An exceedingly lean little peasant, in a striped hempen shirt and patched drawers, stands facing the investigating magistrate. His face overgrown with hair and pitted with smallpox, and his eyes scarcely visible under thick, overhanging eyebrows have an expression of sullen moroseness. On his head there is a perfect mop of tangled, unkempt hair, which gives him an even more spider-like air of moroseness. He is barefooted.
Denis Grigoryev! the magistrate begins. Come nearer, and answer my questions. On the seventh of this July the railway watchman, Ivan Semyonovitch Akinfov, going along the line in the morning, found you at the hundred-and-forty-first mile engaged in unscrewing a nut by which the rails are made fast to the sleepers. Here it is, the nut! With the aforesaid nut he detained you. Was that so?
Was this all as Akinfov states?
To be sure, it was.
Very good; well, what were you unscrewing the nut for?
Drop that wha-at and answer the question; what were you unscrewing the nut for?
If I hadnt wanted it I shouldnt have unscrewed it, croaks Denis, looking at the ceiling.
What did you want that nut for?
The nut? We make weights out of those nuts for our lines.
Who is we?
We, people. The Klimovo peasants, that is.
Listen, my man; dont play the idiot to me, but speak sensibly. Its no use telling lies here about weights!
Ive never been a liar from a child, and now Im telling lies mutters Denis, blinking. But can you do without a weight, your honour? If you put live bait or maggots on a hook, would it go to the bottom without a weight? I am telling lies, grins Denis. What the devil is the use of the worm if it swims on the surface! The perch and the pike and the eel-pout always go to the bottom, and a bait on the surface is only taken by a shillisper, not very often then, and there are no shillispers in our river. That fish likes plenty of room.
Why are you telling me about shillispers?
Wha-at? Why, you asked me yourself! The gentry catch fish that way too in our parts. The silliest little boy would not try to catch a fish without a weight. Of course anyone who did not understand might go to fish without a weight. There is no rule for a fool.
So you say you unscrewed this nut to make a weight for your fishing line out of it?
What else for? It wasnt to play knuckle-bones with!
But you might have taken lead, a bullet a nail of some sort.
You dont pick up lead in the road, you have to buy it, and a nails no good. You cant find anything better than a nut. Its heavy, and theres a hole in it.
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