzyga?”

“Is it true that he’s got a double back?”

“Well, I don’t know about that, can’t say.”

“I think that it must be double.”

“Everything is possible,” and the old man shook his head. “Everything is possible.⁠ ⁠… But the main thing is that Buzyga’s got a clever head. He’s a wonderful man! Once he got caught in Shepelevka.⁠ ⁠… Well, even that time he was not really caught; he was betrayed by another man. It was about some woman or something like that. At any rate, they got him in the open field, and the horses were with him. It was toward evening. So, of course, they brought him to a house, lit the light, and started beating him. And they were at it the whole night long. When the peasants start beating somebody, they have a rule that everybody must take part in it. They even bring their children and wives and make them beat the man, so that everybody would be responsible. So they beat him and beat him, and when they’d get tired, they’d drink a little whiskey, and then start at it again. And Mitro Gundosy saw that Buzyga was already half-dead, and so he says: ‘Wait awhile, boys, the rascal might die here in our house. Wait awhile, I’ll give him a little water.’ But Buzyga is so clever, he knows that if a man is given a little water after being beaten like that, that’s a sure end. So he gets all his strength together and says to them: ‘Won’t you please give me just a little whiskey, and then start beating me again if you like? I feel that my end is coming and I wish I could taste whiskey again before I die.’ Well they all laughed at that and gave him a bottle. After that they did not touch him any more. They thought he was near death anyway. They took him over to Basov Kut and threw him in there, as though he were already dead. They thought that was the end of him, but Levonty got over it. Two months after that Mitro Gundosy missed two fine horses. First-class horses they were.⁠ ⁠…”

“That must have been Buzyga, all right,” exclaimed the boy joyfully.

“Whoever it was, it’s none of our business,” retorted Kozel angrily and significantly. “After that Gundosy went to Buzyga several times and got down on his knees before him and kissed his feet. ‘Take all the money you want, only tell me where the horses are. You know!’ And he would answer him: ‘Why don’t you go and get a drink of water, Mitro?’ That’s the kind of a fellow Buzyga is!”

The old beggar became silent and puffed fiercely at his pipe. But the pipe gave no more smoke. Then Kozel sighed, emptied the pipe over his bare foot, and thrust it into his shirt.

The frogs were now croaking on all sides. It seemed that the whole air trembled with their passionate, ringing cries, accompanied by the dull, prolonged, slow groans of large toads. The sky had changed from green into dark blue and the moon was shining like the curved blade of a silver halberd. It was already dark all around. Only near the very bank of the other side of the river were burning two long, bloody bands.

“Kozel, when I grow up, I’ll be a horse-thief too!” said the boy suddenly, in a low, passionate whisper. “I don’t want to be a beggar, I’ll be like Buzyga.”

“Sh.⁠ ⁠… Wait a minute⁠ ⁠…” said the old man suddenly. He raised upward his terrible thumb, bent his head to one side and listened attentively. “They are coming!”

Vasil jumped to his feet. From the thick rushes that stood near the very waterline came scarcely audible splashes of somebody’s footsteps. Dull, monotonous voices were heard.

“Shout to them, Vasil,” ordered the old man. “Only not very loud.”

Hop-hop!” shouted the boy, but his voice was not very strong because of excitement.

Hop!” came a restrained, calm bass from a distance.


The curly tops of the rushes trembled as they were carefully pushed aside by someone’s hand. A short, stocky, apparently awkward peasant in a torn brown coat appeared from the rushes, and, with body bent forward, stepped upon the trampled down, dry spot where the beggar and the boy were sitting. His straight, hard hair fell down his face, almost covering his black, slanting eyes, which had a gloomy and suspicious look. He held his head bent downward and a little to one side, somewhat like a bear, and when he had to look to one side, he slowly and awkwardly turned with his whole body, as is usually done by men with short necks or diseased throats. This was Akim Shpak, the well-known dealer in stolen goods. He often informed the horse-thieves of likely opportunities and sometimes even helped them.

Shpak looked at the old man and the boy closely, and with an expression of enmity, then turned back with his whole ridiculous body and his immovable neck, and said hoarsely:

“Over here, Buzyga!”

“Here!” came back in a merry, low, self-confident voice, the word being pronounced in a military fashion.

“Good evening to you, gentlemen rascals.”

A tall, red-haired man, dressed in city clothes, with high, elegant boots, stepped into the clearing. He extended his hand to Kozel but drew it back immediately, noting his blunder.

“Oh, the devil⁠ ⁠… I’ve forgotten that you have nothing to shake hands with,” said he carelessly. “Well, good evening anyway. Is this the lad you were talking about?” and he pointed to Vasil.

“Yes, yes,” the old beggar nodded his head hastily. “He is quick, just like a bullet. Well, sit down, Levonty.”

“I will sit down all right, and be a guest, and if I treat you to some whiskey, I will be the host,” jested Buzyga indifferently, sitting down on the ground. “Let’s see what you’ve got there, Akim.”

Akim took from the bag a bottle of whiskey, a few hard-boiled eggs, and half a loaf of bread, and placed them all on the grass in front of Buzyga. Kozel followed every one of his movements greedily, and nervously tugged with his only finger at his grayish mustache.

“And I thought you would never come,” said the old beggar, turning his face toward Buzyga, but without taking his eyes from Akim’s hands. “I saw you in Berezna a few hours ago and you were more drunk than whiskey itself. And I thought that you would not come this evening. But you don’t show it now.”

“Whiskey doesn’t affect me,” said Buzyga slowly. “I was bluffing more than anything else. And besides, I slept until evening.”

“At Gripa’s?”

“Any of your business? And suppose it was there?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing. Only, women like you.”

“Oh, the devil take them. Let them like me.” Buzyga shrugged his shoulders indifferently. “Are you jealous?”

“Who, I? My time is past. I have forgotten how to think about it.⁠ ⁠… I guess she did not want to let you go?”

