condescend to take work, you must have a job in an office, in the Russian choir, or as a billiard-marker, where you will have a salary and have nothing to do! But how would you like to undertake manual labour? Ill be bound, you wouldnt be a house porter or a factory hand! You are too genteel for that!
What things you say, really said the beggar, and he gave a bitter smile. How can I get manual work? Its rather late for me to be a shopman, for in trade one has to begin from a boy; no one would take me as a house porter, because I am not of that class. And I could not get work in a factory; one must know a trade, and I know nothing.
Nonsense! You always find some justification! Wouldnt you like to chop wood?
I would not refuse to, but the regular woodchoppers are out of work now.
Oh, all idlers argue like that! As soon as you are offered anything you refuse it. Would you care to chop wood for me?
Certainly I will.
Very good, we shall see. Excellent. Well see! Skvortsov, in nervous haste, and not without malignant pleasure, rubbing his hands summoned his cook from the kitchen.
Here, Olga, he said to her, take this gentleman to the shed and let him chop some wood.
The beggar shrugged his shoulders as though puzzled, and irresolutely followed the cook. It was evident from his demeanour that he had consented to go and chop wood, not because he was hungry and wanted to earn money, but simply from shame and amour propre, because he had been taken at his word. It was clear, too, that he was suffering from the effects of vodka, that he was unwell, and felt not the faintest inclination to work.
Skvortsov hurried into the dining-room. There from the window which looked out into the yard he could see the woodshed and everything that happened in the yard. Standing at the window, Skvortsov saw the cook and the beggar come by the back way into the yard and go through the muddy snow to the woodshed. Olga scrutinized her companion angrily, and jerking her elbow unlocked the woodshed and angrily banged the door open.
Most likely we interrupted the woman drinking her coffee, thought Skvortsov. What a cross creature she is!
Then he saw the pseudo-schoolmaster and pseudo-student seat himself on a block of wood, and, leaning his red cheeks upon his fists, sink into thought. The cook flung an axe at his feet, spat angrily on the ground, and, judging by the expression of her lips, began abusing him. The beggar drew a log of wood towards him irresolutely, set it up between his feet, and diffidently drew the axe across it. The log toppled and fell over. The beggar drew it towards him, breathed on his frozen hands, and again drew the axe along it as cautiously as though he were afraid of its hitting his golosh or chopping off his fingers. The log fell over again.
Skvortsovs wrath had passed off by now, he felt sore and ashamed at the thought that he had forced a pampered, drunken, and perhaps sick man to do hard, rough work in the cold.
Never mind, let him go on he thought, going from the dining-room into his study. I am doing it for his good!
An hour later Olga appeared and announced that the wood had been chopped up.
Here, give him half a rouble, said Skvortsov. If he likes, let him come and chop wood on the first of every month. There will always be work for him.
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