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PAGE 4

What Men Live By
by [?]

Matryona frowned, and stood beside the oven looking to see what they would do.

Simon took off his cap and sat down on the bench as if things were all right.

“Come, Matryona; if supper is ready, let us have some.”

Matryona muttered something to herself and did not move, but stayed where she was, by the oven. She looked first at the one and then at the other of them, and only shook her head. Simon saw that his wife was annoyed, but tried to pass it off. Pretending not to notice anything, he took the stranger by the arm.

“Sit down, friend,” said he, “and let us have some supper.”

The stranger sat down on the bench.

“Haven’t you cooked anything for us?” said Simon.

Matryona’s anger boiled over. “I’ve cooked, but not for you. It seems to me you have drunk your wits away. You went to buy a sheep- skin coat, but come home without so much as the coat you had on, and bring a naked vagabond home with you. I have no supper for drunkards like you.”

“That’s enough, Matryona. Don’t wag your tongue without reason. You had better ask what sort of man–“

“And you tell me what you’ve done with the money?”

Simon found the pocket of the jacket, drew out the three-rouble note, and unfolded it.

“Here is the money. Trifonof did not pay, but promises to pay soon.”

Matryona got still more angry; he had bought no sheep-skins, but had put his only coat on some naked fellow and had even brought him to their house.

She snatched up the note from the table, took it to put away in safety, and said: “I have no supper for you. We can’t feed all the naked drunkards in the world.”

“There now, Matryona, hold your tongue a bit. First hear what a man has to say-“

“Much wisdom I shall hear from a drunken fool. I was right in not wanting to marry you-a drunkard. The linen my mother gave me you drank; and now you’ve been to buy a coat-and have drunk it, too!”

Simon tried to explain to his wife that he had only spent twenty kopeks; tried to tell how he had found the man–but Matryona would not let him get a word in. She talked nineteen to the dozen, and dragged in things that had happened ten years before.

Matryona talked and talked, and at last she flew at Simon and seized him by the sleeve.

“Give me my jacket. It is the only one I have, and you must needs take it from me and wear it yourself. Give it here, you mangy dog, and may the devil take you.”

Simon began to pull off the jacket, and turned a sleeve of it inside out; Matryona seized the jacket and it burst its seams, She snatched it up, threw it over her head and went to the door. She meant to go out, but stopped undecided–she wanted to work off her anger, but she also wanted to learn what sort of a man the stranger was.

IV

Matryona stopped and said: “If he were a good man he would not be naked. Why, he hasn’t even a shirt on him. If he were all right, you would say where you came across the fellow.”

“That’s just what I am trying to tell you,” said Simon. “As I came to the shrine I saw him sitting all naked and frozen. It isn’t quite the weather to sit about naked! God sent me to him, or he would have perished. What was I to do? How do we know what may have happened to him? So I took him, clothed him, and brought him along. Don’t be so angry, Matryona. It is a sin. Remember, we all must die one day.”

Angry words rose to Matryona’s lips, but she looked at the stranger and was silent. He sat on the edge of the bench, motionless, his hands folded on his knees, his head drooping on his breast, his eyes closed, and his brows knit as if in pain. Matryona was silent: and Simon said: “Matryona, have you no love of God?”