forty, with thick lips, a thick, knobby nose, similar knobby bumps over his black, knitted brows, and a round belly.

He was standing in his print shirt and his waistcoat in front of his shop, which looked into the street. He saw Alpatitch, and went up to him.

“You’re kindly welcome, Yakov Alpatitch. Folk are going out of the town, while you come into it,” said he.

“How’s that? Out of town?” said Alpatitch.

“To be sure, I always say folks are fools. Always frightened of the French.”

“Women’s nonsense, women’s nonsense!” replied Alpatitch.

“That’s just what I think, Yakov Alpatitch. I say there’s a notice put up that they won’t let them come in, so to be sure that’s right. But the peasants are asking as much as three roubles for a cart and horse—they’ve no conscience!”

Yakov Alpatitch heard without heeding. He asked for a samovar, and for hay for his horses; and after drinking tea lay down to sleep.

All night long the troops were moving along the street by the tavern. Next day Alpatitch put on a tunic, which he kept for wearing in town, and went out to execute his commissions. It was a sunny morning, and by eight o’clock it was hot. “A precious day for the harvest,” as Alpatitch thought. From early morning firing could be heard from beyond the town.

At eight o’clock the boom of cannon mingled with the rattle of musketry. The streets were thronged with people, hurrying about, and also with soldiers, but drivers plied for hire, the shopkeepers stood at their shops, and services were being held in the churches just as usual. Alpatitch went to the shops, to the government offices, to the post and to the governor’s. Everywhere that he went every one was talking of the war, and of the enemy who was attacking the town. All were asking one another what was to be done, and trying to calm each other’s fears.

At the governor’s house, Alpatitch found a great number of people, and saw Cossacks, and a travelling carriage belonging to the governor at the entrance. On the steps Yakov Alpatitch met two gentlemen, one of whom he knew. This gentleman, a former police-captain, was speaking with great heat.

“Well, this is no jesting matter,” he said. “Good luck for him who has only himself to think of. It’s bad enough for one alone, but when one has a family of thirteen and a whole property.…Things have come to such a pass that we shall all be ruined; what’s one to say of the government after that?…Ugh, I’d hang the brigands.…”

“Come, come, hush!” said the other.

“What do I care! let him hear! Why, we’re not dogs!” said the former police-captain, and looking round, he caught sight of Alpatitch.

“Ah, Yakov Alpatitch, how do you come here?”

“By command of his excellency to his honour the governor,” answered Alpatitch, lifting his head proudly and putting his hand into his bosom, as he always did when he mentioned the old prince.…“His honour was pleased to bid me inquire into the position of affairs,” he said.

“Well, you may as well know then,” cried the gentleman; “they have brought matters to such a pass that there are no carts to be got, nothing!…That’s it again, do you hear?” he said, pointing in the direction from which the sounds of firing came.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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