Once at dinner Vanyushka Kuzin’s mother said to him:

“Why don’t you go to the city, Vanya?”

Vanya said nothing. He was peeling hot potatoes, blowing noisily on his fingers, his lips thrust out like a trumpet, and twitching his eyebrows angrily.

His mother looked at his round, boyish face, sighed, and repeated more quietly:

“Really, why don’t you?”

“What for?” asked Vanya, tossing a potato from one hand to the other.

“Take the ax, and go.”

“There are a lot like me there with axes already.”

“Well, take a shovel.…They will soon be digging cellars. You will chop some wood here, you will do something else there, and so you’ll earn your bread somehow. Why don’t you go, Vanya?”

He wanted to go to the city, but he didn’t say a word to the old woman. In the two weeks that had passed since his father’s death, Vanya had come to consider himself completely independent. At the funeral feast he had drunk vodka for the first time with impunity, and now he walked through the village with his chest thrown out, his eyebrows knitted thoughtfully, and he talked to his mother curtly and abruptly, in imitation of his father.…

After dinner the old woman busied herself with the mending of her fur-coat, while Vanyushka climbed up onto the stove, and after lying there for a short half-hour, asked his mother:

“How much money have you?”

“A ruble and six ten-kopeck pieces.”

“Give me the sixty kopecks.”

“What for?”

“To take along.”

“You’re going then?”

“It looks as though I am.”

“That’s good. You go, sonny.…When will you start out?”


At dawn his mother blessed him with a copper icon of St. Nicholas, Vanya drew his belt tight, stuck the ax into it, pulled his cap over his ears, and slapping his thighs with his mittened hands, said:

“I’m off. Good-by.”

“God be with you, Vanya. Be on your guard against city folk. Take care how you behave with them—they’re sly ones! And no drinking, do you hear?”

“All right,” said Vanyushka, and tilting his cap at a dashing angle, he went out into the street.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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