“Oh, yes, as if she could hold me back!” Buzyga threw up his chin with a self-confident expression on his face. “You had better take a drink of this whiskey, old fellow. I see that you are trying to get somewhere. Why don’t you ask straight out?”

“Oh, I have nothing to ask, nothing at all. I was just wondering.⁠ ⁠… Well, to your health, Buzyga; may God send you health and success in all your enterprises.”

The old man clasped the neck of the bottle with his thumb as though it were a movable hook, and raised the bottle to his mouth with a shaking hand. For a long time he strained the whiskey through his teeth, then returned the bottle to Buzyga, dried his mouth with the sleeve of his coat, and asked:

“Did she ask you where you were going?”



Buzyga looked at the old man seriously and attentively.

“Suppose she did ask. What of that?” he said slowly, knitting his eyebrows.

“Why, I.⁠ ⁠… Nothing at all.⁠ ⁠… I know, anyway, that you would not tell.⁠ ⁠…”

“You had better shut your mouth, Uncle Kozel,” the taciturn Akim advised him weightily, looking off at a distance to one side.

“You are trying to be too smart, you old dog,” said Buzyga, and in his strong voice were suddenly heard tones that reminded one of wild animals. “Look out. It is not for you to teach Buzyga. When Buzyga says that he is going to be in Kresher, that means that they are going to look for him in Filippovichi, and in the meantime Buzyga will be selling his horses at the Stepan fair. Shpak is right. You had better keep still.”

While Buzyga was speaking, Vasil did not take his eyes from him. There was nothing extraordinary in the horse-thief’s appearance. His large face, marked by smallpox, with red mustaches curled in a military fashion, was motionless and seemed weary. His little, blue eyes, surrounded by white lashes, appeared drowsy, and it was only for a moment that a peculiarly keen and cruel expression shone in them. All his motions were slow, lazy, as though his purpose was to expend the least possible effort, but his powerful neck, visible from under his shirt, his long arms with their large hands covered with red hair, and his broad back spoke of gigantic strength.

Under the boy’s persistent gaze, Buzyga involuntarily turned his head toward him. The light in his eyes immediately became extinguished, and his face became indifferent once more.

“Why are you looking at me, boy?” he asked calmly. “What is your name?”

“Vasil,” answered the boy, and coughed. His own voice seemed to him to be so weak and whistling.

Kozel tittered servilely.

He-he-he! Ask him, Buzyga, what he is going to do when he grows up. We were talking about it just before you came. ‘I don’t want to be a beggar like you,’ says he, ‘I am going to be like Buzyga.⁠ ⁠…’ I thought I’d die laughing!” lied Kozel, for some reason or other.

The boy quickly turned to his grandfather. His large gray eyes were dark and glaring with anger.

“All right, all right, you shut up,” said he rudely, in a broken, childish bass.

“You’re a good lad!” exclaimed Buzyga, with astonishment and sudden tenderness in his voice. “Come over here. Do you drink whiskey?”

He put Vasil between his knees and placed his strong, large arms around his thin body.

“Yes,” answered the boy bravely.

“My, but you are going to be a fine thief, by and by. Here, swallow some of this.”

“Maybe it will hurt him?” said Kozel with hypocritical solicitude, gazing at the bottle greedily.

“Shut up, you old fox. There will be enough for you, too,” said Buzyga.

Vasil swallowed some whiskey and began to cough. Something that had the most unpleasant taste and was as hot as fire burned his throat and took away his breath for a moment. He groaned for a few minutes, catching the air with his open mouth like a fish taken out of the water. Tears began to stream from his eyes.

“That’s right. Now sit down, and be a Cossack among other Cossacks,” said Buzyga and pushed Vasil lightly away from him. And, as though he had immediately forgotten all about the boy, he turned again to Kozel.

“I have been wanting for some time to ask you where you lost your fingers.” Buzyga spoke this slowly, in a low, lazy voice.

“Oh, it happened once,” said the old beggar with affected reluctance. “It was about horses.”

“Yes, I know it was.⁠ ⁠… Well?”

“Well.⁠ ⁠… It isn’t very interesting,” replied Kozel slowly. He was anxious to tell in detail of the terrible accident that cut his life into two halves. And he was purposely tuning up the attention of his hearers. “It was some thirty years ago. Maybe the man who did this to me is not alive any more. He was a German colonist.”

Vasil was lying on his back. He felt a pleasant warmth all over his body which appeared very light, while before his eyes countless tiny spots of light were moving to and fro. Around him were heard human voices; human hands and heads were moving over him. The low, black branches of bushes swayed above him while over his head was the dark sky. But he saw and heard all this without understanding it, as though not he, but someone else were lying there on the ground among the rushes. Then, suddenly, he heard with remarkable distinctness the voice of the old beggar and consciousness returned to him with renewed force and aroused in him an unexpectedly profound attention toward everything around him. And the story which he had heard from Kozel at least thirty times again filled his soul with curiosity, excitement, and horror.


“… Over at the roadhouse I saw a pair of horses tied to a post,” Kozel was saying in a doleful singsong. “The moment I looked at the wagon I knew that they were German horses. The colonists always use wagons like that. And they were a fine pair of horses! My heart almost stopped beating when I saw them.⁠ ⁠… And I know something about horses. There they were standing as if their feet were grown into the ground, and their little ears all standing up, and they were looking at me like two beasts.⁠ ⁠… You can’t say that they were very large, would not call them very good just by looking at them either, but I knew immediately what kind of horses they were. You could drive a pair like that for a hundred versts and nothing would happen to them. Just brush their mouths with hay, give them a little water, and go on with your journey. Well, what’s the use of talking! I’ll say one thing. If God himself, or some saint, would come to me now and say: ‘Look here, Onisim, I will give you back your fingers, if you will promise never to steal horses again,⁠ ⁠…’ I’ll tell you, Buzyga, if I saw those horses, I would take them. May God punish me if I wouldn’t.⁠ ⁠…”

“So, what happened?” interrupted Buzyga.

