A Day in the Country
Between eight and nine oclock in the morning.
A dark leaden-coloured mass is creeping over the sky towards the sun. Red zigzags of lightning gleam here and there across it. There is a sound of far-away rumbling. A warm wind frolics over the grass, bends the trees, and stirs up the dust. In a minute there will be a spurt of May rain and a real storm will begin.
Fyokla, a little beggar-girl of six, is running through the village, looking for Terenty the cobbler. The white- haired, barefoot child is pale. Her eyes are wide-open, her lips are trembling.
Uncle, where is Terenty? she asks every one she meets. No one answers. They are all preoccupied with the approaching storm and take refuge in their huts. At last she meets Silanty Silitch, the sacristan, Terentys bosom friend. He is coming along, staggering from the wind.
Uncle, where is Terenty?
At the kitchen-gardens, answers Silanty.
The beggar-girl runs behind the huts to the kitchen-gardens and there finds Terenty; the tall old man with a thin, pock-marked face, very long legs, and bare feet, dressed in a womans tattered jacket, is standing near the vegetable plots, looking with drowsy, drunken eyes at the dark storm-cloud. On his long crane-like legs he sways in the wind like a starling-cote.
Uncle Terenty! the white-headed beggar-girl addresses him. Uncle, darling!
Terenty bends down to Fyokla, and his grim, drunken face is overspread with a smile, such as come into peoples faces when they look at something little, foolish, and absurd, but warmly loved.
Ah! servant of God, Fyokla, he says, lisping tenderly, where have you come from?
Uncle Terenty, says Fyokla, with a sob, tugging at the lapel of the cobblers coat. Brother Danilka has had an accident! Come along!
What sort of accident? Ough, what thunder! Holy, holy, holy. What sort of accident?
In the counts copse Danilka stuck his hand into a hole in a tree, and he cant get it out. Come along, uncle, do be kind and pull his hand out!
How was it he put his hand in? What for?
He wanted to get a cuckoos egg out of the hole for me.
The day has hardly begun and already you are in trouble. Terenty shook his head and spat deliberately. Well, what am I to do with you now? I must come I must, may the wolf gobble you up, you naughty children! Come, little orphan!
Terenty comes out of the kitchen-garden and, lifting high his long legs, begins striding down the village street. He walks quickly without stopping or looking from side to side, as though he were shoved from behind or afraid of pursuit. Fyokla can hardly keep up with him.
They come out of the village and turn along the dusty road towards the counts copse that lies dark blue in the distance. It is about a mile and a half away. The clouds have by now covered the sun, and soon afterwards there is not a speck of blue left in the sky. It grows dark.
Holy, holy, holy whispers Fyokla, hurrying after Terenty. The first rain-drops, big and heavy, lie, dark dots on the dusty road. A big drop falls on Fyoklas cheek and glides like a tear down her chin.
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