To whom shall I tell my grief?
The twilight of evening. Big flakes of wet snow are whirling lazily about the street lamps, which have just been lighted, and lying in a thin soft layer on roofs, horses backs, shoulders, caps. Iona Potapov, the sledge-driver, is all white like a ghost. He sits on the box without stirring, bent as double as the living body can be bent. If a regular snowdrift fell on him it seems as though even then he would not think it necessary to shake it off. His little mare is white and motionless too Her stillness, the angularity of her lines, and the stick-like straightness of her legs make her look like a halfpenny gingerbread horse. She is probably lost in thought. Anyone who has been torn away from the plough, from the familiar gray landscapes, and cast into this slough, full of monstrous lights, of unceasing uproar and hurrying people, is bound to think.
It is a long time since Iona and his nag have budged. They came out of the yard before dinner-time and not a single fare yet. But now the shades of evening are falling on the town. The pale light of the stre lamps changes to a vivid color, and the bustle of the street grow noiser.
Sledge to Vyborgskaya! Iona hears. Sledge!
Iona starts, and through his snow-plastered eyelashes sees an officer in a military overcoat with a hood over his head.
To Vyborgskaya, repeats the officer. Are you asleep? To Vyborgskaya!
In token of assent Iona gives a tug at the reins which sends cakes of snow flying from the horses back and shoulders. The officer gets into the sledge. The sledge-driver clicks to the horse, cranes his neck like a swan, rises in his seat, and more from habit than necessity brandishes his whip. The mare cranes her neck, too, crooks her stick-like legs, and hesitatingly sets off.
Where are you shoving, you devil? Iona immediately hears shouts from the dark mass shifting to and fro before him. Where the devil are you going? Keep to the r-right!
You dont know how to drive! Keep to the right, says the officer angrily.
A coachman driving a carriage swears at him; a pedestrian crossing the road and brushing the horses nose with his shoulder looks at him angrily and shakes the snow off his sleeve. Iona fidgets on the box as though he were sitting on thorns, jerks his elbows, and turns his eyes about like one possessed, as though he did not know where he was or why he was there.
What rascals they all are! says the officer jocosely. They are simply doing their best to run up against you or fall under the horses feet. They must be doing it on purpose.
Iona looks as his fare and moves his lips. Apparently he means to say something, but nothing comes but a sniff.
What? inquires the officer.
Iona gives a wry smile, and straining his throat, brings out huskily: My son er my son died this week, sir.
Hm! What did he die of?
Iona turns his whole body round to his fare, and says:
Who can tell! It must have been from fever. He lay three days in the hospital and then he died. Gods will.
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