“We’re coming to that. Akim, roll me a cigarette, will you? Yes.⁠ ⁠… So I walked and walked around that wagon, maybe for a whole half-hour. I tell you, the main thing is that a man never knows his own time. If I had untied them right then and there, everything would have been all right. The road was through the woods and it was a dark night; everything was muddy and a good strong wind was blowing. What else could you wish? But I got scared. I just walked around the horses like a fool, thinking to myself: ‘Now I’ve lost my chance. Guess the German will come out of the roadhouse and that will be the end of it.’ Then I would come over again and walk around and think again: ‘Lost my chance again! Can’t do it now at all.’ And I don’t know what it was that made me so scared then.⁠ ⁠…”

“You have got to do it quickly,” said Buzyga resolutely.

“Why weren’t you with me then, Levonty?” exclaimed Kozel in a tone of passionate reproach. “But then!⁠ ⁠… I guess you hadn’t been born yet.⁠ ⁠… Yes. So I walked and walked around those horses and that wagon and could not make up my mind to do anything. Maybe it was because I was sober and hungry at the time. Who knows? At first I just waited and moped there, and then suddenly, as though somebody had hit me on the back of the neck, I ran over to the horses, untied the reins, and began to tie up the bells.⁠ ⁠… And just then out comes the German, all ready for the road. As soon as he saw me, he shouted from the steps: ‘Hey, you there! What are you doing with my horses? Trying to steal them?’ And I answered him: ‘Why should I steal this junk of yours? Haven’t I got enough of my own? You had better thank me for tying your horses to the post, otherwise they would have run away on you.’ ‘All right! All right! I know how you tie horses to posts. Get out of here, you pig!’ Well, of course, I walked over to one side and hid back of the house and started watching him. And I was so angry, I trembled all over. ‘Oh, no,’ thinks I to myself, ‘I won’t let this go.’ ”

“Of course not. How could you let it go?” nodded Buzyga. “I would have stolen those horses on him even if it would have taken me a year.”

“No, Buzyga, you wouldn’t!” replied Kozel with deep conviction. “Not from that German. You wait, don’t get angry.⁠ ⁠… Just listen to what happened after that. So I hid back of the house and watched. The German looked around and then shouted to the tavern-keeper: ‘Hey, Leyba, bring me some oats.’ Leyba brought him some and then asked him: ‘But why don’t you stay here overnight? We would take good care of your horses.’ And he said to him: ‘No, thank you, I have no time and I have far to go. I’ll feed my horses in the woods by the Volchy Razlog. Goodbye.’ ‘Goodbye.’ So the colonist got into his wagon and started out.

“Well, I ran after him. Down as far as Myslovo he kept pretty fast, but I knew the road well, and so I ran across the government woods. As soon as I got out on the road again and hid in a ditch, along came the German, driving slowly. I let him get ahead of me and then started to follow him. As soon as he’d start driving fast, I’d break into a run. And when he would ride slowly, I’d follow him walking. I was only twenty-five then and a pretty strong fellow. No worse than you, Buzyga. And I followed him for thirty versts, down as far as Volchy Razlog. To tell you the truth, I did not hope that he would stop in the woods overnight as he had said. I thought he was saying that just to get me off the track. But he really turned into the woods and stopped at a little clearing. There he unharnessed his horses and fixed up his wagon with the shafts raised up. I crawled along on my belly like a snake, lay down back of some bushes, and watched him. You know, at night, when you look down the hill you can’t see anything, but up the hill everything is plain.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, I know,” said Buzyga impatiently. “Well?”

“Then I saw that he tied the horses’ legs. And what he used was iron chains, because I heard them jingle even at a distance. Well, that looked as though he were really going to stay there all night. It was terribly cold and windy. I was shaking all over. But I did not give in. I saw that German get into the wagon, move around a bit, and then he still. I waited for a long time after that; maybe for an hour or two. I started to get up from the ground a little and thought to myself, ‘Is the Dutchman really asleep or is he just pretending?’ I picked up a handful of earth and threw it ahead. The Dutchman did not make a noise. And I was angry with him, simply boiling with rage. Every time I recalled how he cursed me over there by the roadhouse, I would get angrier than ever. Well, I got up from the ground, started looking around, and there were the two horses coming along right toward me. They’d stop a moment, pick up a little grass or a dry leaf, and then move toward me again. I tell you, Buzyga, there is not a horse that is afraid of me at night. Because there is a certain word.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, I know. It’s all nonsense,” replied the horse-thief angrily. “Well, go ahead.”

“All right, just as you like. Pretty soon the horses got so close to me that I could almost touch them. So I moved forward a little and sort of fondled one of them and he stood still. Then I began to cut the irons. I always have a file with me.⁠ ⁠… I worked and worked and kept an eye on the wagon all the time. I decided not to take the other horse because it was very hard to cut the iron. It was thick and new. And I was sure that he would not catch me with one horse, anyway.

“I cut one of the irons to the middle and began to try if I could not break it. And then suddenly somebody touched me on the shoulder. I turned around, and there was the German right behind me. The devil only knows how he ever got there. He stood there looking at me as though he were laughing at me. Then he said: ‘Come along with me. I’ll teach you how to steal horses.’ I was so frightened I could not use my feet, and my tongue seemed to be glued to the roof of my mouth. But he lifted me up from the ground.”

“What then?” exclaimed Buzyga wrathfully.

The old man made a sad gesture with his mutilated hand.

“I don’t know,” he said quietly. “May God strike me dead on this very spot if I know even now how he did it. He was just a little fellow; not much to look at; only up to my shoulders, head and all. And he dragged me along like a little child. And I let him do it⁠—had a sort of feeling that I could not get away from him. I could not even stir. And he got me as though with a pair of pincers and dragged me toward the wagon. How do I know? Maybe he wasn’t human at all?

