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PAGE 3

What Men Live By
by [?]

The man started walking, and moved easily, not lagging behind.

As they went along, Simon asked him, “And where do you belong to?” “I’m not from these parts.”

“I thought as much. I know the folks hereabouts. But, how did you come to be there by the shrine ?”

“I cannot tell.”

“Has some one been ill-treating you?”

“No one has ill-treated me. God has punished me.”

“Of course God rules all. Still, you’ll have to find food and shelter somewhere. Where do you want to go to?”

“It is all the same to me.”

Simon was amazed. The man did not look like a rogue, and he spoke gently, but yet he gave no account of himself. Still Simon thought, “Who knows what may have happened?” And he said to the stranger: “Well then, come home with me, and at least warm yourself awhile.”

So Simon walked towards his home, and the stranger kept up with him, walking at his side. The wind had risen and Simon felt it cold under his shirt. He was getting over his tipsiness by now, and began to feel the frost. He went along sniffling and wrapping his wife’s coat round him, and he thought to himself: “There now–talk about sheep-skins! I went out for sheep-skins and come home without even a coat to my back, and what is more, I’m bringing a naked man along with me. Matryona won’t be pleased!” And when he thought of his wife he felt sad; but when he looked at the stranger and remembered how he had looked up at him at the shrine, his heart was glad.

III

Simon’s wife had everything ready early that day. She had cut wood, brought water, fed the children, eaten her own meal, and now she sat thinking. She wondered when she ought to make bread: now or tomorrow? There was still a large piece left.

“If Simon has had some dinner in town,” thought she, “and does not eat much for supper, the bread will last out another day.”

She weighed the piece of bread in her hand again and again, and thought: “I won’t make any more today. We have only enough flour left to bake one batch; We can manage to make this last out till Friday.”

So Matryona put away the bread, and sat down at the table to patch her husband’s shirt. While she worked she thought how her husband was buying skins for a winter coat.

“If only the dealer does not cheat him. My good man is much too simple; he cheats nobody, but any child can take him in. Eight roubles is a lot of money–he should get a good coat at that price. Not tanned skins, but still a proper winter coat. How difficult it was last winter to get on without a warm coat. I could neither get down to the river, nor go out anywhere. When he went out he put on all we had, and there was nothing left for me. He did not start very early today, but still it’s time he was back. I only hope he has not gone on the spree!”

Hardly had Matryona thought this, when steps were heard on the threshold, and some one entered. Matryona stuck her needle into her work and went out into the passage. There she saw two men: Simon, and with him a man without a hat, and wearing felt boots.

Matryona noticed at once that her husband smelt of spirits. “There now, he has been drinking,” thought she. And when she saw that he was coatless, had only her jacket on, brought no parcel, stood there silent, and seemed ashamed, her heart was ready to break with disappointment. “He has drunk the money,” thought she, “and has been on the spree with some good-for-nothing fellow whom he has brought home with him.”

Matryona let them pass into the hut, followed them in, and saw that the stranger was a young, slight man, wearing her husband’s coat. There was no shirt to be seen under it, and he had no hat. Having entered, he stood, neither moving, nor raising his eyes, and Matryona thought: “He must be a bad man–he’s afraid.”