Chapter 25

In the Surovsky district there was neither railway nor mail coach, and Levin drove there with his own horses in his tarantass.

He stopped halfway at a well-to-do peasant's to feed his horses. A bald, well-preserved old man, with a broad, red beard, grizzled on his cheeks, opened the gate, squeezing against the gatepost to let the troika pass. Directing the coachman to a place under the shed in the big, clean, tidy new yard, with charred, wooden plows in it, the old man asked Levin to come into the room. A cleanly dressed young housewife, with clogs on her bare feet, was scrubbing the floor in the new outer room. She was frightened by the dog that ran in after Levin, and uttered a shriek, but began laughing at her own fright at once when she was told the dog would not hurt her. Pointing out to Levin with her bare arm the door into the room, she bent down again, hiding her handsome face, and went on scrubbing.

`Would you like a samovar?' she asked.

`Yes, please.'

The room was a big one, with a tile stove, and a partition dividing it into two. Under the icons stood a table painted in patterns, a bench and two chairs. Near the entrance was a dresser full of crockery. The shutters were closed, there were few flies, and it was so clean that Levin was anxious that Laska, who had been running along the road and bathing in puddles, should not muddy the floor, and ordered her to a place in the corner by the door. After looking round the room, Levin went out in the back yard. The comely young housewife in clogs, swinging the empty pails on the yoke, ran on before him to the well for water.

`Look sharp, my girl!' the old man shouted after her, good-humoredly, and he walked up to Levin. `Well, sir, are you going to Nikolai Ivanovich Sviiazhsky? He comes to us too,' he began chatting, leaning his elbows on the railing of the steps. In the middle of the old man's account of his acquaintance with Sviiazhsky, the gates creaked again, and laborers came into the yard from the fields, with wooden plows and harrows. The horses harnessed to the plows and harrows were sleek and fat. The laborers were obviously of the household: two were young men in cotton-print shirts and caps, the two others were hired laborers in homespun shirts, one an old man, the other a young fellow.

Moving off from the steps, the old man went up to the horses and began unharnessing them.

`What have they been plowing?' asked Levin.

`Plowing up the potatoes. We rent a bit of land too. Fedot, don't let out the gelding, but take it to the trough, and we'll put another in harness.'

`Oh, father, about the plowshares I ordered - has he brought them along?' asked the big, robust fellow, obviously the old man's son.

`There... in the sledge,' answered the old man, rolling up the reins he had taken off, and flinging them on the ground. `You can put them right, while they have dinner.'

The comely young housewife came into the outer room with the full pails dragging at her shoulders. More women came on the scene from somewhere, young and handsome, middle-aged, old and ugly, with children and without children.

The samovar was beginning to sing; the laborers and the family, having disposed of the horses, came in to dinner. Levin, getting his provisions out of his carriage, invited the old man to take tea with him.

`Well, I have had some today already,' said the old man, obviously accepting the invitation with pleasure. `Well, be it so, for company.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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