“So we got to the wagon. He held me with one hand and started feeling for something with the other. And I think to myself: ‘What is he going to do now?’ He looked for something and then said: ‘Oh, I guess it isn’t here.’ Then he led me over to the other side of the wagon, felt there for a while, and finally got a hatchet. ‘Here it is,’ says he. ‘I’ve found it. Well now, put your hand on the log.’ And he said it quietly, without any anger at all. Then I understood that he was going to cut my hands off. And I began to cry like a child.⁠ ⁠… And he says to me: ‘Don’t cry. It won’t take long.⁠ ⁠…’ So I stood there like an ox that was being slaughtered, could not say anything, only shook all over. And he took my hand, put it on a piece of wood and brought the hatchet down. ‘Don’t steal horses, if you don’t know how.’ Three fingers flew right off. One of them hit me in the face. Then he hit again and again, saying all the time: ‘Don’t steal horses, if you don’t know how.⁠ ⁠…’ Then he told me to give him the other hand; I obeyed him like a little child, and put my left hand there. And he says again, ‘Don’t steal horses,’ and down came the hatchet again. This time he cut off four fingers at one blow; left only this one,” and Kozel stretched before him his mutilated hand with its single finger. “He looked at the thumb, looked at it, and then said: ‘Well, I guess you won’t be able to steal any horses with this one finger. Only you might help another thief with it. Still, I will give it to you so that you can eat and drink with it, light your pipe, and remember me all your life.’ The blood was just spurting out of the nine fingers. I could not stand it any more and almost fainted away. Then he grabbed me again like a kitten and carried me over to a big pool of water. The night was dreadfully cold and the water had frozen over. The German brought me there, broke the ice with his foot and told me to stick my hands into the water. I obeyed him and felt much easier right away. And he said to me: ‘You’d better stay there until morning. It’ll be worse for you if you take your hands out.’ And with that he walked away toward his horses and went off. Then I thought to myself that I ought to go to the doctor. But the moment I took my hands out of the water, I started hollering so that I could be heard all over the woods. The fingers hurt as though somebody were burning them with hot irons. Then I stuck them into the water again and felt better. And I stayed there until morning. As soon as I would take my hands out, it would hurt terribly, but as long as I kept them in the water it did not hurt at all. Toward morning I was almost frozen, and the water became red as blood. Somebody came along, took me into his carriage and brought me to the hospital. Well, they kept me there a month until my hands healed up a little and then let me out. But what was the use?” exclaimed he bitterly. “It would have been a hundred times better if I had died there in the Volchy Razlog!”

He became silent and sat there bent over, with his head bowed low. For a few minutes the horse-thieves sat motionless without saying a word. Suddenly a quiver went through Buzyga’s body as though he had just awakened from terrible dreams. He sighed loudly.

“And what did you do with the German after that?” asked he in a restrained voice, which quivered with fury.

“And what could I have done with him?” asked Kozel sadly. “What would you have done if you were in my place?”

“I? I? Oh!” roared Buzyga, fiercely scratching the ground with his fingernails. He was almost suffocated with anger and his eyes shone in the darkness like those of a wild beast. “I would have cut his throat when he was asleep; I would have torn his throat with my own teeth! I would.⁠ ⁠…”

“You would!” interrupted Kozel with a bitter sneer. “And how would you have found him? Who was he? Where did he live? What was his name? Maybe he was not human at all.⁠ ⁠…”

“That’s a lie,” said Akim Shpak slowly. He had been silent until now. “There is neither God nor devil in the world.⁠ ⁠…”

“It doesn’t make any difference!” shouted Buzyga, striking the ground with his fists. “It doesn’t make any difference. I would have burned all the colonies that I could have laid my hands on; killed their cattle and maimed their children. And I would do that until death.”

Kozel laughed quietly and bent his head still lower.

“Oh, yes!” said he with a biting reproach. “It’s all right to set fire to buildings when you have your ten fingers.⁠ ⁠… But when you have just one left”⁠—the man raised up again his terrible stumps⁠—“there is only one road left open for you, over to the church steps with the beggars.⁠ ⁠…” And he suddenly began to sing in his old, shaky voice the gloomy words of the ancient beggar-song:

“Woe, woe is me, the cripple.⁠ ⁠…
Have pity on me, for the sake of Christ.⁠ ⁠…
You are our benefactors.⁠ ⁠…
Here we sit, armless, legless,
We, poor cripples, here by the road.⁠ ⁠…”

The song ended in a cry of writhing pain, his head dropped on his knees, and the old beggar began to sob.

Not a word was said after that. In the river, in the grass and bushes, the frogs were croaking incessantly as if trying to outdo one another. The half-moon stood in the middle of the sky, lonely and sad. The old willows, outlined ominously against the darkened sky, raised their knotty, dried-up arms toward heaven with an expression of silent grief.


Suddenly, heavy, rapid footsteps were heard in the rushes in the direction from which Buzyga and Akim had come a short while before. Somebody was evidently running in haste without picking his way, splashing the water and breaking dry branches. The horse-thieves pricked up their ears. Akim Shpak stood on his knees. Buzyga, his hands on the ground, crouched down, ready to jump up and rush off in an instant.

“Who is that?” asked Vasil in a whisper.

No one answered him. The heavy steps were nearer and nearer. Someone’s powerful, hoarse, and whistling breathing could already be heard amidst the splashing of the water and the crackling of the branches. Buzyga quickly shoved his hand into his boot, and before Vasil’s eyes glittered a shining knife.

But the noise suddenly stopped. For a moment a remarkably deep silence reigned around. Even the disturbed frogs were silent. Something gigantic and heavy tramped about in the bushes, snorting fiercely, and began to sniff.

“Oh, that must be a boar,” said Buzyga, and the other three shivered at the sound of his loud voice. “Must have come to get a drink.”

“Yes, that’s true,” said Shpak, again lying down.

The boar snorted again angrily and then began to run away. For a long time the branches cracked in the direction in which he took flight. Then everything became quiet. The frogs, as though angered by the momentary interruption, began to croak with redoubled force.

“When are you going, Buzyga?” asked the old man.

Buzyga raised his head and looked at the sky attentively.

