**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Pipe
by [?]

“It is true; they are drying up.”

“To be sure, that’s what I say. Every year they are shallower and shallower, and there are not the deep holes there used to be. And do you see the bushes yonder?” the old man asked, pointing to one side. “Beyond them is an old river-bed; it’s called a backwater. In my father’s time the Pestchanka flowed there, but now look; where have the evil spirits taken it to? It changes its course, and, mind you, it will go on changing till such time as it has dried up altogether. There used to be marshes and ponds beyond Kurgasovo, and where are they now? And what has become of the streams? Here in this very wood we used to have a stream flowing, and such a stream that the peasants used to set creels in it and caught pike; wild ducks used to spend the winter by it, and nowadays there is no water in it worth speaking of, even at the spring floods. Yes, brother, look where you will, things are bad everywhere. Everywhere!”

A silence followed. Meliton sank into thought, with his eyes fixed on one spot. He wanted to think of some one part of nature as yet untouched by the all-embracing ruin. Spots of light glistened on the mist and the slanting streaks of rain as though on opaque glass, and immediately died away again — it was the rising sun trying to break through the clouds and peep at the earth.

“Yes, the forests, too . . .” Meliton muttered.

“The forests, too,” the shepherd repeated. “They cut them down, and they catch fire, and they wither away, and no new ones are growing. Whatever does grow up is cut down at once; one day it shoots up and the next it has been cut down — and so on without end till nothing’s left. I have kept the herds of the commune ever since the time of Freedom, good man; before the time of Freedom I was shepherd of the master’s herds. I have watched them in this very spot, and I can’t remember a summer day in all my life that I have not been here. And all the time I have been observing the works of God. I have looked at them in my time till I know them, and it is my opinion that all things growing are on the decline. Whether you take the rye, or the vegetables, or flowers of any sort, they are all going the same way.”

“But people have grown better,” observed the bailiff.

“In what way better?”


“Cleverer, maybe, that’s true, young man; but what’s the use of that? What earthly good is cleverness to people on the brink of ruin? One can perish without cleverness. What’s the good of cleverness to a huntsman if there is no game? What I think is that God has given men brains and taken away their strength. People have grown weak, exceedingly weak. Take me, for instance . . . I am not worth a halfpenny, I am the humblest peasant in the whole village, and yet, young man, I have strength. Mind you, I am in my seventies, and I tend my herd day in and day out, and keep the night watch, too, for twenty kopecks, and I don’t sleep, and I don’t feel the cold; my son is cleverer than I am, but put him in my place and he would ask for a raise next day, or would be going to the doctors. There it is. I eat nothing but bread, for ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ and my father ate nothing but bread, and my grandfather; but the peasant nowadays must have tea and vodka and white loaves, and must sleep from sunset to dawn, and he goes to the doctor and pampers himself in all sorts of ways. And why is it? He has grown weak; he has not the strength to endure. If he wants to stay awake, his eyes close — there is no doing anything.”