“It’s too early yet,” said he, yawning. “I will go before morning. Right before dawn the peasants sleep like chickens.⁠ ⁠…”

Sleep was gradually overcoming Vasil. The earth began to quake under him, rising up and falling down, and then slowly floated away to one side. For an instant, when, with some difficulty, he opened his eyes, the boy saw the dark figures of three men, sitting silently side by side, but he no longer knew who they were and why they were sitting so close to him. Out of the bushes, where wild boars were crowding together, snorting and sniffing angrily, suddenly stepped into the clearing the son of the church elder, Zinka, and said, laughing: “Here are the horses, Vasil. Let’s go out for a ride.” Then they sat down together in a little sleigh and rushed off into the darkness at a very pleasant, rapid pace, following a narrow, white, silent road that wound among tall pine-trees. His grandfather ran after them waving his mutilated hands in the air, but could not catch up with them, and all this was extraordinarily joyful and funny. Little bells were tied to the horses’ manes and tails, and also to the branches of the dark pine-trees, and a monotonous, hasty, and merry ringing sounded on all sides.⁠ ⁠… Then Vasil suddenly struck a dark, soft wall⁠—and everything disappeared.⁠ ⁠…

The cold dampness which made his whole body shiver, woke him. It had become darker and the wind was blowing. Everything seemed to have changed suddenly. Large, black, fluffy clouds with dishevelled and chipped white edges were rushing past overhead, very low to the ground. The tops of the rushes, intertwined by the wind, were hastily bending down and trembling all over.⁠ ⁠… And the old willows, with their thin arms raised upward, were shaking in agitation from one side to the other as if they were trying to tell each other some terrible tidings, but could not do it.

The horse-thieves lay motionless and their bodies appeared black in the darkness. One of them was smoking, and his pipe flashed every little while. The red, momentary flashes ran over the bronzed faces, alternating with long, slanting shadows. The cold and the interrupted sleep gave the boy the sensation of being tired, indifferent, and upset. He listened without any interest to the low conversation of the horse-thieves and, with a dull feeling of outrage, felt that they were not in the least concerned with him, just as they were not concerned with the gigantic, rapidly fleeing clouds and the agitated willows. And that for which he had been preparing that night, and which had formerly filled his soul with excitement and pride, suddenly began to seem to him unnecessary, and small, and tiresome.

“You’re still at it, like a big jackass,” Buzyga was saying in a vexed tone. “What the deuce do I want your bay colt for? Why, they know him in every village around here. A year ago I stole a riding-horse from the bookkeeper of the sugar-refinery. It was all one color, only the left front leg happened to be white; the devil take it! I tried to sell it everywhere, and they all made fun of me, as though I were a fool. ‘We’re not crazy yet,’ they’d say to me. ‘You can’t sell this horse anywhere. Everybody in the province knows him.’ And do you know, Kozel, what I sold it for? For a mug of sour milk. What are you whistling about? I’m telling you the truth. Volka Fishkin got it. He saw that my tongue was almost sticking out on account of the heat, and so he said to me: ‘Look here, Buzyga, come inside and have a glass of milk.’ I went in, and later on he says to me: ‘Now listen, Buzyga, I always liked to deal with you, but it will take a fool to buy this horse from you. You’ll have to leave it somewhere, in the evening, anyhow. Better give it to me. I’ll take it over to the refinery and maybe I’ll get a few pennies for it.’ Well, I gave him the horse and he sold it later in the Podol Province, over at the Yarinolinetzk fair, for one hundred and thirty roubles. That’s what you get out of stealing horses like that, Kozel.”

“Ye‑es.⁠ ⁠… That’s so,” said the old man slowly and thoughtfully, and chewed a little with his toothless gums. “Vikenty Sirota has fine dark horses.⁠ ⁠… And it’s easy to get them, too.⁠ ⁠…”

“Vikenty.⁠ ⁠… Yes, that’s so, of course.⁠ ⁠…” Buzyga agreed with him hesitatingly. “Vikenty, that’s right.⁠ ⁠… Only, do you know, Kozel, that I hate to harm Vikenty? He is not very rich and always treats you so well. How many times did it happen that my head would be aching like blazes, and when I’d say to him, ‘Get us a drink, Vikenty,’ he’d get it right off. No, I am sorry for Vikenty.⁠ ⁠…”

“Nonsense! Don’t be sorry for anybody,” said Akim Shpak angrily.

“No, you let Vikenty alone,” ordered Buzyga firmly. “Any others?”

“Well.⁠ ⁠… Maybe Mikolo Grach?”

“Mikolo Grach? That’s a different brand, only he is as crafty as the devil. Well, at any rate, we’ll keep Grach in mind.”

“You might get Andreyev’s mare, that white one. It’s a pretty good horse.”

“Go to the devil with your white mare!” exclaimed Buzyga angrily. “It’s old and the hair is falling out all over. That’s the first sign.⁠ ⁠… Do you remember how Zhgun got caught with a white horse? Sh.⁠ ⁠… Keep quiet, Kozel.” He waved his hand at the old man. “What’s the matter with the boy over there?”

Vasil was wriggling on the ground, trying to curl up in such a way that as little as possible of the cold and dampness would reach him. His teeth were clattering.

“What is it, boy? What’s the trouble?” he suddenly heard above his head. This was said in a deep voice that expressed an unaccustomed softness. The boy opened his eyes and saw Buzyga’s large face bending over him.

“Wait a minute, I’ll cover you,” the horse-thief said, as he took off his coat. “Why didn’t you say before that you were cold, you fool? Turn around a little⁠ ⁠… like that.⁠ ⁠…”

Buzyga tucked the coat around the boy solicitously, then sat down by his side and put his large, heavy hand on his shoulder. A feeling of inexpressible pleasure and gratitude trembled in Vasil’s bosom, rose like a wave in his throat, and brought tears to his eyes. The coat was very large and very heavy. It was warm and smelled of healthy perspiration and tobacco. The boy soon felt the warmth spreading through his whole body. Curled up in a ball, his eyes tightly closed, he felt for Buzyga’s large and pleasantly heavy hand, and touched it tenderly with his fingers. And again in his clouded consciousness the dark woods and the long white road began to rush by.

He fell fast asleep, so fast that when he opened his eyes it seemed to him that he had closed them only for an instant. But when he did open them, a thin, uncertain twilight was all around and the bushes and trees stood out against it as gray, cold spots. The wind had become stronger. As before, the tops of the rushes bent up and down, and the old willows swayed, but there was no longer anything terrifying or disquieting in this. A fog was rising over the river. Torn into slanting bands, bent over to one side, it was rushing rapidly over the woods, exhaling dampness.

Buzyga’s face was almost blue with cold, but still merry. He touched lightly Vasil’s shoulder and said in a singing voice, imitating the ringing of the bells:

“Priest, oh, priest!
Do you hear?
All the bells are ringing.⁠ ⁠…”

“Get up, boy,” he said when his glance met Vasil’s smiling eyes. “It’s time to go.⁠ ⁠…”

Kozel emitted low, hollow coughs, covering his mouth with his sleeve and choking, as though he were vomiting. The color of his face was grayish-green, like that of a dead body. He waved his mutilated hands helplessly in Vasil’s direction, but the cough prevented him from speaking. Finally, overcoming the paroxysm and still breathing heavily, he said: “So you’ll take Buzyga through the Marinkino swamp over to Perebrod, Vasil.⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, I know,” interrupted the boy impatiently.

“You stop your blab for a minute,” exclaimed the old man angrily, as a new fit of coughing again prevented him from speaking. “Look out when you get into the government woods. There is a deep bog there. See that you don’t fall into a ‘skylight.’⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, I know.⁠ ⁠… You’ve told me that already.⁠ ⁠…”

“Let me finish.⁠ ⁠… Remember, don’t go past the shack. Better go around the hill, because the working men get up earlier in the shack. And right near there a man will be holding four horses for you. So Buzyga will take three and you will ride the other one and go with him as far as Kreshevo. You do everything as Buzyga tells you. Don’t be afraid. And when you come back and somebody asks you where you were, say that you went with your grandfather to the government woods to get some bast. Only, don’t be afraid, Vasil.⁠ ⁠…”

“Oh, go to.⁠ ⁠… I am not afraid of anything,” replied Vasil contemptuously, turning away from the old man. “Come on, Buzyga.”

“Well, but you’re a fiery one!” said Buzyga, laughing. “That’s the way; give it to him, the old dog.⁠ ⁠… Now come, walk ahead.”

Akim Shpak suddenly sniffed and began to strike the ground with his feet. His gloomy face was all wrinkled up after the sleepless night, and seemed turned to one side even more than ever. The whites of his black eyes were yellow and bloodshot, as though filled with dirty slime.

“We share half and half, Buzyga,” said he gloomily; “we’re not going to take advantage of you. You get half, and I, Kozel, and Cubik get the other half.⁠ ⁠… So don’t try to bluff us. We’ll find out anyway.”

“All right, all right,” said Buzyga carelessly. “Goodbye.”

“God be with you!” said Kozel.

Akim Shpak turned to the old man with his whole body, looked at him with hatred and contempt, and spat on the ground.

“You beggar!” he hissed through his clinched teeth.


Onisim Kozel lived with his grandson on the outskirts of the village, in a dilapidated little hut that seemed to have grown into the ground, with a broken flue and chipped whitewashing, behind which one could see the inner layer of yellow clay. The windowpanes, for which rags were substituted in many places, had become dull green with time and now shone with all the colors of the rainbow. Besides the two, the hut was inhabited by Prokhorovna, a deaf, hundred-year-old, insane woman. The three used the hut free of charge through the charity of their neighbors, especially since it was used for the performing of autopsies on suicides, the drowned, and murdered peasants. The very table at which the three village outlaws usually ate was used for the purposes of autopsy.

Vasil returned home tired and excited. Kozel was already there, lying on the stove, his head covered with a torn sheep-fur coat. The boy had succeeded in taking Buzyga safely as far as Perebrod. They had not been seen from the mill, although people were already stirring there and some wagons stood around. They had found the horses in the place indicated. There were four horses, but Cubik was not there. That circumstance disturbed Buzyga a great deal, so that he took with him only the two better horses, leaving the others tied to the post and ordered the boy to run home immediately and not along the road, but straight across the Marinkino swamp and through the government woods.

“Did Buzyga get scared?” asked Kozel hastily.

“No, he didn’t get scared,” answered Vasil, breathing with difficulty. “Only he was very angry, threatened to cut Cubik’s throat.⁠ ⁠… And he got angry with me, too.⁠ ⁠… I said to him: ‘It doesn’t make any difference, Buzyga. I am not afraid. Let’s take all the horses and go.’ And he started shouting at me; I thought he’d beat me, so I ran away from him.⁠ ⁠…”

“And what about me? Did he ask you to tell me anything?”

“Yes. He said: ‘You tell the old man to stay home all day long and not to stir out. And if anybody asks you about Buzyga or the horses, tell them you don’t know anything about it⁠ ⁠…’ ”

“What is it, O Lord?” exclaimed Kozel in a helpless, troubled voice.

Vasil was drinking water greedily out of a wooden dish.

“I guess they went after Buzyga,” said he, raising his face from the dish for a moment. “When I was running across the swamp I heard a lot of people riding down the road, on horseback and in wagons.”

The old man kept winking his red, wet eyes in confusion. His face was almost disfigured with fear, and one end of his mouth was twitching.

“Lie down, Vasil, lie down on the bed quickly!” he said in a broken voice. “Lie down quickly. O Lord, O Lord! Whose horses did he take? Did you see? Lie down, lie down!”

“One of them I did not know, but the other one was that roan mare of Kuzma Sotnik’s.⁠ ⁠…”

“Kuzma’s? O Lord! What are we going to do now? Didn’t I ask Buzyga not to touch any horses from our village? There you are!”

Kozel breathed heavily, moving on top of the stove. “Don’t forget, Vasil, that, if anybody asks you where we went, say that we went to the government woods for bast. And tell them that the guard took it away from us. Do you hear?”

“Yes, I hear,” said the boy roughly.

“O Lord, O Lord!” Kozel kept repeating. “It’s impossible that Cubik betrayed me. He isn’t that kind of a fellow. It’s all Buzyga’s fault, that iron head of his! What the deuce did he want to take the two horses for? You say there were a lot of people going down the road? Lord, O Lord! That’s the way he always is. Doesn’t care for his own head and still less for another man’s. Didn’t he see, the rascal, that the thing was off? Why not run away? No, he was ashamed of the boy and had to show what a brave fellow he was.⁠ ⁠… O Lord, O Lord!⁠ ⁠… Are you asleep, Vasil?”

The boy kept an angry silence. The old man moved about for a long time, groaning and sighing, and talking to himself in a rapid, frightened whisper. He tried to assure himself that there was no danger at all, that Cubik’s absence would be explained by and by as a mere accident, that the galloping riders of the road were simply an illusion of the frightened boy, and although he succeeded in deceiving his mind for a few short moments, he saw clearly and unmistakably in the depth of his soul that a terrible and inevitable death was moving toward him. At times he would break off his senseless whispering and listen with painful attention. And every rustle, every knock, or sound of a voice made him shiver and lie motionless. Once, when under the window a rooster crowed loudly and flapped his wings, the old beggar felt all the blood rushing from his head to his quivering heart, and his body became limp, and was covered with hot perspiration.

An hour went by. The sun rose from behind the yellow fields that stretched to the other side of the bridge. Two columns of merry, golden light in which numberless specks of dust were dancing joyfully, rushed in through the two windows of the dark, smoky hut, filled with an odor of sheep-fur and stale food. Suddenly Kozel threw the coat away and stood up on the stove. His old, colorless eyes were wide open and had an expression of mad fright. His blue lips were trembling, unable to pronounce the word.

“They are coming!” said he finally, through hiccups, shaking his head. “Vasil, they are coming.⁠ ⁠… Our death.⁠ ⁠… Vasil.⁠ ⁠…”

The boy already heard an indistinct, dull, low rumbling which rose and fell like wind-ridden waves, becoming more terrible and more distinct every moment. But it seemed that a faraway barrier held it back. But now this invisible wall suddenly gave way and the sounds rushed from behind it with terrible force.

“They are coming here. They will kill us, Vasil!” cried Kozel wildly.

Now one could hear the sound of a vast crowd of people, frenzied and blinded by the cruel, unbounded, merciless peasant wrath, running down the street, shouting fiercely, and stamping with their heavy, iron-shod boots.

“Drag them over here! Break the door!” howled under the very window of the hut someone’s voice, and it had not a single human tone in it.

The unlocked door, torn off its hinges, opened and struck against the wall, while a black, shouting crowd rushed into the bright oblong formed by its opening. Their faces disfigured with anger, pushing and shoving each other without noticing it, dozens of frenzied men rushed into the hut, forced in from behind. Dishevelled, frenzied faces were looking in through the window, darkening the room and preventing the golden columns of dust from entering.

Vasil sat motionless with his back pressed against the wall, pale and trembling but not frightened. He saw the sheep-fur coat fly down from the stove, and directly after it came Kozel helplessly flying over the heads of the crowd. The old beggar was shouting something, opening wide his toothless mouth, twitching his face into shameless contortions of cringing terror, which made his whole wrinkled face horribly disgusting. He waved his mutilated hands, pointing them at the image, hastily making the sign of the cross, and striking his bosom with them. And from all sides men rushed upon him, their bloodshot eyes almost glassy with anger, their lips twisted out of shape by their mad shouting. The old man was twirling in the midst of their hot, sweating bodies like a splinter of wood in a whirlpool.

“Kill him! Kill him! The scoundrel! No, you won’t get away! Tsypenuk, give it to him! Drag him out into the street, boys, drag him out! You’ve pestered us long enough. We’ll bury you alive!⁠ ⁠… Kill him!” was heard as separate exclamations in the midst of the general uproar.

Suddenly, covering all this tempest of curses and vituperations, was heard the mighty voice of Kuzma Sotnik, who shouted, towering above the crowd, his face red with the effort.

“Wait a moment, brethren, we have to investigate this. Take him over to where Buzyga is!”

“Drag him! Take him! Let’s put an end to them all!⁠ ⁠…”

With the same elemental impetuosity with which it rushed into the hut, the crowd now surged back into the street. Somebody picked up Vasil and threw him into this crowd of wriggling bodies. Crushed in on all sides, deafened by the noise, he was thrown outside by this rushing current.

The village presented an unusual, peculiar sight on that beautiful summer morning. Despite the fact that it was a working day, in the middle of the week, the streets were crowded with people. And wagons and ploughs with horses already harnessed, stood abandoned in front of almost every gate. Children and women were running in one direction, toward the church. Dogs barked all around; hens cackled, flapping their wings and flying to all sides. The crowd was growing fast and occupied the whole width of the street. Crowded in a dense mass, half suffocated, constantly pushing and shoving each other, these men were running along, shouting hoarsely, their mouths foaming as though they were a pack of wild beasts.

On a little meadow in front of the wine-shop, there was a dense, black ring of people. The two crowds joined together, mingled, and pressed against each other. Some monstrously elastic force threw Kozel and Vasil forward.

In the middle of a narrow spot instinctively set apart by the crowd, Buzyga was lying on the grass, which was wet and dark with blood. His face had the appearance of a large piece of bloody meat, torn to shreds. One of his eyes was torn out and was hanging on something that looked like a red rag. The other eye was closed. What had been his nose was now a large bloody, round cake. His mustaches were covered with blood. But what was most terrible, inexpressibly terrible, was the fact that this mutilated and disfigured man was lying on the ground in silence, while around him the wild crowd was shouting and howling, intoxicated with cruelty.

Kuzma Sotnik caught Kozel by the collar of his coat and bent him down with such force that the old man fell on his knees.

“Hey, there! Quiet!” shouted Kuzma, turning around. “Keep quiet there!”

He was the leader on that day and his word was obeyed. The crowd’s roar gradually died away, as though running back from rank to rank.

“Buzyga!” shouted Kuzma when silence set in, bending low over the horse-thief. “Do you hear me? We won’t beat you any more. Will you tell me truly whether Kozel was with you or not?”

Buzyga remained silent and did not open his one eye. His chest rose often and so high that it seemed impossible for a man to breathe in that way, and each breath made something whistle in his throat, as though a fluid were flowing with difficulty through a narrow tube.

“Don’t try to bluff us, you devil!” shouted Kuzma threateningly, and raising his foot, he struck Buzyga on the lower part of the chest with all the force of his iron-shod boot.

Ukh!” the whole crowd sighed in unison, heavily and greedily.

Buzyga groaned and opened his eye slowly. It fell on Vasil’s face.

Buzyga looked at the boy slowly for a long time, closely and indifferently, and then it suddenly seemed to Vasil that the bloody mouth of the horse-thief twisted into a suffering, tender smile, and this seemed so unnatural, so pitiful, and so dreadful that Vasil cried involuntarily, and covered his face with his hands.

“Now, tell us, you Satan!” Sotnik shouted this in Buzyga’s ear. “Listen. If you will tell us who helped you, we’ll let you go immediately. Otherwise, we’ll kill you like a dog. Am I telling the truth or not, boys? Tell him.⁠ ⁠…”

“That’s right.⁠ ⁠… Tell us, Buzyga, and we won’t do anything else to you,” rumbled through the crowd like a dull wave of sound.

Buzyga looked at Vasil with that same long and peculiar gaze and, opening with difficulty his mutilated lips, said in a scarcely audible voice:

“No one⁠ ⁠… was there.⁠ ⁠… I was alone.⁠ ⁠…”

He closed his eye and his chest began to rise and fall.

“Kill him!” came a tremulous, nervous, half-childish voice, shrieking somewhere in the back ranks. The crowd moved forward, howled dully, and closed in on the spot where the horse-thief was lying.

Without rising, Kozel dragged himself over to where Kuzma was standing and threw his arms about his feet.

“My benefactor!” he was saying senselessly and entreatingly. “See, I kiss your feet.⁠ ⁠… God knows that I was home all the time. I went for some bast.⁠ ⁠… God knows and the Holy Virgin. My benefactors! Here I kiss your feet!⁠ ⁠… I am only a poor cripple.⁠ ⁠…”

And he was really dragging himself around on his knees, holding on to Kuzma’s boot and kissing it in such frenzy as though his whole safety lay in this. Kuzma slowly turned around and looked at the crowd.

“Let him go to the devil!” said an old man standing there.

“To the devil with him!” caught up several voices. “Maybe it wasn’t he. It was a Kreshevo horse anyway! What’s the use? Let Kozel go.⁠ ⁠… We’ll ask the elder afterward.”

Kozel was still dragging himself on his knees from one peasant to another. The terror of the imminent and cruel death had now changed to delirious joy. He pretended that he did not understand what was going on. Tears were running down his horribly twisted face. He caught the hands and the boots of the peasants and kissed them greedily. Vasil stood to one side, pale and motionless, with his eyes burning. He could not turn his face away from Buzyga’s terrible face, seeking yet fearing his glance.

“Go away!” Kuzma Sotnik suddenly said and kicked the old man in the back with his boot. “You go away too, Vasil! Buzyga!” he shouted almost immediately, turning to the dying horse-thief, “do you hear? I am asking you for the last time: ‘Who was with you?’ ”

The crowd moved in again. The same force that threw Kozel and the boy forward was now bearing them back, and the people whom they met turned away, made room for them impatiently, as if they were disturbing their strained attention. Through the soft and dense barrier of human bodies, Vasil heard the loud bass of Kuzma who was still questioning Buzyga. Suddenly the same thin, hysterical voice shouted almost above Vasil’s head: “Kill Buzyga!⁠ ⁠…”

All those who were standing behind pushed forward, shoving in those before them. Kozel and Vasil found themselves outside of the crowd.

“Lord be praised!” the old man muttered joyously, drying his tears with one of his stumps and making the sign of the cross with the other. “Vasil, Vasil! O Lord! We have escaped!⁠ ⁠… Vasil! O Lord!⁠ ⁠… We have escaped! Why do you stand there? Let’s run home!”

“You go; I won’t,” said Vasil gloomily.

It seemed that it was outside of his power to draw his burning eyes away from the black, motionless, and dreadfully silent crowd. His blue lips trembled and became distorted, as they whispered unintelligible words.

“Let’s go, Vasil!” Kozel entreated him, dragging his grandson by the hand.

At that moment the black mass suddenly quivered and swayed like a forest that was suddenly struck by the wind. A dull and short groan of fury rolled over it. In an instant it pressed together, then tore apart again, then pressed together once more. And deafening each other with their frenzied cries, the men mingled together in the horrible fray.

“Vasil, for God’s sake!” the old man muttered, “let’s go away.⁠ ⁠… They will kill us!”

It was with great difficulty that he succeeded in dragging the boy away from the mob, but on the corner, struck by the dead silence that suddenly set in, Vasil drew away and glanced back.

“O Lord have mercy on thy sinful slave, Levonty, and take him to Paradise,” Kozel suddenly began to whisper. “They have killed Buzyga,” he said with pretended sadness.

He knew that the people’s wrath was allayed with blood and that death had gone past him. He could not conceal his deep, animal joy. He alternately cried and laughed with noiseless, long laughter. He spoke feverishly, without pauses, without sense, and made idiotic faces at himself. Vasil looked at him from time to time in aversion, knitting his brows with an expression of deep hatred.